After a day in which there was no shortage of rumors regarding Florida’s next head football coach here are a few things we do know:
1. Chip Kelly: As much as Jeremy Foley allegedly likes him, he’s already got three strikes – (1) NCAA issues with a show cause that doesn’t expire until Christmas; (2) he’s not available until after the Philadelphia Eagles finish their season in January; and (3) it would take an $8 million or more salary to lure him from the NFL.
2. Brian Kelly: There are juicy rumors that his next stop will be the NFL and it might be sooner and not later.
3. Mike Gundy: Even though the NCAA cleared Gundy and Oklahoma State of any major violations, Sports Illustrated says it stands by its story that there were serious issues at Okie State. The NCAA did reveal that from 2007-13 Okie State had 94 positive drug tests involving 60 athletes and apparently there was some irregularity with five of those tests. That might be enough to keep him off the Florida list even though he wants the job.
4. Bob Stoops: There was a report to cross him off the list; that he isn’t coming to UF. A couple of people who are close to some of his assistants say not so fast my friend. Of course, Stoops has said no on other opportunities, so you have to think history might repeat itself.
5. Hugh Freeze: There is a report that he was offered the job. There is another report that he wasn’t offered but there has been contact with Florida and there is mutual interest. This much isn’t a report – Hugh is going to be offered an extension rumored to be eight years, $36 million. Would he leave a sure thing in the town in which he was born and just 45 minutes away from where he grew up for the uncertainty of a place far from his comfort zone?
6. Larry Fedora: This is gaining traction by the moment. While diehards who think Foley is going to land a big name hire think Fedora is something close to Plan Z, the reality is Fedora is very highly regarded and has a longstanding good relationship with Foley. Fedora has drawn rave reviews for the way he cleaned up the mess left behind by Butch Davis at UNC and he’s willing to bring in a big time coordinator that he’ll give free reign over the defense.
College: Southern Miss, 1992
Assistant coach under: Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss); Steve Roberts (Arkansas State)
Head coach at: Lambuth (NAIA, 20-5); Arkansas State (10-2); Ole Miss (23-14)
Ole Miss salary: $3.2 million
Contract runs through: 2018
Buyout: Approximately $1.6 million
Why he would stay at Ole Miss: He was born in Oxford and raised on a dairy farm less than an hour from the Ole Miss campus. He cut his coaching teeth in Memphis, about an hour away from Ole Miss where there is a strong financial and recruiting base. Ole Miss athletic director Russ Bjork has made it perfectly clear that Ole Miss intends to keep Freeze. A long term contract is supposedly in the works and Bjork has indicated the terms will be somewhere between $4-5 million annually. Freeze has proven that he can sign the kind of athletes it takes to win in the SEC and he’s expanded the recruiting base to Florida and the Atlanta area. Ole Miss is in the midst of a major overhaul of facilities. He’s got an indoor practice facility, an outstanding football complex (The Manning Center) and Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be expanded and upgraded.
Why he would leave Ole Miss: More people live within a 100-mile radius of Gainesville than live in the entire state of Mississippi. There are nearly 20 million people in the state of Florida, only 3 million in the entire state of Mississippi. Combine population with the outstanding level of football played at the high school level in Florida and it’s practically a paradise for a charismatic recruiter like Freeze. Given the recruiting base he would be able to work with, he could sustain long-term success at Florida that might be very difficult to attain at Ole Miss.
The stats tell the story: At Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Freeze won two state championships in football and four in girls basketball, where he made the state championship game seven consecutive years. As the offensive coordinator for Steve Roberts at Arkansas State in 2010, Freeze directed an offense that averaged more than 30 points and 400 yards per game even though the team had a losing record. The next year as the head coach, Freeze led the Red Wolves to a 10-2 record while averaging more than 445 yards per game while running a spread offense with a dual threat quarterback who ran for 588 yards and 10 touchdowns and threw for more 3,588 yards and 19 scores. In his three years at Ole Miss, the Rebels have averaged more than 30 points per game each season and at least 423 yards per game. This year’s team averages more than 280 passing yards and 190 rushing yards per game. Freeze is known for offense, but the Rebels have given up fewer yards and fewer points each season. This year, Ole Miss gives up 309 yards and 13.5 points per game.
The First Four:
(1) Alabama, 10-1: Win the Iron Bowl Saturday and then the SEC Championship Game and the Crimson Tide will be the #1 seed in the final four. A loss to Auburn could be fatal if Mississippi State beats Ole Miss, but what if Bama loses to Auburn and MSU loses to Ole Miss? Bama would still own the tiebreaker and if the Crimson Tide were to go to Atlanta and win the SEC how could the committee keep them out of the Final Four even if they had two losses?
(2) Oregon, 10-1: The Ducks face cross state rival Oregon State in The Civil War this weekend then things could get dicey in the Pac-12 Championship Game where the opponent could be UCLA, which is much better than the team that lost by 12 to the Ducks back in October, or Arizona, which handed them their only loss. Win the next two, however, and they are sure to be in the Final Four.
