Texas is reportedly set to fire Charlie Strong with an official announcement looming. Who could the Longhorns target as their next head coach? Here’s a coaching candidate wish list with seven potential replacements.
It appeared to be inevitable that Charlie Strong would be fired by Texas after the Longhorns’ 24-21 loss to Kansas this past weekend.
According to multiple reports on Sunday night, that’s exactly what will happen in the coming days.
While University of Texas men’s athletic director Mike Perrin later released a statement on Sunday night that Strong was preparing for the Longhorns’ season finale against TCU and the program would evaluate the situation after the regular season, it appears the only thing left is the official announcement.
With focus set to shift to a coaching search, which potential replacements might Perrin pinpoint as names on his wish list? Whomever Texas chooses, a decision will have to come soon.
The recruiting dead period starts mid-December, and the Longhorns would like to have a new head coach chosen in order to finish the 2017 recruiting cycle on a high note.
Perrin will likely pick up the phone and make calls to the representatives of Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban, but all will politely decline. One might think Chip Kelly could be someone Texas will target, but the NFL season has a long way to go, and it’s unlikely Kelly would part ways with San Francisco within the next month. With the timeline being as short as it is, it seems like the stars won’t align for Kelly to end up in Austin, although never say never.
Setting the aforementioned individuals to the side, there are a few big names who could land the job. Let’s take a look at seven potential coaching candidates to replace Strong as Texas’ head coach.
Tom Herman, Houston Head Coach
This is the guy. He is the answer. He’s led Houston to a 22-3 record in less than two seasons with the Cougars. He’s recruited well, and that shows in prospects like defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who was the No. 6 overall player and the No. 3 defensive tackle in the 2016 recruiting class.
Tom Herman is who everyone wants in Austin. It’s simply a matter of getting it done. The Longhorns can’t afford to wait around and be coy. They need to go out and nab Herman as soon as possible. Empty the piggy bank.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina Head Coach
A 40-23 record in almost five seasons with the Tar Heels is pretty solid. Last season, Larry Fedora had North Carolina ranked as high as No. 8 in the AP Top 25 – its highest ranking since 1997. He’s only 1-2 in bowl games with UNC, but let’s not forget about his 34-19 record at Southern Miss before taking the job with the Tar Heels.
North Carolina is No. 38 in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 34.2 points per game. It picked up big wins over Florida State and Miami, and there is little doubt Fedora could bring some excitement and offensive firepower to Austin.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss Head Coach
Hugh Freeze made a big splash in the 2013 recruiting cycle when Ole Miss landed the No. 10 recruiting class. Freeze landed 5-star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and 5-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, all of whom are currently in the NFL.
He’s led the Rebels to a 39-24 record in five seasons in Oxford. Considering how Feeze has recruited with Ole Miss, there is no doubt he would clean up at Texas. The only hiccup here is the possible sanctions the Rebels could be facing from the NCAA.
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado Head Coach
This would be an underrated hire. Mike MacIntyre has done a fantastic job with the Buffaloes this season. They’re currently ranked No. 9 in the AP Top 25 and are contending for a Pac-12 title. Almost through his fourth season in Boulder, MacIntyre has led the Buffaloes to a 19-29 record, but you have to focus on the whole body of work and not just the record.
MacIntyre has changed the culture of the program at Colorado. He and his staff have recruited well. The Buffaloes currently have the No. 20 class in the nation. Colorado is averaging 35.5 points per game, and it’s allowing 18.5 points per game.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama Offensive Coordinator
This is the wild card hire. You could argue that Lane Kiffin had his shot with both Tennessee and USC, and that he failed. But, overall, Kiffin is 35-21 as a head coach and has changed his image while coaching under Nick Saban at Alabama. He can recruit with the best of them, too. He’s helped land playmakers like Calvin Ridley and Jalen Hurts in Tuscaloosa.
Plus, there is no denying he’s a brilliant offensive mind. Alabama averages 477.6 yards of total offense and 40.3 points per game. Just because Kiffin was fired from USC, that doesn’t mean he’d fail in Austin.
But will Texas go the coordinator route? It’s not likely.
Les Miles, Former LSU Head Coach
This is the interesting one. Of all the coaches listed here, the Mad Hatter is the only one not under contract right now. He’s said he wants to go to a program where he can compete for titles. Both Baylor and Purdue have reportedly shown interest in hiring Miles, but neither really fit with his contender requirement.
Miles is the kind of coach who could take Texas’ roster as it stands, land a star-studded first recruiting class and compete right away – sort of how Harbaugh did with Michigan. Miles is a great coach. He has a national championship on his resume. He would be a home run hire. He’d certainly be an expensive hire, but you know what you’re getting with Miles. You’re getting a proven track record and someone who is adored by recruits.
But with Miles is the stigma that he wasn’t good enough to hang onto the LSU job. Knowing Texas, it seems unlikely that they’d go this route based on image alone.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Head Coach
There is a chance Jimbo Fisher is in that same category of high-profile coaches (see: Harbaugh, Meyer, Saban) who will answer that phone call but won’t entertain the job. But there is also a chance he flirts with the Longhorns. LSU really wants Fisher in Baton Rouge, and after a 16-10 loss at home to Florida, the Tigers might up their pursuit of the FSU head coach.
It would take a lot of cash to pull him from Tallahassee, but Texas has the money it would take to land Fisher. He has a national championship under his belt. He’s coached a Heisman Trophy winner, and he consistently recruits at a high level.