It’s a thought that puts dread in the minds of every Big 12 athletic director. Choosing a football coach arguably is the toughest part of the job. And if it has to be done suddenly, it adds more trepidation.
What if a football coach quit, say, tomorrow?
All good athletic directors have a special place in their Rolodex or iPhone that lists potential job candidates. They just hope they don’t have to turn there in panic.
It’s an interesting thought. If an athletic director had to hire a football coach immediately, what happens?
Here’s a fun look at the Big 12 programs and potential coaching replacements in the future.
The Big 12 and fun potential coaching changes
Baylor — The Bears had to turn to an immediate replacement last season when Art Briles left the program in May 2016. Jim Grobe was plucked out of retirement and did enough as interim coach to lead Baylor to a victory in the Cactus Bowl. New athletic director Mack Rhoades picked an unconventional replacement, but appeared to find a keeper in Matt Rhule from Temple.
If Rhoades had to make another quick choice, how about North Carolina coach Larry Fedora? He’s a former Baylor assistant coach and a native of College Station, Texas, who might want to return close to his roots.
Iowa State — Matt Campbell appears to have the Cyclones trending in the right direction with a potential shot at their first bowl game since 2005. But what if an athletic director at a bigger school on the food chain chose to pluck Campbell? If that were the case, ISU could tap another Group of Five program and aim for Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin.
Kansas — The Jayhawks have been the doormats of the Big 12 for so long that David Beaty’s rebuild probably should come with an extra season, considering the challenges he is facing. If something happened to him, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger used his connections from running football operations for Bill Snyder at Kansas State to pull in Jim Leavitt for his first head coaching job in the Big 12.
Kansas State — Bill Snyder can’t coach forever, can he? If he quit tomorrow there likely would be a big push for KSU athletic director Gene Taylor to stay inside the Wildcats family and hire Snyder’s son, Sean, a former KSU All-America punter who now works as the program’s director of football operations. But a stronger choice would be Snyder’s most notable current assistant — Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. The former KSU linebacker would unite the masses.
Oklahoma — OU athletic director Joe Castiglione was faced with this kind of decision last month and was fortunate to have Bob Stoops’ replacement ready and on his staff. He plugged the vacancy with Lincoln Riley. But if Castiglione would be forced to fill another hole quickly, it would be a tough decision.
Former Sooner assistants Kevin Sumlin might have been considered a few years ago, but not now. Same with Mike Stoops. Considering the Sooners’ place in college football, they would have some attractive options. The Sooners traditionally thrive by plucking the next great assistant coach, so how about Dave Aranda at LSU?
Oklahoma State — Mike Gundy is no longer 40 and seems to have grown up in the OSU job. If he left, former Cowboys assistant Fedora might get some run. Les Miles is available but likely past coming back. OSU likes to stay within the program. Two current assistants have done well under Gundy, so let’s go with offensive assistant Mike Yurcich or defensive assistant Glenn Spencer.
TCU — If something happened to Gary Patterson, TCU AD Chris Del Conte might be tempted to stay within Patterson’s staff and promote one of his two co-offensive coordinators — Sonny Cumbie or Curtis Luper. But how about the sizzle factor of former OU quarterback, TCU offensive coordinator and current Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente?
Texas — Tom Herman looks to be anchored in Austin for a long run, but what if athletic director Mike Perrin had to turn somewhere else? Some big cigars around the Longhorns program still wonder why Nick Saban wasn’t hired when Mack Brown left. UT sugar daddy Red McCombs pushed for Jon Gruden when that opening occurred. But how about this ultimate “We’re Texas” move: hiring Bob Stoops and injecting serious venom into the Red River Rivalry.
Texas Tech — Kliff Kingsbury could be shown the door if Tech struggles again this season. If a vacancy materialized, some Tech alums would want to turn to Cumbie, a former Red Raiders quarterback. Because of the difficulties recruiting in west Texas, a strong emerging coach such as UTSA’s Frank Wilson (former recruiter of the year at LSU) might work. Former Tech assistant and East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill is back at Oklahoma and would make sense.
But as far as the ultimate out-of-the-box solution, what if athletic director Kirby Hocutt plucked Tech’s most successful coach of all time, the old pirate himself, Mike Leach? It assuredly would reverse Leach’s “Curse of the Pirate” that has befallen the school.
West Virginia — Rich Rodriguez might be available after another rough season at Arizona. But Nick Saban grew up in Fairmont, W.Va. He was a defensive backs coach on Frank Cignetti’s staff for the Mountaineers in the late 1970s. But plucking him from Alabama is a dream scenario that borders on delusional. A more believable choice might be Marshall’s Doc Holliday, a former Mountaineers associate head coach.