Did you hear about Charlie Strong's press conference today? Refusing to say he would be at Louisville next year and telling Louisville fans to be more like Big Blue Nation are among the highlights... Sounds like a guy who's on his way out.
Here’s your Monday morning catch-up on the three coaching searches still underway in the Southeastern Conference… plus some bonus news from Lexington and Nashville.
While our sources in Arkansas and in the industry continue to say that TCU’s Gary Patterson and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy are the top two names on AD Jeff Long’s list, this story from a site called HogCountryOnline.com sent Razorback fans into a state of pure jubilation on Saturday. According to the site, Boise State’s Chris Peterson “is expected to be named the new Razorbacks coach Tuesdsay.” It’s even suggested that he could be introduced to fans at tomorrow night’s Oklahoma-Arkansas hoops game at Bud Walton Arena.
Petersen has turned down some awfully big jobs in past years to stay put at Boise State. Perhaps the shifting conference landscape has him spooked or maybe he’s just really ready to move, but we’ll believe this one when we see it. Petersen is the college equivalent of Jon Gruden. Everybody wants him, but no one ever gets him. If the Hogs do, Long will be hailed as a hero in Fayetteville (just as he was when he landed hoops coach Mike Anderson).
As for Gundy, he was asked yesterday about reports that he was interviewing for jobs elsewhere. “I would never talk about any other jobs or any confirmation of anything that’s gone on.” Gundy is an Oklahoma State alum, but he’s coming off a 7-5 season and may want to restart his coaching clock somewhere else. He also currently makes $3.75 million per season and has a $3 million buyout that some school will have to work around if it wants him.
We have also been told that Baylor’s Art Briles is moving up the list at Arkansas. Despite losing Robert Griffin III this year, his team still managed to lead the nation in total offense and he knocked off Gundy and OSU head-to-head on Saturday. (No hire should be made based on one game, though.)
Meanwhile, former Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has been named the head coach at Idaho. Do the Vandals realize what the Hog offense looked like under Paul as compared to what it looked like under Bobby?
We could save ourselves time and tell you who’s not on Auburn’s list. Everyone from BSU’s Petersen and TCU’s Patterson to Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn, and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has been tied to the job by someone, somewhere.
We’ve been told for several weeks that Fisher will be high on Auburn’s list due to the recruiting ties he already has in the area. At the same time, his agent is Jimmy Sexton and he and Fisher could be playing Auburn, Tennessee and FSU against one another simply to get the ACC champion coach a raise in Tallahassee.
Louisville’s Charlie Strong has also been connected to the AU job. So has Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops (who makes more than $4.5 million per year). Petrino — that would be Bobby — is still mentioned by several folks we’ve spoken to as well.
Auburn AD Jay Jacobs and his committee were not expected to be in New York this past weekend to interview coaches, suggesting they’ve be chasing down coaches in other locations, which means Tiger fans are tracking flights right now.
The Tigers are so all-over-the-map, that we’ll simply tell you the four names we’ve heard most often when speaking to folks on the Plains and in the industry: Petrino, Fisher, Malzahn and Patterson. We believe Patterson would be more likely leave for Arkansas if he moves. We think Fisher is more likely to stay at FSU or head to Tennessee. That leaves Petrino and Malzahn as — in our opinion — the most likely men to land the job.
While rumors continue to swirl that Gruden is still going to land in Knoxville — yes, really — UT AD Dave Hart seems to have moved on to other candidates. Late last week he reportedly interviewed Louisville’s Strong. It’s also been reported that he met with Oklahoma State’s Gundy yesterday.
According to VolQuest.com, Tennessee officials were in Stillwater yesterday to meet with Gundy at his house. (Paywall.)
We have been told that Florida State’s Fisher is tops on Hart’s list and that does make sense. He hired Fisher as coach-in-waiting in Tallahassee, Fisher has SEC ties and a Dixie-fied recruiting base, and Hart was fired by FSU. How better to get back at the guys who let you go than to swipe their coach? Multiple sources have told us that Fisher and Hart will meet this week in New York, probably today.
