Tag Archives: Pat Fitzgerald

Possible Mack Brown Replacements: 2013 Edition

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 Petrino 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 season 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 championships, 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.

Mack Brown’s Possible Replacements

UPDATE (Sept. 10th 2013): There is a new version of this post for the 2013 season.

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.

Pat Fitzgerald Means More to NU Than Wins

Andrew Cieslak linked to an article by Robert from A Lion Eye that compared the records and schedules of Pat Fitzgerald and Ron Zook at Northwestern and Illinois over the last few seasons. The gist of the article is that no fan/alumnus of Illinois would even consider suggesting Ron Zook should get a contract extension. And Pat Fitzgerald just got a 10 year extension. And when you look at the records and schedules, these guys are pretty much even.

Sorry, but article is just ridiculous. This isn’t the NFL. All 120 Division I-A programs are not created equal. The division between programs/schools is often drastic. The reason Pat Fitzgerald was given this extension and Ron Zook wasn’t can be summed up with one word, expectations.

Start with alumni and fans. I have been a Northwestern season ticketholder in the past and have friends who are alumni. The thought of a National Championship has never entered their minds. Even Big Ten titles are just gravy. Being competitive, getting to bowl games and eventually winning one, are about all that matters to them in the short term. Illini fans have seen the recruiting rankings, preseason rankings, Big Ten titles and think that they should be a Big Ten title contender EVERY year.

The schools themselves are vastly different. Northwestern is a private institution with about 8,500 undergrads. University of Illinois is a public school with 30,000+ undergrads. The overall admission and academic standards are higher at Northwestern. There are many recruits who wouldn’t qualify and wouldn’t want to deal with the difficult academic challenge either.

One of the reasons Illini fans have such high expectations is recruiting rankings. Since Ron Zook took over, Rivals ranked his recruiting classes as follows: 30th, 20th, 23rd, 35th, not in the top 50 in 2010 and 42nd in 2011. During that same period Northwestern wasn’t ranked once in the top 50, and never ranked higher than 8th in the Big Ten.

Also take the coaches themselves. Zook has been a coach for 30+ years at one level or another. He has NFL coordinator experience and was a head coach in the SEC before coming to Illinois. Fitzgerald has been a coach for less than 15 years and had never been higher than a position coach before abruptly stepping into the big job after the untimely death of Randy Walker. Fitzgerald has gone to 3 bowl games in 5 years, as many both games as Randy Walker and Gary Barnett went to in more seasons. He is about two years, or so away from having more career Big Ten wins at Northwestern than anyone since Pappy Waldorf in the 30s and 40s. Northwestern didn’t go to a bowl game between 1949 and 1996. They haven’t won a bowl game since 1949 (!).

The facts above alone are enough to explain why comparing records of the two coaches makes no sense. In fact, it’s pretty impossible to compare Northwestern’s stats, facts and figures against any Big Ten team and say they are equal, but that doesn’t even explain why this made sense for Northwestern.

Remember that Fitzgerald was a player at NU. And not just any player. At worst, he was the 2nd best player in the school’s history. He grew up south of Chicago, and he is presently coaching at his dream job. He has put a ton of time and effort into trying to build the Northwestern program up around Chicago. He is the driving force behind bringing fans to games and filling the stadium with purple and black. He has a much larger personal investment in this program than Zook does at Illinois. Short of bringing a National Championship to Illinois, Zook will just be another coach in Illinois’ history. Fitzgerald is trying to be the guy who puts Northwestern on the map. He is trying to turn the program into Chicago’s Big Ten team. If he gets them to the point where they are selling out most games and getting to bowl games every year, NU (and it’s fans and alums) will consider him a success.

This isn’t the NFL. Success at the college level is not just about wins, losses and championships. Not everywhere at least. Extension or otherwise, it’s not crazy to think that Pat Fitzgerald will be coaching this team 20 years from now. My guess is that people won’t even remember Ron Zook then.

