The 2021 college football practice cycle had a few quirks underlying much of the movement. On the one hand, there was the fact that Notre Dame and Oklahoma sitting coaches left for new jobs of their own accord without being fired. There were also the jobs that opened and filled before the end of the season (Texas Tech, UConn and Georgia Southern), largely to give their programs a jump in roster building through the transfer portal. All three coaches were also hired (Joey McGuire was an assistant coach; Jim Mora and Clay Helton didn’t have coaching jobs at the time), which is noteworthy for whether that trend might continue this year.
For September openings, there is a perceived first-mover advantage to survey the broader landscape (UConn and Southern both opened in September, while Tech only opened towards the end of October). The first two programs were able to use this to their advantage, but it didn’t happen overnight. Helton wasn’t hired until November. 2, followed by Mora on 11. Tech moved relatively quickly, signing McGuire on November 11. 8 after firing Matt Wells on Oct. 8. 25. So could any of the Power 5 jobs currently open do the same?
We have five technically open right now, but in different situations than what we saw last year.
To Georgia Technology, the Yellow Jackets do not yet have an athletic director because they fired Todd Stansbury the same day they fired Geoff Collins. GT is expected to sign an AD before replacing Collins. Sources say AD research is still ongoing and could still take up to a few weeks. When it comes to a coaching search, administrative flow is why a source described the Jackets as one of two open jobs that “aren’t even first base.”
It’s understandable at Tech because of AD research, but less so at Arizona State — the other school described by the source this way — where Ray Anderson has served as athletic director since 2014. It’s still unclear how this process of hiring will take place. After ASU parted ways with Herm Edwards, Anderson said he was unsure of the structure of the search process, and the Sun Devils continued to work on that part of the process, according to a source. Of course, time is on their side considering that it is still mid-October. A source expected the Devils to hire a research firm, which would at least get them to the base paths.
Of the other open jobs, two are in the Big Ten. Nebraska has interim coach Mickey Joseph, a former player whose contract requires him to be retained or paid the remainder of his owed salary if a new coach is hired (the Huskers are 2-1 under Joseph).
Candidates included Iowa StateMatt Campbell (although a source warned he may be less mobile than last year), Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien (who sources say once had a relationship with athletic director Trev Alberts), NC status coach Dave Doeren and Kansas coach Lance Leipold.
Doeren was asked by reporters about his interest shortly after the job opened, and he pointed out how early he was in the process.
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Leipold’s name has also been linked to Wisconsin. While it’s clear the Badgers want interim coach Jim Leonhard to train, there’s a reason he has an interim tag and didn’t receive a permanent tag when Paul Chryst was surprisingly cowardly. Sources say TD Chris McIntosh and Badgers leadership won’t be caught off guard if the season craters and they miss a bowling game.
As for Leipold, the 58-year-old built programs in Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater (where he was a six-time national champion) and Buffalo (where he won two division titles and two coaching honors from the year). He has deep ties to the state of Wisconsin, where he was born, and was a graduate assistant for the Badgers in the early 1990s before becoming an assistant at Nebraska-Omaha and Nebraska. That’s why tying him to the Huskers or Badgers is no surprise. When asked how he was dealing with being tied to jobs on the eve of last Saturday’s game against TCU, Leipold said Sports Illustrated:
“I’m not talking to [the players] a lot about it because dang it’s early in the year to try and do that. We are really happy here. At my age, other people might see this as a stepping stone right now; that’s never the plan.
“We’re extremely happy to be focused on that, just like we want them to be focused and eliminate distractions, I think we do that too. There’s nothing to [distractions], so why spend time on it right now? And if he has to get into another conversation on the road, then you take care of it. It just so happens that two jobs have opened up where I’ve lived most of my life, unfortunately. Nobody mentions Colorado or Arizona State, or something like that, or Georgia Tech. That’s where for me, let the kids enjoy what they’re doing.”
Jayhawks administrators are working to put a tempting package on the table for Leipold to stay in Lawrence and capitalize on last weekend college game day into the spotlight by announcing facility upgrades.
Elsewhere on the coaching carousel:
- There are high standards to UABwhere Bill Clark built a reliable conference title contender from scratch when the program was revived in 2017. Interim coach Bryant Vincent expects to at least make it to the conference title game (they are currently 1–1 early in the league).
- Colorado is the other open Pac-12 job. Coaches fighting for this will be very curious about what the school can pay, not just for the coordinators and the head coach, but for the entire payroll. Cost of living issues in Boulder could make it difficult to hire and retain assistant coaches.
- Almost from the moment he arrived at Auburn, Bryan Harsin seemed to be in the hot seat. It certainly didn’t cool after the February fiasco, when it was clear that at least some influential people in Auburn were pushing to oust him. Auburn has now lost two straight to LSU and Georgia. If the Tigers fall to Ole Miss before a bye week, it will continue to be questioned every week from now on how long he will stay on the job.
- Auburn could be one of many hot spots for former Baylor and Temple coach Matt Rhule, who became the first fired coach this NFL cycle. Have has over 40 million reasons being selective about his next stop, if he even wants to return to college training. One part that would be thrilled to see him get a new job is his former employer, the Carolina Panthers. Every dollar a new head coaching role would pay Rhule makes up for what the franchise owes him. The clause isn’t uncommon, but the size of Rhule’s deal is a big reason NFL decision makers were highly suspicious of him being hired.
- The Big 12 has significant parity this season, but West Virginia went for a 0–2 start in the league. Neal Brown’s buyout is also significant (over $16 million), but so is the WVU administration’s faith in him.
- Louisville beat Virginia last Saturday, and Scott Satterfield’s evaluation continues. The Cardinals are in a bye week before a second half of the schedule that includes Wake Forest, undefeated James Madison and Clemson.
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