The college football coaching carousel got ramped up again on Tuesday, with the surprise news that Minnesota had fired head coach Tracy Claeys. The decision appears to have been the result of Claeys support a player boycott just days before the Holiday Bowl. It was a boycott related to an ongoing sexual assault case involving 10 Gophers’ players.
So for the second time in two weeks, a college job is open – following UConn a week ago – at a time on the calendar when most hirings and firings are usually done.
Who are the candidates to replace Claeys? Here are five names to keep in mind.
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P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan head coach
Fleck was the breakout star of 2016, after leading Western Michigan to a 13-0 regular season and trip to the Cotton Bowl. And even though the Broncos lost to Wisconsin in Dallas, that won’t change the fact that Fleck remains one of the hottest names in coaching circles. The fact that he remained at Western Michigan following this season is a minor miracle, and a boon for the Broncos and MAC as a whole going into 2017.
At the same, that reason – that Fleck’s star is only going to continue to rise – is one of the main reasons why it’s hard to imagine he would leave Kalamazoo for Minneapolis. If Fleck continues to win big at Western Michigan, you’d have to think he’d be in line for a better job a year from now.
Minnesota should call, but it’s hard to imagine Fleck biting.
Getty ImagesMichael Hickey
Les Miles, former LSU head coach
While many thought Miles’ name would get serious traction this off-season, it appears as though the market for the former LSU head coach wasn’t nearly as robust as expected. Outside of an interview with Houston, Miles didn’t appear to get any major traction for head coaching jobs this off-season.
But with that said, this could be a perfect landing spot for Miles. He has Midwestern roots and has said he wants to be at a place where he can “win championships.” It won’t be easy at Minnesota, but at least playing in the Big Ten, the path to the playoff is there.
From the Minnesota perspective, they could do a lot worse than hiring a coach with a national championship on his resume and a reputation as a keen recruiter and talent developer. Miles is a name Minnesota absolutely has to call.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
Bryan Harsin, Boise State head coach
Harsin hasn’t won at quite the level Chris Petersen did at Boise State, but is still one of the most successful Group of 5 coaches in the sport, with an average of over 10 wins per season since arriving in Boise.
Geographically this makes sense, but you’ve got to wonder if Harsin – like Fleck – might stay where he is, and wait to see if a bigger job opens up.
Greg Schiano, Ohio State defensive coordinator
After getting out of coaching completely in 2014 and 2015, Schiano took the defensive coordinator gig last year at Ohio State explicitly to get a foot back in the college coaching door. And you’ve got to think he did it with the interest in one day being a head coach again.
Only after a coaching cycle with a couple jobs that seemed perfectly suited for his background – Temple and Cincinnati specifically – it seems that there just might not be all that much interest in bringing in Schiano as a head coach.
Still, this is a guy who built Rutgers from one of the worst programs in major college football into a consistent bowl team, and is a dogged recruiter who would immediately upgrade the overall talent in Minneapolis. Again, the Gophers could do a lot worse than hiring Schiano.
Al Golden, former Miami and Temple head coach
Golden was never a cultural fit at Miami (going 32-25 in 4 ½ years there) but should do much better at a place like Minnesota. He has Midwestern roots, playing at Penn State, before becoming the head coach at Temple. There he took a program that went 1-11 in his first year, and led them to 17 wins over his final two seasons at the school.
Golden spent this past season as a tight ends coach with the Detroit Lions.