Tennessee is the latest school to desire Butch Davis' services and the Volunteers won't be the last to court UNC's football coach.
In two seasons, Davis has been, or will be, pursued twice, each time by an SEC school.
Last year, it was Arkansas, Davis' alma mater, and a program where he still has close relationships with the school's powerful donors.
Davis resisted the emotional and financial pull of Arkansas for any number of reasons, the one that's being most overlooked is his calculated decision to come to UNC in the first place. Davis knew he could make hay in an average conference at a school with low-pressure demands on its football program.
Let's be clear, Davis can coach. UNC was one of the 10 worst programs in the BCS era before Davis arrived. In less than two seasons, Davis has the Heels 7-2 and ranked in the top 20.
But the ducks all lined up in a row for Davis, too, at UNC, just as he predicted when he chose UNC over other college openings in 2006.
After essentially quitting as the Cleveland Browns coach with five games left in the 2004 NFL season, Davis spent two seasons out of football.
He left the NFL with $12 million still owed to him by the Browns. Details of that buyout never became public but it's reasonable to assume Davis pocketed half of that.
That's $6 million to NOT coach football, in addition to the $3 million Davis made annually with the Browns for the three seasons he was on the sidelines. Clearly, money was not, and likely is still not, Davis' primary motivating factor. I'm not arguing it doesn't matter, just that the dude's got cash.
So why would he choose UNC? The short answer is the ACC. With Florida State and Miami on the downswing, and the name-brand recruiting recognition of Carolina, Davis realized he had the path of least resistance to the top of the college football world.
Think about it, and Davis' agent Jimmy Sexton admitted as much in his comments last month in Birmingham:
If Davis took a job in the SEC, he would have to bang heads with powers Florida, Georgia, Alabama and LSU. And that's not to mention the second tier of Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee.
In the ACC, there's who? Virginia Tech? Clearly, Davis did the math before he took the UNC job. Remember, he chose UNC over returning to Miami, where he built the Hurricanes into the best program in the country at the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s before leaving for Cleveland in 2001.
With Davis' original intent in mind, there are few jobs he would leave UNC for. Save for Florida, and that would be awkward given his Miami background — although not impossible based on Rick Pitino's precedent in college basketball — there likely isn't a job in the SEC that Davis would take.
That leaves, in order:
1) University of Texas
Texas Tech, Missouri and Kansas have all made noise in the past two seasons but the Big 12 is essentially the Big 2 — Texas and Oklahoma.
Given Davis' past at Oklahoma State, I'm going to rule out Oklahoma — which also fired Davis' right-hand man, John Blake, so I don't think the two would be eager to run to Norman.
Davis recruiting at Texas is a frightening proposition. The 2001 Miami team, that won the national title the year after Davis left, was, from No. 1 through No. 85, the most-talented team in the history of the game.
He could give that roster a run for its money with Texas' recruiting resources and rich talent base.
Of course, Mack Brown is the coach at Texas. But Brown, after 11 seasons and a national title in Austin, could take another job or leave coaching to get an AD or commissioner job.
The pressure would be greater to deliver at Texas than at Chapel Hill, but Brown handled the transition and so could Davis.
2) Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have a coach-in-waiting in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but at 5-4 the Cowboys are in danger of missing the playoffs, after beginning the season as the Super Bowl favorite.
Don't think Dallas owner Jerry Jones, a fellow Arkansas alum, wouldn't dump Garrett and blow the whole staff up in a Texas minute if the season continues to crash and burn.
Davis spent six seasons as a defensive assistant with the Cowboys, helping head coach Jimmy Johnson and Jones win two Super Bowls.
The Cowboys would be appealing to Davis on two fronts: this is not an expansion situation, which is what Davis walked into in Cleveland. This is a Super Bowl-ready franchise with an owner that will do whatever it takes to win.
I don't know the details of Davis' relationship with Jones – Johnson, Davis' mentor, parted hastily and famously with Jones in 1993 — but we know Davis and Jones have a history together.
Then there's Davis' ego. Check out the hallway to UNC's media room if you need proof of that. There's a larger-than-life poster of Davis that greets you when you step out of the elevator at the football center.
Big egos can't handle 24-35, which is what Davis went in four seasons at Cleveland with one playoff appearance. The more people who tell Davis he can't coach in the NFL, that he's just another Steve Spurrier or Pete Carroll, the more he'd be inclined to prove people wrong.
3) Penn State
It's a longshot but it would at least be worth a conversation. Like the ACC, the Big Ten is ripe for domination. There's Ohio State and not exactly.
On the verge of another Big Ten title, Joe Paterno has reconfirmed that his successor will be his call and Davis won't be his choice.
But replacing a legend never works — like Frank Solich, like Ray Perkins — so the PSU search committee would have to cast a wider net in 2010.
Interestingly enough, Paterno almost took the Miami job when Davis was ultimately hired in 1995.
Talk about owning a conference, please, Carroll owns everything west of Austin.
Los Angeles might be a little out of Davis' comfort zone, but it's an unbelievable recruiting base and you're guaranteed an annual crack at the national title.
Plus, at USC, there's no NFL team in LA and no one really cares about the basketball program.