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After Firing Todd Graham, What's Next for Arizona State's Head Coaching Search?

Bruce Feldman suggests some of the Sun Devils' top candidates are currently still employed by other schools.

Arizona State pulled the plug on coach Todd Graham Sunday morning, as SI reported, opening up a good Pac-12 vacancy just 24 hours after the UCLA job was filled by Chip Kelly. The ASU job is one of the better ones in the Pac-12. It has a good local recruiting base and great proximity to Southern California, improved facilities and a very attractive locale to bring kids into.

Some of the names I expect to get into the mix for this one: former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was fired by the Aggies Sunday; Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, a Phoenix native; West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen; UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, who is serving as the Bruins’ interim head coach, Michigan passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens assistant Greg Roman and Arizona Cardinals OC Harold Goodwin.

Arizona State had wanted to hire Sumlin six years ago but he ended up at Texas A&M, where he’d coached before. Sources say he still has some strong support inside ASU. He is 86–43 all-time as a head coach. His rep as a recruiter certainly will help his cause. He landed Christian Kirk out of the Phoenix area, who has proven to be arguably the best talent that area has produced in a few years.

Mason has Pac-12 experience, having been a defensive coordinator at Stanford, and is well-regarded by Cardinal coach David Shaw, which I’m told is a big plus in ASU’s eyes. His record at Vandy is 18–31 and just 6–26 in SEC play. 

The 46-year-old Holgorsen is considered one of the most creative minds in football. He is 53–36 in seven seasons at West Virginia. His teams are 17–8 the past two years, which is impressive considering WVU is one of the tougher jobs in the Big 12.

Word is, Fisch is very well-thought of by AD Ray Anderson. Fisch put a big spark into the UCLA offense in his debut season in Westwood, improving a group that ranked No. 91 and has them up to No. 21 in total offense, and did so despite losing two of the team’s best receivers at mid-season. He is 1–0 as an interim head coach and helped get UCLA bowl eligible. 

Hamilton, like Mason, has Stanford ties, having worked as Cardinal OC before spending three seasons as the Colts’ offensive coordinator. He returned to the college game this year, reuniting with Jim Harbaugh. 

Roman, 45, also is said to be a candidate Anderson likes. He, too, has Stanford ties, having spent two seasons on Jim Harbaugh’s staff there before following him to the NFL. Roman spent three seasons as an OC with the 49ers and two more with the Bills.

A veteran O-line coach, the 44-year-old Goodwin, a Bruce Arians protégé, has spent the past three seasons as the Cardinals’ OC. Last season, Arizona finished the 2016 season with 418 points, the fourth-best total in team history. It is the second straight season the Cardinals had a top-10 offense. In 2015, the Cardinals had the top ranked offense in the NFL for the first time in franchise history and set team single-season records for points (489), TDs (59), TD passes (35),  first downs (373) and first downs passing (237).

Graham was canned after going 46–31 in six seasons. However, the Sun Devils were just 12–15 in Pac-12 play the past three years and 18–19 overall, and word is Anderson had wanted to move on from Graham for quite a while.