Nov 30: UAB, Buffalo & Kentucky

Just a couple of various notes regarding college football….

The UAB program closing is a shame for the game. I don’t get how an FBS program can’t be funded by the state. I know there are many programs who would love to get the bump up to Division I-A. Perhaps Liberty is the replacement?

Assuming that UAB football is done for good, Bill Clark should look for another coaching vacancy. What he has done with UAB is incredible given the circumstances, and he could be a real candidate for potential Georgia State or Florida International openings.

Buffalo’s coach is being announced at a press conference tomorrow. My favorite candidate for the job is Kurt Roper, but I doubt the job is his. I’ll stick with my original prediction (Rob Ambrose), but I won’t be surprised to see if interim coach Alex Wood lands the job. He has done a good job and I haven’t heard much buzz come out of Buffalo regarding interviews.

Expect Pelini and Muschamp to wait and stick it out for the right jobs. Both could perhaps take vacancies at Auburn and/or A&M. However, both might be benefitted if they try and get some pro experience once those vacancies open up.

Brady Hoke will almost definitely be fired, I’m surprised he hasn’t been yet. My belief is that his fate has been decided, and it has been for weeks. Potential candidates include MSU H.C. Dan Mullen, and Kentucky H.C. Mark Stoops.

Speaking of Mark Stoops, he is in the market for a new offensive coordinator. My first call would be to Lincoln Riley, who has done a heckuva job at East Carolina. My next two calls would go to Kurt Roper (Florida) and Tim Beck (Nebraska), assuming he stays put.

Nebraska: Top Twelve Potential Candidates

As a Huskers fan, I can say that it was definitely time for both the Huskers and Pelini to part ways. Bo Pelini is a talented coach– but his tenure at Nebraska will best be remembered for how volatile the administration and coach were to one another.

With that said, Nebraska needs to look forward and find a coach who will leap the program to its “marquee” status that it held up through the early 2000s.

Here are, in ranking, the top twelve prospective (and somewhat realistic) candidates I would see for the program. Personally, I don’t believe that Jerry Kill (Minnesota), Al Golden (Miami), Rich Rodriguez (Arizona), or Gus Malzahn (Auburn) would leave their cushy jobs for Nebraska. Nor do I see Nebraska plucking from the FCS Ranks (Turner Gill, Joe Moglia) or non-active coaches (Jim Tressel, Greg Schiano) for the search.

1. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State head coach

Dan Mullen is the real deal. He has served under legendary coach Urban Meyer, and has turned around the Mississippi State and brought it to new heights. If the administration is committed to bringing home a championship, they should pay the big bucks to bring Mullen to Lincoln. His recruiting prowess and leadership abilities are unrivaled, and this would be a “slam dunk” hire.

2. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State head coach

If Mike Gundy would come here, it would prove that the administration is A) Committed to bringing a top-tier FBS coach to Lincoln ($$) and B) Wants to see improvement from 9-10 win seasons. Gundy is a proven winner who could really turn around the program. Besides his lack of ties to the program (which shouldn’t matter too much– Eichorst is new), I don’t see any major flaws in his potential candidacy.

3. Mark Stoops, Kentucky head coach

Mark Stoops has really turned it around at Kentucky, and I’ve been just as impressed by him as any coach in the nation. I have doubts he would want to come to Lincoln, as our Huskers are traditional rivals of his brother Bob’s Sooners. If he wants the job, it should be his (unless Mullen/Gundy are interested). He has some ties to the program, as he recruited Braylon Heard away and hired Vince Marrow to be his tight ends coach.

4. Scott Frost, Oregon offensive coordinator

Frost is a Lincoln legend, enough said. People say he is too inexperienced, having never been a head coach. But, I think Frost is a unique case. Many say that he was Kelly’s right-hand man while he ran the marquee Oregon Ducks football team for his reign there. If Frost could assemble the right staff, I think he could elevate the program and would bring excitement to an angered fan base.

5. Troy Calhoun, Air Force head coach

Calhoun has built a football academy at Air Force, making him the best of the mid-major coaching candidates for Nebraska. He has NFL experience, which should help on some level. His triple-option offensive scheme would certainly bring excitement to the program. His ties to our current lead recruiter, Charlton Warren, should help his candidacy as well. Certainly a viable candidate.

6. Matt Wells, Utah State head coach

Matt Wells grooms great quarterbacks– look to his work with season with a fourth-string quarterback and his prior grooming of Chuckie Keeton. His lack of ties to Lincoln is a concern, but his recruiting experience from Tulsa should help. This hire doesn’t shout “Amazing!” to me, but rather it shouts “Pretty Good”.

7. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State defensive coordinator

Mark Dantonio would be a dream hire for many Husker fans- however he is not leaving Lansing. He loves it there, and has a great program with top-notch salary that would be logistically hard to beat. His second-in-command Narduzzi would be an interesting candidate, and I think he will likely land an interview. With that said, we went down this route last time. I don’t see the logic in replacing Pelini (a former D.C.) with someone with a similar background.

8. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette head coach

Mark Hudspeth has been a winner at Louisiana-Lafayette, which should make him a candidate for Nebraska’s opening. He is the first candidate on this list that I would consider to be an upgrade from Pelini. My only concern with his candidacy is that he seems like the kind of coach that could become complacent with mediocracy, the primary reason Pelini was fired (9-10 win seasons). I think the administration is looking for a candidate to make the Huskers elite.

9. Justin Fuente, Memphis head coach

Fuente has done a great job turning around Memphis’s football program, and his ties to Texas (former TCU OC) certainly makes him a viable candidate. His lack of ties to the Husker program makes him fall in these rankings, and he has only had one great season at Memphis.

10. Craig Bohl, Wyoming head coach

Bohl is a great head coach– one who I’m sure is gunning for this job. With that said, he was run out of Lincoln in 2003 with a less-than-ideal reputation among Nebraska elites. Could he get the job? Yes. But I doubt that he is Eichorst’s chosen candidate with all the other options available.

11. Jim McElwain, Colorado State head coach

McElwain has done a good job with the Rams’ program, leading them to new levels of success in his three seasons there. However, as one closely examines his time with the Tide, it wasn’t really all that great. Lane Kiffin and Doug Nussmeier improved the team’s offense to a greater extent than he did. I don’t see how he is a better option to lead the Huskers’ football program than Pelini was.

12. Tom Herman, Ohio State offensive coordinator

Herman is a great offensive coordinator, who will likely be a talented coach at the FBS level sooner rather than later. The reason he is lower on this list is because the fit is less-than-ideal, as Herman has no ties to the Husker program. I think he’d be better off taking the job at Tulsa or [potentially] Iowa State should that job open.

Sources: Ellis Johnson resigns from Auburn coaching staff

FootballScoop.com reported Sunday that Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is leaving the coaching staff.

Yesterday, Auburn’s defense allowed 538 total offensive yards in a 55-44 loss to Alabama in the Iron  Bowl. Over the season, they allowed 39 points per game to SEC teams, last in their conference.

Coach Malzahn will have plenty of top-notch options to replace Johnson, a former Southern Miss head coach. Potential candidates include Will Muschamp and Bo Pelini, who were respectively fired by Florida and Nebraska over the past week. Another under-the-radar candidate would be Barry Odom, who has impressed running Memphis’s defense over the past couple of seasons. Bill Clark, who led the UAB Blazers football program to a bowl game, will likely be a candidate should his football program fold at the end of this season.

Pelini and Huskers decide to part ways

This morning, Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst decided to fire Bo Pelini as head coach of the Huskers’ football program.

In his seven full seasons with the Huskers, Pelini won at least nine games with three ten-win seasons. They were 9-3 this season.

“Coach Pelini served our University admirably for seven years and led our football program’s transition to the Big Ten Conference,” Nebraska A.D. Shawn Eichorst said in an official statement. “We wish Coach Pelini and his wonderful family all the best and thank him for his dedicated service to the University. ”

Look for potential candidates to include Oregon OC Scott Frost and Wyoming HC Craig Bohl, as both have ties to the program. It would not surprise me to see in-house offensive coordinator Tim Beck get an interview as well.

Sources: Neal Brown to accept Troy head coaching job

Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports has reported that Neal Brown has accepted the job of head coach for the Troy Trojans. His deal is reported to be $3mil over five years, with an annual average of $600,000 per year.

Brown has served as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons as a part of Mark Stoops’ staff. Prior to that, he served as Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator for three seasons.

Brown will be the successor to Larry Blakeney, who has retired after building and leading the school’s football program for 23 years. Brown served on his staff from 2006-2007 as the inside receivers coach and from 2008-2009 as the offensive coordinator. Brown’s offense was ranked as high as third in the country at a time.

Blankenship Dismissed by Tulsa, Hauck Resigns at UNLV

Bill Blankenship:

On Friday night, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported that Bill Blankenship is expected to be dismissed after the team’s season-ending game against Tulane. The Golden Hurricanes are 2-9 on the season, and have seen their football program turn for the worse with a record of 5-18 over the last two seasons.

The financials have not been disclosed, as he had at least one more year on his contract. He will likely receive a buyout package upon dismissal from the program.

