Sunday, December 7, 2008

On The Hunt: Head Coaching Edition ep. 1

Three days in the books, one candidate gone, two others with dropping stocks and one that seems to have risen to the top of the search.
Here is a rundown on what's going on right now:


Turner Gill, Buffalo

In just three years as Buffalo's head coach, Gill has engineered a remarkable turnaround for what was formerly a doormat program. Gill led Buffalo to a conference championship in his third year after inheriting a program that had won 10 games in its first seven seasons as an FBS program.
His overall record (16-22) isn't overly impressive, but he has a great history. Gill was a strong recruiter for the 90s Nebraska teams.
Yesterday, The Buffalo News ace reporter Rodney McKissic reported that Auburn requested and received permission to speak with Gill.
Buffalo AD Warde Manuel has not returned several calls.


Jimbo Fisher, Florida State head coach designate

Fisher has the resume to be a strong candidate for the Auburn job. He worked at Auburn for six year as the team's quarterbacks coach. He also served as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at LSU. That gives him several major advantages, including his recruiting background for both schools.
There are, however, some problems. Most notably, Fisher has a $5 million buyout to get out of his contract with Florida State. Auburn AD Jay Jacobs said money would not be an object in his search for a new head coach, but that's something FSU president T.K. Wetherell challenged when he spoke with The Tallahassee Democrat.
Fisher has been involved in several headlines over the last 36 hours. He told that Auburn has not contacted him.
Earlier yesterday, Wetherell told The Orlando Sentinel that Fisher "has not talked to Auburn and will not talk to Auburn."
Bottom line: I would like to hear Fisher, himself, say that he isn't interested in the job before crossing him off the list altogether. Still, it doesn't look good for Auburn right now.


Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Here's what we know: Johnson, the first-year GT coach, has drawn interest from Auburn, so says The Birmingham News. In his first year as coach at GT, Johnson tied with Virginia Tech atop the ACC Coastal division. Oh yeah, he also ended GT's seven-game losing streak to in-state rival Georgia. (Auburn has lost three straight to Georgia). He also has a career 116-42 record.
Johnson runs a triple-option offense that many questioned would have success once he left Navy. Even without the right personnel, Johnson's offense had little trouble working at Tech.
He's also got former Auburn coach Pat Dye in his corner: "I’ve been a fan of his since he was coaching at Georgia Southern and he ran wishbone and we ran the wishbone," Dye said.
Johnson has only been with GT for one year and an immediate jump seems unlikely. Stranger things have happened, though.
For now, lump him in the maybe pile.
Gary Patterson, TCU

Patterson's name has surfaced only on a speculative basis as of now. He is interesting because of his 82-29 record. He has led the Horned Frogs to six 10-win seasons in eight years.
Patterson is worth watching, but until more is heard from him, he's not a real contender.
Jim Grobe, Wake Forest

Same deal as Patterson. Grobe certainly has the resume: 53-44 with a conference title at normal cellar-dweller Wake. He has been linked to past vacancies at Alabama and Arkansas, but has stayed at Wake thus far.
Would Auburn be able to lure him? His agent won't say. That's because his "agent" is his wife, Holly.
Not having an agent can severely dampen the media coverage of certain people during coaching searches, since agents generally like to drive their clients' names to get them bigger contracts ($1 to Jimmy Sexton).
Grobe could be an excellent candidate for the Auburn job.
Butch Davis, North Carolina

Davis hasn't come up in discussions either. He set up Miami's 2001 National Championship team and finished with six top-25 teams in seven seasons there. He has also gotten UNC from 4-8 to 8-4 in just two seasons.
Earlier this year, though, The Birmingham News speculated Davis might not be interested in a move.
Derek Dooley, Louisiana Tech
Dooley, son of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley, certainly has the pedigree to be a successful coach. He has also coached under Saban at LSU and compiled a 15-22 record over three years at Louisiana Tech.
He's still green, but his name could make him a serious candidate if some other leaders decline the position.


Mike Leach, Texas Tech

Yes, Leach was one of the coaches initially linked to the job.
However, The Birmingham News reported, citing anonymous sources, that Leach is not a contender.
Leach has done a great job at Tech, but could be a culture shock for many at Auburn. He runs a spread offense that many fans fear after this year's offensive disaster. He is also very quirky and doesn't look like a prototypical coach.
Could Leach be successful? Probably. He just won't be given the opportunity.
BTW, Leach will also get a more lucrative deal.
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
Apparently, Auburn had real interest in Nutt. I say apparently because Nutt is a Sexton client and, what do you know?, Nutt landed a lucrative deal after being linked to another job.
I think Auburn's interest level in Nutt was always questionable. Not that it matters after Nutt got a better deal with Ole Miss.
That's three coaches -- Johnson and Leach as well -- so far who either have or will get a better deal out of the Auburn vacancy.
Will Muschamp, Texas head coach designate
Perhaps Muschamp shouldn't be counted out altogether since he hasn't come out and said he's uninterested in the job. Still, Texas coach Mack Brown is confident Muschamp won't leave.
Muschamp has a pretty nice deal over at Texas ($900k as d-coord next year and the promise that he'll become the Texas head coach when Brown retires).
Tim Brewster, Minnesota
First of all, that Brewster's name has even emerged is somewhat amazing. In his first year at Minnesota, he inherited a bowl team and turned it into a 1-11 trainwreck. This year he got the team back into a bowl game, but that includes a 55-0 loss in a rivalry game to Iowa. (Auburn fans: Imagine how mad you were about a 36-0 loss to Alabama). He also has never recruited in the SEC.
Brewster's name emerged as a candidate in the Tennessee search, but that might have been an agent trying to get a sweetheart deal.
Minnesota AD Joel Maturi has not been contacted by Auburn to speak with Brewster.
That should be enough indicators that Brewster can be counted out for the time being.
Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
As if this one ever had a real chance. Imagine the PR hit both parties would have suffered if Petrino left Arkansas for Auburn. It would have been his fourth job in four years and Auburn would look awful in hiring the person it originally tried to bring in to replace Tommy Tuberville.
That's all for now.

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