Mack Brown stepped down (finally) last week, or announced he would resign after Texas gets destroyed in its bowl game against Oregon. He was 30-20 in the last four seasons, so everyone knew it was time for a change, including Brown. He’s a good coach though and a class act, so if he wants to continue coaching, he would no doubt land just about anywhere he wants. My guess is any head coaching job after Texas is just going to be a step down, so I would expect him to either become involved in another way for the Texas athletic department or join the broadcasting profession with ESPN or the Longhorn Network. But no one really cares what Mack Brown does anymore. People care about who will replace him. Let’s look at the likely candidates.
First, Texas is the most lucrative athletics department in America. Second, the state of Texas produces more recruits than any other in America. When it comes to money and talent, Texas is second to none. So let’s be honest here. The Longhorns will get whoever the Longhorns want. But recognize one other thing. College football is all about recruiting. That means meeting and knowing the high school coaches across the state. It means being familiar with high school football on many levels. Joe Paterno was a great coach, but he wouldn’t have done very well at USC because he knew how to recruit in Pennsylvania and the midwest, not the west coast. Familiarity will be paramount to the next coach of Texas.
That rules out any NFL coach right now. Texas will go for someone who has a proven record at the college level. So the only candidates with a chance will be those who have shown they can get it done in college football year in and year out. Now, let’s look at the candidates Texas will most definitely be targeting.
1. Jimbo Fisher – Florida State
Everyone already knows this one. The guy took over for Bobby Bowden who had been there forever but had fallen off in recent years. Jimbo turned it around and got back on track. He can obviously get the job done, is familiar with how the college game goes, and, most importantly, can recruit well in the second largest talent pool, Florida. The problem? Florida State will probably do anything to keep him around, and Texas has several other options that probably won’t be as difficult or as expensive. That and Jameis Winston has at least one more year, and that means another shot at the championship next season if he stays with the Seminoles.
2. James Franklin – Vanderbilt
Winning 8 games this season and last is actually quite an accomplishment at Vanderilt and the SEC. Lots of people think he is on the short list, and that is probably the case, but I don’t see him fitting in with Texas. The Longhorns will want someone with some big time experience. Vanderbilt is not big time experience. Franklin may very well get overwhelmed at Texas. You go from poor facilities, inability to recruit and essentially no expectations to the exact opposite. I’m not sure Franklin is cut out for that, and hiring him would be a risk Texas won’t want to take. But some risks come with reward, so Franklin has an outside chance.
3. Charlie Strong – Louisville
If I had to bet, I would bet Charlie Strong is the next head coach at Texas. He was the architect of those strong Florida defenses a few years ago. He took an ailing Louisville program and turned them in to a contender. He’s old enough that he’s been around and knows what’s going on but young enough that he could stick around a good long while. And something very important, he has shown he can develop talent at the quarterback position, something Texas hasn’t seen since Colt McCoy. He has been in the big games. He has been a part of big time recruiting efforts. He has been at a bigger program, but Louisville is certainly no Texas. Truth is he won’t get overwhelmed and could handle the job well. This is how Texas makes a splash and the man I believe they will eventually hire.
4. Art Briles – Baylor
Baylor is a feel good story. They have gone from bottom dwellers in the Big 12 to champions. Briles coached high school football in the state for 15 years or something. He’s well connected. He already can recruit in the state and has done a great job building Baylor in to a contender. If the Longhorns pass on Charlie Strong, I think Briles is the next most likely guy for the job. And while Baylor is upgrading their facilities with a new stadium and all, I don’t think they could possibly keep him around if Texas comes calling.
5. David Bailiff – Rice
I know, sounds crazy, but to win as he has at Rice is pretty incredible. Akin to James Franklin at Vanderbilt. Potentially bad hire for all the same reasons. But Bailiff is a Texas kind of guy. I would be shocked if they didn’t at least give him a look and some consideration.
6. Jim Tressel
In case you forgot, he was the head coach at Ohio State before Urban Meyer. He is under NCAA sanctions, but we all know a powerhouse like Texas spits on the NCAA. If they want Tressel, they are getting him and NCAA be darned. He’s a good coach who has done very well at a very big time program. He wants to coach again. His mistakes from the past may be too much to overlook however. Still, if you do overlook the ethical violations and whatnot, from a strict coaching perspective he might be a great hire. Pretty long shot though.
So from that list, my money is on Charlie Strong or Art Briles. Who do you think Texas nabs?