Thursday Football Notebook

Another day, another 24 hours of craziness in the world of college football, as a number of high-profile programs are on the hunt for a new head coach. Phog.net takes a look at some of the news and rumors surrounding potential candidates for the job in Lawrence, Kan.

Aaaaand another name for the list

With the Kansas Athletic Department maintaining strict radio silence - which, honestly, is the way alums should prefer it be done - reporters are left working the back channels for word of movement on "The List."

We're envisioning a scenario in which Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger keeps a briefcase made of imported Italian leather handcuffed to his wrist at all times - within which the list, and only the list, is contained - as he jets from interview to interview across the country. Sometimes, our imagination gets a little carried away with us.

But we're getting off track here. This morning, a source tossed us the name of Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald as a target of the Jayhawks - and one serious enough that he may have already been interviewed.

Sources with ties to Northwestern couldn't confirm that he had interviewed, but one believed it made some sense. Apparently, Fitzgerald has long held hopes for updated facilities in Evanston, Ill., but those plans don't seem to be gaining much traction.

Fitzgerald is used to competing - and winning - while playing with a talent deficit versus most opponents. He'd face a similar situation at Kansas, but also gain an increased salary (He currently makes $1.19 million annually per USA Today), shiny new facilities and protection from having to play his alma mater. Fitzgerald was linked to the Michigan job in January - eventually claimed by Brady Hoke - and a substantial sum of money, but instead signed an extension with Northwestern.

Is this likely to happen? Probably not. Politics and smokescreens are as much a part of coaching searches as they are Capitol Hill, and it's entirely possible - maybe even probable - if Fitzgerald did interview with Kansas it would be in an attempt to gain leverage in negotiations with Northwestern.

Stranger things have happened, however, and in the interest of being thorough we'll go ahead and take a closer look at the history and record of one of the youngest coaches in Division One football.

Pat Fitzgerald

Current Position: Head Coach, Northwestern

Salary: $1.19 million

History: From 1993-1996, Pat Fitzgerald was arguably the most dominant linebacker in college football, and easily ranks among the best all-time. During his illustrious career he was named Big 10 Player of the Year and won both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award - twice each.

So, yeah. The guy was a player.

After one year with the Dallas Cowboys he opted to instead kick-start his coaching career, joining the Maryland staff in 1998 as a linebackers coach. From then it was a rapid-fire succession to Evanston - two, one-year stints at Colorado and Idaho respectively, coaching linebackers. He joined the staff of former Wildcats head coach Randy Walker in 2001, and for the next five years coached linebackers at his alma mater.

When Walker died, tragically and unexpectedly at the age of 52, of an apparent heart attack on June 29, 2006, Northwestern promoted Fitzgerald to replace him little more than a week later.

During his six years at the helm, he's compiled a 40-35 record overall, including three consecutive bowl appearances from 2008-2010 (With another assuredly on the way in 2011) and a pair of finishes in the upper-half in the Big 10.

This makes sense because...

It's obvious why a program such as Kansas would want a coach like Fitzgerald. Young and charismatic, he's proven he can win in a big-time league at a program that fields comparatively less pure talent than its opponents. And he's done it for a little more than half of what Kansas has paid its last two coaches.

There's a connection to Jayhawks football as well - albeit a somewhat tenuous one. From 1995-1996, current Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz served as the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach for former Kansas head coach Glen Mason. The 1995 team was one of the finest ever to play on Mount Oread, as they won 10 games and the Aloha Bowl, finishing the season ranked No. 10 in the coaches poll.

As previously mentioned, the Jayhawks can likely offer him a substantial raise, state-of-the-art facilities and the chance to advance his career without having to compete against his beloved alma mater. It could be an enticing combination.

This doesn't make sense because...

It's not the most scientific of explanations, but it's just hard to picture Fitzgerald leaving Northwestern for a position in the shape of Kansas at the moment. He is beloved in Evanston and has - reportedly - passed on much higher-level jobs to remain a Wildcat.

Furthermore, he has no remaining ties to the Big 12. His one-year stint under Gary Barnett - his former coach at Northwestern - at Colorado no longer applies, obviously, as the Buffaloes are now a part of the Pac-12. Can he recruit Texas? His current staff has worked strenuously to build inroads, but recruiting with the academic standards of Northwestern is difficult under the best of circumstances so it's difficult to gauge how successful they've been to date.

We see it as unlikely, but Fitzgerald is one Kansas fans should file under "We Fervently Hope This is True." His deficiencies - such as recruiting ties - can be addressed with the careful selection of a staff, and the guy would be an overall fantastic hire.

Fedora heating up

Earlier this week, Phog.net learned that Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Fedora had legitimate interest in the Kansas job, as he did two seasons ago during the search that ultimately led to the hiring of Turner Gill.

However, with so many programs on the hunt for head coaches, in the last 24-48 hours his name has become one of the hottest around. Reports surfaced yesterday that he had been offered by Ole Miss - though that has yet to be confirmed by mainstream sources. He has also recently been linked with the jobs at North Carolina and Texas A&M.

The news of Aggies head coach Mike Sherman's firing Thursday night creates a particularly intriguing scenario. Fedora grew up in College Station, Texas and has family in the area. Should Texas A&M offer, the assumption is he would accept in a matter of nanoseconds.

But Texas A&M administrators may be first turning their gaze to a candidate within the borders of their own state. According to a number of outlets - including Aggie Websider, the Texas A&M affiliate of Scout.com - the primary target will be Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Prior to the emergence of the opening in College Station, much of the speculation surrounding the Cougars head coach linked him with Arizona State.


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