The Coaching Carousel: What Jobs Will Open

With Steve Spurrier's stunning announcement last week that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as the next head coach at the University of Florida, there is an amount of uncertainty with the Gator program that perhaps surpasses that of 2002 when Spurrier announced his retirement. In 2002, it was expected that Bobby Stoops was the no-brainer choice for Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, but that deal never got done and Florida ended up with the surprising choice of Ron Zook.

Now, three weeks after the firing of Zook, no one is certain where the Florida program is heading. Spurrier was the obvious choice and he wanted the job. However, he's pulled his name out and with Stoops on the verge of playing for a national championship at Oklahoma, it seems that who will coach the Gators next year is anybody's guess.

Florida is also not the only top job that will be out there. Washington is going to fire Keith Gilbertson and the appeal of the Washington job could be greater than Florida for candidates such as Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Urban Meyer (Utah) or Dan Hawkins (Boise State). Petrino is originally from Montana, so he grew up in the west, as did Hawkins, whose resume includes the head coaching job Willamette (Oregon) College. Meyer's resume includes a stop at Colorado State as an assistant.

Then there is Penn State and the proverbial question of when Joe Paterno quits. There are other schools such as North Carolina and Stanford which could see an opening. So, here's the coaching carousel and some of the likely candidates at each.


FLORIDA: Ron Zook has already been fired and Florida has already seen Steve Spurrier withdraw his name from consideration. At this point in time it's anyone's guess what Jeremy Foley and president Bernie Machen are going to do. Urban Meyer of Utah is thought to be the top candidate, but Urban's not talking and Foley and Machen say that it will be a lengthy search. There's an interesting rumor floating around that Foley has Bobby Petrino on his short list. Since Foley and Machen have already stated that the next coach will be one who has head coaching experience, the Florida list will likely have on it: Bobby Stoops (Oklahoma), Meyer, Petrino, Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia), Dan Hawkins (Boise State), Jeff Tedford (California), Butch Davis (Cleveland Browns, formerly University of Miami). Stoops is highly unlikely due to the high profile of the Oklahoma program and salary (Machen has stated he is appalled at what coaches get paid at UF). Tedford is likely to bolt to the NFL (Forty-Niners). Davis could be available but only if the Browns don't make the NFL playoffs. Meyer, Petrino, Rodriguez and Hawkins are probably the best bets.

ILLINOIS: Ron Turner is dead man walking on this job. Poor recruiting and poor coaching have been the bywords for the Fighting Illini. Yes, it is a Big Ten job, but this should not be the doormat of the conference. There are too many good players in Illinois to form the foundation of the program and excellent facilities. In Chicago, the talk is that the Illini will go after a college assistant or head coach rather than an NFL assistant. A name to think of here could be Frank Solich, formerly of Nebraska. With Bill Callahan struggling at Nebraska, it makes old Nine Wins A Year Frank look quite inviting.

WASHINGTON: Keith Gilbertson is also dead man walking. Washington's program has slipped to the bottom of the ash heap in the Pac-10 and the alums are shaking their head. This is a program that needs a psychiatrist as much as it needs a coach after the Rick Neuheisel affair. This is a program that will be every bit as attractive as Florida. It's probably easier to compete for a national championship at Washington than at Florida simply because the Pac-10 doesn't offer a lot of resistance once you get past Southern California and Cal. The names on the U-Dubya hot list are just three: Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino and Dan Hawkins. Meyer is the name that has the most support but Petrino's originally from Montana and Hawkins is next door in Idaho.

UNLV: John Robinson is hanging it up. The facilities are not particularly great at UNLV (there are high school stadiums in Texas bigger than 36,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium) but the school is not difficult to get into, Las Vegas is not that far from the talent beds of Los Angeles and Phoenix, and there is that Las Vegas appeal if the school can get the right salesman. This is a job that calls for someone who can sell ice cubes on the tundra. Insert the name Ron Zook here and you have a perfect fit. And, with Ron's old buddy Lon Kruger coaching the basketball team at Vegas, don't be surprised to see Ron at least get in this mix.


NORTH CAROLINA: Bill Bunting is 4-5 with huge wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, plus that monster upset of Miami. Is it enough to save his job? After a bowl game his first year, the Tar Heels haven't won since. Closing out the year with two wins gets Carolina to a bowl and probably saves Bunting for one more year. A split and he probably walks. For the past two years, this has been a job that people have speculated Steve Spurrier would find interesting. The school has money and facilities to go with a first rate academic reputation. They thought they had Frank Beamer four years ago. Beamer still has an out clause at Virginia Tech if the Carolina job opens. Carolina alums are supposedly eyeing Petrino, whose team beat Carolina like a drum earlier in the year, and Hawkins, whose offensive excitement would fill the stands at Kenan Stadium.

STANFORD: Buddy Teevens is 4-5 and probably needing at least a split of the final two games (one of which is arch-rival Cal) to stick around another year. Five wins is almost a winning season and at Stanford that counts almost as much as it does in horse shoes and hand grenades. Should Teevens get the axe, look for a former assistant of Denny Green or someone nominated by former coach Bill Walsh to get the nod. Walsh was particularly upset when Teevens was hired over one of his proteges. Considering the lack of success for Teevens, it's likely that the administration will this time listen to Walsh.

