By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
Tennessee’s at times tumultuous coaching search now involves Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Leach met with Tennessee athletic director John Currie on Thursday to discuss the Volunteers’ coaching vacancy, according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side intended to make the meeting public. The meeting was in Los Angeles, and Leach flew back to Pullman, Washington, when it was done. No deal was completed, the person said.
In a text message to the AP early Friday, Leach said: “Nothing to report. I will be in NY Sunday.”
The College Football Hall of Fame banquet takes place in Manhattan next week and typically draws dozens of coaches and athletic administrators to the city, along with agents. Frequently, it is a setting where meetings about coaching jobs take place.
Leach, 56, has been at Washington State for six years and is 38-37, but 26-12 the last three seasons, including 19-8 in the Pac-12. Previously, he coached 10 seasons at Texas Tech and went 84-43.
Tennessee fired Butch Jones earlier this month and was close to hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano last Sunday, but the deal fell through due to backlash from Vols fans and supporters stemming from an unproven claim in court documents that Schiano might have known about Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys while Schiano was an assistant at Penn State. Schiano has denied the claim.
The Volunteers’ search has since stumbled forward rather publicly. There were reports of contact with Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm. Earlier Thursday, North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren agreed to a contract extension after he had discussions with Tennessee .
Another person familiar with the meeting told the AP that Currie flew from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Los Angeles on Thursday, where he met one-on-one with Leach. Currie flew back to Knoxville after the meeting.
Leach has spent his career building overachieving programs with his Air Raid offense. At Texas Tech, his teams never had a losing season. Since he left, the Red Raiders have had three losing seasons.
Texas Tech fired Leach in 2009 after a dispute involving player Adam James, who said he was mistreated while trying to recover from a concussion. Leach sued the school but lost based on a Texas law that protects state institutions from being sued for damages. He still rails about the case on Twitter.
He returned to college coaching in 2012 at Washington State, with the program in the dumps. The Cougars had two 3-9 seasons in Leach’s first three years, but the last three they have contended for Pac-12 North titles. Bill Moos, the athletic director who hired Leach at Washington State, left the school earlier this year to become AD at Nebraska. That sparked speculation that Leach could be lured out of Pullman, though he said he was still happy at the school.
Leach spent two seasons in the Southeastern Conference as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator in 1997-98 under Hal Mumme.
One of college football’s most unusual characters, Leach’s interests is wide-ranging — he co-authored a book about Native-American leader Geronimo — and he is quick to go off on subjects far removed from football .
He has never been a head coach at a place where the expectations are as high and the scrutiny is as intense as Tennessee. He has also been one of the most consistent winners in college football over the last 17 years and would likely help Currie salvage a search that has had Volunteers fans calling for his job.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle, Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
More AP college football coverage: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)