Coaching Search Update - Tuesday Edition

Texas A&M conducted two interviews on Tuesday to start the coaching search process. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop gets you up-to-date on the leading candidates and some other big name candidates that have inquired about the Aggie football job that have hit the radar screen

With all of the rumors and speculation of numerous candidates, it appears that Texas A&M conducted two formal interviews on Monday in New York and both were expected. Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora met with Bill Byrne and his search team for over three hours. Prior to that, Kevin Sumlin interviewed with the Texas A&M contingent for approximately two hours. Feedback from the interviews has been hard to come by. What we do know is that North Carolina has offered Larry Fedora their job at $2.2 million annually. We've heard from several sources close to the Fedora family that Larry would jump on a Texas A&M offer and return to his hometown. However, he's not going to risk losing a very nice job opportunity, and UNC has given a deadline of this afternoon for Fedora to accept the job or they will move on to Air Force's Troy Calhoun.

So Bill Byrne and the search team have a big decision to make today. However, we're hearing that they already have more meetings/interviews scheduled for this morning so they can get through the process by this afternoon's deadline. The issue is can the search team come to a definitive decision on Fedora in a matter of a few hours. Then again, maybe they have Kevin Sumlin rated ahead of Fedora after yesterday's interviews. We simply have no way to know what Bill Byrne and company are thinking at this point.

What we do know is that the donors and stakeholders have made it clear that they want a quality search and they want some big names considered and evaluated. As we reported yesterday, there were some surprising big names that at the very least made an inquiry into the Texas A&M head coaching position including Bob Stoops, Chip Kelly, Dan Mullen, Chris Petersen, and Mark Richt to name a few. The transaction costs associated with Stoops is very, very steep (in the $40-50 million range) so it is clear that Stoops' agent is fishing. Hiring him is just not financially feasible.

What we do know is that Mark Richt is in New York as we speak. Not only that, but he's at the same hotel (The Waldorf) as the A&M search team where the college football awards dinner will be held tonight. We've heard that Richt has made contact and his interest appears to be more than just an exercise in getting a pay raise. As I mentioned two days ago, Richt has not received a raise or extension in over three years and now he only has two years left on his deal paying him $2.9 million. Richt would have normally received an extension and raise last year, but after a disappointing 6-7 record (his only record under 8 wins in 11 seasons) in 2010, Georgia officials put him on the hot seat with no extension. Then, after an early season loss to Boise State, the wolves were howling and wanting Richt's head on a platter. Then he rattled off 10 straight wins to claim the SEC east division. Even as late as last week at the SEC Championship Game, Georgia's president was asked if Richt's job was safe, and his response was vague and unclear generating speculation as to the status of his 11 year coach that has won two SEC Championships and 10 or more wins in seven of those 11 seasons.

So Richt can't be happy with his treatment and he's looking for an opportunity and a school that will appreciate his 60-28 SEC record. So while it is plausible that the Bulldog head coach is looking to force the issue with Georgia, it is also realistic to think he has real interest in the Texas A&M job.

I have tried to confirm that a formal interview has been scheduled this morning, and all I can get is that both parties plan to follow-up on the initial inquiry by Richt's agent with some type of communication this morning. It's unclear if that will lead to a formal interview or not, but several things do have to fall into place for something like this to happen.

We've heard similar rumors surrounding Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Boise State coach Chris Petersen but I have not been able to confirm anything regarding those two beyond initial inquiries. It sounds to me that Texas A&M is trying to gauge the seriousness of these inquiries. If nothing comes of it this morning, I expect the A&M search team will move forward with the existing candidates. At the top of the list are Kevin Sumlin and Larry Fedora. I'm also hearing that Texas A&M is still hoping to conduct an interview with Alabama Kirby Smart and Louisville's Charlie Strong. Strong is a longshot given his relatively large salary and buyout. He is also not in New York and has no plans to meet with Texas A&M today. It is my understanding that as of yesterday, Smart was expected to interview for the job.

What we do know is that this coaching search won't take long and has been truncated due to the time constraints associated with Fedora and the fact that the highly-regarded 2012 recruiting class is dangling in the wind. At this point, I would be speculating if I were to name a leading candidate but if you put a gun to my head I'd say it's Larry Fedora followed by Kevin Sumlin with Kirby Smart coming in third. That comes with a caveat. If Texas A&M feels it can land one of these higher profile names after this morning, I think that coach jumps to the front of the line.

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