Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage is due up at bat. With the all but certain firing of Al Groh just mere weeks away, the pressure will be on Littlepage to come through in the clutch.
Sure, the Cavalier program may have lost a bit of its luster. However, if Notre Dame holds on to Charlie Weis, Virginia could be the most attractive job opening this offseason.
Littlepage needs to step up to the plate and make a good swing.
Let's explore the possible scenarios ahead of him.
Even though he had a rather ugly departure from Auburn, Tuberville is still a very well respected coach with an impressive track record for success.
Tuberville has navigated the tough SEC waters and with the mediocrity in the ACC, he could help stage a quick turnaround for the Cavaliers.
Most importantly though, he brings instant name recognition to the program. Tuberville improves the Virginia football brand nationally, it opens up more recruiting lines, and it helps put bodies in Scott Stadium.
For more on Tuberville at Virginia:
This seemed like a much more feasible hire until Notre Dame had to lose to Navy.
Kelly clearly seems frustrated by his situation in Cincinnati. He knows that it will be very hard to take a Big East team to the national championship game. There have also been rumors that he is unhappy there and Virginia could provide a place that would welcome him with open arms.
However, Kelly would never say no to the Fighting Irish if they came calling. Kelly waited until after Notre Dame said they were retaining Charlie Weis before he talked about his job at Cincinnati last year. One year could make all the difference.
Of course, in this case, Virginia would not mind playing sloppy seconds to Notre Dame if the Irish decide to hold on to Weis.
Kelly has a very strong track record, and his development of Tony Pike gives Virginia fans faith he could solidify a signal-caller for the Cavaliers.
A consistent quarterback is perhaps the biggest issue plaguing the Cavaliers since 2005. Kelly could fix that and more.
Does this really even need an explanation?
Petersen provided drama in just his first year as head coach against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl no one will forget.
Since then, Boise State has been the most dominant non-BCS school around. However, after four years, Petersen must realize he has achieved about all he can at the WAC school.
After all, his team very likely will go undefeated. His team will have a signature victory over Oregon. Yet he will still be denied a chance to play the national championship.
Boise State is a better team than Virginia right now, but the potential could be intriguing for Petersen. The Cavaliers were one of the best 25 programs just a decade ago with victories over Texas, Florida State, and heart-breaking losses to Auburn, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Also, Virginia can shell out the big bucks. Currently Petersen makes around $900,000. The Cavaliers could boost that to about $1.6 million and things could get interesting.
Of course, this is the home run category, so this scenario is probably a pipe dream. If it happened, though, Craig Littlepage would be a hero.
That is, unless Peterson turns into the next Dan Hawkins.
The Horned Frogs leader has certainly taken TCU from obscurity to BCS contender. He also got a first-hand look at Virginia earlier this year when his team dismantled the Cavalier defense en route to a convincing 30-14 victory.
In truth, Patterson had the obligatory nice comments about Virginia after he game but it seemed fairly obvious he was not too impressed either.
"Crazy things can happen in the first game," Patterson said. "We didn't want to beat ourselves."
Translation: Virginia had no prayer unless we laid an egg.
Of course, he also learned just how good he could be in the mediocre ACC as he took out Clemson in Death Valley this year as well. Could be tempting to see that kind of success each and every year.
Patterson has done a great job, but he knows that coaching in a non-BCS school almost guarantees he will never get the chance to play in a championship game. With the ACC up for grabs seemingly every year, Patterson could certainly take the Cavaliers and make them a contender very quickly.
The question is, would he want to? When Patterson decides to leave, he will have the pick of the litter.
Virginia's best selling point right now is that the coaching carousel may not be as crazy this season as it has in the past. This seems like the perfect time for Patterson to leave; his stock will never be higher and if Virginia is one of the top two or three jobs in the country, you can bet he will take a look.
Still, if I were a Cavalier fan, I wouldn't hold my breath.
The former Virginia graduate assistant and Cavalier alum has certainly reached new heights as coach of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
When Grobe and company captured the ACC title just a few years ago over Georgia Tech, Virginia could only sit and wonder what could have been if they had picked him instead of his eerily similar-looking comrade Al Groh nine years ago to lead the team.
Granted, Wake Forest has struggled defensively this year. Also, we do not usually see "lateral moves" within a conference. However, Grobe's connections to the University could just make it happen.
