The University of Southern Mississippi fired head coach Ellis Johnson on Tuesday and now joins 10 other institutions in searching for leaders to take the helms of their football programs. Johnson was relieved of his position after the Golden Eagles ended the season in a winless slump, which became known as the worst turn-around in college football history.
Last year, Southern Miss closed its final chapter under former head coach Larry Fedora with a win over Nevada in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl and climbed to the Top 25 rankings in both the Associated Press and USA TODAY/Coaches Polls. But since Johnson's hiring, both fans and students did not expect the spiral they would experience in the 2012 season, while struggling to win a single game.
Conflict and controversy within the school of about 17,000 students and an ongoing search for a new university president also played a heavy hand in creating an atmosphere of turmoil, rather than of champions.
Since the former South Carolina Assistant Head Coach parted ways with his black and gold ties, the Golden Eagles look towards the future to find a coach to fit the mold of a winning tradition and strong coaching capabilities.
And as the list mounts and candidates are chosen, several well-known names have come forth to bring Southern Miss soaring towards glory once again. With wishful thinking, several could take the Golden Eagles back to becoming a household name across the South.
The University of North Carolina is familiar to many Golden Eagles fans, but not because they think baby blue is an attractive color. Former Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora left his position as a winner at the university and lunged at the chance to lead to Tarheels in 2012, leaving many donning black and gold with mixed emotions.
But in Blake Anderson's case, his first season in an offensive coordinator role at North Carolina could be a stepping stone to taking over the Golden Eagles next year.
Before his quest in the ACC, the Tarheel enjoyed an offensive coordinator and quarterback coaching role at Southern Miss from 2008-2011. Between Fedora and Anderson, the pair saw success within the first year as UNC achieved an 8-4 record and face the likely possibility of a bowl appearance.
Kirby Smart is rumored to be the latest addition to the list of coaches to lead Southern Miss in the 2013 season.
A true craftsman of his trade, Kirby Smart has redeemed the famed Crimson Tide defense to an all-time high since his start as Alabama's defensive coordinator in 2007. Under his leadership, he has played a key role in developing the SEC powerhouse into a two-time National Championship Title team out of the 14 in school history.
In 2009, Smart received the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation's best assistant coach. He is the first in Alabama's history to be given the title.
Although a far cry from reality, Smart would be an ideal choice for the next experienced coach to take the helm of the Golden Eagles football program.
Beginning in 2010, Neal Brown took over the offensive side of Texas Tech football and became coordinator of a team constantly striving to be the best of the Lone Star State. In 2011, Brown's decisive coaching help to defeat the No. 3-ranked Oklahoma Sooners and was proclaimed by Rivals.com as Coach of the Week.
Before arriving in Texas, the offensive coordinator spent time in Alabama as a member of the Troy coaching staff from 2006-2009.
With his cunning knowledge of football in the fast-paced Big 12, his abilities to take the helm at Southern Miss would be well-received by all fans who love Golden Eagle football.
Notching his third season as Special Teams Coordinator and Associate Head Coach, Eddie Gran has seen his fair share of wins at Florida State University since Jimbo Fisher took the reins in 2010. And with the Seminoles' chances of a BCS National Championship berth chomped by the University of Florida, there is still much work to be done for his esteemed position at a reputable ACC program.
With 26 seasons of coaching under his belt, Gran has more than enough experience to achieve a head coaching position at a mid- to high-profile university. In 2011 alone, he spiraled his special teams unit to the top of the charts in Football Outsiders Efficiency Ratings and also helped FSU to develop one of the strongest running games in the ACC.
Depending on the results of FSU's BCS post-season ranking and bowl accomplishments, Southern Miss' fate of Gran becoming the next head coach in Conference USA hangs in the balance. On top of a "maybe, maybe not" answer, the Golden Eagles will have to add some zest to a possible contract in order to have a prayer of the assistant coach leaving Fisher's garnet and gold crew.
Operating a swift and notoriously fast offensive playing style, Todd Monken was the ideal choice to handle the Oklahoma State University running and passing game. As an offensive coordinator with talent stemming back to his days as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, he has been a driving force behind the Cowboys.
