Another week and again we have multiple coaches fired/resigning/retiring. The jump on hiring season makes total sense. With more money than ever being invested in head coaches, you can't run the risk of missing out on the big time candidate because you're just staring your search in early January. Let's call it the Brandon-Rodriguez Rule.
That said, none of the current openings appear to be 100% slam dunks when it comes to guaranteed success (outside of maybe USC) and that's what makes this whole process tricky if you are say, a Tom Herman or Justin Fuente. Sure, you've got plenty of suitors knocking down your door, but is it worth it to take a Maryland job this year or wait on something a little more prestigious? If you're a hot shot young coordinator do you take your chances with North Texas or wait on a Power 5 job and risk never getting your shot at all?
It's a real life choose-your-own-adventure, but the consequences are much more serious and you can't skip ahead to preview the outcome.
Take this one piece of information for consideration: in 2011, there were 24 new head coaches making a their debut for their respective institutions. As of today, 18 of those 24 are no longer employed at the same place.
Potential candidates: Tom Herman, Justin Fuente, Dino Babers, PJ Fleck, Jeff Brohm
It's looking more and more likely that this is a total blow up and start over for the Fighting Illini. The question then becomes: what kind of job is Illinois?
Tim Beckman self-destructed. Ron Zook and Ron Turner each guided the program to Rose Bowl appearance, but quickly petered out afterwards. And before that you had Lou Tepper, some cheating/sanctions in the 80's, and a not ready for prime time Gary Moeller.
Looking at that history it appears, Campaign is where promising coaches go to die.
That makes this a tough sell for Herman or Fuente, and it's likely Illinois is headed in the MAC direction again with this hire. But beware if you are PJ Fleck or Dino Babers -- this hasn't been a springboard or career job for anyone in a long, long time.
Potential candidates: Chip Kelly, Matt Rhule, Greg Schiano, Lane Kiffin, Al Golden, Dino Babers
Maryland remains quiet, both on and off the field. Luckily for Terps fans, it doesn't appear interim coach Mike Locksley is going to do anything to retain the job.
The hope and potential for a home run hire remains. Under Armor money is already in place and facility upgrades are on the way, once their full share of B1G money starts flowing, this could be a pretty good gig.
We're probably not there yet though - and it seems most likely we could see a Golden or Schiano retread here. But it's shaping up a little bit better for the next guy.
Potential candidates: Clay Helton, Kevin Sumlin, Bob Stoops, Kyle Whittingham, Chip Kelly
Southern Cal is as close to sure bet at success as any of the openings so far. it's very much a plum job. And it doesn't appear once interim coach Clay Helton is going to give up easily.
If Helton can continue to win games and limit distractions this season he probably deserves a shot at the full time gig, but this is not always a conventional athletic department calling the shots.
Could and would they lure a Bob Stoops -- should he decide he's reached his ceiling at Oklahoma? Are things at Texas A&M so dysfunctional that Kevin Sumlin might wander? It's uncertain as of now, but USC rumors will continue to persist. This could be the most interesting of all the open positions.
Potentital candidates: Tom Herman, Justin Fuente, Kirby Smart, Brent Venables, Shane Beamer
The Gamecocks appear to be venturing to always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride territory. One would figure an SEC job (that isn't Vandy) would have candidates lined up to take the reigns, but there remains caution about how good of opportunity this really is.
If they pony up the cash, this is very much a potential landing spot for a Herman or a Fuente, despite neither of the two having ties to the region. Lose the bidding war and they may have to settle for a Kirby Smart or other elite coordinator -- not the worst consolation prize.
And if all else fails, they could always go the nepotism route. Shane Beamer was an assistant here and will be looking for some work, or they could just hand things over to Steve Spurrier Jr. HBC Jr. is sort of a cool nickname, right?
Potential candidates: Major Applewhite, Mike Norvell, Doug Meacham, Sonny Cumbie, Mike Yurcich
Way down in the heart of non-Power 5 world exists little old North Texas. The Mean Green have their sights on a offensive-minded head coach and options are abundant.
This is by no means a bad gig, as CUSA gigs go. You've got location, decent pay and decent facilities all in your favor. The tradition and history part? Well, that's not so good, but there are not many chances to run your own FBS program. Seems like the perfect landing spot for Meacham or Cumbie.