Fitzgerald Puts Dan Persa on Heisman Radar

This post refers to espn.go.com

Adam Rittenberg from ESPN.com relays Pat Fitzgerald’s thoughts that Northwestern QB Dan Persa is a Heisman candidate. But

Rittenberg on the steep climb:

Northwestern hasn’t had a Heisman candidate since 2000, when running back Damien Anderson finished fifth in the voting. Although Persa is a known name in Big Ten circles, he could struggle to gain national attention because of Northwestern’s profile and the fact the Wildcats likely won’t enter the season ranked.

Persa is a known figure in Big Ten circles, but the problem is the big names still in the Big Ten, Denard Robinson, Taylor Martinez and to a lesser extent Terelle Pryor. My guess is that Northwestern will be picked to finish between 3rd and 5th in their division so the chance that Persa gets any hype before October is low. So if he is going to get into the conversation he will have to do it on his own.

Wolverines Offered Head Coach to Pat Fitzgerald

This post refers to chicagotribune.com

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune has a nice piece on Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald. The tidbits about how far Michigan actually went to attempt to hire him were interesting:

Until now, it has been reported that Michigan merely made a third-party inquiry to Fitzgerald.

The reality is that Michigan’s interest in Fitzgerald was so sincere, representatives of the school laid out salary parameters, according to sources.

As a (semi) Northwestern fan and Chicagolandian I am very familiar with Fitzgerald. As a Michigan fan, there is no one I would have rather had. But I have long said Fitzgerald will never leave NU. He is from Chicago, he went to NU and he can coach there forever, so why would he leave?

If he can’t be a coach at my favorite school, staying at my 2nd favorite school until he retires is fine with me.

(via Adam Rittenburg)

Michigan’s Coaching Options

This post refers to mgoblog.com

Brian Cook from mgoblog with an absolutely great piece on the coaches he says “likely would turn up from a ‘national search.’”

The title of post indicates what he, and many insiders, agree on, Brady Hoke is likely the next head coach of Michigan.

Cook rattles off other guys a search would produce: Petersen, Patterson, Whittingham, Fitzgerald, Mullens and Strong. All of whom are people I think Michigan would love to have. Being a quasi-Northwestern fan I think Fitzgerald is an underrated and potentially great coach with the right resources. He will never leave NU because he can coach there forever if he wants. Mullens is the 2nd youngest and would be an amazingly great hire, but just got a raise and coaches in the SEC. The other four guys don’t seem likely for the reasons Brian documented.

Like Brian, I agree that all six guys are improvements over Hoke:

Does Hoke approach any of these guys? Absolutely not. If he’d been a Michigan State assistant no one would have ever brought him up.

The fact of the matter is that Hoke won’t/wouldn’t be in consideration for another AQ-conference coaching job anytime soon. The fact that he is a “Michigan Man” is the only reason he is in the conversation.

I think it will be Hoke or an assistant or FCS coach no one has heard of. Les Miles is unlikely to come at this point and there isn’t another high-profile guy who would even consider it at this point.

The Growing Michigan Mess

This post refers to nytimes.com

Great piece by Pete Thamel of the New York Times on the state of the Michigan football program:

Whether or not Rodriguez stays, the only certainty to come from a day of speculation and misinformation is that the once-proud Michigan brand has a long road back to respectability. Winning instantly does not seem realistic under Rodriguez, but turning the program over to someone else could mean waiting even longer to win.

I agree completely.

There is no reason for Denard Robinson to stay if they don’t hire another spread coach. As good as Denard is, that isn’t really my main concern. I personally think Tate Forcier is a capable guy.

My bigger concerns are, the reality of starting from scratch again and the fact that Brady Hoke appears to be the frontrunner. That is not the answer. I don’t think Les Miles is a crazy idea at this point, since the seat in LSU is a bit warm.

If it can’t be Harbaugh or another dream hire (Pat Fitzgerald, Randy Edsall, Mike Gundy), or keeping Rodriguez, then I guess Miles is my first choice.

(via ESPN)