Michigan made the inevitable a reality Tuesday when it fired coach Brady Hoke. One of the most famous and tradition-rich programs in college football starts its third coach search since 2007.
Interim athletic director Jim Hackett will be in charge. A former Michigan football player, his career overlapped with that of LSU coach Les Miles with the Wolverines. Read into that fact what you will.
Who will be the next Michigan coach? Some possibilities and why they do or do not make sense:
Les Miles, LSU coach. Miles has been one of the most successful coaches in the country during his 10 years with the Tigers. He is 103-28 with a national championship and another title game appearance. The last two times the Michigan job was open, Miles came up as a possible candidate. Things are different this time around, from the people making the decisions to the people influencing those decisions. The 61-year-old Miles, who makes over $4 million per season, he has spent 10 years being under-appreciated at LSU. Maybe it's time to go somewhere he would be embraced?
Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers coach. The former Michigan quarterback turned Stanford into a power and immediately turned around a 49ers franchise that had been languishing. Signs suggest he is not coming back to college, even if his rocky time in San Francisco ends this season. Plenty of NFL teams would gladly have him. Michigan has to at least make a pitch - if it already hasn't. And call his brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, while they're at it.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs put together a dream season and Mullen has built a program that should be successful going forward, but it's not realistic to think he's about to rip off a string of double-digit win seasons in Starkville, where State has the smallest athletic budget in the SEC West. The 42-year-old native Pennsylvanian has spent much of his coaching career in the Northeast and Midwest before going to Florida with Urban Meyer in 2005. He is 46-30 in six seasons at Mississippi State.
Greg Schiano, former Rutgers coach. Michigan courted Schiano back in 2007. Since then, he did a short and unpleasant stint in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What Schiano did at Rutgers cannot be understated: The Scarlet Knights were barely worthy of inclusion in Division I when he took over. Now they are consistent winners. Michigan doesn't need that kind of overhaul, but it does need somebody with a broad vision of how a top-notch program should be run from top to bottom. Having a track record of excellent academic performance by his teams helps, too.
Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State defensive coordinator. If you can't beat `em, hire `em. Michigan entrusting its program to a first-time head coach doesn't seem likely. It happened with Lloyd Carr, but he was a longtime Michigan assistant. Still, the Spartans have owned the Wolverines in recent years and Narduzzi has been a big reason why. The 48-year-old Connecticut native will be a head coach at some point. Why not in Ann Arbor?
Butch Jones, Tennessee coach. Jones is a Michigan native and former coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He won big in both spots and now is in Year 2 of rebuilding Tennessee. He and his staff have been cleaning up in recruiting, and he got a team desperately lacking experienced players bowl eligible against a tough schedule this season. The arrow is pointing up for the Vols so it's hard to imagine why the 46-year-old Jones would walk away from Knoxville.