We are now into week FOUR of the Rutgers football coaching search and it’s STILL early in the process. I thought it would fun to look at potential candidates who have been mentioned in various capacities throughout and evaluate how they are currently trending on the field this season. A lot can change from now until December, when Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs said he plans to make the hire, so we will attempt to do a weekly stock watch for candidates. To be clear, this isn’t based on anything else other than how their current teams are performing and how they are perceived at the moment, hence affecting their stock as coaches within college football. Whether Rutgers is actively pursuing these candidates or not remains to be seen, as it’s very early in the search process and very little concrete news has come out. Let’s kick it off!
Princeton head coach Bob Surace
So I tweeted this Saturday night and I was surprised to see my mentions flooded with responses.
Meanwhile Bob Surace has won 15 games in a row and his team scored 65 points today.— Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) October 19, 2019
I understand people have doubts with Surace since he is coaching at the FCS level, but I think his background, experience, offensive expertise, and local connections make him a top candidate. As I responded to another tweet this weekend, literally my only concern with Surace is whether he actually wants the Rutgers job. In fact, its likely he wouldn’t based on the great situation he as at Princeton as an alum and the lack of pressure/quality of life he currently has. However, Rutgers MUST consider him and at least inquire about what his initial thoughts are. I’m sure they will, if they haven’t already.
Memphis head coach Mike Norvell
Another coach with an impressive offensive background, Memphis blew out Tulane this weekend by the score of 47-17. They are now 6-1 and have scored 40+ points four times this season. Although I don’t think it’s likely Norvell would take the Rutgers job if offered, due to the fact the search firm that AD Pat Hobbs hired last week, it’s likely he will be contacted. Ventura Partners led the search for Kansas State’s football head coaching job in the last year and Norvell was a finalist for the position, per this report from Keith Sargeant. However, I think he is more likely to wait and take an SEC job that opens this offseason, which there could be more than a couple that do. Still, he should be a name considered who is having a great season.
Last week’s NJ.com’s poll on the coaching search delivered a predictable result, as 56% of almost 6,000 voters picked Greg Schiano as their choice to be the next head coach of Rutgers. What was surprising was that Other, which could be any candidate not listed in the poll that included everyone list in last week’s stock watch post, garnered 4.6% of the vote. That was more votes than Butch Jones, Joe Moorhead, Willie Fritz, Jason Candle and Lance Leipold received. It makes me think that whoever is hired, there will be a certain amount of fans that will be unsatisfied not matter who is ultimately hired. One wild card name mentioned by some in the comment section was former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, the current New England Patriots defensive line coach. I would be very surprised if he emerged as a candidate and the whole other choice reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Brewster’s Millions. Richard Pryor’s character ran for mayor of New York City as “None of the Above” candidate and won. The “other” is what anyone else, including Schiano, is not: a perfect choice on paper.
The banners, t-shirts and chants were everywhere Saturday for Homecoming at Rutgers. I imagine the fervor will grow more voracious by the week, both at home games and within social media circles. Schiano also is the closest thing to the “other” candidate, as his stock doesn’t ever go down week to week because he isn’t actively coaching. We profiled the pros and cons of his candidacy here and I wrote about how his candidacy is hanging over the entire search here.
Currently an offensive analyst for a college football team named Alabama. We profiled his candidacy here, but no word on whether Rutgers is actually considering him or not.
His name is getting mentioned more and more and he actually garnered 10.3% of the vote on the poll conducted last week by NJ.com, good for second place behind Schiano. That actually shocked me, as he hasn’t coached in college since being fired by Miami in 2015. His background is also on defense. Whether Rutgers has interest remains to be seen, but his upside with recruiting locally and power five experience is another plus.
I’ve said before there should be names of candidates that haven’t been revealed yet and based on a somewhat underwhelming list so far, it’s fair for Rutgers fans to hope that a big name or even an intriguing one will emerge during this search. I don’t have any idea who might emerge that we aren’t currently expecting, but there will be someone I suspect.
Tulane head coach Willie Fritz
Fritz is a proven program builder that absolutely deserves to be considered, but Tulane suffered a big loss to Memphis this past week and dropped to 5-2 this season. It’s still major progress for that program and while Fritz might not be the sexy pick, Rutgers could do a lot worse than him. He also makes $1.2 million, so they could double his salary and still have plenty leftover to put a great deal of money into the assistant coaching pool.
Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead
The potential candidacy of Moorhead is reaching soap opera like levels. Between saying at his game week presser that losing in the SEC “crushes your soul” and then his responses to Paul Finebaum’s questions about the Rutgers job here, Moorhead is becoming the most talked about candidate other than Schiano. Keith Sargeant reported last week that Moorhead is in fact a candidate and he would require just under a $2 million dollar buyout to leave Mississippi State. He is making $3.05 million this season, so Rutgers would likely need to increase his annual salary to lure him to Piscataway. While Rutgers fans seem down on his candidacy, as MSU fell to 3-4 this weekend after a blowout loss to no. 2 LSU, I think Moorhead is certainly worth considering. He built Fordham from one of the worst to one of the best programs in FCS, flourished as offensive coordinator at Penn State, and still has a chance to win six games and go to a second consecutive bowl game at Mississippi State this season.
Toledo head coach Jason Candle
Toledo lost for the second week in a row and were blown out by Ball State in embarrassing fashion 52-14. They are now 4-3 on the season but 1-2 in the MAC. Candle still hasn’t established himself enough to be considered for a power five job in my opinion.
Army head coach Jeff Monken
Army lost a third straight game after falling to Georgia State (5-2) by the score of 28-21. Now Georgia State did beat Tennessee earlier this season, but they also lost to Western Michigan by 47 points. Regardless, Army is now a disappointing 3-4 on the season. I still think Monken is worth a phone call and perhaps he has ideas on how to modify his offensive style if he did coach in the Big Ten.
Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold
Buffalo won this past weekend against Akron 21-0 to move to 3-4, but the Zips are 0-7 this season, so I didn’t move Leipold off the trending down list. I think the road to six wins will be difficult and if he doesn’t reach that mark, Buffalo will have just one winning season in five years under Leipold.
Candidates Not Realistic To Consider
I’ve gotten plenty of emails and mentions on twitter asking about certain candidates listed below, so here are my abbreviated thoughts on each:
Urban Meyer (stop never happening); Bob Stoops (same); Jim Leavitt (not a good fit at Rutgers); Matt Rhule (signed big extension at Baylor); Rod Carey (huge buyout at Temple); Charlie Weis (out of the game for 5 years); Darren Rizzi (former Rutgers assistant but was college head coach just one season at URI after spending past decade plus in NFL); Lane Kiffin (I’d be surprised if he was considered due to his wild card reputation); any coordinator without head coaching experience (I think there is a 99.9% chance Rutgers would not hire one this time).
Until next week on the stock watch. We will have plenty more coaching search coverage throughout this week, which you can follow it all here.