Many names have been tossed out as potential replacements in the 24 hours or so since Dan Hawkins was fired by Colorado. From Bill McCartney to Troy Calhoun to pipe dream Les Miles to my personal favorite pipe dream Jon Gruden, at least a baker’s dozen names have popped onto the regional and national radar whether they are reasonable candidates or not.
In a teleconference with local media, however, CU chancellor Phil DiStefano gave a very big hint as to which direction you may want to look if you’re attempting to divine where the Buffaloes might find their next head coach.
“[I would like] a coach who is either successful now as a head coach or has recent coaching experience either with someone from the Pac 12 or the Big 12,” DiStefano was quoted by the Denver Post as saying. “Somebody in a conference similar to, if not equal to, the conference that we’re joining.”
Of course, nothing is written in stone, especially this early on in the process. Colorado, we would hope, wouldn’t so stridently adhere to a tack that severely limits their pool of potential candidates. And, DiStefano said on the teleconference that the final decision will rest in the hands of athletic director Mike Bohn, so what DiStefano would like may not necessarily fall squarely in line with what Bohn wants. Still, the chancellor would need to sign off on any hire, so his guidelines for the hire should not be completely dismissed simply because he won’t be making the “final” decision.
Two of the names mentioned as early possibilities — if not probabilities when it comes to a serious look — are Air Force’s Troy Calhoun and San Diego State’s Brady Hoke. Neither of those coaches would seem to fit DiStefano’s criteria. Nor would Bill McCartney, the former CU head coach who hasn’t coached since 1994 but is presumed to be one of the frontrunners (which tells you everything you need to know about the current state of the football program, incidentally).
Brent Venables, on the other hand, falls well within DiStefano’s scope of potential candidates. Named by the Boulder Daily Camera Tuesday as a coach who’s known to be on Colorado’s radar, the current defensive coordinator at Oklahoma played at Kansas State in the early nineties and has been an assistant or a coordinator in the Big 12 since his playing days ended. Mike Bellotti and Mark Mangino also have recent head-coaching ties to the Pac-10/Big 12, but money might preclude the former from being a candidate while the stigma surrounding the latter’s departure from Kansas might cause schools to shy away in this cycle of hiring.
If you take DiStefano’s words at face value, two other names would have to pop up on the public radar as well at some point in the not-too-distant future — Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. Both of those coordinators fit perfectly with the recent Pac-10/Big 12 ties and would be a very good fit for where the school is right now financially, which will likely be as large a consideration as anything else.
Kevin Sumlin, who we’ve been told is a favorite of some associated with the university, coached in the Big 12 from 2001 through 2007 before moving on to become Houston’s head coach. Given his three-year run as the Cougars’ sideline boss, he would be a bit pricier than the previous two, but could be amenable to the $2 million annually neighborhood CU will be searching. We’re also hearing that the school may be willing to head upwards of $2.5 million per for a new coach — the right coach — which would very much put Sumlin in play.
If we had to bet right now, we’d wager that, ultimately, Colorado’s new head coach would be one of the final three coaches we listed. And all that is a guess as a new head coach likely won’t be hired for at least a month, if not further into the future, and situations at various jobs around the country could change in an instant and shake up the ongoing searches at Colorado, Minnesota, North Texas and (insert next school dropping the coaching guillotine here).
Then again, there’s a certain pirate currently residing in Key West who could become a major factor in this search in very short order. Yes, Mike Leach has been and will continue to be discussed by the administration. Is it probable that he will be the Buffs’ next head coach? No. Is it possible? Yes.
Do not dismiss Leach as a possibility. Colorado certainly hasn’t.