After all, we saw Tom O'Brien inexplicably leave Boston College for North Carolina State following the firing of Chuck Amato. Can lightning strike twice?
Grobe has found a knack for bringing in quality students that have succeeded in and out of the classroom. With a bigger school with bigger facilities, Grobe could see an opportunity to nab some top-notch recruits and rebuild what George Welsh started nearly 30 years ago at Virginia.
Really, if Grobe could bring a solid quarterback with him as well, Virginia would welcome him with open arms.
Tom O'Brien is one confusing guy.
His move from Boston College to North Carolina State turned many heads, and really the decision does not seem to have paid off. The Wolfpack have struggled, and although Russell Wilson is a special player, his defense is anything but.
O'Brien is a former Virginia assistant under George Welsh and was roaming the sidelines for the Cavaliers biggest victory over Florida State in 1995. It would certainly be a good idea for the culture of the program to bring someone in that can represent the glory days of Virginia football.
O'Brien may be getting frustrated with his time in Raleigh, and Virginia may be just the fresh start he has been hoping for. On the other hand, Virginia has to realize that hiring O'Brien is far from a sure thing.
In O'Brien's five years in the ACC, he has a 17-18 conference record. That is certainly not a statistic you want on your record when you are trying to convince fans you can make the team competitive in the ACC.
Still, O'Brien is an offensive mind that can help Virginia's anemic offense and his student athletes have one of the best academic records in the country.
An O'Brien hire would heal some old wounds, but would it lead to some new wins?
It's only a matter of time before Charlie Strong gets a head coaching job.
The Florida defensive coordinator has been on the short list for some time now and has already been mentioned in connection to the opening at Memphis.
Certainly, Strong has some positives to bring to the Virginia program. For one, he is young and energetic. That would be a needed departure from the stoic and elderly statesmen known as Al Groh.
Second, he can help maintain the strong defensive tradition at Virginia. Strong knows how to coach up a defense, his aggressiveness on defense may help court speed rushers that can add to the overall athleticism of the team.
However, Strong has one game of head coaching experience, a lost bowl game to Miami after the firing of former Gator coach Ron Zook. He is far from a sure thing and brings little expertise to what Virginia really needs help with: offense.
Granted, watching Tim Tebow these past few seasons might have been fun. However, will it really help him if he came to Virginia and saw Marc Verica under center?
Strong is a good hire. He would fit some of the glaring needs for the next Virginia coach. He could even be in the same mold as Tony Bennett was for the basketball team. However, it would take time for him to permeate the cynicism and doubt in the football culture.
Mike London is the safest choice on the board.
London is already known and beloved by the Virginia base. The former Cavalier defensive coordinator has found a great deal of success as head coach of the University of Richmond.
London helped lead the Spiders to their first national championship in any sport. He also knocked off Duke earlier this year in a win that looks better and better by the week.
London has oversaw an amazing team, but he inherited many of its star players. The question remains, how well can he build a team for sustained success?
London has strong recruiting ties to the state, he also bring a youthful fire that can energize the fan base. However, he only has two years of head coaching experience and Virginia fans simply cannot be sure whether he is ready for an opportunity to coach in a BCS conference.
This hire would be similar to the option Virginia had last season to hire Anthony Grant for their men's basketball coach. He and London both were successful but both had star players to make them look good.
Virginia no longer has time to sit back and wait for London to develop. If the Cavaliers strike out on their big names, London will almost certainly be the next coach in Charlottesville.
When you talk about turning around a program, look no further than Al Golden.
The Temple Owls were one of the biggest jokes in college football. Even when the Big East was desperate for teams after the departure of Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech, they still kicked Temple out of their football conference.
When Golden took over after leaving Virginia as defensive coordinator, Temple was the vagabond team that had finally found a conference in the MAC but still looked like a death sentence for any young, inspiring coach.
Instead of sulking though, Golden took the team and has now made the Owls a factor in the MAC. After winning one game in his first season, Golden had his team within a game of winning the MAC East Division.
His nine-game win streak is one of the most impressive accomplishments in the history of the program. However, it was also against one of the easiest schedules in the country.
Golden has a great deal to offer to Virginia. He has ties to the program, he is young and passionate. He also has done a good job of recruiting and evaluating talent.
However, with just three years of head coaching experience, one must wonder if this success can be duplicated or sustained if he made the jump to the ACC.
