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Is UCF the next head coaching job to open up?

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We're effectively half way done with the college football season. Let's examine the current open jobs and what ones might soon become available.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What the hell happened last week?  On Tuesday, news broke that both USC and - that other USC, South Carolina - would be joining Maryland, North Texas, and Illinois in getting an early jump on hiring season.  With Steve Spurrier (his choice) and Steve Sarkisian (not his choice) gone, it opens up two of the biggest, if not best, jobs to be available this year.

But let's be clear -- firing season has officially arrived in college football

The Interim Coach Club  - jobs already available


Current record: 4-2
Possible replacements: Bill Cubit, Justin Fuente, Jeff Brohm, Dino Babers, Tom Herman

The first job made available this year when the illini choose to relieve Tim Beckman of his duties just days prior to the start of the season.

Interim coach Bill Cubit has actually done a nice job here. In some regard too nice. He's proven to be competent turning a bad situation into a manageable one.  But the ceiling is never going to be very high for the former Western Michigan head coach.

If Cubit finds a way to win 8 games, which is very possible given the remaining schedule, can Illinois actually remove him?  A best case for Illinois here might be winning 7 games - enough to get them into a bowl, but not enough to build overwhelming support for Cubit - and then find a coach sometime in December.

It's hard to see Illinois venturing back into the MAC to hire their next boss after the Tim Beckman failure, but unless they want to pony up some real cash and have a bidding war for Tom Herman or Justin Fuente, then Dino Babers might be their best bet here.

South Carolina

Current record: 3-4
Possible replacements: Kirby Smart, Mark Dantonio, Justin Fuente, Brent Venables, Ed Orgeron

Even if you thought the Ol Ball Coach might be past his prime, it was still had to imagine him stepping down in the middle of the season as he did last week.  Spurrier always played by his own rules - and college football was better for it - but it leaves the Gamecocks in a tricky situation on this hire.

Let's not pretend this is a great job.  Before Spurrier, it was an SEC afterthought and even at their peak it's probably just a slightly better job than Maryland. But it does have some SEC allure and should be able to throw some money around to bring in a nice candidate.

The biggest shocker here would be Mark Dantonio, a South Carolina alum, but the odds of him leaving Michigan State seem slim. Still, Dantonio didn't exactly shut down the rumors when asked about the job last week.

Outside of Dantonio, it seems like this USC might be the best landing spot for a high-profile coordinator or Justin Fuente,

Fuente has done a outstanding job at Memphis (proving his can beat SEC teams along the way) and will likely his pick of jobs in the off season.  The Gamecocks would be wise to lock him up as soon as possible.


Current record: 3-3
Possible replacements: Chip Kelly, Ed Orgeron, Kyle Whittingham, Sean Payton

The biggest job currently available, and unless Texas comes open, it will remain that way.

The bigger question here might be who is actually selecting the next coach?  Athletic director Pat Haden is dealing with his fair share of criticism these days and had at least a minor health scare over the weekend.

Things in LA have a tendency to turn into a circus and a no non-sense type candidate seems to be the favorite here. If that's the case, and it should be, Kyle Whittingham makes 100% complete sense.

However, the obviously choice is not always the USC choice. Expect the Trojans to heavily flirt with NFL head coaches Sean Payton and Chip Kelly, who might find the land of Troy enticing enough to return to the collegiate ranks.

North Texas

Current record: 0-6
Possible replacements: Major Applewhite, Kendal Briles, Doug Meacham, Mario Cristobal

Unless he can turn a miracle, it's doubtful interim coach Mike Canales will keep the job.

UNT, for all it's faults, isn't exactly a terrible job. You've got a great recruiting base to start with and a University that has shown a willingness to commit money to facilities and salaries.  It can be the perfect stepping stone job for a hot shot, up-and-coming coach.

Texas ties are probably the biggest requirement of whomever the next hire is. Outside of that, it's really a question of how high UNT wants to aim and if some of the more flashier names want to take the jump.

Houston offensive coordinator Major Applewhite seems to be the name most associated with the opening so far.


Current record: 2-4
Possible replacements: Mike Locksley, Greg Schiano, Dino Babers, Matt Rhule, PJ Fleck, Chip Kelly

How good a job is Maryland?  The finances are a mess, the tradition isn't good, and the expectations are higher than ever.  Who exactly wants the challenge of leading the Terrapin program?

Maryland fans are clamoring for Chip Kelly, but there has been exactly zero substance to these rumors as of now.

More realistically, Maryland will have to take their chances of a retread that has had some success (Schiano) or a MAC coach de jour (Babers or Fleck) and hope for some luck. But again, sometimes it might be better to be lucky than good -- there's always the chance Under Armor could save the day.

The Soon to be Available Club - these jobs might be open...soon

George O'Leary, UCF

Current record: 0-7
Record at UCF: 81-67
Possible replacements: Brent Key, Rhett Lashlee, Geoff Collins, Willie Fritz, DJ Durkin

It keeps getting sadder, folks.  The Knights are still without a win on the year and no relief appears to be on the way. O'Leary has resigned himself from athletic director duties, but remains lost on the sidelines.

UCF may be better off making a decision on O'Leary's future soon.  It would enable the school to get a jump on the hiring process, but allow O'Leary the dignity of finishing out the year.

As the free beer keeps flowing, O'Leary continues to damage his legacy and the hopes of his handpicked successor, Brent Key, taking over the program.

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Current record: 2-5
Record at Georgia Tech: 60-40
Possible replacements: Doug Meacham, Kirby Smart, Justin Fuente, Willie Fritz, George Godsey

Umm, is it time we talk about this? Johnson is a great coach, a master of option football, and has turned around every program he has took over, but has he hit his ceiling at Georgia Tech?

The Yellow Jackets came into the 2015 season with super high exceptions - there was legitimate playoff talk with this team - but sit at a lowly 2-5 so far.  One bad year should not be enough to cost Johnson his job, but with a remaining schedule including games against Florida State, Miami and Georgia, things could snowball into a really bad situation.

Johnson's current contract extends through 2020, but an extremely disappointing year -- and his not exactly charismatic personality -- could make this seat very, very warm in the near future.

Jim Harbaugh, TUN

Current record: 5-2
Record at TUN: 5-2
Possible replacements: Bobby Williams, John L Smith, George Perles

Michigan's breakdown on special teams cost the Wolverines a win and means Harbaugh still hasn't beaten a single rival since he's arrived in Ann Arbor. There's no chance the maize and blue faithful will tolerate that for much longer.