Hartnett: Holiday brings coaching changes
Brian Hartnett | Monday, December 1, 2014
The Monday after Thanksgiving ranks among the most miserable days of the year for many Americans who have just returned from a long holiday weekend.
But it has the prospects of being a whole lot worse for college football coaches on the hot seat, some of whom receive their pink slips around this time of year.
Florida’s Will Muschamp discovered his fate weeks ago, but Nebraska’s Bo Pelini was the headliner among a group of coaches who lost their jobs over the last few days. Pelini’s firing means that two high-profile coaching jobs are now open, with the possibility of one or two more slots opening this week (Michigan, anyone?).
And with these head coaching dismissals comes a list of potential replacements that range from impossible-to-get — does anyone think Jon Gruden is going to leave a job where he can talk about how Teddy Bridgewater is the greatest quarterback since the one he saw last Monday night? — to fanbase-infuriating — think of Lane Kiffin, who somebody will argue is now well seasoned after failing at three different jobs.
With that being said, however, the college football coaching pool is small, and there’s bound to be some candidates that will be linked to some of the premier vacancies. Here’s a list of some candidates whose names will surely pop up over the next few weeks.
Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen — the Mississippi coaches
The state of Mississippi’s two major programs — Ole Miss and Mississippi State — have been in the news often this year, a big accomplishment given the lack of historical success in the Magnolia State. Although their teams have faltered recently, Mullen had Mississippi State at the No. 1 ranking for five straight weeks, and Freeze took Ole Miss to the No. 3 spot earlier this year. Additionally, Mullen has connections to Florida — he served as the Gators’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2005 to 2008, tutoring both Chris Leak and Tim Tebow.
Jim McElwain — Colorado State head coach
McElwain has one name attached to his resume that every program in the country will notice — Nick Saban. McElwain worked side-by-side with the four-time national champion as Alabama’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2008 to 2011. He left Tuscaloosa to inherit a Colorado State team that was 3-9 the season before he arrived and has made quick work improving the team. This season, his third at the helm, the Rams finished 10-2 and reached the top 25 in the AP Poll.
Craig Bohl — Wyoming head coach
Few college coaches in the country can say they have three national championships — Bohl is one of the exceptions. Bohl coached a North Dakota State team that lost only two games and won three NCAA Division I Football Championships (FCS) between 2011 and 2013. Under his direction, the Bison upset several Power Five opponents, including Minnesota, Kansas and Kansas State. Bohl is now at Wyoming, but he might not be far from a return to Nebraska, the school he graduated from in 1982.
Pat Narduzzi — Michigan State defensive coordinator
Michigan State, the defending Rose Bowl champion, has had a strong run of success the last few seasons, and much of it is due to the defense. The Spartans have ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense the last three years, and Narduzzi has received much of the credit for the program’s strong performance — he took home the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant, last season. Narduzzi has never been a head coach, but then again, neither had Jimbo Fisher, head coach of last year’s national champions.
Jim Harbaugh — San Francisco 49ers head coach
I strongly contemplated listing Harbaugh as an impossibility, but I remembered three things — it’s almost certain that he will be out as 49ers head coach at the end of the season; most of his head coaching experience is with college programs, and Nebraska has previously hired a coach two years removed from the Super Bowl — Bill Callahan. On the off-chance Harbaugh leaves the Bay Area, he would be intriguing to college programs for a variety of reasons — he’s a quarterbacks guru; he previously built Stanford from the ground up, and he’s got that larger-than-life personality to which many recruits would flock.
In short, Harbaugh and the other coaches on this list could help brighten the future for fans of programs currently struggling during this dreary week after Thanksgiving.