USA Today // Raj Mehta

U Coaching Search Hot Board 1.0

The search for the next Minnesota head football coach is now underway. Our Hot Board takes a look at the candidates we believe Mark Coyle will consider for the Golden Gopher job.

P.J. Fleck | Western Michigan Head Coach | Age 36

Why he fits: If Mark Coyle is capable of pulling off a home run hire P.J. Fleck may be his only option. I think a strong majority of Gopher fans would unite and celebrate the hiring of Fleck as the Gopher head coach.  Fleck earned a lot of national attention during the 2016 season due to leading his Broncos to a perfect season and a spot in the Cotton Bowl opposite Wisconsin.  Fleck has an electric personality to go along with his coaching success and could be the candidate to bring the "casual fan" to TCF Bank Stadium, as well as help bring top end talent to the U on the recruiting trail.

Chances: The word on Fleck is that he wants to become a Big Ten head coach and remain in the Midwest.  It was rumored that Fleck would have taken the Gopher job had it opened up a month ago.  Is that still the case?  It has also been rumored the the Gopher job wouldn't be open unless Coyle was able to first line up a suitable replacement.  Did Coyle successfully work behind the scenes to get his guy and is that guy Fleck?

Greg Schiano | Ohio State Defensive Coordinator | Age 50

Why he fits: If the Gopher job had opened up shortly after the season ending loss to Wisconsin many would deem the Gopher job as a job that just needs to be elevated to the next level.  Now, many would call the Gopher job a rebuild.  If that is indeed the case there is no better option than Greg Schiano.  The former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneer head coach is best known for one of the best rebuilding projects in NCAA history at Rutgers. His style of solid defense and ball control on offense would seem to fit what will be left of the Gopher roster.

Chances: If Schiano is motivated to become a head coach again he may jump at the chance to take over the Minnesota program.  However, due to his connections on the east coast and in Florida he many feel like a job in the upper Midwest is not a perfect fit.

Bryan Harsin | Boise State Head Coach | Age 40

Why he fits: Mark Coyle has already hired Bryan Harsin as his head football coach once, so many expect he would love to do it again. However, the first time it was bringing Harsin home to his hometown and alma mater at Boise State after he finished one season at Arkansas State. Harsin just finished his fourth season as a head coach and third at Boise State, compiling a career record of 38-14. Harsin is considered as one of the young stars in the coaching profession and is an offensive mind that many feel Coyle values.

Chances: While Harsin would be a legit hire and would clearly excite the fan base I cannot see the fit of the desire for Harsin to leave the Broncos to head to the Big Ten. Harsin was born and raised in Boise and many expect him to stick with the Broncos until he is more seasoned and a big time job in the Pac-12 becomes available.

Scott Frost | UCF Head Coach | Age 41

Why he fits: Could there be a better fit for a Minnesota head coach than Coach Frost? If Fleck is a home run hire for Minnesota many could argue that Frost would be a grand slam. Frost has a lot of the same qualities that Fleck would bring to the table but at a higher level. Frost has played major college football at both Stanford and Nebraska and coached at Oregon for seven seasons, the last three as the Ducks offensive coordinator (Fleck has never been a coordinator). Frost also has a personality that would excite the fan base. In his first Spring Game at UCF the Golden Knights attracted over 23,000 fans.

Chances: Frost indicated he went to UCF because he knew he could win in Orlando.  Frost decided life at a AAC school in Florida provided a faster path to a dream job than trying to win at a low level P5 school.  If Minnesota even wants a return phone call in an attempt to lure Frost to the U his yearly salary would have to start north of $3 million as he currently makes $2 million at UCF.  Now that Oregon passed on Frost will he adjust that path and bite at the chance to land a P5 job in the Big Ten or stay patient and prove that he is worthy of the Nebraska job when Mike Riley's days in Lincoln are over? Reports last year had Frost as a candidate for the Syracuse opening so Coyle and Frost could already be familiar with each other, however I would be shocked if we had Frost bite at the U job.

Les Miles | Former LSU Head Coach | Age 63

Why he fits: If Mark Coyle feels like he needs to bring "instant credibility" back to Minnesota following the dismissal of Tracy Claeys he make look for the steady hand of a well respected veteran.  Miles was the face of LSU, one of the best and most high profile college football programs in the country, for the past 12 years.  His name recognition and recruiting ability could be important for the Gopher program as it will look to rebuild a roster both short and long term.

Chances: I believe Miles would take this job in a second if offered.  He struck out in his attempt to land a job following the 2016 season as he was actively involved in the searches at Purdue, Houston and Baylor.  His age has to be factored in when you look at a long term replacement, but Minnesota may be forced to bring in a quick fix.