Potential candidates: Bud Foster, Shane Beamer, Mack Brown, Justin Fuente, Matt Rhule, Rich Rodriguez
This will be the hardest opening to predict. Virginia Tech football pre-Beamer is pretty much nonexistent and athletic director Whit Babcock can definitely be a wild card.
Bud Foster, who has been at VT since 1987, does deserve some actual consideration. Shane Beamer? Probably not so much.
If they do decide to hire outside the program, things could get interesting. Babcock has a history with Butch Jones, but Jones appears in no position to leave Tennessee at the moment. Maybe Rich Rod? Another big-ish name? There's talent in Virginia, so this could be a big gig.
Potential candidates: Greg Schiano, Butch Davis, Ed Orgeron, Justin Fuente, Rich Rodriguez
Who does Miami want to be and where do they want to go? The U will need to first answer those questions if they're going to find any success in this hiring process.
If they're looking to the past, then Schiano, Coach O and Butch Davis all make sense as viable candidates. But the limitations to any of those three, and to the Miami of old, are well documented at this point.
If they're looking to make a fresh start and can cough up the cash - Fuente is a very solid hire, if not a little boring.
And then there's Rich Rod, who might be more expensive then they're willing to pay, but man, that would that be a lot of fun.
Potential candidates: Tracy Claeys, Brock Spack, PJ Fleck, Rod Carey, Matt Campbell
Jerry Kill did a good job here and it's sad and unfortunate he won't be able to continue. It'd be a nice story if Tracy Claeys and the rest of the long-tenured Kill staff got keep this thing going, but if the end of Saturday's game against Michigan is any indication -- it's not gonna happen. Or at least, it probably shouldn't.
Brock Spack is having a lot of success at the FCS level and this may be an opportunity for the Gophers to steal him before Purdue can. If not, the MAC coach de jour, be it Matt Campbell/PJ Fleck/Rod Carey all make sense. Consistency, not ceiling, should be the primary concern for the next Gophers' head coach.
Potential candidates: Kalani Sitake, June Jones, Duane Akina, Buzz Preston, Dirk Koetter, Dave Aranda
It's an extremely hard job. The finances are a mess and limitations are abundant. But it's also an opportunity to coach football in paradise and a place where football is a surprisingly important part of the culture. It's a good enough job that 42 candidates applied for it last time it was open.
The right personality is everything here, and luckily, Hawaii has some very good options available.
June Jones did the unthinkable with this program and took the Rainbow Warriors to a BCS game -- he's currently available, tooling around the island, and ready to coach another 5-7 years.
Or maybe Hawaii will target one BYU alum to replace another following Norm Chow's dismissal. Kalani Sitake has been linked to the job before, but the current Oregon State defensive coordinator may have better options on the horizon.
Potential candidates: Per our friends at Underdog Dynasty, Danny Barrett, Mario Cristobal, Lane Kiffin, Will Muschamp, Al Golden
Just a few short seasons ago, UCF looked like a program on the upswing and a possible best-of-non-Power-5 starter gig for an aspiring top coordinator. Now, with the program one of two remaining winless FBS programs, the luster has warn off. Even free beer can't get fans motivated to get up for the Knights.
Though sometimes all it takes is one good hire. If UCF can get the right guy, all the work late-in-career George O'Leary did to undo his prior self's accomplishments can get course corrected. And then maybe in two to three more years, we're talking about UCF in the same breath as the Houston, Memphis, and Temples of the world once again.
Maybe open soon...
Charlie Strong, Texas
Current record: 3-5
Record at Texas: 9-12
Potential replacements: Tom Herman, Chip Kelly, Larry Fedora, Art Briles, Justin Fuente
Remember all that momentum and goodwill Texas had after beating Oklahoma? It's gone.
That's what happens when you get shut out by Iowa State. In fairness Saturday's game might have actually saved the job of one coach, although it was the Cyclones' Paul Rhoads
And while it's probably not fair to fire Strong after only two seasons, this has now turned into a situation where if Texas feels like they have a shot at their guy - be it a Tom Herman or a Chip Kelly - they need to take it now or run the risk of repeating the post-Mack brown search again after next year.
Jim Harbaugh, TUN
Current record: 6-2
Record at TUN: 6-2
Potential replacements: Tim Beckman, Randy Edsall, George O'Leary, Frank Beamer
That Team up North needed a miracle to hang onto a victory against lowly ole' Minnesota. Hard to believe the Michigan faithful will stand for much more of this -- especially with so many attractive potential candidates available.