During hiring and firing season in college football, it’s nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, rumor from confirmed report. The Tennessee coaching search alone has seen nearly a dozen candidates contacted by the school over the past three weeks, and even more coaches rumored to be interested.
One of those coaches offered the job was current Purdue head coach and former Louisville assistant Jeff Brohm. Brohm, known for his sharp offensive mind at Louisville and Western Kentucky, his first head coaching position, returned a Purdue team that had gone 9-36 in the last four seasons to bowl eligibility this year. Brohm is making $3.3 million annually at a school that has won one Big Ten title in the last 50 years, yet he turned down a job that might pay nearly double at a longtime SEC contender.
Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan couldn’t help but wonder if Brohm turned down Tennessee because a position could be coming open at Louisville.
Brohm played quarterback at Louisville from 1991-1994 and spent six seasons as a Louisville assistant. He has long been seen by some Louisville fans as the heir apparent to Bobby Petrino, though Brohm’s success this season appears to have significantly accelerated his timeline for moving up the coaching ranks.
Still, Sullivan wrote that an anonymous source recounted an exchange between Buffalo Bills center and former Louisville player Eric Wood and former Louisville trustee Malcolm Chancey during the Cardinals’ Week 7 game against Boston College in which Chancey told Wood, “We’re going to clean house and bring (Jeff) Brohm back.”
Chancey has since denied the validity of the comment, telling Sullivan there has been “no discussion at all” about courting Brohm this offseason.
“Bobby Petrino is a great football coach,” Chancey said. “I hope he stays forever. … I never had any discussion on that day or any other day about Jeff Brohm. I was pleased when Bobby Petrino was hired and pleased when he was hired the second time.”
It seems highly unlikely that Louisville would fire Petrino, given that he led the team to 9 wins last season and 8 this season, with a bowl game still to play. However, should Petrino leave for another job (such as Tennessee), Brohm seems to be the logical first choice for the Cardinals. Petrino’s buyout was cut from $8 million to $4 million due to the firing of athletics director Tom Jurich in October, and with defending Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson likely leaving for the NFL after this season, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think Petrino would listen if an attractive suitor comes calling in the coming weeks.
It’s possible that Louisville has contacted Brohm to discuss such a scenario, and that’s why he turned down the Volunteers. It could also be that no one at Louisville has conversed with Brohm at all, and Brohm simply didn’t see Tennessee as the right fit for himself.
But, if the Cardinals did come calling, it seems highly unlikely Brohm would be able to turn down his alma mater like he spurned Tennessee.