KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is closing in on Jeff Brohm to become its next head coach, looking to snatch the 46-year-old from Purdue.
Brohm led the Boilermakers to a 6-6 record this season, his first with the program. Previously, he coached Western Kentucky to back-to-back Conference USA titles. He was first recruited by Tennessee in 1988, as a quarterback coming out of high school in Louisville.
But the Vols’ current recruitment of Brohm could prove to be costly, as Tennessee will be responsible for a buyout reportedly in the $4 million to $5 million range, in addition to what’s sure to be a hefty raise from Brohm’s current salary of $3.3 million.
Brohm fits the parameters athletic director John Currie laid out on Nov. 12, having won conference championships at Western Kentucky and learned some of his offensive concepts under successful-but-controversial coach Bobby Petrino.
Brohm was Louisville’s quarterbacks coach from 2003-06, including the Cardinals’ 2004 and 2006 Conference USA championship seasons. The 2006 Louisville team went 12-1 with an Orange Bowl victory.
Tennessee hasn’t been to a bowl of that magnitude (BCS or New Year’s Six) since the 1999 season (Fiesta Bowl), and the Vols haven’t had a top-10 finish since the 2001 season.
Brohm’s challenge would be to take the next level after former coach Butch Jones delivered consecutive top-25 seasons to Tennessee for the first time in nine years before a disappointing 4-8 season in 2017.
The Vols fan base has been highly engaged in the coaching search. A social media firestorm and on-campus protests took place Sunday when it became known that Tennessee was in final negotiations to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.
Currie, who has consulted prominent Vols booster Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee icon Peyton Manning throughout the search, gauged the interest of Duke coach David Cutcliffe before pursuing Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on Tuesday.
The Vols’ offer to Gundy, which an SEC Country source said was “at least $7 million a year,” was rejected by the Cowboys’ coach, leading Tennessee to turn to Brohm.
In addition to his playing career at Louisville, which included suffering a broken ankle playing against Tennessee in 1991, Brohm spent seven years on and off NFL rosters and practice squads before beginning his coaching career in the arena league.
Brohm is 36-16 overall as a collegiate head coach, having led Western Kentucky to seasons of 8-5, 12-2 and 10-3.
Purdue’s 6-6 season has been viewed as a success, as the Boilermakers were 3-9 in 2016 and 9-39 over the previous four seasons. They hadn’t achieved a record of .500 or better since 2011 when then-coach Danny Hope led them to a 7-6 mark.
SEC Country ranked Brohm No. 3 on its original list of Vols candidates on Nov. 12 and reported late Tuesday night, after Mike Gundy rejected the job offer, that Brohm and SMU’s Chad Morris were the next likely targets.
Jeff Brohm’s career record as a head coach:
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