Potential candidates for the job include Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee, Ohio State OC Tom Herman, and TCU OC Doug Meachem.

Bobby Hauck:

UNLV Director of Athletics Tina Kunzer-Murphy announced the following Friday: “Bobby Hauck submitted his resignation, effective Monday, and I have accepted it… We thank him for his dedication and leadership.”

According to CoachingSearch.com, Hauck will receive a buyout payment of $400,000 with two years left on his contract. Before coming to UNLV, Hauck went 80-17 in seven years at Montana.

The UNLV Rebels have seen a turn for the worse, having only won two games after last season’s bowl appearance. They are currently average 21.5 points per game, which is 109th in the country. Even worse, they surrender 37.6 points per game, which is 117th in the country. There is lots of room for turnaround in the program.

Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal speculated that potential candidates could include former SMU HC June Jones, former Giants HC Jim Fassel, and former Nevada HC and founder of the “pistol” offense Chris Ault.

Texas A&M Fires Mark Snyder (DC)

The school announced Friday that longtime defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has been relieved of his duties. According to the Dallas Morning News, Snyder will be paid $700,000 through March 2016.

The Aggies defense mightily struggled throughout the season- allowing an average of 38.3 points per game and 502.5 yards per game in the team’s final seven games. On the season, the Aggies rank 103rd nationally in yards allowed per game (449) and 111th in rushing defense (223.5 yards allowed per game).

It is likely that Kevin Sumlin reaches out to former Florida head coach Will Muschamp or Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi at some point through the process. Another candidate to look out for is David Gibbs, who has done an incredible job anchoring Houston’s defense this season.

Chad Morris to SMU

Multiple news sources have reported that Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has accepted the head coaching job at Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX). The news broke from Clint Brewster of 247sports.com, and was later confirmed by multiple other college football reporters.

Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com reported that Morris took a multi-year deal for over $3 million annually, which would put him on-par with Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) and Bo Pelini (Nebraska). He was one of the nation’s highest paid assistant coaches with a salary of $1.3 million

Morris has served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Clemson for the last four seasons. His first job as an offensive coordinator was at Tulsa, where he moved from high school coaching (with stops at Lake Travis and Stephenville) to the collegiate ranks in 2010.

Chad Morris replaces June Jones at SMU, who resigned in September and was replaced by Tom Mason in the interim. The Mustangs are winless, and have a lot of room to be turned around by the up-tempo offensive coordinator from Clemson.

Other candidates reportedly connected to the job included Mack Brown, the former Texas Longhorns coach who ‘retired’ last season, and Tom Herman, the Ohio State offensive coordinator with strong recruiting ties to the state.

Coaches Who Won’t Return: A Preview/Prediction

Here are my predictions as to which head coaches will be let go at season’s end… Although it is never ideal to see a coach fired and put in a position to relocate his family, you gotta remember that these firings give new opportunities for other coaches..

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Frank Beamer will not be fired. However, he will likely step down after Tech’s disappointing season this year. He has been a great coach for twenty-eight years now, and his efforts to improve the program over that time-frame should be applauded. The logical successor would be Bud Foster, who has served as his lieutenant and defensive coordinator for quite some time now. However, with Whit Babcock as the new A.D. in town, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him interview external candidates such as Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez or Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. One candidate to rule out is Shane Beamer, the team’s wide receivers coach and son of Frank. He will likely be a head coach at a smaller program before he returns to Blacksburg, if he ever does.

Tim Beckman, Illinois

Quite frankly, I’m on the fence as to whether Mike Thomas (A.D.) ends up keeping Beckman on board for another season or not. I lean to believe that Beckman will be let go because he hasn’t really done the job well all season long, with blowout losses to Iowa, Ohio State, and Washington and an upset loss to Purdue. Despite the Fighting Illini’s upset of Minnesota earlier this season and last weekend’s win against Penn State, I think they’d be better off to move in a new direction. Potential candidates for this job include Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State’s defensive coordinator and Mark Dantonio’s second-in-command, and the in-house candidate Bill Cubit, who currently serves as offensive coordinator and was Western Michigan’s head coach two seasons ago.

Bill Blankenship, Tulsa

Tulsa’s move to the American Athletic Conference this season was a huge disappointment for many, as they only have two wins, one against the winless SMU Mustangs. Bill Blankenship will most likely be let go after the season’s finale against East Carolina. Personally, I believe that Tulsa is a good opportunity for a first-time head coach. Tulsa has been very good in the past, and launched the careers of Todd Graham (ASU Head Coach, former Tulsa H.C.) and Chad Morris (SMU Head Coach, former Tulsa O.C.). If they bring in someone like Doug Meacham, TCU’s offensive coordinator, or Rhett Lashlee, Auburn’s offensive coordinator, I’d expect great improvement next season.

