On Tuesday, Dec. 10 news leaked that Mack Brown had stepped down from his position as Texas Longhorns head football coach. Both Texas and Brown later refuted the initial reports.
If Chip Brown’s sources are indeed correct, however, who will Texas replace Brown with? Longhorns boosters have made no secret to the fact that they are willing to open the vault for the next coach.
Let’s take a look at potential candidates, and the names that’ll be thrown around. With an athletic program as powerful as Texas, no one is off limits.
Nick Saban - Any list of coaches must begin here. University regents have previously engaged in discussions with Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton. Sexton also reportedly told the regents that UT is the only job for which his agent would leave Alabama. There are a lot of smoking guns in this story (house hunting, rogue trips to Austin, etc.), but make no mistake, this job belongs to Nick Saban if he wants it. This is one of the rare instances where the candidate has all the leverage.
The Other One
Urban Meyer - Next to Saban, Meyer is the most successful coach in college football. He is from Toledo, so it’s tough to see him leaving The Ohio State University. However, he wins wherever he goes; he instantly connects with his employer’s students, alumni and boosters; and his spread offense falls more in line with the football played in the Big 12. Given his reputation as an egomaniac, taking the helm of college football’s most powerful program could be something he’s interested in.
Jimbo Fisher - Fisher has already replaced one legendary coach and succeeded. He has resurrected FSU from football purgatory. With his team in the BCS Championship Game, and his quarterback as a Heisman frontrunner, Fisher’s stock is as high as it ever will be.
Gus Malzahn - Malzahn is in a position similar to Fisher. He also has his team in the championship game and a player among the Heisman finalists. Malzahn was the offensive coordinator on Auburn’s 2010 title team, and it’s looking more like he was the reason for the squad’s success than Gene Chizik. He also went toe-to-toe with Nick Saban and won the wildest Iron Bowl in history.
James Franklin - The man wins at Vanderbilt. He can sell a program as well as anyone in the country. Before Steve Sarkisian took the USC job, many in the country believed the position would go to Franklin. His stock also may be at an all-time high, having beaten Florida, Georgia and Tennessee for the first time in Vanderbilt history.
David Shaw - Much like Franklin, Shaw wins regardless of his school’s high academic standards. He runs a tight ship and is a class act. After Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL, Shaw kept Stanford on its upward trajectory. Stanford has won the past two Pac-12 titles, despite flying under the radar of flashier teams like Oregon and USC. Shaw will get looks from NFL teams in the offseason; expect Texas to take a look, as well.
Kevin Sumlin - Texas A&M signed Sumlin to an extension because they saw this opening coming from a mile away. He has Texas roots, is a tireless recruiter, and is young and engaging. With Johnny Manziel leaving A&M, now would be a perfect time for Sumlin to exit on a high note.
Kirby Smart - When Will Muschamp was defensive coordinator for the Longhorns, he was pegged as the “coach in waiting.” Muschamp then left for a top-tier Florida program. If Texas chooses to go with the top coordinator, Smart is the pick. He has been Nick Saban’s right-hand during Alabama’s championship run. With Kirby Smart, it’s not if he will leave Tuscaloosa, but when. He is as prepared as an assistant can be.
The Kitchen Sink
With a program as high-profile as Texas, be prepared to hear any name under the sun. Names like Harbaugh and Gruden will surface, but not materialize. Gary Kubiak, with his Texas roots and open availability, may be batted around. Jack Del Rio was a candidate for the USC job. Chip Kelly may even get some play. Assistants like Tim Davis and Chad Morris may get thrown around. Heck, even strong incumbents like Les Miles or (gasp) Bob Stoops may catch a little buzz.
Texas is the premier athletics program in the country, and it wields more power than any university. When a team with a walk-in wallet willingly acknowledges that it will open up the checkbook, expect the unexpected.