Florida Gators football is losing its head man for the second time in the past year, only this time it appears Urban Meyer’s decision will stick.
Meyer, who stepped down from the Florida program last December citing health concerns, announced Wednesday that he is leaving the game so he can spend more time with family. And with that, the search for a new head coach in Gainesville begins.
But who is worthy of such a high-profile position?
Chew on these five candidates:
Why not Mullen? He would no doubt get a ringing endorsement from Meyer, with whom he worked for 10 years, including a four-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Florida before taking his current job at Mississippi State.
Mullen is a great offensive mind, and he has made the Bulldogs, who are going bowling after an 8-4 season, a relevant program in the toughest division in college football.
On top of that, he would provide the Florida administration with a seamless transition, and his familiarity with the program and the immediate region would only benefit the Gators in recruiting.
An absolute long shot but worth discussing, only because Gruden seems to be a trending topic. Not to mention the Gators have deep enough pockets to grab his attention.
Gruden, in the midst of speculation he would take the job at Miami, has already stated his intentions to stay put at ESPN for the time being, but the fire doesn’t die without a fight.
If the right job were to come along, would Gruden take a stab at it?
One hurdle would be the politics of college athletics. You can’t demand operational and executive control at the college level, though I’m sure some try.
I don’t see Gruden going for it, but at least for a moment, imagine a conference that houses Saban, Miles, Richt, Petrino, Spurrier and Gruden. Eeek!
If you’re going to go out on a limb, why not choose a branch that diverges directly from the coaching tree of one of your most bitter rivals? Defensive coordinator at Alabama, Smart is obviously a name that keeps coming up, but his candidacy is reserved for more low-profile gigs.
Only 34, Smart has just now reached a decade worth of experience, having spent time as a coach at Alabama, Georgia and LSU—not to mention a stint as Nick Saban’s safeties coach with the Miami Dolphins. He knows the region well for recruiting territory purposes and his youthful exuberance may be what the Florida program needs.
Plus, we all know how things worked out when the Gators took a bit of a flier on Meyer, who was only 40 at the time of his hiring.
I know, the dude doesn’t carry much cachet, but his name constantly surfaces whenever a job opens up. And there are probably some reasons why, though his age may be of some concern.
The state of Oregon isn’t exactly a breeding ground for major college football talent, but the 57-year-old Riley does an admirable job getting what he can and then relying upon his recruitment of bordering California and various other parts of the region.
He arguably does more with less than any other BCS head coach, so imagine what he could do with a little SEC speed and athleticism at his disposal.
Riley, who also coached OSU from 1997-98 before returning in 2003, has averaged seven wins a season in Corvalllis, including five campaigns of eight or more wins and a 5-1 record in bowl games.
A former coach for both the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints, Riley was a cornerback at Alabama from 1971-74.
Look at it this way: If you land a big fish like Kelly, your next head coach at Florida is either the man who won the national title in just his second season or the one whose only loss in 2010 came against the No. 1 team. Not exactly a lose-lose situation.
Kelly is somewhat of an offensive guru, if not an altogether maniac for points, continually going for it on fourth downs and forgoing extra points for two-point conversions.
He is also heavily invested in the spread offense, which isn’t exactly the scheme of choice right now with John Brantley under center, but the Gators aren’t going to become a Power-I team any time soon.
Now for the downside: Kelly doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. And even if he were, he would cost an arm and a leg.
Due to Oregon’s performance this season, Kelly fulfilled a stipulation that gives him the option to extend the term of his contract, which he recently did. He is now under contract through the spring of 2017, and could stand to raise his current salary of $2.4 million by $1.6 million over the next four years.