College football coaching carousel heats up. Who will get fired and where will new coaches land?
The firing of Miami coach Al Golden and retirement of Central Florida's George O'Leary on Sunday raised the total of open FBS coaching jobs to seven. The sport is on pace for its most tumultuous off-season in history, as there projects to be more than 30 jobs open before the coaching carousel finishes spinning.
How much more volatile has college football become in the last decade? Consider that 10 years ago (2005-06) there were four power conference jobs (11 total) open. Already in this cycle there are five power conference jobs open, a number that could reach 15 by the end of the year.
There are so many jobs destined to open, one administrator pointed out Sunday night that there could be a counter-intuitive impact on the market. Could a struggling school like Purdue or Iowa State end up waiting another year to fire their coach to avoid the chaos of a competitive market? That's where we are, as crazy as it sounds.
Here's the annual midseason job board analyzing what jobs could open and the likely targets of those schools. As always, information is based on interviews with agents, coaches, search firms and athletic directors. They are broken down by where we rank the job within its conference—top third, middle third and bottom third and listed alphabetically in each category.
Breakdown: Buyer beware. Ed Reed isn't walking through that door. Miami has limited fan support, an awkward stadium situation and will be pitching a generation of recruits that only know The U is relevant thanks to 30 for 30s. (A lot of college officials consider Virginia Tech the better job). There's also limited finances, which show how college football has passed Miami by. Consider that two potentially viable names—Dan Mullen ($4 million) and Charlie Strong ($5 million)—currently make more than the Hurricanes will likely be able to pay. Miami failed to adequately invest in its program during the glory years of the early 2000s, and after college football underwent its boom in the past decade the Hurricanes have done little to catch up. The most likely option is someone with a link to the past, like former defensive coordinator Greg Schiano or former tight end and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. After all, the past and recruiting base are the only real strong sells at Miami.
Miami's swag is gone, and it needs someone to energize the three-county area around the school to revitalize it. That's not an easy task with Florida State and Florida on upswings.
Names: Greg Schiano, Rob Chudzinski, Mario Cristobal, Doc Holliday, Tom Herman and Justin Fuente.
Breakdown: Just when it looked like USC athletic director Pat Haden's tenure couldn't get any worse, it did. The Los Angeles Times published a devastating story on Haden last Friday that reported he serves on seven boards—four foundations and three businesses. The Times wrote that Haden makes more than a half-million annually from the side work and questioned how he could possibly properly concentrate on his day job. And let's not forget Haden's position on the College Football Playoff Committee, which is another enormous time commitment. The totality of the findings, Haden's recent poor health and the football program's poor state offered yet another black eye for one of the most beleaguered figures in college sports.
The good news for Haden is that USC's football coach is still one of the nation's top jobs. Steve Sarkisian leaves behind a roster of blue chippers and there's been a spate of recent facility upgrades. What USC has to decide is whether it is going to target a top-tier coach and offer $6 or $7 million per year or settle for another underwhelming hire like Lane Kiffin or Sarkisian. USC targeted Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin last time, and he ended up with a $30 million contract from Texas A&M instead. There are really two USC lists. There's a dream list with coaches like Chip Kelly, Bill O'Brien, Bob Stoops and Jason Garrett where USC would need to break the bank. Don't expect Sean Payton to be on USC's list after his reported alleged links to Vicodin in a lawsuit in 2010 (Payton has denied any wrongdoing). Too risky with Sarkisian's issues that led to his firing. The guess here is that USC doesn't hit its dream list.
One other thing to consider: Don't count out Clay Helton if USC wins out. With all that talent there, there has to be some consideration for stability. (Haden thinks a lot of Helton).
Dream List: Chip Kelly, Bob Stoops, Bill O'Brien, Jason Garrett
Realistic List: Kyle Whittingham, Clay Helton, Pat Fitzgerald, Dan Mullen, Jeff Fisher, Jack Del Rio and Pat Narduzzi.
80% chance of opening
Breakdown: It's easy to speculate about the end of Frank Beamer's tenure in Blacksburg, especially with the program 25-22 since 2012 and 1-3 in the pedestrian ACC this season. But it will be exponentially more difficult for athletic director Whit Babcock to actually find a tactful way to part with Beamer if he's not ready to leave. Beamer is a victim of his own success, as he hasn't been able to live up to the lofty standards he set for the program. It's sad to see, as he's a legend and a gentleman.
Tech won't have the advantage of an early jump at exploring the market that its competitors—mainly Miami and Maryland—already have. The top name here will be Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, who has a long-standing relationship with Babcock as they overlapped at West Virginia in the early 2000s. (Babcock was the Executive Director for Development for much of Rodriguez's coaching tenure at WVU from 2001 to 2007). The next best name here is Justin Fuente, a no-nonsense personality who would fit in well in low-key Blacksburg. Two years ago, defensive coordinator Bud Foster would have had a much better shot. Foster's biggest impact on the job may be making it difficult for Babcock to hire a defensive-minded coach, as there's few better than Foster.
