These are the coaches that should be called first. There are reasons for every one of them to say yes and we will describe it briefly. Some are certainly more inclined to make the move now than others might be, but these are guys that Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley needs to contact first before moving on.
The list is in no order really except for the first name who I believe is the most viable option at this time for both Foley asking and for him to say yes. I think they each get called now, the first one to accept within reason should get the job.
Shortly we will follow up with a list of candidates that are highly thought of that we feel would likely say yes to Jeremy Foley.
Why he will get a call: 3-time Big-12 coach of the year; 2-time national coac of the year; 2 National Championships (Gator DC and Sooner HC); 8 Big-12 Championships. Big defensive mind that also wants a throw it around offense that Gators want to see desperately.
Why he would: He’s still got the condo at Crescent Beach. He has a great relationship with Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley. It’s been 14 years since he’s won a national championship in Norman and there has been a lot of talk about maybe it is time to move on. The Sooners aren’t in the national championship hunt so he could depart in December.
Obstacles: He’s been there a long time and has a new home worth a ton of money. No way they run him off even when he’s lost 3 games.
Story Lines: Come back ‘home’ to the place where he helped the Gators win their first national championship. Play against his brother (Mark Stoops at UK) and his mentor (Steve Spurrier) every year.
JIM HARBAUGH (San Francisco 49ers HC) Current Record (5-4)
Why he will get a call: 12-1 season and Orange bowl bid at Stanford. Three NFC Championship appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in his first three years in the NFL.
Why he would: Word is he wants out and his team wants him out. He’s having issues with pro football players and there is talk he wants to get back into the college game because of it.
Obstacles: Michigan (Alma Mater) will call. Would he listen if there is a choice? Before you say no, remember Urban turned down Notre Dame to come to Florida. Maybe another NFL team would do the trick for him? More of a pro-style drop back kind of offensive guy.
GUS MALZAHN (Auburn HC) Current Record (7-3)
Why he will get the call: A bright offensive mind that has a national championship as an offensive coordinator and just played for a national championship in 2013. Perfect offense for the type of player that the University of Florida can recruit.
Whey he would: The above mentioned perfect locale is much better than his current locale in terms of luring high profile top athletes to play. Also he would be out of the brutal SEC West.
Obstacles: Although the boo-birds have been put a little at Auburn this year, would he leave that job for a somewhat lateral move? Also, would Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley go after another big time school in the conference coach?
Why he would get the call: May be the brightest mind in offensive football. A guy that we have heard on this end has already expressed interest in the job in Gainesville.
Why he would: The word is he isn’t thrilled with the pro player mentality. He is especially stuck at the quarterback position where that position demands so much money for a specific style of quarterback, and it isn’t his style. He likes bogger rosters as well to run the heck out of the other team.
Obstacles: Why would he leave an NFL team with Super Bowl aspirations with games to go in the season? Would Foley wait until after the NFL season is concluded? Rumors out there say it is two more years and that makes sense since the NFL has a five year minimum on their retirement plan.
Why he would get the call: Did a marvelous job at Louisville and proved himself at the head coach level. Having to clean up the locker room at Texas much like Muschamp did in Gainesville and absolutely wants to do things the right way. Has a good relationship with Jeremy Foley and would be another guy ‘coming home’ like Stoops.
Why he would: He has coached at Florida several times and knows the people and the state here. He is currently all over this state recruiting it, despite the great numbers of talented players in Texas, because he is well liked in Florida.
Obstacles: It’s Texas. Why would he leave a great program that would be a lateral move at best, particularly after going to all the trouble to clean house?
Story Lines: Strong is loved in Gainesville and has always been loved buy the players he has coached. He has worked at different positions at Florida four different times and had he had his resume ready in 2011 then like it is now, he might have been the guy.
Why he would get the call: He is currently an assistant coach and was a head coach in the NFL already. He certainly wants a head coaching job. All of that offensive knowledge and his resume will scream to offensive recruits to come to the University of Florida. He’s also the perfect age that Foley likes to shoot for in a head coach at 38 years old.
Why he would: He undoubtedly wants a head coaching gig again. He can come to Florida, not worry about the draft and get those high caliber offensive players he desires for this level.
Obstacles: Maybe he is just an NFL guy. But, the money that college programs throw around now is just as good as NFL money when talking about the big time programs. His only stint in college was as a graduate assistant in 1999.
Story Lines: He was Tim Tebow’s first NFL head coach.
(Franz Beard contributed to this report)