STILLWATER — Rumors continue to swirl, linking Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy to vacancies at other schools.
For weeks, it's been Arkansas.
Then this past weekend, it was Tennessee, with Volquest.com, the school's Rivals affiliate, reporting Gundy interviewed Sunday with Volunteers athletic director Dave Hart.
And still Arkansas, with Hogs247, one of the school's primary recruiting sites, reporting the school was “feeling good” about Gundy for its opening.
Gundy, as expected, declined to comment on if he had interviewed for the Tennessee job — or has had contact with any other schools — during his Sunday night teleconference to discuss the Cowboys' selection to the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
When asked what he did Sunday, an off day for players, Gundy said he spent it “around the house.”
“I would never, just for everybody involved, never talk about any other job or (give) any confirmation of anything that's gone on,” Gundy said. “…I would prefer not to talk about anything other than Oklahoma State or the bowl game.”
Not exactly a straight-up denial to dispel the speculation. And the truth is, with Gundy's track record of success, he's often going to be mentioned as a desirable candidate when jobs become available at traditional programs like Arkansas or Tennessee.
But what would possibly lead Gundy to even consider leaving OSU, his alma mater and the program he built into a national contender? The school with which he recently signed a lucrative new contract that goes through 2019? The city where his family just moved into a new home and plenty of relatives live nearby?
Reports indicate the relationship between Gundy and OSU athletic director Mike Holder is not what it once was. Last year's contract negotiations dragged out and did not go as smoothly as everyone involved had hoped.
Additionally, Gundy clearly wants more of a role in scheduling, saying repeatedly that he prefers to play the easiest nonconference slate possible. Instead, Holder recently signed off on an ESPN-made game against Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium in Houston for the Cowboys' 2013 season opener, and CBS reported last month that OSU and Florida State are in discussions to play a game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in 2014. Both games would provide a huge payday and plenty of television eyeballs for a marquee matchup, as well as fill hard-to-plug gaps in OSU's early season schedule.
“The very best chance for us to win a Big 12 championship is to not encourage what could be a 10th game of the year that could be very difficult,” Gundy said in November. “It's just the percentages. But I don't do scheduling. I've not been involved in scheduling, so if that's going on, it's dealing with somebody else.”
It's hard to fathom Gundy actually bolting OSU for a job like Arkansas or Tennessee, two schools with plenty of history but in rough shape at the present moment.
And it's possible — even likely — Gundy is using any talks with other schools as leverage he and big-time agent Jimmy Sexton can use with OSU. We saw it last week with Les Miles, who got a new contract from LSU just after having preliminary discussions with Arkansas.
Or, at the very least, Gundy is trying to make a point that he wants more control over all aspects of his program.
There's definitely smoke surrounding Gundy and his interest in other head coaching jobs.
But is there fire?