It happens every year, in just about every sport, but in 2008 it seems to be happening a lot sooner in College Football. With Ron Prince's recent ousting at Kansas State, there are already four head jobs open at BCS schools.
1. Washington: It was just a matter of time. In fact, you might say the letting go of Tyrone Willingham came a little late. With everything the UW program has going for it, tradition, facilities, fan base, it shouldn't be that difficult to win consistently there.
Ty was nowhere near consistent and it was time to go. So, who comes in next? UW faithful would love to see former Huskies Jim Mora or Gary Pinkel take over, however, I think that's wishful thinking. Here's how I see it:
A. Chris Petersen (Boise St. HC): This should be the first call UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward makes. He's a young, innovative, Northwest guy (also coached at Oregon), and he's a winner (sitting at 31-3 and working on his second undefeated season and possible second BCS Bowl). The question is, would he take the job?
B. Wil Muschamp (Texas DC): You'll see this name pop up on just about all the coaching searches, but especially at UW, due to the fact that Woodward (UW AD) has ties to LSU and Nick Saban, Muschamp's old boss. I think he'll be looking to stay in the south, and watching that Texas D the last few weeks, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.
C. Lane Kiffin (former Raiders HC): He's also young, and now comes with NFL experience. And while his time at USC showed he could recruit and had a good offensive mind, the jury is still out on whether he's head coaching material.
D. Pat Hill (Fresno State HC): Known for being willing to play "anyone, anywhere," he could get his chance. Next season, the Dawgs have LSU and head back to South Bend, and in 2010, they're off to BYU and host Nebraska. And with a full slate of Pac-10 games (unlike other conferences that get a few years off from each other), I would be careful what you wish for, Pat.
E. Steve Sarkisian (USC OC): He has already expressed interest, however, appears a bit green to be leading what will amount to be a monumental rebuilding.
Dave Christensen (Missouri OC, former Husky): See Sarkisian above
Bronco Mendenhall (BYU HC), Kyle Whittingham (Utah HC), Todd Graham (Tulsa HC): All are up and coming young HC's
Scott Linehan (former Rams HC): Also a former Husky
Nick Holt (USC DC): Also a former Idaho HC, and with the top D in the nation, he should get more press than he does (methinks maybe Petey likes to take all the cred for "his" D)
Mike Leach (Texas Tech HC): I just can't see leaving what he's got
2. Clemson: Somewhat surprising for Tommy Bowden, especially the way it went down, and considering his record. To look for a replacement, they'll start in-house, but you will also need to consider Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips' history at Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and Arkansas. With that said, I can see him going after:
A. Bobby Johnson (Vandy HC): Former Clemson player, seems the obvious choice.
B. Dabo Swinney (Interim Clemson HC): He has the job now, but will need a huge finish in order to keep it. Winning at No. 22 Florida St. this week would go a long way. Beating Spurrier and South Carolina to end the regular season would go even further.
C. Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State HC): It would be tough for Gundy to leave the Cowboys now, especially with the money they have rolling in there.
D. Bud Foster (Virginia Tech DC): He has put together many great defenses for the Hokies and could be looking for his first shot to be a head man, assuming he's not simply waiting for Coach Beamer to hang it up.
Wil Muschamp (Texas DC): He's going to go somewhere.
Todd Graham (Tulsa HC): Young and innovative
3. Tennessee: Seems odd that you can win 10 games, play for your conference title and then be out of work midway through the next season (especially considering Phil Fulmer's career record and his ownership of a National Title). So it goes in college football in the year 2008.
The Vols should have their pick of candidates, considering the program really isn't in bad shape at all, the facilities are there, the fans are rabid and there's plenty of money. With David Cutcliffe bowing out early, here are some other former UT assistants that might get a mention (however long the odds are):
A. Ron Zook (Illinois HC): Would the former Florida HC leave the Illini to go back to the SEC?
B. Lovie Smith (Bears HC): Things seem to be okay for Lovie in Chicago...for now.
C. Tommy West (Memphis HC): Former Vol player and coach still has work to do in Memphis
And considering UT AD Mike Hamilton's history at West Virginia, Jim Grobe will garner some attention. Others to watch will be Chris Petersen, Wil Muschamp, Lane Kiffin, and two former SEC assistants: Mike Leach and Skip Holtz.
4. Kansas State: Ron Prince is the latest to be shipped out, and there are already a few possibilities surfacing. K-State AD Bob Krause has some connections in Minnesota and at Michigan State; however, he will be probably be selecting from the following:
A. Dennis Franchione (former Texas A&M HC): Former K-State assistant was let go just a year ago from A&M, and you would think he would be interested in coming back to Manhattan.
B. Brent Venables (Oklahoma DC): Bob Stoops would hate to lose him, but I think the Wildcat faithful would love to see him back where he both played and coached. He's young but could be just what they need.
C. Gary Patterson (TCU HC): He has a pretty good thing going, but would seem to be interested in making something out of the K-State program he once played and coached for.
See the usual suspects above (Muschamp, Petersen, Christensen, etc.) and throw in Terry Bowden as a long shot who just might be itching to get back in the game.