Names: Rich Rodriguez, Justin Fuente, Tom Herman, Matt Wells, Matt Campbell and Matt Rhule.
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Breakdown: The most fascinating dynamic in this job is the relationship between "The Kevins." That would be athletic director Kevin Anderson and top booster Kevin Plank, the Under Armour founder. There's no indication Kevin Anderson's job is in danger. There's also no indication there's any long-term support for Anderson, who showed his lack of people skills in his muddled firing of Randy Edsall.
The blunt analysis of this job is that it may be decent the next time it opens. All of Maryland's $155 million facility upgrades are scheduled to be done by 2018. By then, Maryland will also be receiving a full share of Big Ten money and perhaps be ready for a chance at competitiveness in the Big Ten East. For now, it's the fifth best job in that division with no sign of that changing for a few years. And if Kevin Anderson is around for those facilities being completed in 2018, it would be surprising. For now, though, this is his mess to fix.
While Chip Kelly's name got a lot of early buzz, the more realistic "reach" candidate here is Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien. He's a former Terps assistant, the Texans are flailing and there's a relationship with Plank. If Kelly were to return to college—a huge if—he'd likely end up at a better program.
Names: Pep Hamilton, Frank Reich, Greg Schiano, Matt Rhule, Rich Rodriguez, Dino Babers, Matt Campbell, Bill O'Brien, D.J. Durkin, Everett Withers, Mike Bloomgren and Noel Mazzone.
Breakdown: When Steve Spurrier was considering stepping down last season, the school's two top names were Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and former Florida coach Will Muschamp. Cross Muschamp off the list for obvious reasons, as Florida has risen since his departure and Auburn sputtered since his arrival as defensive coordinator. That makes Smart the favorite here. But the age-old question facing Smart remains whether he wants to leave Tuscaloosa, where he'd be a top candidate to someday replace Nick Saban. (But no one quite knows when.) Working against Smart is the surge by Memphis's Justin Fuente and Houston's Tom Herman, who bring an offensive background and are among the hottest coaches in college football. (They both lack SEC experience, however.)
How good is this job? The middle tier may be generous, as it's the fourth-best job in the SEC East and somewhere around ninth or 10th in the SEC overall. Prior to Spurrier, the last coach to leave Columbia with a winning record was Joe Morrison (39-28-2) in 1988. There's a sneaky rebuild facet to this job, too, which is why South Carolina graduate Mark Dantonio is unlikely. He'd be 60 when next season kicks off and is unlikely to make the jump.
Names: Kirby Smart, Justin Fuente, Tom Herman, Doc Holliday, Jeff Brohm, Sonny Dykes and Rich Rodriguez.
Status: 97% chance of opening
Breakdown: The hot rumor last week was Mack Brown's dogged backchannel pursuit of the Virginia job. If Virginia did hire Brown, it would perfectly perpetuate the façade it actually cares about being competitive in football without actually attempting to become competitive. Brown mailed in his final years at Texas so badly that the Longhorns are staring at the reality of not getting a player drafted in two of the past three seasons. That's hard to pull off at Texas.
If Virginia cared about football, it would have fired Mike London after last season. Instead, the Cavs are enduring a 2-5 campaign that's wheezing to the result everyone saw coming all along. One big problem with the Virginia job is that 64-year-old athletic director Craig Littlepage won't be around much longer. The other big issue is executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver, who fancies himself the general manager for football but in reality is a meddler and someone coaches eyeing this job don't want to work for. Good luck fixing all that and luring a top-notch coach the next few months.
List: Pep Hamilton, Scott Frost, Mack Brown, Matt Rhule, Matt Campbell, Matt Wells, Everett Withers, Greg Schiano, Jeff Brohm, Mike Bloomgren and Pete Lembo.
Status: 50% chance of opening
Breakdown: Dana Holgorsen has a new president and athletic director since he came to West Virginia in 2010, which is never good news when you are winless in your league and 21-23 the past four seasons. His odds of getting fired could increase significantly after West Virginia plays at TCU and home against Texas Tech and Texas the next three games. West Virginia is a tough sell, as the Big 12 travel schedule is daunting and it will never be among the top half of Big 12 jobs. But new administrators may think they can do better.
There are a few interesting dynamics at play here. Athletic director Shane Lyons came from Alabama, which could put Tide assistants Kirby Smart and Mario Cristobal in play. President Gordon Gee came from Ohio State, where he hired Urban Meyer and would likely lean on him for guidance. Marshall coach Doc Holliday is a former Meyer assistant at Florida and is 30-6 his last three seasons with the Thundering Herd.
