clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Best and worst cases for college football coaching searches

A great hire can change everything for a college football program. A bad hire can destroy it all.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Urban Meyers don't grow on trees. Rarely will a school have a ready-made superstar available and willing to fill their opening. And so yes, Urban Meyer/Jim Harbaugh/Nick Saban are absolute home-runs hires, but that's not the norm.

The reality is most coaches come from the fat part of the curve. Maybe a program swings and misses on their top candidate, but most coaching searches are resolved before progressing to the 4th or 5th choice.

Let's be honest -- a lot of it is luck. It's a crap shoot in the crazy world of college football.


Best case: Dan Mullen

So let's agree Geogia is a good job -- borderline great -- probably top 10 in the country. But let's also realize it's nearing 40 years since Georgia has had a sustained run as an elite football program. The mid-eighties to the first couple of Mark Richt years were a pretty lowly time for UGA football. And for whatever reason, the powers that be here decided the Richt-era has run its course.  So if the standard of winning here is four seasons (1980-83) out of 12, well then, the expectations here might make this job not so attractive.

That being said, this is the best job currently open. And the best job deserves the candidate.  Tom Herman is that candidate, but he just agreed to an extension so he's all but off the table.

Leaving us with Mississippi State's Dan Mullen -- not a shabby consolation prize.

In Athens, Mullen will have advantages he's never had in Starkville -- a bevy of talented play makers to work with, great facilities, supple recruiting turf, and the fortunate draw of playing in the SEC East.  The only stumbling blocks appears to be salary, already over $4 million/year, but winning in the SEC isn't cheap.

Mullen is a slam dunk, with an even greater sample size of success than Tom Herman.  Pay him his money and get this over with.

Worst case: Will Muschamp

Then you have the worst case option.  The Georgia native, the Bulldog alum, the successful coordinator under legendary head coach: Will Muschamp.

Muschamp probably isn't a serious candidate, but more of the dark horse variety.  If this was five years ago? Man, things would have been different.  But luckily for Georgia, Florida already got to live that nightmare.


Best case: P.J. Fleck

The Rutgers athletic department currently resembles some sort of post-apocalyptic world in which all the grease trucks were overturned and set ablaze so good luck to whomever gets this job.

The best case might at this point might be Fleck, who is young and energetic and potentially crazy enough to believe he can win big here.  If nothing else, he'd be a much welcomed boost of new blood (with some Rutgers ties) to promote the downtrodden brand.

Worst case: Greg Schiano

The retreadiest retread. Schiano put Rutgers football on the map, and I even think might be a better coach than is given credit for, but the time has passed. Dipping back to the old coach in nostalgic attempts to reclaim past pseudo-glory never seem to work.  It's time to move on.


Best case: Greg Schiano

UVA -- a school of civility and Jefferson. Just enough to be southern, but not "SEC" southern. Schiano doesn't fit this image, but winning has a way of curing all ills. He brings instant credibility as a program builder, but deals with lessened expectations at a school where 3 losses per year are reason to celebrate.

Schiano has spent his time away from football the last two season studying successful football  programs and claims to be more prepared than ever for whatever job he takes. After missing out on some bigger jobs, he'll likely be shot out of a cannon, drawing on his eastern and Florida-ties to pick up recruiting efforts for the Hoo's

Worst case: Mack Brown

An older, pseudo-southern, gentlemanly coach - who's won in the ACC and elsewhere, but whose time is through whether he knows it or not.

Brown may be able to offer some helpful advice on the search, but shouldn't be considered a serious candidate when it comes time to make a hire.


Best case: Frank Wilson

Wilson, a current LSU assistant, is well known in the region for his relentless recruiting efforts.  Tulane offers Wilson a chance to break out on his own and prove he can run a program, but would very much be a stepping stone job.

The benefit to the Green Wave is visibility. There are situations in college football where stability should be the driving force behind a hire.  This is not one of those situation.  Tulane needs to swing for the fences, if they whiff, it probably doesn't matter.

Worst case: Rob Ryan

Yes, that Rob Ryan. Son of Buddy and brother to Rex.

Ryan has been out of the college ranks since 1999 and has never been a head coach. Tulane could use some good press, but they don't need this circus.