Gundy and Fisher both share the same agent, Sexton. The Vols had better be careful they don’t start making it rain cash for coaches who are simply angling for raises from their current employers. (See: Arkansas.)
North Carolina’s Larry Fedora is reportedly rising up the Vol’s wish list — an industry source tells us he’s let it be known he’d like to talk — while Miami’s Al Golden has dropped a bit.
Two other “out there” rumors for you: a Chicago reporter posted on Twitter that a “reliable source tells me Tennessee has at least reached out to Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema” and CoachingSearch.com — more on that site below — claims former UNC coach Butch Davis might still be in the UT mix.
For now, we think the list in Knoxville is Fisher, Gundy, Strong (because he’s already interviewed) and then Fedora.
Vanderbilt’s coach will be staying in Nashville a bit longer. The school announced last night that it had extended Franklin’s “long-term” deal and that it now includes more cash and guarantees of continued facilities upgrades.
The coach said, “This is about continuing to make progress, continuing to take steps in the right direction, so we can build a program for the long haul that people can be very, very proud of.”
Vandy AD David Williams said “everybody in America” had been calling about Franklin.
Regardless of who called, this is tremendous news for VU and it’s also probably a smart move by Franklin. As we’ve noted on this site previously, the Gerry DiNardos and Gary Barnetts of the world learned long ago that sometimes the bigger job (LSU and Colorado, respectively) isn’t as secure as the smaller job at Academic U. (Vanderbilt and Northwestern, respectively).
According to the website OutkickTheCoverage.com, Vanderbilt’s coach was contacted “by representatives from all three major job SEC openings, Auburn, Tennessee, and Arkansas to gauge his interest in interviewing for those job(s).” The site claims that Arkansas “pursued Franklin the most aggressively, returning multiple times with more substantial offers” and “ultimately the Razorbacks offered nearly $5 million a year to Franklin, who rebuffed the offers in favor of a more substantial commitment from Vanderbilt.”
What constitutes as a “representative” is anyone’s guess, but it’s doubtful in-state Tennessee made any kind of formal approach toward Vandy’s coach. That would be pretty risky to be turned down in anyway by the coach at the — traditionally — #2 job program in the state. Auburn? Well, there’s no in-state stigma, so maybe. As for Arkansas coming back again and again and offering nearly five million bucks only to be nixed? Based on 20 years of working for multiple media outlets, that sounds more like a story that Franklin and Vandy want to spread than like something that would actually happen.
Here’s guessing the folks at UA wouldn’t want to be seen as the job that got turned down by Vanderbilt’s coach despite an offer of five million. But whether the school did that or not, it’s certainly out there now.
And whether the Hogs made multiple calls to Franklin and kept jacking up their offer or not, we know they did reach out to him. Which means LSU’s Les Miles and Franklin both owe Long a Christmas card for their raises.
Though the Wildcats job has been filled, there are still some quick nuggets floating around out there. New coach Mark Stoops was introduced in Lexington yesterday. He’ll be paid $11 million over the next five years but taking a page straight from the movie, “Fast Break,” the Cats will pay Stoops per win, too. After Stoops’ first SEC win in a season, he’ll receive a $100,000 bonus for additional league contests he wins. He could max out with a bonus of $900,000 with six SEC wins and a league title.
Stoops told UK fans yesterday that while there are “no magic wands,” the Wildcats are capable of winning a conference title.
As we’ve stated before, however, UK needs to follow Vanderbilt’s lead and start making more of a financial commitment to the football program. That will require more than a nifty bonus plan for it’s head coach.
Meanwhile, the website CoachingSearch.com — which is run by someone who helps coaches land jobs, so beware of spin — reports that Florida’s Will Muschamp might hire ex-Kentucky coach Joker Phillips as the Gators’ receivers coach.