After all, Turner Gill was the toast of the town last year but a sub-par season in 2009 and people have jumped off the bandwagon. Could a similar surprise await Golden next season?
Better yet, will Golden recognize this and try to hook onto a new job while his stock is high?
One name that has been connected with the possible Virginia opening is none other than Tim Murphy.
Who's that, you ask?
Murphy is the head coach at Harvard. Currently in his 16th season as head coach, Murphy has captured five Ivy League titles and eight consecutive winning seasons.
Obviously, Virginia stresses academic excellence and having a coach that has to deal with some of the most stringent academic requirements in the country must be intriguing.
Still, winning at Harvard is not the same thing as trying to win a BCS conference against the sheer athleticism of teams like Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Florida State.
While Murphy could be a success at Virginia, he does not fix the biggest problem facing the Cavaliers: apathy.
Murphy is not going to energize the fan base and convince boosters to pour money into the program. While winning would ultimately do that, hiring Murphy will not lead to instant turnaround.
Virginia's road to success would be long and without the name recognition that buys patience from fans, Murphy could be done before he ever sit foot in Charlottesville.
Oh my, oh my.
Turner Gill was the hottest name following last season's miraculous run by Buffalo. Gill appeared to be destined for a bigger payday elsewhere, but now things have gone noticeably south.
After winning the MAC title last season, Buffalo is 3-5, 1-3 in the conference this season.
On one hand, Gill is only 47 years old and has proven able to turn programs around. Even if that program has been in the doldrums of college football for some time now.
Gill also is an offensive mind, something Virginia desperately needs. He has worked as a quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Nebraska before and those are the positions that could make or break the success of Virginia down the road.
Gill is a very engaging man who could thaw the frosty relations Virginia fans have towards their team at the moment but it would take time.
Besides, Virginia already have other options that fit many of the same qualities as Gill but also have connections to the University (without the sticky buyout clause that Buffalo has).
Gill could be a very good hire, but he is probably too far down on the totem pole to get any recognition.
Ron Prince was a sympathetic figure last season, ousted by Kansas State for the triumphant return of Wildcat legend Bill Snyder.
Al Groh welcomed Prince back into the fold and the former Cavalier offensive coordinator was now Virginia's special teams coach.
While Prince was a fairly competent offensive coordinator, special teams have been anything but special for Virginia this season. Poor miscues and terrible punt coverage mistakes have only added to the Cavaliers woes this season.
Sure, there have been some blocked punts here and there but they have been too little, too late to make a difference in the game.
Earlier this season, I thought Groh should be fired early and Prince be given the interim coach title. That way, Prince could instantly change the culture and may salvage the season.
Well, now that option is out the window, and so is the possibility of Prince as Virginia's next head coach.
If Prince had been able to turn things around, hiring him would have been perfectly acceptable. Much like Mike Singletary of the 49ers, he would have earned it.
However, hiring him now would look pathetically desperate. It would appear like everyone in the country turned us down and Virginia had no choice but to look inside a dysfunctional staff and pick someone.
Don't get me wrong, I think Prince is a fairly good coach. I know he can handle an offensive line better than what we have seen this season. On the other hand, he is simply too closely connected to the failed regime and his football career will get a fresh start somewhere else next season.
It amazes me that Bud Foster is not a head coach yet.
Foster has one of the greatest defenses in the country year in and year out.
Hokie fans know, if their offense were anywhere to the level of their defense, the rest of college football would be on red alert. That Frank Beamer has been able to get the administration to pay Foster enough to keep him happy is a testament to his decision-making.
Foster has been too often ignored for his potential. However, Virginia cannot be the team that gives him his big break.
Rivalries are funny things. We all know that Bo Schembechler was an Ohio State assistant for many years before becoming a Michigan great.
However, in a rivalry that Virginia is consistently losing ground in, hiring Virginia Tech's defensive coordinator sends the wrong message.
Virginia will look like they want to avoid facing Foster more than build a program. They will look like they forgot the travesty of Virginia's Ricky Stokes failing horribly as the Hokie basketball coach.
We don't even know if Foster would accept the job. Rivalries can cloud our judgment, and although it would be an opportunity to advance his career, Foster would probably hate the thought of going up against his mentor year after year.
Besides, he has aspirations for that Hokie job when Beamer retires too.
Finally, Foster does not help the ailing offense of Virginia. So even though I think Foster will be a very good coach, he will not be one at Virginia.