Every season college football coaches are hired and fired, but not every opening is like Texas’s current one. The Longhorns have a massive budget to operate on, play in front of a rabid fan base at every home game, and are located right in the middle of arguably the most fertile recruiting area west of Florida.
So it would seem that just as Texas can get the players to come and play for them, they can also land one of the biggest names to be the head coach.
Unfortunately, the timing isn’t on the Longhorns’ side.
Because the USC job recently came up, and was filled, a major shift has already occurred in the college football landscape. One of the hotter names on the circuit, Steve Sarkisian, left Washington to become head coach for the Trojans. Filling his vacancy at Washington was arguably an even hotter commodity, Chris Peterson, who won only 88.5 percent of his games at Boise State over the last eight seasons.
The Broncos then replaced Peterson with former offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who was head coach at Arkansas State in 2013. Harsin, who was at Arkansas State for just one year, had replaced current Auburn head coach, and hot coaching commodity, Gus Malzahn.
Given that coaches stay at least one year at a place before moving on, Peterson and Sarkisian are out of the mix for the Texas job. Even Malzahn won’t likely be coming after just one season with the Tigers. Besides, the Longhorns wouldn’t be able to wait until after the BCS title game.
Other big names like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, or even Bob Stoops are off the table too. Saban was linked so early to the Texas opening that Alabama made sure to lock him up to another contract extension. Meyer has only been at Ohio State for two years and it’d be too much of a lateral move to take the Longhorns job. Stoops is another great coach but has been a rival of Texas for too long to make that jump.
Despite all this, there are still a few good names left. Let’s go over the candidates, starting with the least likely:
Dave Doeren, North Carolina State—Doeren is the least likely of this crew because of his name—as in few know who he is. But the guy led Northern Illinois to a combined 23–4 record over two seasons from 2011–12. He went an unimpressive 3–9 with the Wolfpack in 2013, but then again most rebuilding jobs start off slow. He’s a dark horse all right.
Art Briles, Baylor—Briles, in six seasons has taken the Bears to new heights. Overall, he’s 44–31 at once-lowly Baylor—including 29–9 the past three seasons. The 29 wins are far and away the most ever over a three-year span at Baylor. Briles, like the aforementioned Saban, signed an extension this season. But let’s be honest, he’s at Baylor, which still is a far cry from Alabama—as well as Texas. Whether mighty Texas would want to lower themselves and take a coach from a seemingly inferior, in-state rival is another matter, but Briles is a good choice.
Charlie Strong, Louisville—Strong is 36–15 in four years at Louisville and has already produced a Heisman contender in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Strong has led the Cardinals to a 22–3 record over the past two seasons, so he’s already got Louisville rolling. Though he seems like a loyal-to-his-school kind of guy, you never know what will happen if the deep pockets at Texas make him an offer.
David Shaw, Stanford—When Shaw took over at Stanford, most thought he could keep up with the job his predecessor Jim Harbaugh did for a season, maybe two, before the wheels started coming off. Three years later, the program is still rolling. Shaw is 34–6 overall and has already led the Cardinal to a Rose Bowl win. The Longhorns would do well to get Shaw.