Everything You Need to Know for the College Football Coaching Silly Season

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystNovember 28, 2015

USC HC Clay Helton
USC HC Clay HeltonHarry How/Getty Images

For most of the teams in college football, the regular season is drawing to a close Saturday night. A handful of programs will clash in conference championship week, and then the calendar will officially move into bowl season.

But an even bigger season is already underway in the sport—the "silly season" known as the coaching carousel. 

This week, the carousel picked up plenty of speed with more firings, a few hirings and plenty of reports of front-runners, interviews and search firms. This is prime time for Twitter lists and flight trackers, especially for those fans whose schools have already cut ties with the head coaches that started the 2015 season.

Here are the latest major headlines from this year's crop of coaching rumors, from the latest firing in the SEC to the vacancies that are popping up in the Group of Five conferences.

We'll keep this post updated through the weekend and beyond with the latest news and notes as college football prepares for what could be one of the "silliest" offseasons in quite some time.

 

USC HC Clay Helton
USC HC Clay HeltonKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC: Promotes interim Clay Helton to permanent HC

Update: Monday, Nov. 30 (1:15 p.m. ET)

Perhaps the biggest job on the college football market is off the board before the silly season even reaches conference championship week, as USC has decided to keep interim head coach Clay Helton on a permanent basis.

The Trojans made the news official Monday morning, two days after they knocked off in-city rival UCLA and earned a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Stanford.

USC athletic director Pat Haden detailed the school's search for a new head coach and released a statement on the decision to keep Helton in a press release

After weeks of searching the collegiate and pro ranks, interviewing candidates, and speaking with head coaches, athletic directors, NFL executives, and very knowledgeable football people, and after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searching for in a coach was right here in front of us. Choosing a coach is an inexact science. In Clay’s case, there is exactness. We have a man with unquestioned integrity. He is a fantastic person and he is real. Clay is a leader of young men. He is a terrific communicator. He brings high character, stability, continuity, consistency, toughness and resiliency to our program.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 22: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles on the sidelines during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field on November 22, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schult
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

USC went 5-2 this season with Helton as the interim head coach. He took over after the school fired head coach Steve Sarkisian in October.

The name most connected with the USC opening before the move to keep Helton on board was Chip Kelly, former Oregon head coach and current Philadelphia Eagles head coach.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Sunday morning that USC had reached out to Kelly.

Kelly, true to form, refuted that report Monday afternoon.

Former USC running back LenDale White told Reign of Troy on Saturday he favored Helton over Kelly, who is currently 4-7 in his third season in Philadelphia.

Now White and several other former Trojans who have voiced support for Helton will get to see their ideal candidate stay in charge at their alma mater.

 

Houston HC Tom Herman
Houston HC Tom HermanJuan DeLeon/Associated Press

Houston: Agrees to new contract with HC Tom Herman

Update: Monday, Nov. 30 (1:15 p.m. ET)

The hottest young head coach in college football is apparently staying put for now.

According to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, Tom Herman said in a press conference that he has agreed in principle to a new contract with Houston:

In his first season as head coach of the Cougars, Herman has posted an 11-1 record. Houston will face Temple in the first American Athletic Conference title game this weekend and is the favorite to earn the coveted Group of Five bid to the New Year's Six bowls.

Led by dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr., Herman's "smashmouth spread" offense ranks 15th nationally in yards per game. Only Navy and Georgia Southern—two triple-option teams—have rushed for more touchdowns this season than Houston.

Herman was a hot name for several head coach vacancies, including the newly opened one at Georgia. However, it appears the #HTownTakeover will continue in the Lone Star State.

 

Alabama DC Kirby Smart
Alabama DC Kirby SmartMarvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia: Kirby Smart the favorite to replace Mark Richt

Update: Monday, Nov. 30 (1:25 p.m. ET)

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart looks like the clear favorite to replace Mark Richt as head coach of his alma mater.

According to Chris Low and Mark Schlabach of ESPN, Smart appears to be the "only choice" right now in the Bulldogs' search. On Sunday, Steven Godfrey of SB Nation reported Smart was Georgia's "top target."

Smart has never been a head coach at the collegiate level, but he brings plenty of experience as a top assistant in the SEC. The former Georgia defensive back has been Nick Saban's defensive coordinator at Alabama since the 2008 season, and he's racked up a couple of Assistant Coach of the Year awards during his time in Tuscaloosa.

