For the third time this century, the Minnesota Gophers are hiring a new head football coach. Historically, the Gophers have not made a big splash -- Glen Mason came to Minnesota after a 4-7 season at Kansas, Tim Brewster had never been a head coach and Jerry Kill came from Northern Illinois. A lot of names are being bandied about, and some might seem pie-in-the-sky (uh, Tony Dungy?). Here's a list of a few potential candidates.
Dave Aranda, LSU (defensive coordinator)
Aranda already knows the Big Ten West, having served as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator from 2013-15. Aranda left the Badgers to run LSU’s defense in 2016, and he is fresh off one of the biggest wins of his career when his defense held Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals to nine points in the Citrus Bowl. Already on the pursuit of moving up in the college football world, Aranda is ready to become a head coach. However, he just signed an extension with LSU through 2020 (which will pay him more in base salary in 2017 than Claeys would have earned with Minnesota), so it might take a hefty price to lure him out of Baton Rouge.
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Craig Bohl, Wyoming
Bohl just signed a lengthy contract extension that is set to keep him in Laramie through the 2023 season, but attempting to draw the former North Dakota State guru back to the Midwest could be a boon for the Gophers. The architect of NDSU’s recent dominance, Bohl compiled a 104-32 record during his 11 seasons in Fargo, leading the Bison to three consecutive FCS championships. He’s building something intriguing once again out in Wyoming, where the Cowboys are coming off an 8-6 season and their first bowl game since 2011, but would get a boost in salary by moving to the Big Ten.
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P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
Fleck led the Broncos to a 13-0 record during the regular season, three years after going 1-11 in his first season at the helm, and has been one of the hottest coaches in the country for a while now. WMU’s lone blemish last season was their loss to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl, after which Fleck indicated forcefully that he intends to remain in Kalamazoo. There are a lot of lakes in Minnesota in which to row a boat, however the Gophers might have to break the bank -- and overpay -- to get Fleck in maroon and gold.
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Bryan Harsin, Boise State
Harsin has been hired by Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle once already when the two joined forces at Boise State in 2013, and thus has a significant edge on the rest of the field. A former Broncos assistant, Harsin returned to Boise after two years as an offensive coordinator at Texas and a one-year stint running Arkansas State. His Broncos went 10-3 last year, losing to Baylor in the Cactus Bowl.
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Les Miles, formerly LSU
There may not be a bigger name available to the Gophers than Miles. The former Louisiana State boss won a national title with the Tigers in 2007, and could leverage his recruiting proficiency to turn Minnesota into a contender in the Big Ten West. Miles was fired by LSU after four games last season following their loss to Auburn. This would be a home run hire, but Miles was making over $4 million in base salary at LSU, has TV gig offers and could decide to take a year off from coaching.
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Greg Schiano, Ohio State (defensive coordinator)
Schiano helped turn Rutgers -- Rutgers! -- into a decent program. From 2005-11, he led the Scarlet Knights to a winning record in six of those seven seasons, including two nine-win campaigns and an 11-2 record in 2006. Schiano parlayed that success into an NFL job with Tampa Bay, but lasted only two seasons there. He didn't coach for two years before being tabbed as Ohio State's defensive coordinator this past season. Schiano certainly is looking for another chance to prove he can be a head coach.