[UPDATE: This post originally went up on December 10th, when initial reports of Mack Browns's departure surfaced. Now that it has become official, we've tweaked the post to reflect Nick Saban staying at Alabama.]
Mack Brown has finally stepped down as coach of the Texas Longhorns, just 24 hours after Nick Saban decided to stay at Alabama, and an hour before the Heisman Trophy is to be announced. Who will replace Brown? It’s not clear what exactly Texas would be looking for in a coach. What is clear is the priorities will be winning and reorienting the power balance in the state back to Austin and the lucky fellow may become the highest paid in major college football. Here is a breakdown of major names that may come up and relative probabilities.
Nick Saban: The rumor hasn’t gone away, no matter how many media members wish it. Other Jimmy Sexton clients have received raises amidst uncertainty. Saban has not, yet. We know the Texas interest is there. Leaving now could make sense, if Saban wants it. McCarron and potentially Nussmeier may be leaving. He’s probably the first call.
Urban Meyer: If any school has the chutzpah to check in on Meyer at Ohio State, it’s Texas. Doubtful he says yes. But perhaps an uphill battle to compete nationally with the Big Ten’s poor strength of schedule (and a lot of money) may perk his ears up. The poor guy.
Jim Harbaugh: Texas could make him a monster offer. It’s hard to find a coach with a more impressive track record. But money was not the decisive factor when Harbaugh left Stanford for the 49ers. If being a college coach was what drove him, he would still be there. He wants a Super Bowl.
Kevin Sumlin: It would be the ultimate eff you to that program they no longer play. With Manziel leaving and his stock still high, now is the optimal time for him to move on or cash in. Sumlin has reached an agreement in principle on an extension with Texas A&M. He has not yet signed it. One suspects, though, that the job opening that interests him may not be the one in Austin.
Jimbo Fisher: Fisher can recruit. He can also hire assistants. There’s little reason for him to leave Florida State, beyond money. A pay raise to bump him over $4 million has solved that issue. It’s hard to see him leaving, especially before January.
Gus Malzahn: Malzahn already received a lucrative extension as well, though Texas could beat that. Everyone is on the Malzahn bus now, though it did not take much for fickle boosters to jump off it with their last three head coaches. Texas is a better job. This option would have looked far more probable had Auburn missed out on the BCS title game.
David Shaw: He’s doing a masterful job at Stanford. He’s also a Stanford alum who is well paid and, by all accounts, incredibly happy to be at Stanford. Maybe the money sways him, but the Bay Area is a lovely place to live. If he leaves eventually, it’s probably not for a college job.
Art Briles: Texas boosters have seen what Briles is doing over in Waco. If he were angling for another job, leaving post Big 12 title would be the time. What’s not clear is whether Briles has any desire to leave. He just signed a lucrative extension through 2023. Baylor moves into a renovated stadium next year. He has always been the underdog. He’s motivated by beating schools such as Texas.
James Franklin: Franklin has turned Vanderbilt into a winning SEC program with inferior resources. VANDERBILT. He’s not as accomplished as some of the guys above. Texas needs someone to shake up the culture and to sell a revitalized vision of Longhorn football to prospective players and fans. That is where Franklin would excel.
Mike Gundy: The tension between Gundy and Oklahoma State has been evident for a while. He strongly considered packing up for Tennessee last winter. Texas is a much better job than Tennessee. His track record is impressive. The interest may be there on his part. Will there be any lingering stain on him from the Sports Illustrated piece?
Charlie Strong: Louisville’s AD had no interest in Texas. Would the head football coach do the same? Texas may be the one school that would not balk at his $5 million buyout. It would be the right time to leave, with Bridgewater departing and Louisville about to bump up to tougher competition. Though, how valuable would a coach whose greatest asset is recruiting ties in South Florida be at Texas?
Mark Dantonio: Dantonio’s stock is high, after bringing Michigan State to the Rose Bowl. It’s hard to quibble with his football record, building a strong, nationally competitive program in the shadow of Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame. As the 9th-highest paid Big Ten coach he may be due for a pay raise. But one wonders how he would handle the media and political commitments that come with being Texas coach.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]