Georgia fired Mark Richt after 15 seasons with the program, as first reported by Schlabach. Richt put together a 145-51 record during his time in Athens.

Georgia released the news on its official website Sunday afternoon, stating Richt would "step down" after coaching the Bulldogs in their upcoming bowl game.

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 7: Head coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs in the fourth quarter of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats on November 7, 2015 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Georgia won the game 27-3. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Imag
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

"Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program," UGA athletic director Greg McGarity said in a statement, "and we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game." 

This year, Georgia lost three of its four games in October, and its four wins in November all came by a touchdown. On Saturday, the Bulldogs defeated three-win rival Georgia Tech by a score of 13-6.

 

Auburn DC Will Muschamp
Auburn DC Will MuschampJoe Robbins/Getty Images

South Carolina: Reportedly considering Auburn DC Will Muschamp

Update: Monday, Nov. 30 (2:15 p.m. ET)

So if Georgia takes Kirby Smart off the market, where does that leave South Carolina? The Gamecocks reportedly had Smart at the top of their list to replace Steve Spurrier last week.

Well, according to Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, South Carolina is looking at another defensive coordinator from the state of Alabama—Will Muschamp.

Muschamp just finished his first season at Auburn, where the Tigers went 6-6 after starting the year with SEC title hopes. The former Florida head coach became the highest-paid assistant in the country this offseason, and his rebuilding defense ranked 90th nationally in yards per game.

James Crepea of AL.com noted that Muschamp's unique three-year contract at Auburn allows him to "pursue another job starting Dec. 6 at no cost to him." Muschamp told reporters last week he hadn't been contacted by any other school.

Muschamp went 28-21 in four years as Florida's head coach, his last job before returning to Auburn. After going 11-2 with a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2012, he went 10-13 in his final two seasons in Gainesville.

 

Memphis HC Justin Fuente
Memphis HC Justin FuenteDerik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech: Hires Memphis HC Justin Fuente

Update: Sunday, Nov. 29 (2:45 p.m. ET)

One of the biggest programs that already has a confirmed opening is going to be the first to nail down its hire.

Virginia Tech announced the hiring of Memphis head coach Justin Fuente on Sunday afternoon. The move was first reported by Fox 5 DC on Saturday afternoon, as retiring Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer led his Hokies to an important 23-20 win over rival Virginia.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN reported Virginia Tech would retain veteran defensive coordinator Bud Foster and associate head coach Shane Beamer—Frank's son—on Fuente's new staff. Both assistants were rumored candidates for the head job.

Virginia Tech DC Bud Foster
Virginia Tech DC Bud FosterSteve Helber/Associated Press

Fuente was one of the hottest names in the early spins of coaching carousel, along with Houston head coach Tom Herman.

Memphis upset SEC foe Ole Miss in October and has a chance at back-to-back 10-win seasons with a victory in a bowl game. Fuente, who came to Memphis from a co-offensive coordinator position at TCU, had two losing seasons before 2014's breakout campaign that ended with a shared AAC title.

 

Rutgers HC Kyle Flood
Rutgers HC Kyle FloodEd Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers: Reportedly fires Kyle Flood in department-wide shakeup

Update: Sunday, Nov. 29 (1 p.m. ET)

The latest shoe to drop on this Black Sunday in the coaching carousel comes as no surprise, as Rutgers has reportedly fired Kyle Flood, along with athletic director Julie Hermann, per Brett McMurphy of ESPN.

Flood went 27-24 in four seasons as the head coach of the Scarlet Knights, who went 4-8 with a 1-7 Big Ten record in 2015. Rutgers lost to fellow conference cellar dweller Maryland on Saturday to cap its season.

Flood came under fire in September after receiving a three-game suspension for rules violations pertaining to contact with a Rutgers professor about a player's grades. He also was found to have "provided grammatical and minor editorial suggestions" for a paper that the player wrote.

Rutgers also dismissed six players earlier in the year for a variety of crimes related to home invasion and assault.

Now, after a losing season on the field, Rutgers is making the move many outsiders felt should have been done back in September with the firings of Flood and Hermann.

 

Bowling Green HC Dino Babers
Bowling Green HC Dino BabersRandy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

UCF: Reportedly hires Bowling Green HC Dino Babers

Update: Sunday, Nov. 29 (8 p.m. ET)

After an abysmal 0-12 season that featured two job losses for George O'Leary, UCF is moving forward by picking out another big name from the MAC.

