At least three head coaching candidates turned down overtures from Tennessee, but the most painful rejection may have come from an assistant coach.
Tee Martin, the quarterback who led the Vols to a national championship in 1998 — the year after Peyton Manning left for the NFL — has turned down an offer to become receivers coach under new head coach Butch Jones.
Making matters even worse is the fact that Martin works at Southern Cal for Lane Kiffin, who infuriated Tennessee fans by leaving Knoxville after only one season as head coach. Martin is in his first season as receivers coach at USC.
Martin said his decision was no reflection on Tennessee — he is just keeping his word.
“I was very honored to be offered a position on Coach Jones’ Tennessee staff,” Martin said in a statement posted on the Southern Cal website. “I truly believe he will do an outstanding job with the Vols program. My decision to remain at USC was the toughest I have ever had to make because Tennessee is such a special place to me.
“At the end of the day, I am a man of my word. I promised Coach Kiffin when I was hired at USC that I had goals I wanted to accomplish here. We still have work to do here to reach those goals. I see a great future at USC with the players on our roster and the recruits we have coming in.
“I have so much love and respect for Tennessee. But at this time, the right decision was to continue at USC and I am looking forward to doing that.”