List: Doc Holliday, Matt Campbell, Kirby Smart, Mario Cristobal and Chris Ash.
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Status: 50% chance to open
Breakdown: Tough call to make here, as Colorado has shown signs of progress that haven't translated to the win column. Does Mike MacIntyre deserve another year and some of the residuals of the recent $156 million football facility upgrades? Probably. But with Colorado slated as heavy underdogs in a grueling closing stretch—at UCLA, Stanford, USC, at Washington State and at Utah—it's hard to see the 4-4 Buffs getting bowl eligible. One X factor here is athletic director Rick George, as his name is expected to come up if the Illinois job opens. (He played and worked on staff at Illinois). The new facility gives Colorado a slight edge, but it's still one of the worst jobs in the Pac-12. (Remember, Butch Jones passed last time and other hot coaches could do the same this time.)
Names: Matt Wells, Scott Frost, Troy Calhoun, Mike Sanford, Dino Babers, Bronco Mendenhall, Mike Bloomgren, Chris Ash, Mike Norvell and Dirk Koetter.
Breakdown: The biggest question here remains who will make the hire. Athletic Director Mike Thomas is on shaky ground and there's a firm belief in the industry that he will be fired in the next few weeks. If Thomas stays, could the new coach trust they'd be working for him long? (Could Illinois lure back Colorado AD Rick George, a former Illini player and staff member?)
Illinois is 4-3, but Bill Cubit isn't a long-term answer. Who is? Hot coaches like Toledo's Matt Campbell will likely be more selective than taking a lower-tier Big Ten job. Would P.J. Fleck leave a loaded roster at Western Michigan, where he loses just eight players on his two-deep next season? Would Bowling Green's Dino Babers return to a state where he had a successful run at Eastern Illinois? The Illini need an identity, which will likely be the first task of Thomas or his replacement.
Names: Rod Carey, P.J. Fleck, Dino Babers, Everett Withers, Mike Sanford, Chris Ash, Ed Warinner and Brock Spack.
Status: 20% chance of opening
Breakdown: The Hoosiers would be smart to wait. They have a good coach, the market is going to be competitive and they would risk firing Kevin Wilson and replacing him with someone inferior. There are signs of progress in the first three quarters of the Michigan State and Ohio State games. At 4-4, Indiana needs to find two wins against Iowa or Michigan at home or Maryland and Purdue on the road. Here's guessing the Hoosiers scramble to get to 6-6, earn a bowl bid in Wilson's fifth year and keep on allowing him to build the program.
Names: Rod Carey, Chris Ash, Ed Warinner, D.J. Durkin and Mike Sanford
Status: 90% chance of opening
Breakdown: This is Year 7 for Paul Rhoads, who hasn't won a bowl game since 2009 and is 7-24 the past three seasons. He's a good fit and the administrators like him, but he simply hasn't won enough. Has there been enough progress to sell hope for the future? Probably not. The only wins this season are against Northern Iowa and Kansas. And rival Iowa's revival in 2015 certainly hasn't helped matters.
This will get repetitive in this lower-tier section, but there are a lot of bad jobs destined to open this year and many coaches skeptical to fill them. Iowa State is particularly tough to figure, as it's the worst job in the Big 12, has little local recruiting base and a limited history of success.
Names: Dino Babers, David Bailiff, Brady Hoke, Houston Nutt, Ed Warinner, Troy Calhoun and Bo Pelini.
Status: 65% percent chance of opening
Breakdown: Poor John Currie. He should commiserate with Whit Babcock at Virginia Tech. The magic of Bill Synder, 76, is clearly slipping, perhaps encapsulated by the painful image of Snyder accidentally getting wiped out by his own player in a rainstorm on the sideline at Texas this weekend.
Currie may be faced with the unenviable task of replacing a legend, as the Wildcats (3-4) are 0-4 in the Big 12 and destined for 0-5 with a game against Baylor this weekend. Currie can't simply fire Snyder, as he's meant too much to the program. Without Snyder's resuscitation of the Wildcats, there may not even be football anymore in Manhattan.
But the tricky issue here is that Snyder has made it clear that he would like for his son, special teams coordinator Sean Snyder, to replace him. Unfortunately, Bill Snyder is the only person who considers his son a viable candidate for that job. How do you plan an endgame with Bill Snyder, not give the job to his son and yet keep his long-term support? Good luck. The team, after all, plays in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The recent $165 million facility upgrades make this job better than past decades, but geography and its meek history before Snyder still make it among the most difficult in college football. The buzz about this job opening increases by the day, but no one really knows as so much hinges on Snyder.
Names: Troy Calhoun, Brent Venables, Sonny Dykes, Willie Fritz, Rod Carey, Doug Meacham, Mike Norvell, Chris Ash and Ed Warinner.
