Who's next at USC? Possible candidates to be Trojans coach

Who's next at USC? Possible candidates to be Trojans coach

Published Oct. 12, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET

For the third time in five years, Southern California is searching for a coach.

Since Pete Carroll left for the NFL after the 2009 season, USC has hired and fired two of his former assistants, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian.

It is safe to say that it is time for the Trojans to try something different and go outside the family. Where they land is hard to say in part because at this point there is at least some question about whether Pat Haden will be the athletic director making the hire.

Here's a potential wish list for USC, with why each person could or could not be the Trojans' next coach (in no particular order):


Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles. The former Oregon coach might be the most scrutinized person in the NFL. One thing is clear: Kelly left college because he wanted to coach men, run an organization and draw up ball plays. The other stuff that comes with a college job, schmoozing boosters and sales-pitching 17 year olds, was not his favorite. Kelly is probably not voluntarily going back to college.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah. The 55-year-old was born in southern California and played at BYU. After a couple of years to adjust to the Pac-12, he has shown he can win in the conference without having the most talented roster. He also butted heads with his athletic director after last season, when both his offensive and defensive coordinators left to get raises.

Sonny Dykes, California. Dykes loved the idea of getting into the Pac-12 a few years back, but the job he landed is a difficult one. The Bears have taken a step forward each of his three years at Berkeley and are a victory away from getting bowl eligible for the first time under Dykes, who at least explored other options after last season. Some USC supporters might think it would be beneath the program to hire the Cal coach.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State. The 38-year-old former Boise State quarterback is in his second season coaching the Broncos and he appears to be on his way to another double-digit win season and big bowl game. USC missed on the last Boise State coach, Chris Petersen. Maybe the next one will be the Trojans guy.

Tom Herman, Houston. The former Ohio State offensive coordinator is in his first season with the Cougars and has them undefeated. The 40-year-old is going to get a big job eventually and leaving a place after one season is not a great look. But this is USC, without NCAA sanctions and with a stacked roster. Plus, Herman is a local. He grew up in Simi Valley, California, and played at Cal Lutheran. He even worked for local television and radio stations during college.

Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders

Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams

Jon Gruden

The first two are USC alums whose names came up the last two times the Trojans hired a coach. The third is the guy everybody pines for everywhere. USC supporters seem more open-minded about going the NFL-coach route than they do at other schools, probably because of what happened with Carroll. Also, after two 30-something coaches did not work out, an older coach could bring at least the appearance of stability. Haden confirmed he spoke with Gruden about the job two years ago, and the Super Bowl-winning coach told the AD he would prefer to return to the NFL if he ever gets back into the business - but he did take Haden's call.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

USC was at least interested in Sumlin when it hired Sarkisian, but conventional wisdom is that his next move - whenever that is - will be to the NFL.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern.

The only way Fitzgerald is leaving his beloved alma mater is for a program that has everything in place to win really big. USC qualifies. Fitzgerald also works for one of the best athletic directors in the country in Jim Phillips, so leaving a good boss for a situation where you might not know who the boss will be is not ideal. Maybe USC can make it a package deal?


Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP