This college football season has involved more FBS coaching changes than at any time ever before. Now that the regular season is over, speculation has grown over who will go where and open positions are starting to get filled. Just this past week, USC, Iowa State, UCF, Virginia Tech and Georgia have all hired new coaches. Let's take a look at who has already been hired and how it effects the openings still available, including Rutgers.
Georgia and USC were easily considered the best two opportunities available in the coaching market. USC stayed in house, hiring interim head coach Clay Helton, which surprised many. Just yesterday, Georgia hired Alabama's defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to replace long time coach Mark Richt. Now Richt becomes the hottest coach available on the open market. Virginia Tech is a big job as well, and they moved quickly in hiring one of the rising coaches on the market, Justin Fuentes from Memphis. Iowa State did the same, nabbing Matt Campbell from Toledo. UCF went 0-12 this past season and hired Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost to lead them in the future.
Let's review what FBS jobs are currently open and how it effects Rutgers search for a new coach.
Down to a dozen FBS openings: Maryland, Memphis, Miami, Mizzou, North Texas, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, Toledo, Tulane, ULM, UVA— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 2, 2015
Twelve openings is still an incredible amount at one time. Where does Rutgers stand among all of them and how does it effect who they will hire? North Texas, Toledo, Tulane, ULM and Memphis do not come into play in terms of candidates for the Rutgers job. However, there are currently six other openings in addition to Rutgers, at power five schools. There are three in the ACC with Miami, Syracuse and Virginia, two in the SEC with Missouri and South Carolina, and two in the Big Ten with Maryland and Rutgers.
None of these openings measure up to USC and Georgia in terms of prestige and resources. As of now, Miami is considered the best job available and has had the most interest. Whoever lands at this job will cause a domino effect for finalists who did not get it, possibly landing at other openings available. Miami has interviewed one potential candidate for Rutgers.
I think Miami's candidates are Mullen, Greg Schiano, Colts OC Rob Chudzinski & former Canes coach Butch Davis. I know UM wants head coach— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) December 1, 2015
ESPN reporting that Greg Schiano was a finalist for USC job. Puzzling, and makes me wonder if he's a serious candidate at RU.— Kevin Recio (@KevRecio) December 1, 2015
Greg Schiano was predictably brought into the conversation when Rutgers fired Kyle Flood. However, Schiano has been actively interviewing for other power five jobs, including Miami and USC. It was also reported he spoke to UCF as well. Of course, now that Mark Richt is available, he interviewed with Miami yesterday and appears to be their top choice. Richt is easily the biggest coaching name available on the open market. Update: Richt was reportedly hired by Miami, check out our friends at State of the U.
As for Schiano, I am not convinced he wants to come back to Rutgers. I think he is dreaming bigger, and personally, I don't think new athletic director Patrick Hobbs wants to deal in the past. Hobbs is looking to create a new vision and path for Rutgers. Bringing back Schiano doesn't match up with that view. I think Schiano could potentially wind up at Virginia when the chips finally fall and all the openings are filled.
Looking at the other power five openings, Missouri was reportedly turned down by Temple head coach Matt Rhule. The same report indicates Temple is making an effort to negotiate a new contract with Rhule. It would make sense for Syracuse and Rutgers to at least inquire about his interest in their jobs. It does seem Rhule wants to stay true to his east coast roots, so that might have been a factor with Mizzou as well.
With Missouri and South Carolina likely to be considering different candidates than Rutgers, it's worth paying attention to the searches at Syracuse, Maryland and Virginia. Maryland bears the most impact on Rutgers, being a fellow member of the Big Ten East and common opponent in recruiting circles. Richt is reportedly interviewing with Maryland, in addition to Miami. If Richt landed with the Terps, it would be a big blow for Rutgers and put even more pressure on the current search.
Mark Richt on coaching again, says he will listen to anyone that is interested in him. #UGA— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 30, 2015
Mark Richt said on tonight's radio call-in show that he was contacted "by about five schools."— Anthony Dasher (@AnthonyDasher1) December 1, 2015
There has been some question as to why Rutgers wouldn't reach out to Richt, but it's possible they already have. If Rutgers and Hobbs are truly looking to hit a home run with this hire, you would think they would at least give him a call. If the money really is there to pay a new football coach, Hobbs has a tremendous opportunity to sell to Richt, or anyone else. Reasons include the New York City media market, the New Jersey recruiting ground, and a chance to compete in the best division in college football, the Big Ten East. This is not to say Richt will come to Rutgers, but it sounds like he is open to listening and for the first time in a long time, Rutgers has something to say worth listening to.
Maryland is also said to be interested in Michigan's defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. He was a finalist in our own coaching search at OTB, with Durkin losing in the finals to P.J. Fleck. UPDATE: Maryland is set to hire Durkin.
Syracuse is another opening that could attract the same candidates at Rutgers. This morning, one in particular emerged.
Our friends at Syracuse's SB Nation site listed Ash at the top of their "coaching search sexy-o meter." Ash was previously the defensive coordinator at Arkansas and Wisconsin under Bret Bielema, before coaching in the same role with Ohio State the past two seasons. He is a top coordinator who is in "future head coach in waiting" mode.
One name that was originally mentioned in the Miami opening and for Rutgers as well, is Alabama's assistant coach Mario Cristobal. I cited my reasons for Cristobal in our staff roundtable, discussing who should be the next coach at Rutgers. After hearing Hobbs emphasize the importance of recruiting and knowing he is keeping the search close to the vest, the more Cristobal's name doesn't appear for this search and others, the more I think he is a strong possibility.
The coaching landscape in college football is ever changing and right now, more so than ever. Rutgers is right in the thick of it and seems to be in capable hands during this search. Many names are being thrown around for all the current power five job openings. How each school's choice will affect the others remain to be seen. While President Barchi indicated the search for a new head coach would move quickly, expect Rutgers to explore all possibilities and do their due diligence. Maryland is farther along in this process and are likely to make their decision before Rutgers. Who they choose will have an impact on Rutgers, as well as the openings at Syracuse and Virginia. Whoever Rutgers does end up hiring in this ultra-competitive coaching market, let's hope he is the right man for the job.