Status: 80% chance to open
Breakdown: The no-show against Ohio State on Saturday night exemplified just how far the competitive gap is between the top and bottom of the Big Ten East. Combine that with the flurry of off-field issues this year for Kyle Flood and his players and the outcome here is inevitable. But there's still some mystery as to who will make the hire, as no one in the industry expects Rutgers administrators to trust Julie Hermann. But does Rutgers have a competent enough administration to fire Hermann, hire a capable replacement and run a search? The clock is ticking.
With so many other low-tier jobs Power 5 expected to open, don't expect many hot coaches to jump at Rutgers, which is in the conversation with Indiana for the worst job in the Big Ten East. Rutgers also may be the worst major conference job on the market. That could force the Scarlet Knights to go outside the box with a retread, FCS coach, obscure coordinator or below-the-radar coach. Remember, Rutgers only ended up with Kyle Flood because they were too cheap to pay Mario Cristobal. Finances will continue to be an issue at Rutgers. Greg Schiano isn't expected to have any interest in returning. This may be the most difficult job to project, as there's so much uncertainty and so little interest among accomplished coaches. Coastal Carolina's Joe Moglia is the most intriguing outside-the-box candidate, as his business acumen and New York roots make a lot of sense.
Names: Joe Moglia, Al Golden, Joe Moorhead, P.J. Fleck, Brady Hoke, Jeff Brohm and Robb Smith.
Status: 90% likely to open
Breakdown: The Darrell Hazell experiment simply isn't working. He's 5-26 overall and 1-18 in the Big Ten. There's not even a glimmer of hope here. Purdue has a few things going for it. It's in the Big Ten West, which coaches view as much easier to win. There's been a pinch of recent success under Joe Tiller in the early 2000s. And there's the recent announcement of $60 million in football facility upgrades, which will be done by August 2017. (One couldn't help think Purdue announced those facility upgrades last week as a message to attract Hazell's replacement.)
Illinois State coach Brock Spack was the defensive coordinator during Purdue's glory years under Tiller. He now has the Redbirds in the Top 5 of the FCS. They are 6-1 with their only loss is to Iowa. Hard to imagine a better fit.
Names: Brock Spack, Rod Carey, Brady Hoke, Jeff Brohm, Mike Sanford, Dino Babers, Ed Warinner, D.J. Durkin and Lincoln Riley.
Status: 65% chance of opening
Breakdown: Scott Shafer bragging about the Orange's 3-0 record seems like ages ago, as there's a good chance that the Orange finish 3-9 for the second straight year. Shafer has done a good job infusing some young talent into the program, as freshman quarterback Eric Dungey and freshman tailback Jordan Fredericks are tantalizing talents. New athletic director Mark Coyle needs to determine if Shafer is the right long-term answer. The Orange will be heavy underdogs the next four weeks—at Florida State, at Louisville, Clemson and at N.C. State. They close with Boston College at home, and it would be a surprise if the Orange weren't 3-8 headed into that game. Syracuse will have to go outside the box. One name to keep an eye on is Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, who Coyle liked a lot when hiring Bryan Harsin at Boise in 2013. Running an up-tempo offense in the Carrier Dome would make sense and give the Orange an identity it has lacked since the Donovan McNabb era. Frost has been selective about jobs, but now that Nebraska is filled he may be more amendable to moving. Still, Syracuse has little recruiting base and poor resources compared to its league peers and little recent history of success.
Names: Scott Frost, Teryl Austin, Mario Cristobal, Bo Pelini, Joe Moorhead, Dave Warner, Ryan Day, Joe Moglia, Chris Ash, Ed Warinner and D.J. Durkin.
Breakdown: In a span of a few weeks, George O'Leary went from coach and interim athletic director to retired from both jobs. UCF's first decision will be to find an athletic director, as the university attempts to position itself for the next round of conference expansion. There are a few AD names being bandied around. Buffalo's Danny White has been involved with a handful of bigger jobs and would be a logical candidate. Bowling Green's Chris Kingston is a UCF graduate has done strong work in a short time at at the school. (Could he perhaps help UCF land Dino Babers?) A wildcard here is Damon Evans, the former Georgia athletic director whose career imploded in spectacular fashion with his arrest in 2010. Evans quietly returned to college sports as Maryland's CFO in 2014. Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search is running the UCF search and has strong ties to Evans from his days at Georgia.
As for the football job, there's a near-consensus in the industry that UCF is a better job that Iowa State, Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers, Colorado, Syracuse and most other lower-tier jobs expected to open around college football. UCF has a fertile recruiting ground, recent success with a Fiesta Bowl win two seasons ago and is perhaps the best job in the American Athletic Conference.
Names: Doc Holliday, Jeff Brohm, Mario Cristobal, Greg Schiano, Eddie Gran, P.J. Fleck, Dino Babers, Geoff Collins and Manny Diaz.
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