College football programs are racing to fire their coaches so they can perfect that desperate vibe in an attempt to attract a new hire. You know which desperate vibe I’m talking about. It’s the one that single people are allergic to, the one that says, “I’m lonely and have gone through way too much hand lotion in the past six months.”
There’s not much more pathetic in the college football sphere than dismissing a coach after a third of the season. It’s evidence that not only did you hire the wrong person, but you also kept him employed longer than you should have. And if it’s not that, it’s an overzealous AD or booster base that has as much patience as a 2-year-old in line at Disneyland.
Rushing to fire a coach so you can be first in line when Black Friday hits doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get your hands on that heavily-discounted PS5, as much as there’s now a distinct possibility that you’ll be trampled on the way to it.
USC got Lincoln Riley because they’re USC. Same with Brian Kelly and LSU. The only thing firing a head coach early does is force other universities to give their coaches extensions out of fear of him being poached by more lucrative, more attractive schools. (Ask Texas A&M fans how much they regret giving Jimbo Fisher that massive bag when LSU was looming in the offseason.)
That said, all of this didn’t stop the ADs at Arizona State, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, and Wisconsin from punting on their skippers this season, so let’s see what they’re standing in line for. Last year’s hot name could be on the hot seat by year’s end, but no matter. Let’s ink these hires now before their employers grow wise and dole out more athletic department-crippling deals.
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Here’s the best candidate for each vacancy in the power five.
Arizona State: Matt Campbell or Dave Aranda
These two coaches couldn’t be more available. They were rumored for 15,000 openings last year, and the thirst for them is only growing. Baylor and Iowa State are both 3-2 at this juncture, and I have no freaking clue if that’s to be commended or criticized.
All they have to do is continue to be above average at programs that the public thinks suck, and viola, there’s your next coach of the Sun Devils — or Buffaloes, or Yellow Jackets, or Cornhuskers, or Badgers.
Colorado: Matt Campbell or Dave Aranda
I could offer different candidates, but I hope that’s not what you came here for. Cuffing the ideal candidate to the ideal suitor is borderline impossible. There aren’t enough ideals — coaches and programs — in existence for every school to be happy, and that’s why fans are left talking themselves into a candidate, or more likely, bitching about him before, during, and after his tenure at their school.
Remember how feverishly Michigan State worked to steal Mel Tucker from Colorado and then keep him from going to LSU? Do you think CU would take him back at 10 years, $95 million as MSU gave him? Hell no. Sparty is 2-3, and just lost to Maryland and Minnesota by a combined score of 61-20.
Georgia Tech: Matt Campbell or Dave Aranda
The thing about rushing to snatch up a Big 12 coach right now is how do you know if anyone is any good? Oklahoma ran the conference under Riley, and now he’s gone. If an AD thought Mike Gundy would leave his post — or that he’d be as effective at a school that’s not his alma mater — they’d have already tried.
After hot starts, Chris Klieman (Kansas State) and Lance Leipold (Kansas) are being rumored as much as Aranda and Campbell, and I have to believe it’s because there’s little to no room for creativity when so much money is on the line. The candidate must have gobs of endorsements from experts to justify the millions they’re going to receive, so outside-the-box thinking and relatively unknowns are largely forbidden.
Nebraska: Matt Campbell or Dave Aranda
The midseason coaching rumor mill is one of the more depressing places to reside. This is where my favorite program is, and if the shining son of Nebraska can’t fix the football team after doing it at UCF, who the hell am I supposed to get excited about?
God forbid my happiness hinges on Arizona State, Colorado, or Georgia Tech football, who all came in below the Huskers on the list of desirable (open) jobs I saw. If it’s not Matt Campbell or Dave Aranda, I’d have to talk myself into the third-, fourth-, or fifth-best coach in the Big 12, which is, what, the fourth or fifth worst conference of all the power five?
I saw Bronco Mendenhall’s name in a few stories, and, boy, is some unassuming group of supporters going to be elated when they find out the guy who stepped down at Virginia is coming to campus.
Wisconsin: Matt Campbell or Dave Aranda
Winning seasons are no longer an indication of the prominence of a program. It’s the size of the buyouts on the books that matters, and the Badgers are ready to join the big time. Paul Chryst won nine games last year, and had four 10-win seasons out of six years it was possible. (I would love a ruling on whether the pandemic year counts toward job performance.)
If you’re going to let go of Chryst, there has to be a better option, and if you haven’t caught on by now, there’s not. Who knows, maybe Bret Bielema was actually auditioning for his old gig during Illinois’ beatdown of Wisconsin. After taking a lap around the SEC for a payday, that actually makes sense.
However, common sense is often absent when it comes to the college football coaching carousel.