There was a time — er, there were times, rather — over the last two decades when the University of Tennessee looked as if it may be positioned to scoop up Mike Gundy. On several occasions, matter of fact, talks between he and the school got serious.
Multiple times he wound up walking back to his alma mater with a raise or contract extension (or both) in hand.
But in an ESPN interview with Chris Low earlier this week, Gundy revisited those times when the Vols made their push and admitted his on-again, off-again talks with Tennessee over the years was more than just a leverage play to get OSU to fork over some extra dough.
” … I always felt like that job was a gold mine,” Gundy told ESPN. He added he couldn’t recall which years he flirted with the school, poking the Vols because they have had so many coaches of the years. Classic.
Gundy revisiting those times also allowed him to really riff on his feelings, where instead of maybe waffling on his commitment to the program or leaving open the door of going elsewhere someday, he doubled down on his loyalty to Stillwater and Oklahoma State.
“We have a chance with our new administration to continue to push for things, to keep this program at a high level,” he said.
So how many times was it that Tennessee tried to pry him from Stillwater? Well, Gundy didn’t divulge that in the interview, but three years ago there was a number he put on it — thrice. (Of course, they’ve already cycled through another coach since then, so it could be four by now!)
“I’ve had that (Tennessee) job offered three different times,” Gundy told ESPN in 2017. “It’s ironic that it’s always been Tennessee. I guess it gets to a point where you say, ‘Is it time for me to make a change? I’m 50-something years old. Is it time for me to go do things differently?’ Sometimes in your life, you think that way. . . Tennessee put together an unbelievable package, and it’s hard to tell somebody no when that happens. But I made the right decision.”
Those times came in 2008 following Phil Fulmer’s ouster, in 2012 after Derek Dooley’s ouster and in 2017 after the Butch Jones era ended (before Brady Hoke went one-and-done).
“People don’t leave. They stay here, and with our new administration, there’s a lot left out there for us,” said Gundy. “I’ve had some other offers, at some really good schools, offers that intrigued me, but I don’t think about it anymore. This is home.”