The Texas Longhorns football program needs decide quickly whether Charlie Strong or James Franklin should be the next head coach. This means that a coach must be in place before the Jan. 15 deadline set made by athletic director Steve Patterson.
If not, things could get messy.
As the new year begins to age, a couple of coaches have withdrawn their names from consideration for the Longhorns job. This includes Baylor's Art Briles, via BaylorBears.com, and UCLA's Jim Mora, via Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.
With both Briles and Mora out of the picture, whom does that leave available for the Texas job? Nick Saban? He's also personally denied rumors. Yet, only speculation revolves around the idea of Saban actually coming to Texas. Maybe Florida State's Jimbo Fisher would be interested in listening to an offer from the Longhorns? Or maybe his quarterback, Jameis Winston, is just mocking the situation and Fisher would never leave, via @AP_Top25.
A wish list by Texas appears to have only been made by fans and donors. Jon Gruden, a rumored candidate, said, per Will Brinson of CBS Sports in a December 2013 article, "I don't want to be considered for any of these jobs." That was in reference to NFL job openings, but he went on to say, "I don't want to be considered for anything."
Nonetheless, there's still support for the current Monday Night Football announcer and even for Saban even after both denied leaving their current jobs. Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com joined KRLD-FM in Dallas Fort-Worth on Jan. 2 to discuss how the man in charge of the coaching hire, Patterson, isn't giving the same support that others are, via SportsDay DFW.
I think there's support for Jon Gruden, but I don't think Steve Patterson (Texas AD) is one of them. When you talk about Jon Gruden, I think that will fizzle. Saban, I just think there's too much that's already happened. There's no question Mack Brown did not want Nick Saban to succeed him.
Who is Patterson considering now? Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly laughed off rumors, per Brinson, and San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh made a humorous response to coaching rumors, per Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports. Bob Labriola of Steelers.com reported that Mike Tomlin had no interest in going back to college. And Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston reported on Twitter that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is not interested in Texas.
So while message board and Twitter users still might believe that one of the above mentioned coaches is coming to Texas, they've all denied. Currently, Louisville's Charlie Strong and Vanderbilt's James Franklin are solid candidates for the Longhorns. Per Orangeblood.com's Chip Brown on Twitter, both are among finalists for the job.
Strong's season is wrapped up while Franklin's Commodores play in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday. So why must Texas make a decision regarding the pair sooner rather than later?
Penn State is the key after former head coach Bill O'Brien left for the Houston Texans. The Nittany Lions are in the same search as the Longhorns and have made an offer to Miami's Al Golden, per BlueWhiteOnline.com via @Tim_OwenBWI.
And Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com reports via Twitter that Franklin will interview for the Penn State job on Sunday. So, about that mess? Well, if Franklin takes the Nittany Lions job then the Longhorns lose him as a coaching hire. Still, he's awaiting that interview.
However, if Miami's Golden accepts the Penn State job, Strong could be considered for the 'Canes job. Jon Madani, program director and host for Sportstalk AM 1300 The Zone in Austin, believes Strong would go to Miami in this instance, via Twitter.
Strong recruits the Miami area very well and went back and forth between jobs with the Florida Gators throughout his coaching career. Fifteen players on his current Louisville roster are from Miami and several others are from the nearby areas. Despite the money that Texas has, Strong could build the Hurricanes program back to up to "The U", especially with his Florida recruiting pipelines.
The longer Texas waits, the worse the potential situations could get. And instead of the Longhorns getting to pick the next coach, they could very easily be left with Franklin picking the Longhorns. Not that he isn't capable of the job, but is he the right fit? Or, maybe there's another name besides Strong and Franklin that Patterson's fond of.
Whatever the case is, it's time for the Longhorns to make a hire a before the carousel gets out of hand.