(3) Florida State, 11-0: Due to the overall weakness of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Seminoles have to beat Florida and then knock off Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. There is no way they’re out of the Final Four if they have won 29 in a row but no way they get in if they lose one of the next two.
(4) Mississippi State, 10-1: This is a precarious position. The Bulldogs can win the Egg Bowl, finish 11-1, and still get passed over for the Final Four by a conference champion. If Alabama loses to Auburn and Mississippi State beats Ole Miss, then the Bulldogs would go to the SEC title game where they could still lose and get knocked out of contention.
The Next Four:
(5) TCU, 9-1: The Horned Frogs really need Baylor to lose a game because if both TCU and Baylor win out, Baylor is the Big 12 champ thanks to the head to head win. Of immediate concern is a hot Texas team who the Horned Frogs play in Austin Thanksgiving night. Charlie Strong runs the kind of defense that could give TCU fits.
(6) Ohio State, 10-1: If the Buckeyes stomp Michigan, as expected, then dispose of either #14 Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship Game, you can almost expect the committee to vote them into the Final Four. Ohio State guarantees a far better Midwest and national audience than either TCU or Baylor.
(7) Baylor, 9-1: Baylor holds the tiebreaker over TCU thanks to its win over the Horned Frogs back in October. A win over Texas Tech followed up by an impressive win over #12 Kansas State on December 6 would give Baylor the Big 12 title and could leapfrog the Bears into the Final Four.
(8) UCLA, 9-2: Even if UCLA were to beat Stanford and Oregon to win the Pac-12 title, it would have a hard time making the Final Four over one-loss conference champs from the Big 12 and Big Ten or a one-loss Mississippi State.
(9) Georgia, 9-2; (10) Michigan State, 9-2; (11) Arizona, 9-2; (12) Kansas State, 8-2; (13) Arizona State, 9-2; (14) Wisconsin, 9-2; (15) Auburn, 8-3; (16) Georgia Tech, 9-2; (17) Missouri, 9-2; (18) Minnesota, 8-3; (19) Ole Miss, 8-3; (20) Oklahoma, 8-3; (21) Clemson, 8-3; (22) Louisville, 8-3; (23) Boise State, 9-2; (24) Marshall, 11-0; (25) Utah, 7-4.
1. Brady Hoke, Michigan: He’s a goner even if he knocks off Ohio State Saturday. The moment this game is over, the Jim Harbaugh/Les Miles rumors will begin. Of the two, the more likely to say yes is Miles, who reportedly has an intense dislike for his AD in Baton Rouge. Here are two non-Michigan men who could figure prominently. If Michigan names Jeff Long of Arkansas as the AD, it is expected he would bring Bret Bielema with him. Bielema won Rose Bowls at Wisconsin and could be a thorn in Urban Meyer’s side at Michigan. The other name is Dan Mullen. He might not leave Mississippi State for another SEC job but could he turn down Michigan with all its resources and the chance to coach in the same division as Urban?
2. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: Win or lose, Saturday will be his last hurrah. Texas A&M offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Jake Spavital is the guy a lot of the faithful would like to hire, but there is one teensy problem. Blankenship was his high school coach. Would that be too awkward? Probably, but Spavital only gets the call if Chad Morris or Mike Norvell say no.
3. Kevin Wilson, Indiana: If there is such a thing as a hot rumor when it comes to Indiana football, then today’s rumbling that the president and the AD have decided to give Wilson one more year qualifies. Supposedly, they understand that Indiana was 3-3 with junior Nate Sudfeld at QB, 0-5 with freshman Zander Diamont under center.
4. Clint Bowens, Kansas: He is the interim head coach who replaced Charlie Weis. There was a certain amount of sentiment to make him the permanent hire after the Jayhawks knocked off Iowa State and darn near upset TCU, but a blowout loss to Oklahoma and this week’s expected blowout loss to K-State has turned that sentiment sour. One of the latest rumors has Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Ed Warriner as the top candidate.
5. SMU: There was that giant rumor that Mack Brown would coach the Ponies for $5 million a year. If SMU had offered Mack $5 million he would have been setting up shop a month ago. The top candidates are supposedly Clemson OC Chad Morris, who is also the top choice of the folks at Tulsa where he has a history (worked for Todd Graham), and Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman. The facilities are far superior at SMU and the alums have deeper pockets so if they want Morris bad enough they’ll get him.
Would you be comfortable with a head coach at Florida who had a run-in or two with the NCAA in his past?
In the last 1960s, Blues Image was one of the hottest bar bands in all of South Florida. Originally from Tampa, the band was best known for great sets of other people’s music. They could do Cream so well that you almost thought you were listening to Clapton. They moved to Los Angeles in 1969 where they started recording their own music. After their first album met with mediocre reviews, they released the album “Open” in 1970 that featured the only one of their own songs that ever got any serious air play: “Ride Captain Ride.” They did one more album after that and then most of the band members hooked up with better known bands. Keyboardist Skip Konte had a four-year run with Three Dog Night and percussionist Joe Lala played with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and also with Manassas.