Brady Hoke, Michigan

Despite flashy hires on his staff, Brady Hoke has not done enough to improve the state of Michigan’s football program over the past four seasons. Assuming they lose to Ohio State on Saturday, they will fail to make a bowl game. This will likely signal the end of Hoke’s career at Michigan, as I’d be shocked if Jim Hackett, the new Athletics Director, keeps Hoke on for one more season without a bowl appearance. Look for Michigan to bring in a proven head coach, as potential candidates include Mark Stoops, the head coach at Kentucky and member of the renowned Stoops family, and Dan Mullen, who has led Mississippi States to new heights this season.

Doug Martin, New Mexico State

With eight straight losses and two more likely coming, Doug Martin will almost definitely be fired upon season’s end. In his two seasons as head coach, he has done nothing to improve the state of the program. They went in-house two years ago when DeWayne Walker resigned, so expect Gregg Brandon, the team’s offensive coordinator and former head coach at Bowling Green, to be a candidate when the coaching search begins.

Trent Miles, Georgia State

With ten straight losses and another one almost definitely coming, it would be shocking if Trent Miles is not fired after Saturday’s game against Texas State. Miles has only won one game over two seasons, creating a state of turmoil in the program. If I were heading the search for new coach, I’d start by contacting coordinators such as Georgia’s Mike Bobo or Auburn’s Dameyune Craig to poke interest. Another candidate will likely be Jeff Jagodzinski, the in-house offensive coordinator and the former head coach at Boston College.

Paul Petrino, Idaho

The energy has not been there since day one for Petrino, who will likely be fired after Saturday with only one win on the books for this season. Perhaps they will look again to candidates from their search two years ago, namely Jeff Choate, who is now Washington’s defensive line coach, and Chris Tormey, who is now a high school football coach. Another candidate could be Lance Leipold, a perennial champion at D3 Wisconsin-Whitewater who might want to make the jump up to Division I ball.

Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

With only two wins in the season so far (and it likely will remain that way), it would be tough to make a case for Paul Rhoads to return next season despite his success over the other five seasons he has coached in Ames. The main reason I expect him to be fired is due to the plethora of top-notch candidates that would be available to Iowa State. If they go through and fire Rhoads, the top candidate to replace him will be Tom Herman, who was his second-in-command three years ago and has tore it up as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator this season. Other candidates could include Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State’s defensive coordinator and Tim Beck, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator.

Ron Turner, Florida International

Turner should never have gotten this job in the first place, as everybody knew that firing Mario Cristobal two years ago was a very poor decision. With that said, Turner will likely be gone since FIU football is in a state of turmoil. They need to look for a coach with ties to in-state recruits, such as Brad Lawing, Florida’s defensive line coach, or Randy Sanders, Florida State’s quarterbacks coach. They could also explore giving a ‘second chance’ to someone like Derek Dooley, Tennessee’s former head coach, or Lane Kiffin, USC’s former head coach.

Will Start 2015 on the “Hot Seat”

– Norm Chow, Hawaii:  Has done enough over last couple weeks to save his job, but will definitely start the season on hot seat having only four or five wins at season’s end next week.

– Al Golden, Miami (FL):  Golden’s contract will keep his job safe for years to come, unless the boosters feel like paying up the big bucks to pay his buyout.

– Bobby Hauck, UNLV:  If it weren’t for his major buyout, I’d expect him to be fired next week. However, I think UNLV keeps him on for one more year, as they don’t have the adequate funds to hire a new head coach and pay his buyout package.

– Darrell Hazell, Purdue:  People underestimate the negative effects that come with constant turnaround. Although the Boilermakers have disappointed the past two seasons, they did keep it close with Minnesota and recorded three, maybe four wins, which should be enough to keep Hazell around for at least one more year.

– Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia:  Although the Mountaineers have disappointed so far, the team has had some bright spots over the year. I’d expect him back for another season.

– Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech:  Kingsbury has given energy to a program that was lacking it, and despite recording a poor season, he will definitely return for next season.

– Mike McIntyre, Colorado:  Although the Buffaloes have disappointed, hiring another head coach after giving McIntyre only two years seems like a faulty decision. He should have at least one more season to turn it around.

– Bo Pelini, Nebraska:  It will be very hard for Shawn Eichorst to fire a head coach who is always in bowl games and always wins nine games a season.

– Kevin Wilson, Indiana:  Against my better judgment, I believe that Indiana’s A.D. has backed Wilson to the point where he will return next season as head coach.