Spurrier, Duke's Cutcliffe, UNC's Davis say they're content in current jobs
Cross one protégé, one nemesis and a former NFL coach off any wish list of successors to lame-duck Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe quashed any speculation about him returning to Knoxville to replace his good friend and former boss, while Steve Spurrier said his current job at South Carolina will be his last as a college football coach.
And later Tuesday, ex-Miami and Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis said he's staying at North Carolina.
"I'm at Duke, staying at Duke," Cutcliffe said Tuesday.
Cutcliffe twice served on Tennessee's staff and spent eight years as the Volunteers' offensive coordinator. He came to Duke last December after a two-year stint in Knoxville and has called Fulmer "the best football coach I've ever been associated with."
Cutcliffe said he was being proactive because he spoke to recruits who said other coaches had told them that he was headed to the Volunteers.
The 63-year-old Spurrier, who grew up in Tennessee rooting for the Vols, had great success during the 1990s while coaching Florida against Fulmer's Vols. He once roiled Fulmer when he said "You can't spell Citrus without UT," a reference to Florida's SEC dominance that left Tennessee with a lower-tier bowl appearance.
"Maybe five years ago I would've [been interested in the Tennessee job], but it wasn't open five years ago," Spurrier told The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C. "I'm at my last gig right here [at South Carolina]. And we've got a pretty good team if we can get a little offense going."
Davis said he is committed to building No. 19 North Carolina's program, even though his name has come up as a possible candidate for the opening at Tennessee.
Asked directly about the Tennessee job after practice Tuesday, Davis said, "The long and short of it is, the administration and I are completely and firmly committed to building a championship football program at North Carolina. My family and I are very happy in Chapel Hill."
Davis has guided the Tar Heels (6-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) into the national rankings for the second time this season, and they are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004.
"I guess the easy answer is, in some respects, obviously, you're flattered a little bit. [It] kind of goes with the territory" of being at a high-profile program, Davis said. "It's kind of an unfortunate thing, all the speculation and stuff, for any coach. There's lots of coaches that deal with that. ... I think coaches today, you just kind of grin and bear it."
Fulmer confirmed Monday at a tension-filled news conference at Neyland Stadium that he would not return next season -- and made it clear that it wasn't his decision to step aside after 17 seasons at his alma mater. He will be paid a $6 million buyout.
"He's probably 16, 17 years there, probably long enough. It wasn't working very well, so I think everybody understands when it starts going bad, they've gotta make changes," Spurrier told The State.
"But congratulate him on hitting that lottery ticket. That's a big ticket he got," Spurrier said, adding, "I don't know whether to feel sorry for coach or congratulate him for the biggest buyout in the history of college football. He got the best deal ever, I think."Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
FULMER LEAVES TENNESSEE
Tennessee's Phil Fulmer stepped down as the Volunteers' head coach at the conclusion of the season. As a player, assistant and head coach, Fulmer was on the sideline for 422 Tennessee games dating back to 1968. Story ... Watch
More on Fulmer• Low: Fulmer's tale of two halves
• Maisel: Tough acts to follow
• Watch: Low's analysis
• Vote: Your reaction
• SEC blogger Low: No surprise
• Podcast: Maisel on the Volunteers' shake-up