Finding the Next Coach

Now that Chuck Amato is no longer the head coach at NC State, AD Lee Fowler must move fast to find his replacement.

So who will that be? Here is a list of the potential candidates that could be interested in the NC State coaching job or NC State might simply be interested in contacting:

Bill Cowher
NFL -- Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach
Why he's a candidate:
Several reasons. Ask any NC State fan right now who they want as their next coach and 99% of them would likely say Bill Cowher.

Bill Cowher

Cowher is considered one of the top football coaches around, as he is a near-lock to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His ties to NC State are apparent. An NC State alum, Cowher was a starting linebacker, team captain, and team MVP in his senior year. He graduated in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in education, and he has been back to Raleigh on numerous occasions for various events.

His wife, Kaye, is also an NC State alum, as she played basketball for the Wolfpack. Kaye lives in Raleigh, and Bill could be contemplating a move back to the area following Pittsburgh's season, as it appears unlikely that he will re-sign with the Steelers.

The ties are there, and he should be the first coach offered the job. Period.

Chances of landing him: Slim. Cowher reportedly recently turned down a 6.5 million dollar extension from the Steelers, and other high-profile NFL teams, notably Washington and Oakland, could possibly pay even more than that should he decide to continue coaching in the NFL.

Also, Cowher might be looking to retire and/or take a break from coaching football. He has spent 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, and he may need some time away from the sport.

It appears more likely that he will be out of football in 2007, but there is always a chance until he says no. The rumors of his interest in the NC State job has been out there for a while now.

Norm Chow
NFL -- Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator
Why he's a candidate:
Chow has struggled some at Tennessee, but he has been considered one of the top offensive minds ever to coach in college, and he might be ready to take the next step and become a college head coach.

This job just might be one that he is really interested in. He is familiar with NC State, having served a previous stint as the Wolfpack's offensive coordinator in Chuck Amato's first season in Raleigh. He has an extensive network of relationships with college coaches that could help when assembling a staff.

Wolfpack fans remain enamored with Chow even today, and if NC State is looking to hire an assistant, he might be the top choice.

However, there may be concerns with his age, and the fact that he has never been known as a quality recruiter. Also, no head coaching experience could be a concern, but some Wolfpack fans would love to see him bring his high-powered offense back to Raleigh.

Chances of landing him: Fair. Like any coach that has been a life-long assistant, it is hard to believe Chow wouldn't seriously consider the NC State job were he to become a serious candidate.

Paul Johnson
Navy Head Coach
Why he's a candidate:
Johnson is simply a winner.

Paul Johnson

Johnson is 98-34 (74%) in nine seasons as a head coach, and during his time at Georgia Southern, the Eagles captured the NCAA Division I-AA national football championships in 1999 and 2000. He is also one of only four coaches to ever record 50 wins in their first four seasons as head coach at the Division I level.

Navy was considered one of the worst college programs in the country when he took over in 2002, but after a 2-10 first season he installed his system and the team went 8-4 in 2003. He followed that up with 10, 8, and 8 win seasons, building Navy into a solid football program.

Johnson grew up in North Carolina, having started his coaching career in Avery County, and he graduated from Western Carolina University prior to earning his Master of Science at App. State. Most figure that if the right job in North Carolina opened up, he would jump at it because he still has a lot of family in the area. He was interested in the UNC opening in 2001 and this year, but he apparently was never considered.

Chances of landing him: Good. This could be a job that Johnson would jump all over. A confident coach, he would probably love to bring his unconventional offense to the ACC and test it against programs such as Miami, Virginia Tech, and Florida State among others. He makes a little over 1 million per year at Navy, but NC State should be able to afford Johnson if he is their guy.

Greg Schiano
Rutgers Head Coach
Why he's a candidate:
Schiano is one of the names being linked with nearly every opening this fall and rightfully so.

Last year, Schiano led Rutgers to its first winning season (7-5) since 1992, and its first bowl berth since 1978. He has followed that up with a 10-1 season and is a win away from winning the Big East Title and clinching a BCS bid.

Schiano has posted a 29-40 record at Rutgers, and his name might never be any hotter. If he wanted to move on to another program, right now might be the best time. There are rumors that Miami and Alabama are also interested in Schiano.

Chances of landing him: Slim. Miami appears to have made him their top target, but if that fell through, NC State could get a close look. Like former NC State head coach Chuck Amato, Schiano recruits the state of Florida relentlessly, and the 40-year old would not have to start a pipeline as NC State University is well-received in the state.

Also, former NC State assistants Chris Demarest and Cary Godette are on his staff. Both would likely speak highly of the area, as each often stated during their time in Raleigh that they were happy.

Jimbo Fisher
LSU Offensive Coordinator
Why he's a candidate:
Fisher is generally considered to be one of the top offensive coordinators in the nation and has produced results consistently.

