Who should Texas hire?
Or, perhaps, who can Texas hire?
It won’t be Alabama’s Nick Saban, who topped the season-long rumor mill as Mack Brown’s possible replacement. He agreed to a contract extension Friday night that will keep him coaching the Crimson Tide. So who does that leave?
Here are possibilities that Texas may look at:
AIMING HIGH …
Urban Meyer, Ohio State: If Saban is regarded as the best, then the 49-year-old Meyer is a pretty close second. He won two national championships at Florida and has a 24-1 record in his two seasons at Ohio State. He’s from the Buckeye State, though, so moving would be a tough sell.
Record: 128-24 (24-1 at Ohio State)
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: Already has succeeded at following one legend. The 48-year-old former offensive coordinator has restored the Seminoles to a national power and, in his fourth season, is favored to win the BCS championship game with the likely Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.
Record: 44-10 (all at Florida State)
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: An offensive wizard who has the Tigers playing for the national championship in his first year, and Sports Illustrated reported that Texas is his dream job. His response: “I’m tickled to death to be the head coach of the Auburn Tigers.” Age 48, born in Texas, grew up in Arkansas.
Record: 12-1 (all at Auburn)
Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers: Many dismiss the Harbaughs (see below) as candidates, but some key Texas officials are said to be interested in exploring the possibilities. The younger Harbaugh, 49, was in the Super Bowl last season. Why does he need this? But as SI.com pointed out, he turned down an extension before this season. And he has college roots.
Record: 33-11-1 (NFL), 58-27 (college)
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens: Really hard to picture this. Why would he want the job? The 51-year-old coached the Ravens to the Super Bowl championship last season, has never been a college head coach and hasn’t even been a college assistant since 1997, with Indiana.
Record: 70-36 (NFL)
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers: A Super Bowl winner as the Steelers’ head coach, the 41-year-old has been reported to be a candidate. But a person close to Tomlin told the American-Statesman a few weeks ago that the coach has no interest.
PROVEN WINNERS …
David Shaw, Stanford: Texas could satisfy a lot of constituencies by hiring the 41-year-old. Shaw would be the first African-American head football coach of the Longhorns, and he’d be coming from a school that pays more than lip service to having high academic standards for athletes. Oh, and he’s 3-for-3 in making BCS bowls while playing a physical style. But … he’s a former NFL assistant perceived as a guy who would only leave his alma mater to head back to the NFL.
Les Miles, LSU: The 60-year-old is a former Big 12 guy (Oklahoma State). He won the national championship at LSU in 2007 and lost the title game to Alabama in 2011. But on the other hand, the Mad Hatter is a bit goofy and doesn’t fit Texas’ button-down image.
Record: 122-45 (94-24 at LSU)
Charlie Strong, Louisville: Strong, 53, also would make history as Texas’ first African-American coach. He’s coming off an 11-1 season and appears ready to jump into a bigger conference. The former defensive coordinator and interim head coach at Florida reportedly was a candidate to replace Will Muschamp as Texas’ defensive coordinator in 2011, and was mentioned as a candidate to replace Muschamp again had Muschamp not survived at Florida this season.
DIGGING DEEPER …
Jim Mora, UCLA: After a long career on the NFL sidelines, he went to UCLA in 2012 and turned around the Bruins’ struggling program. A 52-year-old who brings a nice blend of style and substance, but not a huge track record of success.
Record: 18-8 (college); 31-33 (NFL)
Bill O’Brien, Penn State: Took over the Nittany Lions in the toughest of circumstances after the child sex abuse scandal, and the 44-year-old former Bill Belichick assistant has received universal praise for winning despite painful sanctions. Interviewed for the Eagles’ and Browns’ head-coaching jobs last year.
David Cutcliffe, Duke: A molder of quarterbacks, the 59-year-old Alabama native has done what some thought nearly impossible — give Duke a football team that even the basketball program can enjoy. Developing 2-star and occasional 3-star recruits, Cutcliffe made a bowl game last year and followed it up with playing for the ACC title and the first 10-win season in Blue Devils history.
Record: 75-72 (31-43 at Duke)
Al Golden, Miami: Won 17 games in his last two seasons at Temple. That’s Temple. In three seasons since taking over a troubled Miami program, the 44-year-old has increased his victory total every year, up to nine in 2013.
Record: 49-48 (22-14 at Miami)
Larry Fedora, North Carolina: Texas’ last hire from Chapel Hill turned out pretty well, didn’t he? The 51-year-old knows the territory: Born in College Station (we’ll forgive him for that), coached high school ball in Texas (Garland) and is a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. Reportedly almost got the Texas A&M job in 2011 before Kevin Sumlin was hired.
Record: 48-29 (14-10 at North Carolina)
REALLY NOW? REALLY? …
Major Applewhite, Texas: Sure, he’s a favorite son around here for his work as an overachieving Longhorns quarterback. But after one season calling plays, the 35-year-old is not nearly as popular as he once was. So … forget it.
Will Muschamp, Florida: The 42-year-old is the former head coach-in-waiting at Texas. But he is unproven as a head coach — 22-16 in three years at Florida, including 4-8 this season. He went 11-2 in 2012, but right now, as a head coach, Muschamp is considered an outstanding defensive coordinator.