After this past weekend’s dismantling at the hands of BYU, it seem’s fitting to revive an article from last October outlining some possible replacements for Mack Brown at Texas. Despite finishing strong last season, Texas hasn’t been the same since getting worked over by Alabama in the 2010 BCS National Championship game. Texas is still a destination job. With it’s deep pocketed boosters and fertile recruiting ground, there are likely few guys who would turn it down. Here they are in order from least likely, to most likely:
Al Golden – Head Coach, Miami Hurricanes
Al Golden is 44 and in his third year as Miami’s (FL) head coach. He was on this list last year because of the NCAA sanctions that were hanging over Miami at the time. Somehow, these sanctions are still unresolved, and therefore Miami still doesn’t know how severe of a punishment they will receive. But based on the other punishments handed out recently, they likely won’t be severe enough for Golden to leave. Fresh off his upset win of Florida, he is probably locked in at this point.
Chip Kelly – Head Coach, Philadelphia Eagles
Most people would peg him as the lease likely candidate, and they would likely be right. Both Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier were given two seasons, and it was only Bobby Petrino1 who bailed after one. So Kelly almost certainly won’t throw in the towel after one season unless things just go completely south. But a high-profile college job like this is definitely the kind of thing that would make sense for him to return.
Will Muschamp – Head Coach, University of Florida
Will Muschamp is 42 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 even named Mack Brown’s eventual successor before deciding to take the Florida job two years ago instead. Even with Florida’s really upset loss to Miami, it would seem crazy that he would go back to Texas at this point, especially since Florida is a destination job itself. It’s safe to assume he wouldn’t be interested, but his ties to Texas leave the door open.
Pat Fitzgerald – Head Coach, Northwestern University
Pat Fitzgerald is 38 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 8th season. He has taken them to five 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 in recent years. There doesn’t seem to be a situation where he would pass those up but consider Texas. He has no ties to anywhere but Northwestern. It seems like an incredible longshot, but because of his age and success at a school like Northwestern he is going to be a candidate for big time jobs for a while.
Dan Mullen – Head Coach, Mississippi St. University
Dan Mullen is 41 years old and grey up in New Hampshire. He doesn’t have any Texas ties really, and after following Urban Meyer around, including being Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida, he took the Mississippi St. job in 2009. He is in his 5th season as head coach, winning records in the last 4, has gone to three straight bowl games, and is 2–1 in those. He still doesn’t have a winning record in the SEC, but that’s hard to do at a school like MSU. 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”.
Mullen’s stock might not be as high as it could be, but he has still held his own at a school that had losing seasons 4 out of the 5 years before he showed up. If offered the Texas job, it seems unlikely he could turn it down.
Mark Dantonio – Head Coach, Michigan St. University
Mark Dantonio is 57, grew up in Ohio and has no ties to Texas. It’s unclear whether he was ever a true candidate for the Ohio St. job two years ago, but it’s hard to see any school picking Dantonio over Urban Meyer. He is in his 7th season2 at Michigan St. and is just followed up two 11-win seasons and two top 15 finishes with a disappointing 7–6 season, losing Big Ten record, and 4th place finish in their division. Although they are 2–0 to start the season, they have looked very shaky on offense and all signs point to this being a rough season for the Spartans.
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 would be interesting to see what he could do with the talent at Texas, and while it seemed like he would be content to win 9–10 games at MSU forever, he might consider greener pastures if offered.
Dana Holgersen – Head Coach, West Virginia University
Dana Holgorsen controversially took over at West Virginia when Bill Stewart was forced out a few years ago. He is 42 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 2011, but that contract will be half over after this season. West Virginia struggled last season in their first year in the Big 12, and already is 0–1 this year. It seems likely that if offered Holgersen would take the job, but at this point you have to wonder if he is highly sought after.
Chris Petersen – Head Coach, Boise St. University
Chris Petersen is 48 and has had ridiculous success at Boise St. As of this article he is 85–9 in his 8 years at the school. But four of those 9 losses have come in the last three seasons (counting one already this year). After winning WAC titles in 4 of 5 seasons, he is just 1 for 2 in the Mountain West, a much tougher conference. 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. He signed a very lucrative extension in February 2012, and is exceptionally well paid. He wasn’t interested in the UCLA job, and it seems hard to believe he won’t try something else at some point. But with USC possibly looking for a new coach, that job might make a lot more sense to a California guy.
Kirby Smart – Defensive Coordinator, University of Alabama
Smart’s name comes up every year for all kinds of jobs. He is only 37, and since Nick Saban doesn’t seem like he is going anywhere, it would appear that Smart’s only hope for a promotion would be to take another job. Perhaps teams haven’t felt he was ready, or perhaps he is waiting to pounce on a once-in-a-career kind of job like Texas or USC. If nothing else, the carousel that takes place could open up a good job for him to snatch up.
Charlie Strong – Head Coach, University of Louisville
Charlie Strong is 53 and remains one of the hot coaching names out there right now. Now that the American Athletic Conference won’t get an automatic playoff bid 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 two Big East titles and a 2–1 bowl record. Strong just got a massive raise in January, so the likeliness of him leaving would seem lower. But now that the AAC is mostly irrelevant, it would make a lot of sense for him to take a better gig. Especially if Louisville finishes with zero, or no losses and misses the National Championship.
Gary Patterson – Head Coach, Texas Christian University
Like Chris Petersen, Gary Patterson’s name seems to come up for every job under the sun. This is what happens with success at small schools. HIs tenure at TCU has been just as remarkable as Petersen. He is 117–23 overall, with 6 conference championships3, and a 7–5 bowl record (although he has won 5 of the last 7). Seven of Patterson’s 13 completed seasons ended with double digit wins. All that said, it begs the question, if he hasn’t left by now, is he really going to leave?
Patterson is from Kansas, went to Kansas St., and hasn’t spent coached at any big time programs, even as an assistant. But he is only 53, and while he’s in a situation similar to Pat Fitzgerald, where a winning record is likely enough to keep him around year after year, one has to wonder if he will someday want more? It’s unclear whether he is a big enough name (or even has the aspirations) of coaching the NFL, but if not, it would be hard to be the Texas job. TCU struggled in year 1 of the Big 12 era, and has already lost a game in year 2. Like many on this list, it might be hard to turn down a once-in-a-career shot like Texas.
James Franklin – Head Coach, Vanderbilt University
41-year old James Franklin is in his third year as Vanderbilt head coach. He is 16–12 overall, and 7–10 in the SEC so far, with a 1–1 bowl record. Last yea’s 9–4 finish was just the third time in school history the team won 9 games in a season. With the SEC as top heavy as it is, what Franklin has done so far is remarkable. But at such a young age, there’s no doubt his time there will be short. It’s just a matter of when, not if, he will take a bigger job. Franklin is is from Pennsylvania, and most of his experience has been east of the Rockies, as offensive coordinator of Kansas St. and Maryland. If Bill O’Brien had (or shortly does) bolted for the NFL, he would have made a lot of sense as the next Penn St. coach. Instead, he seems like a candidate for USC or Texas, or practically any other job that comes along.
Art Briles – Head Coach, University of Baylor
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 six seasons. This is a good way to summarize his success there, Briles has won 17 Big 12 conference games in his five years as head coach. Baylor had won only 11 Big 12 conference games in the 12 seasons preceding his arrival.
Briles signed an extension in December 2011 with a significant pay bump, but nobody makes more sense for Texas that to hire. With his ties to the state, and his success at Baylor, it’s a natural fit. He would likely be a top candidate for USC if that job opened up, so the window might be short to snatch him up.