With the Mack Brown era now officially over at the University of Texas, the school, and new athletic director Steve Patterson, begin their search for the next head coach of the Texas Longhorns’ football program. Most expect them to go for the biggest name they can find and there have been plenty of those thrown around the rumor mill since Brown made his decision this past weekend.
Is it really about hiring the “big name?” I might argue that it’s about finding the “right name,” and I can give the example of UCLA’s hire of Jim Mora Jr just a year ago. That hiring came with plenty of scrutiny because most believed the Bruins, especially being in the Los Angeles market, would hire a big time coach to take their program into the future. However, just one year in, I think we can say Mora was the right hire for this program and he did a more than respectable job in just his first season.
So what about Texas? Who are the most possible names that make sense for this program going forward?
The first name makes far too much sense to me and, even though he has told the media that he has absolutely no interest in the job, his name continues to be hot and heavy in a lot of circles around Austin, Texas – Jim Harbaugh.
Not only does Harbaugh have the college coaching experience, but he has the track record of turning around two different programs at the University of San Diego and then at Stanford. While San Diego isn’t exactly a big program, I could argue that Stanford, especially the last two years of his time there, is enough of an example to show why Harbaugh can handle the expectations of the Texas Longhorns. Say what you want about the NFL being a better coaching gig than college, I would argue the head coaches at Jacksonville, Houston, and Washington (just to name a few), would probably be anywhere else than where they are right now.
Even Rod Babers, a former Texas Longhorn, now co-host of The Sports Buffet on 1300 AM The Zone in Austin, admitted on our show Monday night that Texas isn’t just another coaching job. “When the University of Texas calls, you pick up the phone,” Rod told us.
Harbaugh isn’t the only name to make the list of candidates that the Longhorns would love to have lead their program and rebuild it into the national championship contender it used to be. How about names like Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, who just won the college football Coach of the Year award, or Baylor’s Art Briles?
There’s one problem with all three of those coaches; each have a star player returning for the 2014 season.
Florida State has Heisman Trophy winner, and quarterback, Jameis Winston, Auburn has running back Tre Mason, and Baylor has quarterback Bryce Petty. That fact alone would make you believe none of their respective head coaches would leave especially with those players returning for another season. Where Briles is concerned, there are those who will tell you that Baylor is no Texas. There’s no arguing that point, but Baylor is in a better position to continue their rise in the Big 12 than where Texas is right now.
So if it’s not Harbaugh, Fisher, Malzahn or Briles, who are the other list of names that would appease the alumni and boosters in Austin?
Unfortunately for Texas those names just aren’t out there and available. At least not right now.
You can talk about Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, former USC defensive line and former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron, Stanford’s David Shaw, who’s also getting interest from the NFL, ESPN’s Yogi Roth brought up Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter, and even Jon Gruden’s name came up in certain conversations over the weekend but he might be the most unlikely candidate especially since most believe he’ll be the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys if Jason Garrett is fired after this season is over.
We all have our favorite candidates to replace Mack Brown, but it needs to be the right guy who can deal with the alumni, the boosters, who can recruit one of the biggest football states in the country as well as compete with the schools in the southeast for some of the top recruits there, and can do the one thing that means more than anything else. Win.
What I will say about Texas’ coaching search is this, the more they wait to hire their head coach, the longer this drags into the New Year, the more I’ll be convinced that Jim Harbaugh is really the guy they want. I know people don’t believe an NFL coach would leave for college football, but for those of you who continued to say “money talks” with the argument that Saban would leave Alabama, I could use the same argument for Harbaugh.
If I had to make a prediction, if you were asking me who the next head coach of the Texas Longhorns will be right this minute, I’ll stick with Harbaugh until the Longhorns hire someone else.
There’s one guy that can put this program back together and has the track record of doing it twice before.
He makes far too much sense.