In 2011, Monken achieved his position at OSU after leaving the Jacksonville Jaguars as the team's wide receiver coach. Having a wide array of coordinating the passing game, he enjoyed his experiences under Nick Saban at Louisiana State University from 2005-2008 and at OSU for two years prior.
As an intelligent and experienced coach, he has taught in both the Big 12 and SEC. He also spent time under current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's leadership at Grand Valley State.
Monken seems to fit the profile of a winner, which was the definition of Southern Miss football for 18 years, while gathering several C-USA Championships and two National Championships. The welcome mat is extended for someone with vast amounts of experience.
After being cut from the list of favorable coaches to head the University of Kentucky football program, Bobby Petrino has become a hot commodity once again.
Facing scandal at the beginning of his fifth year at the University of Arkansas, Bobby Petrino was the first of many head coaches to be relieved of his duties of an esteemed football program. But in his case, a motorcycle accident and a dismaying affair with a student-athlete development coordinator in 2012 led to the axe falling on a multi-million dollar job as a Razorback.
For Petrino, Arkansas was a success story during the time that he was on the straight and narrow, with a 75-26 game record in college football. Compared to his time as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, he was a stellar leader in the SEC and redeemed the Razorbacks as a force to be reckoned with.
Petrino was out-shined by former Florida State assistant coach Mark Stoops for the recent opening at the University of Kentucky on Tuesday, making his desirability skyrocket. The former Razorback has yet to be snatched up by a reputable football program, but would be an option for Southern Miss if the university were to offer a hefty price.
A hardly successful career at Colorado could be fruitful in a new setting for someone like Jon Embree.
A city nestled into the valley of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder lives and breathes Colorado University propaganda. In some ways, Hattiesburg can say the same about its proud Southern Miss traditions and football.
It is where the Buffaloes roam that former head coach Jon Embree came to reside...For one year, at least.
A former assistant at UCLA, Embree managed to play a part in shaping Bruins football from 2001-2005. After leaving college football, he went on a stint in the NFL, where he coached the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins until he received the job at Colorado in 2011.
Before his career on the sidelines, Embree was tight end and defensive end at the university, where he would ultimately be fired years later. Although he gained little success, sending the Buffalos to a 4-21 record, his passion for football was unmeasurable. Like Boulder, Hattiesburg holds vast quantities of school spirit and tradition, similar to what Embree was surrounded with in his time in Colorado.
A head coaching job at Southern Miss would equal the same significance for someone who enjoys football as more than just a career, but a lifestyle.
Gene Chizik has been a high-profile fire that has caught the eye of sports fans and universities across the country.
After the University of Alabama mauled Auburn 49-0 on Saturday, Tigers head coach Gene Chizik was relieved of his leadership position that took the school to its second national championship. A staggering 2-10 season record closed out the year with a coach-less program that left fans with little hope.
But since Chizik received the boot, he has become a figure of significant importance to a total of 11 teams searching for a light at the end of the tunnel to take them back to the glory days. He is a high-profile fire within recent days, plain and simple.
The former Auburn Tiger took the university to a National Championship title in 2010, while also winning out in the SEC against the University of South Carolina in the same year. Chizik also has led his team to a 3-0 BCS bowl record. In his National Championship year—the third in Auburn's history—the university witnessed a second Heisman trophy brought to campus with quarterback Cam Newton's skill and ability.
The year Newton received the most coveted award for collegiate athletes, Auburn faced growing tensions from the NCAA as they investigated the football program. It is rumored that the Heisman winner's family had taken roughly $180,000 in payment with the guarantee that he would join the ranks as a Tiger. Although no charges were made or action taken, curiosity still lingers in the minds of many fans who suspect shadiness within the recruitment process.
Though a shadow was cast at one point in time over the university, Chizik's reputation as a winner brought a championship to a school with only one title before his tenure. One of the many ideal choices for Southern Miss, it is doubtful the former Auburn coach would attempt a run as a Golden Eagle. Yet still early in the search, Chizik could be added to the definitive list of choices if an offer is made that is enticing enough.