Jimbo Fisher
He's young and energetic and his personality would likely play well with the Wolfpack faithful. Fisher recruits Florida for LSU which could keep that pipeline open for NC State and is thought to be one of the best in the country.

The only negatives would be his lack of head coaching experience and question marks around assembling a staff. As far as college assistants, Fisher and Gene Chizik (who is Iowa State's new head coach) are considered the two most-ready to take over a high-major program.

Chances of landing him: Excellent. It is hard to fathom Fisher turning NC State down. His name is already making the rounds as being potentially one of NC State's top choices.

Ironically, he nearly joined the Wolfpack after Noel Mazzone left State two years ago. Fisher and his wife visited Raleigh and he almost inked a contract with the Wolfpack, but he instead returned to LSU to serve under new head coach Les Miles. NC State ended up hiring Marc Trestman.

Steve Kragthorpe
Tulsa Head Coach
Why he's a candidate:
Kragthorpe has worked miracles at Tulsa.

Kragthorpe has proven to be a winner at a school with inferior talent. In three seasons, Kragthorpe, who is 41 years old, has taken Tulsa to three bowl games and led the Golden Hurricane to a 29-21 record during his tenure.

Kragthorpe inherited a program in Tulsa that had 11 consecutive losing seasons, including 1-10 and 1-11 records in the two years before he arrived. His first Tulsa team was 8-5 in 2003, for the biggest turnaround in major college football.

In the two years before Kragthorpe's arrival, Tulsa won two games and the last winning season Tulsa had before Kragthorpe was in 1991.

He is considered a strong recruiter, and he has terrific bloodlines, as his father is a former college coach.

Chances of landing him: Good. Although he states that he is happy at Tulsa, those behind the scenes believe he is enamored with the opportunity of coaching in a BCS Conference.

He brings a lot to the table, and he is your prototype high-risk, high-reward candidate. Kragthorpe is a very good coach, as you can tell by the attention that he is receiving.

Mike Leach
Texas Tech Head Coach

Mike Leach
Why he's a candidate: Maybe NC State needs to be unorthodox on offense, and if that's the case they should go all out for Leach.

Prior to arriving in Lubbock, Leach spent eight years as an offensive coordinator for Valdosta State, Kentucky, and Oklahoma Leach, shattering records along the way. Leach has one of the best offensive minds in college football, as his Texas Tech teams post prolific numbers each season. How prolific? Texas Tech has won the NCAA passing title the past four years, as his spread offense is geared toward creating mismatches and finding open receivers.

Chances of landing him: Slim to fair. Leach makes 1.6 million per year, so Texas Tech is taking care of him financially. Will he want another challenge? Miami is apparently in pursuit as well.

There are some rumors floating around that there might be some friction between Leach and the fanbase in Lubbock... that could be something to watch.

Mike Sherman
NFL -- Houston Texans Assistant Head Coach
Why he's a candidate:
Sherman's name has been linked to the opening by some media outlets, and he is an intriguing option.

Sherman's best stint came in Green Bay, where he served as head coach and GM. In his six year head coaching career with the Packers, Sherman compiled a 57-39 regular season record and a 2-4 postseason record.

Currently he is the assistant head coach of the Houston Texans, and Sherman entered the college ranks at the University of Pittsburgh in 1981. After two years as a part-time coach at Pitt, he joined the Tulane staff in 1983 as offensive line coach. Sherman later moved to Holy Cross in 1985, again to coach the offensive line, before becoming the offensive coordinator of the Crusaders' "run-and-shoot" offense in 1988.

He then spent five years as offensive line coach at Texas A&M (1989-93) before moving to UCLA in the same role for one year. He returned to A&M as offensive line coach in 1995 and was named offensive coordinator for the Aggies following the 1996 season.

Before he could take over the latter assignment, however, Holmgren lured him to Green Bay, where he became tight ends/assistant offensive line coach and his days as a college football coach were behind him.

Chances of landing him: Slim. Maybe he is really interested in the NC State opening, but if Sherman is on the board, a lot of other programs will come calling. There appears to be no significant connection to NC State, but his name is being floated around.

Jim Grobe
Wake Forest Head Coach
Why he's a candidate:
NC State could make the drive down I-40, and the best candidate might reside in Winston-Salem.

Jim Grobe

Currently, Grobe and Wake Forest are enjoying a dream season, as the Deacs are 10-2 and will face Georgia Tech for the ACC title. His disciplined approach is superb, and his decision to redshirt nearly all incoming freshmen has really paid off recently.

Chances of landing him: Slim. The problem with Grobe is he might not be interested in the NC State gig, given the Deacs and Wolfpack are rivals, and the ACC might not even allow such a move to happen anyways.

However, if NC State is looking to land the best possible coach, you won't find many better than Jim Grobe. Give him a call and see what happens.