PENN STATE: This is a test of iron wills. Joe Paterno plans to coach till he's dead or 211 years old, whichever comes first. The alumni would settle for JoePa gone at age 79, which would be this year. Penn State is last in the Big Ten and has the personnel to go last in the Big Ten next year as well. Paterno's only chance of naming his own successor is to call it a career this year. If he decides to stay another year and the alumni allow him to hang on, it's doubtful they'll let him name his successor when they show him the door. This is still a plum job if and when it opens. The stadium seats more than 100,000, the school is excellent and the state's loaded with talent. Two of the four best high school quarterbacks in the country were from Pennsylvania last year and both went somewhere other than Penn State. The natives are restless. The situation is ideal for Galen Hall. Even though he's 60 years old, that shouldn't be an obstacle considering Paterno's ancient.

TULANE: The Green Wave is 3-5 with Louisville remaining on the schedule, an almost certain loss and a certain losing season almost guaranteed. Chris Scelfo is feeling the heat from the alums who can't understand why it is that Tulane can't win. They think if Tommy Bowden could win there, then any decent coach could do it. Tulane plays its home games in the Superdome before crowds of 15,000 or so. There is plenty of talent in New Orleans and the surrounding area, but Tulane's academics make it difficult for most of the locals to get in school. Still.... if Tommy Bowden could win there. Expect Tulane to go after a coach in the Division I-AA ranks or a bigtime assistant. This might be a chance for a coach like Larry Fedora.

CALIFORNIA: The expectation is that Jeff Tedford is going to take his three-ring offensive circus to the No Fun League, just across the bay to San Francisco where the Forty-Niners are abysmal. Cal has rotten facilities but it is in an area that is loaded with talent. Whoever gets this job wouldn't have to go more than 100 miles to bring in all the talent that is necessary to win. Of course, there is also that possibility that Tedford would stay another year to try to get a Heisman Trophy for his quarterback Aaron Rogers. Tedford is a very hot property, but most reports say that he will stay at Cal unless he can move on to the No Fun League. If Tedford bolts, Chris Cortez, Cal's offensive coordinator would be the likely choice to succeed although this is a place that Hawkins would likely be considered strongly. His alma mater is UC-Davis, which is 90 minutes from the Berkeley campus.

UTAH: Everyone has Urban Meyer on the move. Well, everyone but Urban. If he's leaving Utah, he's certainly not tipping his hand. Most speculate his destination would be Florida due to the connection with UF president Bernie Machen. Then there is that out clause in his contract which says Notre Dame or Michigan. Michigan is rumored to be opening, but there's no certainty there. Washington people seem to think that Meyer is theirs for the taking. What is certain, if you believe Machen, is that Meyer and wife like it in the west and would like to stay in that part of the country. Best guess is that he takes the Washington job or waits another year at Utah to see what happens at Notre Dame or Michigan.

MICHIGAN: The rumor that Lloyd Carr will step down for health reasons began in the Chicago Tribune. While Carr has said it isn't true, the rumor persists and the Tribune hasn't backed down from its original contention. Should Carr decide to step down, Meyer, a former Michigan assistant, would certainly be on the hot list. Of course, Michigan stayed in house the last two times it chose a coach, taking Gary Moeller and then Carr off the existing staff. Offensive coordinator Terry Malone (eight years), associate head coach Erik Campbell (wide receivers, 10 years) or defensive coordinator Jim Hermann (eight years) would be the most likely candidates if Michigan stayed in house. Of course, a change at Michigan only happens if Carr steps down for health reasons. He's not in any kind of trouble.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The latest and greatest rumor is that Lou Holtz will retire as coach, replace Mike McGee as athletic director, and that Steve Spurrier will become the head coach. Impossible? Nope. Probable? We'll see. At this point there is nothing coming out of the South Carolina camp that would indicate that this is anything more than a rumor. However, there are certain facts that could turn this into a reality. Beth Holtz (Lou's wife) is not in great health and Lou is very devoted to her. If he feels she is starting to fail, Lou would step down from coaching in a heartbeat. Secondly, Lou is 67 years old and maybe doesn't feel he has the energy to coach much longer. He and Spurrier are also best of friends. If McGee steps down as the AD, this may bolt from the rumor to reality category very quickly.

LOUISVILLE: Bobby Petrino is this year's hottest commodity after Urban Meyer. Louisville is once beaten and that loss was a heart breaker to Miami. Petrino was almost he head coach at Auburn last year if not for some bungling by the alums and the president. Illinois is certainly interested and Petrino is said to be on Jeremy Foley's short list at Florida. Louisville's president is said to be rallying the alums to come up with a monetary package that would put Petrino in the same financial category as basketball coach Rick Pitino ($1.9 million), a move that could very well wrap him up for a long time. The alums have the money to do it. Only question is will Petrino see Louisville's move to the Big East as an opportunity to play for higher stakes?

WEST VIRGINIA: After Meyer and Petrino, the other hot name is Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia. He's an advocate of the spread offense and this year's team at WVU is setting all sorts of records. He's a coach whose name will be on most lists at bigger programs. He has the same problem that Petrino has. Will the Big East be seen as an opportunity to play for higher stakes, or will he feel the need to move on? In West Virginia's favor is that Rich is a West Virginia alum and that the alums are likely to up the financial ante to keep him in Morgantown.

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