All indications are that defensive coordinator Randy Shannon will be named the head coach of the Hurricanes. That guarantees that Stoops will return for his fourth season at Arizona. The chances of him leaving were slim, but having the Miami job dangling out there made a few Wildcat fans pause, if just for a minute, to ponder the possibility of losing their coach.
Shannon is an interesting hire for the Canes. He is actually a great candidate, one we profiled prior to the Wildcats hiring Stoops, but he isn't a big name. The Canes replaced Larry Coker with one of his assistants, much like they replaced Butch Davis with his top assistant. While Shannon should be a guy who can get the Canes back on track, he does not have the name or reputation that the Miami Boosters likely wanted.
Another curious situation may be happening in Tempe. When I first heard that Dirk Koetter had been fired, I assumed that athletic director Lisa Love had a replacement lined up. How else do you explain letting a fairly successful coach go after beating his rival and securing a bowl birth?
Obviously I was wrong. Two weeks later and the Sun Devils still don't have a coach. Love wanted to make a huge splash and some of the early rumors supported that. However, if recent reports are indeed correct, Love may be choosing from a pool of Mike Riley, Mike Price and Denis Erickson. While all three are very good, even great coaches, they are hardly a hire that make national headlines.
The irony is that all three may be better hires than the bigger names that have surfaced. All three are proven winners in the college game. Guys like Norm Chow, Ron English and Dave McGinnis have tremendous upside and potential, but none have been college head coaches.
In my opinion Price is the best hire, what he has done at UTEP has been remarkable, but he is 60 and had some down seasons at Washington State plus the controversy at Alabama. It should be much easier to recruit in Tempe than Pullman, but is he the guy to come in and challenge USC in a few years?
Erickson may have the best upside. He has won a national championship and led Oregon State to their remarkable 11-1 season. He too comes with some baggage. He has not coached a winner since he left Oregon State. He coached two losing seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and won just four games this season. In fact in his last five years of coaching he is 26-42. Add to that the renegade reputation his teams at Miami had and that he too is pushing 60 and you may have enough negative go give pause.
Of course he is the same coach who began the turnaround at Washington State, coached Miami to a pair of national championships and finished what Riley started at Oregon State.
Riley seems to be the strangest choice. He comes with the least amount of baggage and is having a tremendous season, but he has not exactly been a world beater. Koetter was 40-33 in six seasons at ASU. Riley has coached six seasons at Oregon State (two different stops) and is just 37-34. Of course, he turned around a moribund program, but never saw success until after he returned from the NFL and replaced Erickson.
Of course the three names could all be a ruse. When trying to replace Rob Evans last spring, rumors of Jamie Dixon and Rick Majerus surfaced, but Herb Sendek's name was hardly mentioned until he was announced. Names like Norm Chow and Ron English remain.
The best hire this year may go to North Carolina who hired Butch Davis. While North Carolina has never been a football powerhouse, they were good under Mack Brown. Add to that the state of flux the ACC is in with Miami and Florida State struggling and a coach with the reputation of Davis could make some noise.
A curious move was that of Tom O'Brien going to NC State. It was a very good hire for the Wolf Pack, but O'Brien's move is a bit strange. O'Brien had built the Eagles into a consistent winner and essentially makes a lateral move within his own conference. Maybe he feels that he can't do any more in Boston, but can he be better in Raleigh? Maybe he sees the potential in the job, with the state of the ACC, that I see in North Carolina.
Do the coaching changes affect any of the Wildcat assistants? That is tough to say, but many of the coaches have good national reputations and it would not be a shock if offers weren't made to at least a few.