Frank Solich
Ohio University Head Coach
Why he's a candidate: Mentored by former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne, Solich was extremely successful with the Huskers but could never emerge from the shadows of his former boss. He won at least nine games per year five of the six seasons he spent at Nebraska.

Solich is currently at Ohio and has led them to an impressive 9-3 record in 2006. He is known for graduating his players and running a tight program. Solich's age could be a drawback.

Chances of landing him:Fair. Should the Pack pursue Solich, he would likely listen but he has become a very popular person at Ohio University. He has helped build them into a winner and it may be tough to get him to start over.

Jim Donnan

Jim Donnan
Status: ESPN College Football Analyst
Why he's a candidate: An NC State alum, Donnan's name is being tossed around. A native of Burlington, Donnan was head football coach at Marshall University, where he led the Thundering Herd to a 64-21 record from 1990 to 1995, including five consecutive 11-plus win seasons and the 1992 NCAA Division I-AA national football championship. He was named the Division I-AA Coach of the Year twice at Marshall.

Donnan used his success at Marshall to land the head coaching job at Georgia, and he compiled a 40-19 record during his tenure. He was the first football coach in school history to lead Bulldog teams to four consecutive Bowl victories. Under Donnan, the Bulldogs won the Outback Bowl in 1997, the Peach Bowl in 1998, the Outback Bowl in 1999, and the Oahu Bowl in 2000.

The negatives with Donnan are his age (60), and he has been out of college football for six seasons. Also, there are some who say Donnan has made some enemies in the NC State family over the years.

Chances of landing him: Fair. Maybe it is a stretch, but Donnan could be a factor. What if NC State wanted to hire Bill Cowher, and Cowher was interested, but the timing just wasn't right?

Cowher could be wanting to take a couple of years off from coaching, and hiring Donnan could give NC State a short-term replacement. He's a respectable coach and should be able to win games with the current talent in place... he's always won games.

Either way you look at it, Donnan's name is out there.

Tim Brewster
Denver Broncos Tight Ends Coach
Why he's a candidate: Brewster is starting to attractive heavy attention as college programs see him as a potential big-time coach. He had early interest in the Iowa State job, but he backed out of consideration early this week.

Brewster has been a successful position coach in the NFL, but he made his mark in college as the recruiting coordinator for Mack Brown during his tenure at UNC. He is familiar with North Carolina which would be a major plus on the recruiting trail. Recruiting Analyst Tom Lemming once stated this of Brewster: "He's the best recruiter I've ever seen... he has a drive. It's almost like he has a chip on his shoulder. When he loses a kid, he gets upset."

At least one article has connected Brewster to the NC State opening, and that could be because Brewster is extremely interested in the opening.

His lack of coordinator experience and time away from the college game could be drawbacks, as Brewster is considered a high-risk, high-reward candidate.

Chances of landing him: Fair. Brewster would likely listen should the Wolfpack come calling but it appears to be a definite longshot possibility at this point.

June Jones
Hawai'i Head Coach
Why he's a candidate: If he isn't, he should be.

June Jones
Jones has returned to Hawai'i, where he played a season in college football, and built the Warriors into a power in the WAC. Hawai'i won 9 of 48 games in the four years prior to hiring Jones, and he has won 62-percent of his games at the university. Jones is 63-39 in eight seasons at Hawai'i, and this year has been his best, as the Warriors are 10-2.

Without getting high profile recruits like he could at high-major programs, it's amazing what he has done in 2006. His only two losses were to 12-0 Boise State (likely BCS-bound), and at Alabama, where the Warriors lost by a touchdown. In his team's 10 wins, his offense averaged over 53 points per game, and that includes 42 scored on Purdue, a Big 10 team that allowed less points to teams like Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Penn State.

His run-and-shoot offense might be the best system in the country. Ex-Hawai'i star Timmy Chang became the all-time NCAA passing yardage leader under Jones, and 2006 quarterback Colt Brennan is on pace to shatter several national single-season passing records.

Aside from team success, Jones' resume includes five All-Americans, 51 all-conference performers, and 11 NFL draft picks. The Warriors produced 12 wins and zero NFL draft picks in five combined years before Jones' arrival.

He also has NFL head coaching experience, having coached the Atlanta Falcons for four seasons. Jones is a very, very good head football coach, and with Jerry Glanville as his defensive coordinator, Hawai'i is power on the west coast.

Chances of landing him: Slim. Jones is coaching in Hawai'i, and that is a very good job. It's Hawai'i.

However, he only makes 800,000 and that is very low given the high standard of living on the island, so if a program through big money at him, why wouldn't he listen?

With that being said, he reportedly receives offers from programs every year and chooses to remain in Hawai'i because he and his family are very happy with their current situation. Therefore, he's a definite longshot.

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