Pittsburgh (Todd Graham): The Mike Haywood hire was a mistake, but Pitt lucked out with a more accomplished coach. Graham led Tulsa to three ten or more win seasons in four years. He has a track record of hiring good coordinators. He took flack for leaving Rice for Tulsa after one year. But, if he’s done well enough to leave Pitt for a bigger job, that’s a win for Pitt. Even a modest improvement would make the Panthers the team to beat in “a BCS conference,” at least for next season. The only question is how soon Pitt can get some short-sleeved button downs manufactured.
Stanford (David Shaw): The future of Stanford football depends upon how they perform with Andrew Luck and without Harbaugh next season. Promoting offensive coordinator David Shaw allows the Cardinal to maintain as much continuity as possible. Shaw is an experienced assistant who, with Harbaugh’s help, built Stanford from nothing into one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. He’s fiery. Most importantly, he’s a Stanford man. He will produce other Stanford men. He doesn’t need a GPS to find his way around Palo Alto. He has a firm understanding of the traditions so crucial to the Stanford experience.
Connecticut (Paul Pasqualoni): This was not an imaginative hire, but Connecticut can’t afford such frivolity. Pasqualoni did a good job at Syracuse, four BCS-level bowls, four Big East titles and seven Top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, before a new AD ran him out of town to hire Greg Robinson (worked out well). He’s from Connecticut and began his coaching career in the state. Connecticut has never had a D-I coach besides Edsall. They have to be risk averse and avoid a complete disaster. Mission accomplished.
Poor Tom Bradley: He’s a solid recruiter and a great defensive coordinator. Before this year’s injury-ravaged season, Penn State had six straight years in the Top 15 defensively. Despite this track record, however, Temple, Pitt and Connecticut turned him down this winter. Connecticut did not even interview him. Either Bradley gives terrible interviews, or he wouldn’t give prospective schools a guarantee he wouldn’t jump to go back to Penn State when Paterno retires. Guessing the latter.
Why not Mike Leach? Maryland backed off suddenly after a deal looked imminent. He was not even considered for the other openings. He has a bristling personality. The Craig James incident may still linger in the minds of some. But, the ultimate factor may be the outstanding ESPN lawsuit. With ESPN so intimately and actively involved in college football scheduling and national perception, having a head coach with an outstanding lawsuit against the WWL probably isn’t viable. Expect the pirate ship to remain docked until that mess is resolved.
[Photo via Getty]