Potential coaching candidates to replace Art Briles at Baylor
Finding a new head football coach at Baylor will obviously be a distant second to getting the culture changed, but whomever that new coach is will play a big part in that change. Art Briles had won big at Baylor, but at a horrifying cost as laid out in a nine-month investigation by an outside firm the school hired in the wake of a series of sexual assault allegations involving Bears football players. As we wrote Thursday, some victims and their families felt a sense of relief when they learned Briles had been ousted.
So, what is next in Waco?
Expect more terminations, I’m told, in the athletic department over the coming weeks as Baylor begins to sort out the findings from Pepper Hamilton, the Philly law firm it hired last September to conduct the investigation. There are more disturbing allegations in the pipeline. There are lawsuits Baylor needs to respond to. There will be more discovery, more depositions, more allegations. Also, more victims likely will come forward now that action has taken place. And possible NCAA violations to weed through.
"This will really spider into all sorts of directions," an industry source well-versed in collegiate crisis management told FOX Sports on Thursday night.
As we reported, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is getting consideration for an interim head coaching role. Discussions are ongoing, but will the school be able to retain Bennett — and many other assistants — in light of the Pepper Hamilton investigation and make it through the 2016 season? Or even to the start of the 2016 season?
It’s possible Baylor could opt to go in a completely different direction with fall camp a little more than two months away.
Does it scramble to get a new head coach in place, one intrigued by the program’s talented roster that had many seeing this as a top 15 team? Not to mention the school does have impressive new facilities and strong local recruiting base.
Does it go for a short-term hire to try to stabilize the place while patching together whatever staff is left?
I doubt Baylor brass will try to tab an old Briles protege who is now at a different program, and I highly doubt Houston’s Tom Herman — as much as some Baylor folks would love to have him — would give this job any serious consideration.
If Baylor can hold off on conducting its search till after the 2016 season, it’ll likely have a little better sense of the landscape the new head coach will have to deal with.
Here are some of the coaching options I think could be in play for Baylor. As you’ll see, they fall into some unique categories:
Mack Brown: The former Texas head coach is 64 and has been out of coaching for more than two seasons. Yes, the latter years of his tenure at UT were shaky, but he did lead the Longhorns to six top 5 finishes and a national title. He’s also extremely well-regarded around the state and in coaching circles. Keep in mind there are going to be a lot of tough press conferences for the new face of Baylor football to navigate. That’d be a tall order for an interim guy, especially one linked to the Briles tenure. There’s probably no one more suited to dealing with that than Brown. Baylor brass would have to be completely clear up front with him that he’d not be viewed as the long-term solution but more as a guy riding in to help stabilize a program in chaos for just one or two seasons. Brown knows there’s plenty of talent already in place. Of course, this would create additional challenges in recruiting.
Mike Singletary: The greatest player in Baylor history was an NFL legend. He’s 57 now and after a decade of NFL coaching, he’s been out of the game since 2013. He actually made a run at the BU head coaching job 14 years ago but Guy Morriss ended up getting it, and then he was in the mix for it a few years later. Singletary does have some head coaching experience with the 49ers. A protege of former Baylor coach Grant Teaff, Singletary is deeply religious and is a big name from the Bears’ past. Like Brown, he doesn’t have a real connection to the Bears’ offensive scheme, and also like Brown, his presence could be a big asset as Baylor football tries to wade through a turbulent time looking for a new face of its program.
Larry Fedora: The UNC coach is a College Station native and knows Baylor well. He spent six seasons as a Bears assistant two decades ago. Fedora is coming off a top 15 season last year and should have another good team in 2016. Would Fedora be inclined to wait and see if some bigger coaching jobs in the state of Texas come open this winter? Probably. Don’t forget, though, that Fedora has been operating under a dark NCAA cloud at Chapel Hill in the wake of an academic scandal that he had nothing to do with. Last fall, Fedora told FOX Sports that about 95 percent of the time when talking to recruits, he and his staff get asked about it. Would he want to walk into another turbulent situation?
Sonny Dykes: The son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, Sonny knows the state of Texas — and its high school coaches — very well. He’s a good offensive coach and has done a very nice job straightening up a messy Cal program that had all sorts of issues off the field and in the classroom. The support at Cal is pretty sketchy, and my hunch is he could be tempted by Baylor.
Chad Morris: He, too, was a wildly successful former Texas high school coach. Morris had a very impressive run as Clemson’s offensive coordinator before taking over at SMU. He seems to have the Mustangs back on track and should have a much better year than his 2-10 debut season. If he can get SMU to a bowl game in 2016 — and I wouldn’t bet against that happening — Morris will be on a lot of schools’ radars.
Todd Graham: Like Briles, the 51-year-old from Mesquite is a former Texas high school coach. Graham got off to a fast start at Arizona State, winning 28 games in his first three seasons, and brought some discipline to a program that lacked it. But he’s coming off a 6-7 season. He’s also a guy who has been known to rub a lot of folks the wrong way.
Blake Anderson: Technically, he was born in Arkansas, but he grew up in Texas and he played in college at Baylor and Sam Houston State. He worked under Fedora before taking over at Arkansas State and has won 16 games in his first two seasons.
Doug Meacham: The 51-year-old TCU offensive coordinator has done a superb job for Gary Patterson. Meacham is an Arlington, Texas, native and should be in line for some decent head coaching vacancies this winter.
Lincoln Riley: The Oklahoma offensive coordinator is a Mike Leach protege but is mature beyond his years. He’s going to get a pretty good head coaching opportunity sooner than later. He’s already turned down shots at mid-level FBS head coaching gigs. Riley, 32, will be choosey. I’m not sure he would make the big jump for a program in this position.
Sonny Cumbie: Like Riley, he’s Leach disciple from the Texas Tech tree. The 34-year-old from Abilene is very young and he’s very well compensated at TCU, where he’s the co-offensive coordinator and QB coach.
Troy Calhoun: For a program in need of a culture change, Calhoun, a former Air Force QB and now that academy’s coach, would make some sense and he’d fit in with the group of other more straight-arrow types. The 49-year-old Calhoun also is not the traditional service academy coach in scheme. He’s actually a former Houston Texans offensive coordinator and runs one of the more intricate systems in the college game. His Air Force teams are 18-9 the past two years and have beaten Boise State twice and No. 21 Colorado State (in 2014).
Jeff Brohm: Talk to lots of college coaches about a rising star in their industry and the third-year Western Kentucky guy’s name is often the first one they mention. He’s 20-7 at WKU, and the personable former Louisville QB probably is going to have his pick of a handful of decent jobs this winter.
Matt Wells: I’ve always thought Wells, 42, is one of those pretty rare coaches who would be a decent fit just about anywhere. The Oklahoma native has done very well at Utah State since taking over, going 25-16 in three seasons despite all sorts of injuries at QB. In 2014, he led his team to 10 wins despite starting four different quarterbacks. Since he took over, the Aggies are 3-3 against ranked opponents after going 2-50 before he got the job.
Brian Polian: The son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian got his masters degree at Baylor. He’s a former GA in Waco who also spent a season on Kevin Sumlin’s Texas A&M staff. Polian took over a tricky job following Nevada legend Chris Ault and has done pretty well. He is coming off consecutive winning seasons and gaining some momentum in Reno. He was always known as a terrific recruiter and is very organized. With a strong 2016, Polian figures to be on some athletic directors’ lists.