Barring an unforeseen and unexpected turn around, it’s likely both Texas and USC will be searching for new head coaches this winter. Texas may be college athletics’ cushiest job. USC is a prestigious program in perhaps the nation’s best recruiting ground. Both offer the chance to compete for a national title every year. It’s not yet clear who these schools will target. But a number of coaches would be interested. Here are 15 more or less realistic targets you may spot in the rumor mill.
Nick Saban, Alabama
Maybe Saban would have no interest in leaving for Texas. Maybe he would. Money has been enough to motivate most in the past. Perhaps a new challenge, less recruiting leg work and a chance for immortality by winning a title at a third school may sway him. He doesn’t seem like a natural cultural fit. But winning tends to mitigate those concerns.
Chris Petersen, Boise State
Petersen will have to be pried out of Idaho. He has turned down money before. Only a school with the right situation will land him. Conventional wisdom suggests he’d want to stay on the West Coast. Stanford and UCLA weren’t quite right. Neither of those schools is USC. Petersen may have peaked at Boise State. He’s facing further disenfranchisement there, with the new postseason. Southern California could be the right place at the right time.
Vanderbilt has a ceiling. Franklin may have hit it. The longer he stays the closer he is to reaching Dan Mullen status. With his contract, it would take an elite job to get him from Vanderbilt. Either USC or Texas would fall into that category. Either would be happy to have such an energetic and vigorous salesman. Both could use some culture change.
Art Briles, Baylor
He recruited RGIII, as a quarterback. Briles has built Baylor into as plausible a Big 12 title contender as Texas. Baylor! He has warranted a shot at a bigger school. He fits the part. Though Texas may opt for someone with more of a defensive track record given their present woes. Briles may understand social media, but he’s only five years younger than Mack Brown.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Fitzgerald will be on everyone’s short list. He spurned interest from Michigan after 2010. His reputation has only enhanced since, with Northwestern developing into a serious Big Ten player. He’s a Northwestern alum. He has a strong emotional attachment to the school, which put its faith in him after Randy Walker’s death. Perhaps he gets swayed but it’s hard to see Fitzgerald leaving anytime soon, especially for a college job.
David Shaw, Stanford
Shaw inherited Jim Harbaugh’s program and built on it, going 24-4. The Cardinal have been to three straight BCS bowls and, with elite recruits filtering in, the future is bright. He’s a Stanford alum. Texas may want him. But don’t underrate the appeal of living a low-key lifestyle in Palo Alto with a young family. If he eventually leaves, the NFL seems more likely.
Sumlin has revitalized Texas A&M in 12 months, making it improbably one of the nation’s sexiest programs. Would he consider either of these two schools? Boosters, we presume, would step forward to keep him from Texas. USC, at present, is not that much of a step forward. Sumlin seems like a better fit for another football outfit in Texas, with even greater delusions of grandeur.
Gary Patterson, TCU
Patterson has had tremendous success at TCU. Texas boosters, undoubtedly, have noticed this. He beat them in Austin last season. Patterson has a reputation for getting the most out of his talent, which Texas has not done for a while. Patterson is 53. He has been at TCU for 12 years. This may be his last chance at a truly marquee job.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Gundy has not had the rosiest of relationships at Oklahoma State, since becoming kind of a big deal. He’s ambitious. He was heavily flirting with Tennessee before eventually turning them down. Either Texas or USC could enhance his salary and offer him a legit chance to compete for a BCS title every season. That might be tempting. Though the scandal could scare schools away.
Will Muschamp, Florida
Will Muschamp built the last Texas defense that stopped the run. He was the heir-apparent to Mack Brown before being hired at Florida. If Texas had won the 2009 title game, Muschamp might be head coach there now. Muschamp tried to bring along Major Applewhite when he was hired at Florida. Florida is a great college football job. Maybe desperate Texas boosters will be prepared to see how great.
Sark has been “Seven-win Steve” during his time at Washington. But he inherited an absolute mess from Ty Willingham. That mess is now relevant, competing for top recruits and, at least judging from the first week, poised for a breakout season. Interest may be there for a move back to the school where he was offensive coordinator, though, after Kiffin, Pat Haden may want to dispense with the Carroll era.
Charlie Strong, Louisville
Strong spurned Tennessee to stay at Louisville. His stock should be just as high after this season. He’s losing Teddy Bridgewater and moving to a tougher schedule in the ACC. A longtime SEC guy, he doesn’t feel like a natural fit at either school, but it’s possible.
Todd Graham, Arizona State
Todd Graham has relatives in Texas. He is from there. He was a high school coach there. He will be interested and he gives a mean job interview. Graham may not be the first name on Texas’ list, or the second, third or fourth. But, if things reach the search firm stage…he can coach. Texas does not have to worry about him being a flight risk. A solid 9-win season for ASU with their rough schedule could raise his stock.
O’Brien looks like an elite head coach. Penn State’s sanctions will prevent them from competing at that level for years to come. USC fans may want to see what wonders BOB could work with their level offensive skill talent. But O’Brien has made his feelings clear with his new contract. To leave for another college job, he must buy out his total salary, about $11.5 million after 2013. To leave for an NFL job, the buyout clause is only his base salary, around $6.75 million.
Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
Fisher is an LA-native who played at USC. He may be a favored candidate of USC boosters. The Trojans did have a lot of success bringing over career NFL guy Pete Carroll. Counterpoints: why would he want to coach in college? He never has, at any stage in his career. He also has another three years and $21 million left on his Rams’ contract after this season.
[Photos via Getty, USA Today Sports]