Coaching Carousel: Then There Were Ten

As the coaching carousel continues to spin – sometimes wildly – day after day, we are left, for now, with 10 FBS openings for head coaches.

If you are behind or just need to catch up, you might be there by the time you are finished reading. Chances are greater, though, that by the time you do get to the end, one or two of these positions will be filled.

Nevertheless, have at it.


Akron is in an interesting position in its search for a new head coach. Athletic Director Tom Wistrcill hired a noted recruiter in Rob Ianello to replace J.D. Brookhart after six seasons and a combined record of 30-42. Following two disastrous seasons (2-22) by Ianello, Wistrcill’s job will be on the line if he does not get this one correct.

Two names who have been floated that would make sense regionally are former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressell and the current interim head coach at Ohio State, Luke Fickell. Both appear to be long shots.

Another name is Toledo offensive coordinator Matt Campbell. However, after former Toledo head coach Tim Beckman took the Illinois job, Campbell would be the perfect hire for Toledo.

My recommendation is that Akron, which has not had a winning season since the 7-6 campaign in 2005, go away from the route it took last time around in hiring a recruiter and, rather, make a football hire. That is why Paul Winters – head coach of D-II Wayne State – makes a whole lot of sense.

Winters – in his eighth season at Wayne State – has led the Warriors to a 33-13 record in their last four seasons. While there are always concerns when a coach makes such a big jump, Winters is a football coach and would be an immediate upgrade over Ianello.

Arkansas State

Former Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts – who spent nine seasons in Jonesboro – never won more than six games in a season and was 45-63 overall. Following the Roberts firing, Arkansas State made the home run hire of Hugh Freeze and subsequently ran through the Sun Belt with the coach made famous by the movie The Blind Side, finishing 10-2.

Freeze was hired by Ole Miss and now Arkansas State is back on the search for a coach.

Freeze, obviously, leaves the Red Wolves in a much better situation than how he found them, but this is still a critical hire. Running backs coach David Gunn has been named the interim coach, but is not considered a serious candidate to replace Freeze. There has not been much reported on potential candidates for Arkansas State, as athletic director Dean Lee has said he will not rush finding a replacement.

There a few names to watch moving forward:

*Joe DeForest, Oklahoma State Special Teams Coach – Lee was associate athletic director at Oklahoma State from 1997 to 2002. DeForest began coaching at Oklahoma State in 2001.

*Houston Nutt – Though hiring Nutt seems unlikely, Lee was vice president of the Razorback foundation at Arkansas from 1988 to 1995. He crossed paths with Nutt, who was wide receivers coach at Arkansas from 1990-92.

*Randy Fichtner, Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterbacks Coach – Fichtner was offensive coordinator at Arkansas State from 1997 to 2000.

Arizona State

It appeared that Arizona State had found its man in June Jones. However, the initial reports may have jumped the gun a bit.

I have seen mentions of Justin Wilcox (Tennessee defensive coordinator), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin offensive coordinator), Dan Cozetto (Washington offensive line), Kirby Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator), Noel Mazzone (Arizona State offensive coordinator) and Mark Helfrich (Oregon offensive coordinator) as possibilities for Arizona State, but it appears, per Paul Calvisi, that no coordinators will be candidates.

So, if we are eliminating all coordinators from the potential list, that leaves names like former South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun and a very interesting candidate who I believe would be a home run for the Sun Devils, Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Colorado State

Following an underwhelming 16-33 overall record at Colorado State, Steve Fairchild was fired.

Colorado State has not been relevant since Sonny Lubbick was its head coach. Going the former player route with Fairchild – a former CSU quarterback and offensive coordinator who also spent seven years in the NFL – didn’t work. I consider it unlikely Colorado State would revisit an idea that did not work the first time. Former Colorado State assistants or players like Rick Dennison (Houston Texans offensive coordinator), John Benton (Houston Texans offensive line) and Brian Schneider (Seattle Seahawks special teams coordinator) more than likely will not have a realistic shot at the job.

One interesting name that has surfaced is former Colorado Buffs head coach Gary Barnett.

Two other names to keep your eyes on: Notre Dame receivers coach Tony Alford and Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall.

Fresno State

Fresno State AD Thomas Boeh made the difficult decision of firing Pat Hill after 15 seasons at the school. Boeh now has an uphill battle in making the kind of hire that can galvanize the Bulldog fan base.

J.D. Williams, a former Fresno State Bulldog, has openly spoken of his interest in the job. If the Fresno State boosters have their say, Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain could be the guy. One other name to watch is former Fresno State player and current Oakland Raiders running backs coach Kelly Skipper.


Following the resignation of Greg McMackin the Warriors are on the prowl for a new head man.

Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker, City College of San Francisco head coach George Rush and Hawaii director of personnel George Lumpkin are all candidates according to the Star Advertiser ($). The same paper also reports that Ivin Jasper (Navy), Brian Norwood (Baylor) and other former Hawaii players have expressed interest in the position.

Also, keep in mind that when June Jones left for SMU he left behind a list of five recommendations for the position that eventually went to McMackin: Duane Akina (Texas defensive backs coach), Norm Chow (Utah offensive coordinator), Kevin Gilbride (New York Giants offensive coordinator) and Dick Tomey (Hawaii special teams coach).


With the fresh news that Kevin Sumlin has agreed to become the Texas A&M head coach, Houston is now looking for his replacement.

I would expect Houston offensive coordinator Jason Phillips and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken to get serious looks for the position.

Penn State

Who will replace Joe Paterno? This continues to be one of the more tricky hires this offseason. Anyone who is anyone has been mentioned for the job. (Everyone who is really no one has been mentioned, too.)

A few names out there:

*Green Bay quarterbacks coach Tom Clements has expressed interest in the job.

*Tom Bradley, Penn State defensive coordinator and interim head coach, and Jay Paterno have either interviewed or will interview.

*Reportedly, Harvard head coach Tim Murphy is very interested in the position and some say he is very high on Penn State’s list.

*Whittingham has also been contacted by Penn State.

Southern Miss

With the departure of Larry Fedora to North Carolina, the next hire by Southern Miss is a very important one.

Ellis Johnson, South Carolina DBs coach/defensive coordinator is rumored as a hot candidate.

Also, remember the last time Southern Miss made a hire from the Oklahoma State staff? Fedora worked out pretty well. A name to watch here is Oklahoma State’s current offensive coordinator, Todd Monken.

Is Southern Miss a spot where Kirby Smart could jump off the Alabama train? Unlikely, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.


After former Toledo head coach Tim Beckman was hired away by Illinois, the most plausible hire here would be to promote offensive line/offensive coordinator Matt Campbell to the head job.

A few other names to listen out for: Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State defensive coordinator), Sal Sunseri (Alabama assistant head coach) and Todd Monken (Oklahoma State offensive coordinator).