Gus Bradley | Former Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach | Age 50

Why he fits: Nobody enjoys the "he's one of us" philosophy more than a true Minnesotan. The fact that Gus Bradley has never worked a day for the Minnesota college or professional team doesn't matter.  The fact that he was born and raised in Zumbrota matters a lot.  For Bradley the Gopher job would provide a return to the college game where he had success at North Dakota State as their defensive coordinator before launching a career in the NFL.  Bradley has been in the NFL the past 11 seasons, starting with a low level job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and culminating with a four year run as the Jaguar head coach.

Chances: To be completely honest I don't think anybody knows if either side would be interested in pursuing each other.  Bradley has been gone from the college game for 11 seasons and even when he was in college he was not involved in major college football.  Bradley would lack recruiting connections and access to immediate talent. While Bradley is clearly a coaching talent he just may not be the right fit for Minnesota at this time.

Craig Bohl | Wyoming Head Coach | Age 58

Why he fits: I can think of many reasons why Craig Bohl doesn't fit at Minnesota but the reason he fits is due to his success at North Dakota State and his limited success with his current rebuilding project at Wyoming.  Bohl coaches a style of football that works at Minnesota, strong defense and an offense that relies on running the ball and playing mistake free football.  Bohl has not been around a major college football program since his days as the Nebraska Cornhusker defensive coordinator and many would argue that he would provide no boost to the Gophers recruiting efforts.  The "coach 'em up" philosophy would have to stay.

Chances: Bohl recently signed a contract extension with Wyoming and while the ink may not be dry it may show that Bohl is content with the Cowboys and trying to take over the Mountain West.  Bohl's age would have to be a concern to Gopher fans as he will turn 59 before he would coach a game at the U.

Bo Pelini | Youngstown State Head Coach | Age 49

Why he fits: Bo Pelini might have a hard time embracing "Minnesota Nice" but he does know how to win football games in the Big Ten. I understand he wasn't dismissed from his job as Head Husker because of his win-loss record, but the guy still figured out a way to win 66 ball games in Lincoln in seven seasons. Pelini is still young and as a defensive specialist would help keep the Gopher defense headed in the right direction due to the impressive efforts of Tracy Claeys and Jay Sawvel during their tenure at the U.

Chances: Nebraska still owes Pelini quite a bit of money over the next 18 months, money that would be forfeited if he were to take the Gopher job with a salary north of $1.8 million. Pelini might be content to coach in his hometown and continue to get Nebraska paychecks for two more seasons as he waits for a better fit. Also, due to the fallout at Nebraska it appears that Pelini's hard nosed and strong personality might not be what Erik Kaler and the BOR are looking for in their head football coach.

Troy Calhoun | Air Force Head Coach | Age 50

Why he fits: It might be hard to find a better leader than Troy Calhoun, as a former Air Force cadet I'm sure Calhoun knows how to lead through difficult times. Calhoun just finished his tenth season at his alma mater and has compiled a 76-53 record and has lead the Falcons to nine bowl games. Before you start figuring out if the triple option would work in the Big Ten, keep in mind that Calhoun was once a NFL offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans.

Chances: I honestly thought Calhoun was content to finish off his coaching career at the Academy. His name seemed to always surface for jobs but never with any significant interest on his part. Until this year. Calhoun interviewed for the Purdue job and sources tell me he was the next guy to get an offer if Jeff Brohm declined. One would think that if Calhoun would leave AFA for Purdue he would certainly consider Minnesota.

Al Golden | Detroit Lions TE Coach | Age 47

Why he fits: What could go wrong in hiring a NFL tight end coach? Sure, everyone remembers Al Golden for his epically bad decision to take the Miami job. There must be something trending with Temple coaches leaving Philadelphia to take jobs that just don't make sense or are not a fit for their style (see Matt Rhule to Baylor). Golden was rock solid in rebuilding the Temple football program and he seemed destined to eventually land a coaching job at a Big Ten school. Things didn't work out for Golden at Miami and was fired midway through his fifth season with a record of 32-25.

Chances: I can't imagine that Golden will be on Mark Coyle's shortlist of candidates but I added him to my list as an example of what candidates Coyle could be forced to evaluate if he is turned down by his primary candidates. A lot of guys get second chances and Golden's style of play would fit at the U. Would Gopher fans prefer Coyle turn to Golden if he is forced to scramble or NDSU head man Chris Klieman or up and coming coordinators like Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley or Penn State's Joe Moorhead?


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