Sources: Vols check to see if Gruden, Smith interested in open job

The University of Tennessee is checking to see if there are any NFL volunteers to replace coach Phillip Fulmer.

In a wide-ranging nationwide search, sources say Tennessee has recently gauged the interest of at least two NFL head coaches -- Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears.

Smith, a former assistant at Tennessee, told a university representative that he had no interest in the job.

It is unknown how Gruden privately responded, but he publicly shot down his interest, despite the fact that he was once a graduate assistant and met his wife, Cindy, a former cheerleader, at the school. Additionally, Gruden does own parcels of land in the Knoxville, Tenn., area.

Gruden signed a contract extension with the Bucs after the 2007 season that makes him among the NFL's best-paid coaches. Smith signed an extension with the Bears after the 2006 season.

Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.