According to 247Sports, UCF will hire Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers to the same position, with an official announcement set to come as soon as Monday.

Babers went 9-3 this season with Bowling Green, winning the MAC's East division. The Eagles are set to play Northern Illinois in the conference championship game this week.

Bowling Green had one of the nation's most exciting offenses in the 2015 regular season, ranking third nationally in yards per game and fourth in scoring. Quarterback Matt Johnson has thrown for 41 touchdowns and just six interceptions, with top receiver Roger Lewis coming in fourth nationally in receiving yards per game.

Babers, who served as an assistant at Baylor under Art Briles before two seasons as head coach at Eastern Illinois in the FCS, is 17-9 in two seasons at Bowling Green with a pair of division titles. The Falcons notched wins over both Maryland and Purdue this year.

 

LSU HC Les Miles
LSU HC Les MilesJonathan Bachman/Associated Press

LSU: Les Miles to remain Tigers head coach

Update: Saturday, Nov. 28 (11:32 p.m. ET)

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva gave head coach Les Miles a strong vote of confidence Saturday night following LSU's home win over Texas A&M:

Miles, who was carried off the field Saturday night as LSU fans chanted his name inside Tiger Stadium, was the subject of some back-and-forth rumors throughout the week.

On Friday, Miles was at a meeting of the Tiger Gridiron Club. According to both Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana and Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com, Miles made it seem like Saturday's game against Texas A&M would be his final one as LSU's head coach.

"He didn't use those words but he made it clear that Saturday is his last game," a Gridiron Club member reportedly told Kleinpeter. "He said, 'We're a second family to him and he's going to miss us, he appreciates his real friends, and then he told us goodbye."

But, later that afternoon, Ross Dellenger of the Advocate reported that two sources at the meeting told him Miles didn't indicate that at all.

Others from outside LSU's beat had their own reports, too. ESPN's Joe Schad reported earlier in the week that there was a "good possibility" the school would buy out the rest of Miles' contract, and he tweeted Friday afternoon LSU leadership was "heavily in favor" of a coaching change. 

Miles was the subject of hot-seat talk for the last several weeks, as his Tigers have fallen from the No. 2 team in the initial College Football Playoff rankings to three straight losses to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Florida State HC Jimbo Fisher
Florida State HC Jimbo FisherMelina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Whatever said or wasn't said at the Tiger Gridiron Club is arbitrary now. The same goes for Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher's interest in the job, as he was reportedly LSU's No. 1 candidate to replace Miles.

According to Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher "made it clear he is happy with the administration, the support he receives and the direction of the program, and has no intentions of leaving Florida State for another coaching job at this time."

 

Miami fans in early 2015
Miami fans in early 2015Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Miami: Butch Davis reportedly interviews with Canes

Update: Sunday, Nov. 29 (8 p.m. ET)

Miami's fortunes have turned since firing Al Golden following the 59-0 destruction at the hands of Clemson. The Hurricanes are 4-1 since then, notching win No. 8 on the season Friday with 29-24 victory over Pittsburgh.

The U will also hope for that same kind of fortune in its coaching search. When asked about the search and interim coach Larry Scott's status Friday, athletic director Blake James declined to comment, per Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald

On Sunday evening, Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post reported that former head coach Butch Davis, a popular pick among fans, had interviewed with the school:

Another front-runner right now appears to be former FIU head coach and current Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal, who played on two national championship teams at Miami.

Former Miami player Joaquin Gonzalez tweeted last week that he had interviewed the firm Miami is using for the search, and Cristobal was at the front with Davis.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, former Miami head coach Dennis Erickson endorses Cristobal for the job, citing his strong recruiting ties to South Florida and his experience with the program.

But the biggest name connected to Miami at the moment is Texas head coach Charlie Strong, who is currently 4-7 in his second season with the Longhorns.

Texas HC Charlie Strong
Texas HC Charlie StrongRay Thompson/Associated Press

Texas dismissed athletic director Steve Patterson earlier this year. With Texas in the midst of another losing season, rumors have been flying about Strong, a former Florida assistant, returning to the Sunshine State as the Longhorns get a full reset.

Last Saturday, Anwar Richardson of OrangeBloods.com reported Strong was "no longer in the mix at Miami and intends to remain at Texas." Strong himself has refuted Miami rumors multiple times in the last few weeks.

