I have an idea that I think is pretty sound as to when the decision needs to be made and I believe that the decision will be made sometime within this time frame.
First, let's get back to the recruiting thing. Remember back to the 2002 season and the sudden and unexpected retirement of Steve Spurrier? The new coaching staff was brought in during the first week of January. The new staff was forced to play catch up from day one and never had much advantage during the recruiting period. Jeremy Foley, Florida's athletic director, is a recruitnik. Having endured the helter-skelter January that was the 2002 recruiting season, it's unlikely that he will not allow that scenario to play out a second time.
That first week of 2002's January recruiting was difficult because a brand new staff came in without a clue about even which recruits would be coming in for that first weekend. As a matter of fact, they couldn't even tell who the recruits were and who their own players were. The problems Ron Zook and his staff encountered in 2002 are going to weigh heavily on Foley's timing for the new hire. This is why I believe the new head coach at UF is going to be named no later than December 15, and I believe there is a good possibility it could be even sooner.
Will this provide limitations or difficulties in the search for the new coach?
The answer to that is maybe because I believe the only coaches who will be left out of the loop in this scenario are NFL head coaches who might want to consider a college job after seeing the success of Pete Carroll at Southern Cal and Al Groh at Virginia. Their regular season drags on into January and this is not conducive to making the change necessary for this recruiting period. Most have contracts that don't allow for other employers to compete for their services during the regular season, but I will be honest and tell you that I don't know if that factors with a college team. I would imagine it would be.
Now, let's consider the college and pro coaches who likely adorn the Gators' pre-holiday wish list. I don't think that any coach on this list is limited from the possibility of making the switch to Gainesville. I believe that Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer and Jeff Tedford are all on the administration's wish lists. I believe there are several good reasons for this.
For example, let's consider Bob Stoops of Oklahoma. If Stoops wanted to come here, the best thing for him to do is to make that decision in mid-December and tell both parties (OU and UF) of his intentions. Oklahoma at that point has to decide whether they want him to coach the Sooners through the bowl game, which very well could be an Orange Bowl date for the national championship. Tedford, Meyer and the other college coaches in consideration will all be coaching bowl bound teams. My best bet is that their schools would allow them to coach the bowl game in light of what they have done for their respective programs.
I believe also that the University of Florida administration would insist on the new coach finishing up his job. In that UF was put into a predicament when Steve Spurrier left so suddenly, I think Florida would want to persuade the new coach not to leave his school on bad terms.
What would this do for the University of Florida?
Well, that would open the door for the new coach to name an assistant or two on the Gators present staff to join the new staff. I believe this is a likely scenario because these assistants have made such a name for themselves with their recruiting prowess. I believe the new coach wouldn't want to rock that boat too much, particularly since this current staff was about to put together one of the greatest recruiting classes ever assembled at Florida. I believe that so many of the top players who were considering the Gators will be persuaded to come to UF if the Gators bring in the right coach and that coach maintains some continuity in recruiting by keeping some of the old staff.
The best case scenario for UF would be for the coach to actually leave his school but under good terms. It gets tricky with the current staff and head coach staying on through the bowl game, but by doing this the head coach could come in and get his staff prepared for the upcoming recruiting season. He won't have to rely on assistants that he may not be familiar with to do it and keep it going. This may be uncomfortable, but certainly better than the position Florida found itself in 2002.
I can think of no reason for not getting the hiring done by mid-December. I don't think any of the hot coaches on the list would be asked not to coach their big bowl game. I also think that it would be in the best interest of all parties involved to get it done no later than December 15. Gator fans should have just one more month of anticipation.