With University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer’s unexpected resignation yesterday, Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley must identify and hire a replacement quickly to not lose any ground in the important days and weeks ahead leading up to signing day.
Who will Foley hire to replace Meyer?
Names that have been bandied about include: Dan Mullen, head coach of Mississippi State; Charlie Strong, new head coach of Louisville; Mike Shanahan, former head coach of the Denver Broncos and former Gator offensive coordinator; Bob Stoops, head coach of Oklahoma and former Gator Defensive Coordinator under Steve Spurrier.
The last time Florida lost a high profile coach, Foley went after Mike Shanahan and Bob Stoops, and was snubbed by both coaches. As a desperate attempt to hire a replacement to quickly come in and recruit, Foley hired his old friend Ron Zook.
Zook had no previous head coaching experience, was roundly criticized by the fan base (www.fireronzook.com), and lived down to his expectations.
Look for Foley to hire a proven coach for this plum coaching job, not another unproven coach like Zook.
So that leaves out Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong. Both great coaches, but yet unproven as head coaches. Give Mullen a few years and let him build a winner out of MSU and then he’ll be considered for a future Gator Head Coaching position.
Ditto for Strong. Let him prove himself as a HC at Louisville. There are big differences between coordinating and HC. Let him learn on the job at The ‘Ville and then one day Foley may come calling.
If you want a glimpse into how Foley will conduct this HC search, look no further than when Foley initially hired Head Basketball coach Billy Donovan. Foley was looking for a young, energetic guy who could recruit and build a program…and who had head coaching experience.
Foley consulted with Rick Pitino, and Billy Donovan was introduced to the world as Florida’s new coach.
Foley will consult with Meyer as to who his replacement should be. Meyer would probably recommend Kyle Whittingham as a candidate.
In four years as Utah's head coach, Kyle Whittingham has won 73-percent of his games, gone 4-0 in bowl games, led Utah to its best season in 115 years of football, engineered the biggest win in school history, and been named the National Coach of the Year.
Under Whittingham, the Utah Utes finished 13-0 and ranked number two in the final national rankings. Whittingham received the Bear Bryant Award as National Coach of the Year as voted on by his head coaching peers. Whittingham guided the 2008 Utes to their highest final ranking ever at number two, just behind former mentor Urban Meyer’s number one Gators.
Whittingham’s 37-14 career record includes a 7-3 advantage over BCS schools and bowl wins against Georgia Tech (2005), Tulsa (2006), Navy (2007), and Alabama (2009/2008 season)
Meyer would also probably suggest Shanahan, as Shanahan would instantly give a huge P.R. boost to the recruiting wars, as many high school studs would love to play for a former Super Bowl winning coach.
Meyer and Foley would also probably agree on Chris Petersen, HC at Boise State. Petersen has impressive accolades including the 2006 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award winner. Petersen is considered one of the greatest offensive minds in football today, and he led Boise State to finish fifth in the final rankings in 2006, and finished the 2008 regular season ranked ninth.
Foley and Meyer would also want to look at Mike Patterson, the 2009 AP Coach of the Year…the first recipient of that award who coached outside of the six conferences with automatic BCS bowl bids. Patterson has led the third-ranked Horned Frogs to a 12-0 record, Mountain West Conference championship, and their first BCS appearance, a Jan. 4 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl date with No. 6 Boise State (13-0). TCU has its first undefeated regular season since its 1938 national championship campaign.
Will Foley consider Oklahoma HC Bob Stoops? He should consider Stoops. The question is, will Stoops consider Florida? Stoops reportedly turned down the Notre Dame job and has re-built the Oklahoma program. Why would a successful guy at a top program like Oklahoma consider a fresh start at Florida after snubbing Notre Dame? Two reasons are the weather, and ease of recruiting. Still, Stoops stays put at Oklahoma.
So who will be announced as the new HC at Florida?
Look for Whittingham, Petersen, or Patterson. Of the two coaches playing in the Fiesta Bowl, Petersen and Patterson, Patterson holds the advantage because he already has recruiting ties in the talent laden state of Texas, and in the southwest, south, and south east.
So, Florida will go after Kyle Whittingham first, Patterson second, and Petersen third.
Look for one of these coaches to be named shortly after the bowl season concludes.
There will be no Ron Zooks this year for the Gators.