(Of course, whenever rumors of Strong leaving Texas started to build up, reports of Nick Saban to Austin soon followed. It's like silly-season clockwork.)  

 

Toledo HC Matt Campbell
Toledo HC Matt CampbellDavid Richard/Associated Press

Iowa State: Hires Toledo HC Matt Campbell

Update: Sunday, Nov. 29 (3:15 p.m. ET)

Iowa State has taken one of the Group of Five's biggest names off the market.

Toledo head coach Matt Campbell has agreed to become the next head coach of the Cyclones, according to a release from the school.

Nick Piotrowicz of the Toledo Blade reported early Sunday morning that Toledo athletic director Mike O'Brien offered Campbell an extension that would've made him the highest-paid head coach in the MAC, but Iowa State offered more money to the 35-year-old.

Dan Wolken of USA Today first reported Campbell being the front-runner at Iowa State on Saturday afternoon.

Iowa State announced Paul Rhoads would not return for his eighth season with the Cyclones last week. ISU finished 3-9 on the season with Saturday's 30-7 loss to West Virginia.

The 35-year-old Campbell went 9-2 in the regular season with the Rockets, falling just short of reaching the MAC Championship Game after Friday's loss to Western Michigan. Toledo knocked off both Arkansas and Iowa State earlier this season.

 

Toledo HC Matt Campbell
Toledo HC Matt CampbellRaj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri: Search appears open with Campbell to ISU

Update: Sunday, Nov. 29 (1 a.m. ET)

Missouri has had a virtual opening for its head-coaching position since Gary Pinkel announced his resignation due to his battle with lymphoma earlier this month. Pinkel coached what will likely be his final game Friday, as the Tigers fell to 5-7 with a loss to Arkansas.

The main names rumored as Pinkel's replacement have been concentrated on the Group of Five ranks, including the likes of Houston head coach Tom Herman—who was hired by current Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades last year.

According to a report on Friday from Scott Roussel of Football Scoop, Matt Campbell was expected to get an interview and is "considered a strong candidate." Roussel's source told him Campbell would likely accept, but now Campbell is in line to become the next head coach at Iowa State.

Other candidates for the job, per Roussel, include current Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom and Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers.

Odom was in charge of a successful Missouri defense this season, while Babers would bring the offensive mind that some believe the Tigers are searching for after a subpar year on that side of the ball.

 

 

Illinois HC Bill Cubit
Illinois HC Bill CubitJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Rounding up the rest

Illinois officially hired interim head coach and former offensive coordinator Bill Cubit to a two-year deal Saturday. Cubit took over after the firing of Tim Beckman shortly before the start of the season and led the Fighting Illini to a 5-7 season.

Minnesota did the same thing with its vacancy earlier this month, hiring interim coach Tracy Claeys to the position held by Jerry Kill. The former Minnesota head coach announced his resignation in October due to health reasons.

Maryland seemingly has a wide-open search going on right now to find a replacement for Randy Edsall, who was fired earlier in the season. Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated named a handful of Power Five coordinators, other FBS head coaches and even some NFL names as those who have talked to the Terrapins. (This section will definitely be updated when some more clarity comes to the search.)

Syracuse is another official vacancy in the Power Five after firing Scott Shafer earlier this week. LSU assistant coach Ed Orgeron, who once coached at Syracuse, said he would have "very high" interest in the job, per Bud Poliquin of Syracuse.com.

Virginia announced the resignation of head coach Mike London on Sunday morning, opening up another Power Five job. London recruited well with the ACC school, but he only had one winning season—his second—in six years in Charlottesville.

247Sports reported Monday afternoon former Texas head coach Mack Brown and Virginia had "mutual interest" in the opening.

Hawaii hired Nevada offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich to replace Norm Chow, who was fired earlier this month. Rolovich, a former Hawaii player and assistant coach, is set to be introduced Monday in press conference.

Memphis has reportedly offered its head coaching job to Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who served as Justin Fuente's defensive coordinator at Memphis from 2012 to 2014. 

Toledo has a new vacancy as of Sunday, with Matt Campbell becoming the new head coach at Iowa State.

Bowling Green reportedly has an opening now with Dino Babers set to take the head coaching job at UCF.

North Texas, Tulane and UL-Monroe are the remaining Group of Five schools that officially have head-coaching vacancies. The name with the most juice behind it right now is Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins at UCF, per Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports.

 

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.