There is a lot that we still don’t know about the soon-to-be-vacant football head-coaching job at Texas. This much we do know, however: Mack Brown is stepping down after the Longhorns’ Alamo Bowl game on Dec. 30. We also know there could be a long list of potential candidates in whom Texas might have interest and who themselves might be attracted to one of college footballs premier coaching jobs.
Just considering the possibilities – forget the probabilities – is what makes this exercise so much fun and serves as grist for the rumor mill and an onslaught of punditry and talk-show discussion.
Two names you would expect to be high on the Longhorns’ wish list have already said no: Nick Saban, who has won three national championships, one with LSU and two with his current employer, Alabama, and Art Briles, who this season coached Baylor to its first Big 12 football championship and first-ever 11-win season. Both have indicated they are very happy where they are, and you can be assured that their employers have made certain of that.
Texas is no doubt looking for a big name – and why shouldn’t it, given the opportunity at hand and the rich tradition UT has in the sport, not to mention the vast resources the university has at its disposal – but most of all they want someone who has a proven record of success. Additionally, the Longhorn search committee want someone with the psychological makeup to handle enormous pressure, both on and off the field, something that is indigenous in a job of such high visibility and expectations.
So who will be the lucky – or perhaps not so lucky – winner on the Texas spinning wheel of potential head coaches? Several names that are getting quite a bit of attention of late are Kevin Sumlin, the head coach at Texas A&M (and formerly at the University of Houston), Charlie Strong at Louisville and Will Muschamp, who left Texas, where he was the defensive coordinator under Brown from 2008 to 2010, to become head coach at Florida. There is some thought that Strong might be waiting to see what happens at Florida, where Muschamp might be on the hot seat after Florida sufferred its worst season since the late 1980s.
It’s not certain that Texas would want Muschamp back, although he was designated as the so-called coach-in-waiting to replace Brown before his decision to leave for Florida to become a head coach. In two seasons in sunny Florida, Muschamp’s record is just 22-16, snd this year’s Gator team actually began the 2013 season ranked No. 10 nationally.
Speaking of Florida, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who won a national championship at Florida, might be a consideration. His national reputation and record clearly speak for themselves, but Meyer is already at a top program, where he is experiencing tremendous success (how else would you describe a program that has only one loss in two season?). Hard to think he would consider the Texas job an upgrade over where he is now. Memo to Coach Meyer: It isn’t.
It’s too bad that Arkansas got former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema to jump at the end of last season. Bielma had great success in the Big Ten at Wisconsin, but not so much in his inaugural season guiding the Razorbacks. Bielma would have been a perfect fit for the Texas job, but its a year too late.
NFL coaches Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks) and Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers) have had success in the college ranks – Carroll at USC and Harbaugh at Stanford – but my guess is that they are very happy where they are right now and without all of the inside and outside pressure they would encounter in a job like at Texas.
Boise State’s Chris Peterson might have been a good choice. After all, Texas brought in former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin to revitalize the Longhorn offense in 2011-12. The train has already left the station on that consideration, though. The University of Washington now has Peterson under contract.
Another name that is getting some support as far as the Texas job goes is James Franklin at Vanderbilt. One sports writer this week wrote that “anyone who can win nine games at Vanderbilt ought to be able to win 12 games at Texas.” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit also came out publicly recently, saying Franklin would be a good fit for the Texas job.
And what about Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy or Gary Patterson at TCU? It’s probably a stretch to think Gundy could be lured away from his alma mater. And, besides, the Oklahoma State head coach is just 1-8 against Oklahoma. Don’t think that would get a lot of support in Austin. Patterson has been on a number of candidate short lists with the success he has had at TCU, but he is probably to loyal and holds too much respect for his present employer to jump to a rival school in the same conference. You never know, though. Money talks, and UT has a boatload of it.
Circling back to the original question, it’s reasonable to assume that Texas officials have been giving this situation serious thought for some time. It wasn’t until this week, however, that they have had the freedom or the decency to actively talk to and officially move forward on a replacement. With the countdown ti National Signing Day only a month and a half off, you would expect the powers that be at Texas to move relatively quickly to fill the position. All of this leads me to believe they have one of two people firmly in mind.
Chances are good that the choice is going to come from someone on the aforementioned list. Care to venture a guess?