An Exhaustive List of Possible Replacements for Texas Coach Mack Brown
Brown said on Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference that the decision to remove Diaz was not done out of panic.
We here at the Big 12, um, disagree slightly.
But judging from the general reaction across college football, you'd think Brown was the one who needed to be fired. Or will be fired. In any case, Diaz's demotion two games into the season isn't what one would expect from a head coach who feels he has seven more years at his current job. (Brown's current contract runs through 2020.)
Maybe Brown gets fired this year. Maybe he sticks around a while longer. Shoot, maybe he finishes out his contract. Eventually, though, UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds is going to have to conduct a coaching search. So whom should he contact when he does?
We've broken it down into three categories:
1) Dream Hires. These are candidates who aren't likely to leave their current job but would be the best possible hire.
2) Solid Shots. Here we have good coaches who for a variety of reason would be more likely to leave their current job than the "Dream Hires," if Texas were to call. Otherwise, some of them might end up elsewhere.
3) Under-the-Radar Picks. There's not a lot of hype around these names right now, but there will be soon enough. These are coaches who have proven themselves on the small school level and are ready to move up.
Nick Saban, Alabama
Remember, this is the dream-hires list. Nick Saban is the best coach in college football today. Texas is, well, Texas. Money's not a problem, so make the call. He'll probably say no since he has everything he needs at Alabama, where money is also not on the 99 problems list.
But it's worth it for the Longhorns to at least reach out [Jameis Winston joke goes here].
And besides, it's not like Saban's ever been completely committed to one job. Even if there's a one percent of a one percent chance that Saban says yes, Texas should ask.
In the more likely event that Saban says no, however, UT should look to our next guy on the dream-hires list.
Chris Petersen, Boise State
Speaking of great college coaches, Chris Petersen is as about as good as they come. Since taking over as the Broncos' head coach in 2006, Petersen has won over 90 percent of his games.
That success hasn't been a fluke. Boise State is still famous for the hook-and-lateral and Statue of Liberty against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but Petersen has built a legitimate program. He's put multiple players in the NFL and outcoached some of the best head men in the college game.
To put it another way, when was the last time anyone can remember Petersen getting embarrassed like he did two weeks ago in a 38-6 loss to Washington? It doesn't happen often.
But on to Texas. It may be a better job than Boise State, but luring Petersen away isn't necessarily a given. He has a sweet deal as it is. Boise State has shown it is willing to pony up as best it can to keep him around (he was approved for a $11.7 million deal last year with a ton of incentives) and he's able to win a lot of games with the Broncos. Also, the brand of football at Boise State is way ahead of where it was even a few years ago.
There's something to be said for that as well.
And, personally, I wonder if the obligations that go along with the Longhorn Network—the access to practice, the extra interviews—would turn off Petersen. Even Brown has expressed his own frustration with it.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Franklin is charismatic, enthusiastic and has an in-your-face attitude. A relentless recruiter, he would instantly bring a new energy to the Texas program. Franklin is always looking to further push Vanderbilt's brand, and nowhere else in college athletics is branding bigger than it is at Texas.
Franklin has done wonders with the Commodores, leading them to their first nine-win season in nearly 100 years. He's getting the institutional support as well.
But you have to wonder what Vanderbilt's ceiling is, and whether or not it's already been hit with Franklin. If Texas reached out to him, would he take it?
My guess is he would.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
What Fitzgerald has done with the Wildcats program since taking over in 2006 is nothing short of incredible. Northwestern has enjoyed little to no turnover on the coaching staff under Fitzgerald, something that's rare to find.
Last season, Fitzgerald led Northwestern to a 10-win season.
Just 38 years old, Fitzgerald has already had his name tossed around the coaching carousel a few times. He seems content at his alma mater, and there simply aren't many fits in college football between a program and its coach quite like what Northwestern has with Fitzgerald.
Would he leave for Texas? Like Petersen, that's not a given. But he is a top-10 coach in the game today.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Whereas Pat Fitzgerald may feel more tied to his alma mater, I don't get the same vibe from Gundy. That can be attributed to his name being connected to previous openings at Arkansas and Tennessee. So far, Oklahoma State has been able to keep Gundy around. But this doesn't feel like a long-lasting partnership.
OSU could probably go toe-to-toe in a bidding war with Texas if they really wanted to, but the rumblings around Gundy and Oklahoma State are that he's unsatisfied with other aspects of his job.
Sonny Dykes, Cal
Dykes just got to the Bay Area and is working hard to rebuild the Cal program. He likes it there, but he also has ties to the state of Texas from his days at Texas Tech under Mike Leach. He was successful in three years at Louisiana Tech and his Air Raid offense looks like it'll fit nicely with the Golden Bears.
The offensive boost he'd provide makes him an attractive option, and the recent narrative about Brown missing on quarterbacks has to be embarrassing for Longhorn fans—no matter how much or how little blame Brown actually deserves.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Fedora has some Big 12/Texas roots from his assistant coaching days with Baylor and Oklahoma State. Like Brown, he would come to Texas from North Carolina.
That's where the comparison would end.
Fedora brings a high-scoring spread offense that won a lot of games at Southern Miss and has the Tar Heels in position to compete for an ACC Coastal Division championship in 2013.
Under the Radar Picks
Pete Lembo, Ball State
Lembo is quickly ascending the coaching ranks of college football. He's had success at the FCS level with Lehigh and Elon, and he has Ball State in a position to compete for a MAC championship in 2013.
He's won everywhere he's coached, and every stop has had one-tenth of the resources Texas has—at best.
Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
Hudspeth cut his coaching teeth in the South at places like Mississippi State, Delta State and North Alabama, where he was the head coach for seven years. He has led ULL to back-to-back nine-win seasons and bowl appearances.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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