Darren Rovell tweeted Mack Brown’s buyout over the weekend. This after Brown’s Texas Longhorns suffered their second straight loss in an absolute beatdown at the hands of rival Oklahoma. After losing the National Championship to Alabama at the end of the 2009 season Texas went 5-7 and 8-5 (although only 4-5 in the Big 12 that second season). Despite a National Championship in 2005, and back-to-back one loss seasons, Longhorn fans have apparently had enough. This is of course ludicrous, but what else is new. Brown is owed a ridiculous amount of money over the rest of his contract, but can be bought out for just $3.5M this year, and it goes down each subsequent year. That latter point is what makes me think they are in no hurry to replace him, but it’s still fun to speculate.
Texas is a “destination job”. In other words, it basically means that the coach of this school wouldn’t leave to be the coach somewhere else (besides the NFL) unless he was fired. There are probably about a dozen schools that fall into this category besides Texas. Notre Dame, USC, Ohio St., Alabama, Oklahoma and Florida are no brainers. Michigan, Florida St., LSU, Georgia and maybe Penn St. probably are in the conversation as well. What is really means, is that almost no one would turn this job down.
I have comprised a list of 10 guys I think could get be on Texas’ radar, assuming they wouldn’t hire either of their top two assistants (Manny Diaz and Major Applewhite), which they might.
Art Briles – Baylor Head Coach
Art Briles is 56 and is a Texas native. He has coached in Texas his entire life, starting with high schools before being an assistant at Texas Tech for just two seasons. He then served as Houston’s head coach from 2003-2007. He has been the head coach in Waco for five seasons. This is a good way to summarize his success there:
Briles has won 13 Big 12 conference games in his four years as head coach. Baylor had won only 11 Big 12 conference games in the 12 seasons preceding his arrival.
Briles signed an extension last December with a significant pay bump, but I can’t find the years or buyout. It’s not likely that any buyout will be an issue for a school like Texas but you never know.
Mark Dantonio – Michigan St. Head Coach
Mark Dantonio is also 56, but grew up in Ohio and has no ties to Texas. It’s unclear to me whether he was ever a candidate for the Ohio St. job last year, but if he was he didn’t go for it. He is in his 6th season at Michigan St. and is coming off two 11-win seasons and two top 15 finishes.
Dantonio signed an extension last fall and has a $3.5M buyout and basically has a “lifetime” contract now because it includes an athletic department position after he retires.
It’s pretty say to say that he isn’t going anywhere, but Texas might kick the tires.
Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern Head Coach
Pat Fitzgerald is 37 and one of the younger head coaches in the country. He has been Northwestern’s head coach since 2006 and it’s the only head coaching job he has had. He grew up outside of Chicago, went to Northwestern and is probably their greatest player ever. He is just a few wins shy of most coaching wins in team history in just his 7th season. He has taken them to four straight bowl games and a couple of winning Big Ten records.
Fitzgerald supposedly took his name out of the race for both the Notre Dame and Penn St. openings. I can’t see a situation where he would pass those up but consider Texas. He has no ties there either. It seems like an incredible longshot, but because of his age he is going to be a candidate for big time jobs for a while.
Al Golden – Miami Head Coach
Al Golden is 43 and in his second year as Miami’s (FL) head coach. He went to college at Penn St. and was an assistant on the east coast for a few years before taking the head job at Temple. If Golden had stayed one more year at Temple he likely would have been a lock to take the Penn St. job this past winter. Instead he muddled through a 6-6 first season and is 4-3 so far this season.
With all of the sanctions and issues at Miami, few would blame him for jumping ship. He has just three years remaining after this season, and if nothing else, could parlay a Texas offer into an extension at Miami. I think he would at least consider the job.
Dana Holgorsen – West Virginia Head Coach
Dana Holgorsen controversially took over at West Virginia when Bill Stewart was forced out. He is 41 and has no direct ties to Texas. He was an assistant at Texas Tech from 2000-2007, as well as two years at Houston as offensive coordinator. He just signed a six year contract in August of last year and might not want to move laterally to another Big 12 school with as much as he is being paid. With everything that led to his hiring, it seems unlikely he is at a point where he would leave, but he would have to give it some thought.
Chip Kelly – Oregon Head Coach
Chip Kelly grew up in New Hampshire and hasn’t coached anywhere but there and Oregon. He was Oregon’s offensive coordinator for just two seasons before getting the big job. All he has done so far is win three Pac 12 titles and a Rose Bowl, and lost one National Championship team. He is 6-0 so far this season.
Even now, it’s hard to call Oregon a destination job, but in a few years Kelly could make it that. There were rumors Kelly was in the hunt for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job, and might even have backed out at the last minute. At only 48, he will likely get more NFL offers. At this point, I think that is the only thing he leaves for. He has a good gig at Oregon, and the expectations would be higher at Texas, where he would basically be starting over.
Dan Mullen – Mississippi State Head Coach
Dan Mullen is 40 years old and grey up in New Hampshire. He doesn’t have any Texas ties either, and after following Urban Meyer around, including being Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida, he took the Mississippi St. job in 2009. He has had good success there in three seasons, including two bowl wins. His team is 6-0 right now and could have a big season ahead of them. Long term though, it’s hard to see Mississippi St. as a big time program. Mullen’s coaching history doesn’t point to any obvious “dream jobs”. If offered the Texas job, I wonder if he could turn it down.
Will Muschamp – Florida Head Coach
Will Muschamp is 41 and grew up in Gainesville Florida. He played at Georgia and has been an assistant at several places in the SEC. He was also Texas’s defensive coordinator for three seasons. He was also named Mack Brown’s eventual successor before deciding to take the Florida job last year instead. He has the Gators off to a surprising 6-0 start and already back on the map. It would seem crazy that he would go back to Texas at this point, especially since Florida is a destination job itself. I would assume he wouldn’t be interested.
Chris Petersen – Boise St. Head Coach
Chris Petersen is 48 and has had ridiculous success at Boise St. His name comes up for every job and time and time again he seems to turn it down. He grew up in California and spent some time as an Oregon assistant. They won WAC titles in 4 out of the 5 seasons they were a part of it. He is 4-2 in bowl games and is off to a 5-1 start despite losing star QB Kellen Moore. Petersen signed a very lucrative extension in February. He is exceptionally well paid, and with the move to the Big East, he is finally in a bigger conference. He wasn’t interested in the UCLA job, but this might be the biggest job opportunity he could have had. I still find it hard to believe he won’t try something else at some point. This might be too good to pass up.
Charlie Strong – Louisville Head Coach
Charlie Strong is 52 and one of the hot coaching names out there right now. It’s very likely he will take a step up at some point. Strong grew up in Arkansas and played at Central Arkansas. He has had four separate stints as a Florida assistant, including a recent 8 year run as defensive coordinator. He has had success at Louisville so far, including a Big East title in 2011. He already has his team off to a 6-0 start this season, which means he could have his best season ever before this is all over. Anything can happen between now and the winter, but he has to be at the top of Arkansas’ wish list. Since he has roots there, he might prefer that job to Texas anyway.
Who Will It Be?
It’s too early to know if Texas would actually release Mack Brown sometime this year, but it’s definitely possible. If it happens this year, I think Dan Mullen would be my pick as the top outside candidate. Art Briles has good Texas ties as well, and I would think he would also be a serious contender. If Chris Petersen would actually leave Boise St. he would be in the running as well. And if Charlie Strong was somehow not offered the Arkansas job, he would have to be a serious option too.