Best case: Bob Diacco

Going 6-6 this year at UConn, Diacco quietly put together one of the best coaching jobs in the country. He's young, competent and can sell his product. The Orange might be hesitant to go with another defensive-minded head coach, but that's about the only similarity between Diacco and Scott Shaffer.

Worst case: Joe Moglia

Moglia is one the most interesting characters in college football, but it doesn't mean he's a good candidate here. He'll be 67 at the start of next season and has never been more than a volunteer coach at the FBS-level. This isn't the time for an experiment in New York.


Best case: Mark Richt

I've come around on selling myself this would be a good landing spot for the former Hurricanes quarterback. Miami is desperate to be the U of old and Richt doesn't exactly fit that image, but maybe that's the type of dynamic Miami needs.

Find a coach who can recruit, win, and have just enough swag in a subtle manner. Richt checks all those boxes. Does he have the energy to deal with all the other stuff? Probably not, but with the right staff he can serve as a guiding hand without having the deal with the daily grind.

Worse case: Larry Scott

Scott did an amazing job going 4-1 in difficult circumstances as interim head coach, but getting the permanent gig is a bit of a stretch still. He doesn't have the ceiling or experience to be justified as head coach candidate here right now.


Best case: Lane Kiffin

Chip Kelly would be an amazing hire. Despite his struggles at the NFL level, he's still an innovative offensive mind who would be an immediate upgrade in both on-field product and off-field recruiting. But let's get serious, he's nota realistic candidate here. Timeline and financial constraints further complicate the situation.

So where can the Terps turn?

Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin's warts are well known. He'sover-hyped and over-exposed. But maybe, just maybe, he's learned his lesson. He's always been an elite recruiter, and step 1 in any Maryland revival is keeping prospects in the DMV-region from leaving to play for other programs.

It's running a program that's always been Kiffin's issue, but maturity and coaching under Nick Saban can only help with that.  With bigger candidates out of the picture, this is a realistic change for both Maryland and Kiffin to change their trajectories.

Worst case: Al Golden

Schiano with a tie. Just hire Schiano instead.  They honestly might be the same guy.


(since they appear to be set on two candidates we will only take those two into consideration.)

Best case: Matt Rhule

Rhule is young, smart and can coach his butt off. Best of all, he doesn't appear to be all about Matt Rhule. Rhule could roll into Columbia and continue to build on a nice base of success by the Tigers with his blue collar demeanor in the SEC.

Worst case: Barry Odom

The current Tigers defensive coordinator has been a staple of the program for years minus a brief stint at Memphis. Still, Missouri is not a minor program anymore and rolling with a first-time head coach because of continuity doesn't always work out well. They should aim higher here -- let Odom prove he is ready somewhere else first.

North Texas

Best case: Doug Meacham

The TCU co-offensive coordinator is ready for his shot. Meacham is a native Texan and has deep ties to the state and region as a coach. He calls an exciting brand of football and has had a history of success at places with limited resources.

This is almost a perfect fit.

Worst case: Scott Frost

UNT seems set on either Meacham or North Carolina offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, but Frost has been a name in conversation.

Frost is currently running the offense at Oregon and has the name recognition from his time at Nebraska, but doens't have the Texas ties or coaching gravitas yet to be worthy of this spot. He's still a bit wet behind the ears to be handed the keys to his own program.

South Carolina

Best case: Kirby Smart

A longtime Nick Saban assistant who knows how to coach defense, what could go wrong?

Worst case: Will Muschamp

A longtime Nick Saban assistant who knows how to coach defense, what could go wrong?  Everything. Everything could go wrong and has.

The fact that Muschamp is even being considered here is pathetic.  His run at Florida showed how limited his ability is to head a program and he hasn't exactly repaired his reputation running Auburn's defense this year. Hiring Muschamp would be a significant miss for a job that was once considered to be one the better openings this year.


Best case: Barry Odom

The unfortunate byproduct of success at the Group of Five level means you are doomed to repeat the hiring process again. Justin Fuente did a great job here and laid the groundwork for future success. This is exactly the type of place that Barry Odom could prove his head coaching chops.  He has ties to the program and is no doubt hungry to run his own show.

Worst case: Bill Clark

It's not that Clark is a bad coach -- he isn't. But if you want a real gut punch to any remaining UAB fans then Clark leaving the program would be it.  A program left for dead only to be miraculously revived long enough to see their head coach split. That's just cold.