Coaching searches are big, confusing, unyielding things to try to cover. Nobody wants to talk, which too often leads to wild speculation. Those who have been through enough of them begin to understand the rhythm of how these might work, though, and Don Markus is one of those people. He was kind enough share his thoughts on Maryland's search for Ralph Friedgen's replacement with The Toy Department.
Coaching searches are often like state secrets -- until the first leak is sprung.
In Maryland's case, that already happened when Mike Leach's name surfaced in connection with the vacancy created by Ralph Friedgen's firing after next week's Military Bowl. It was no coincidence that the relationship between Leach and one of the athletic program's biggest donors, Under Armour founder (and former Maryland special teams captain) Kevin Plank, was mentioned prominently in some early media reports.
But the other names mentioned - Randy Edsall, Tyrone Willingham and Mike Locksley - make absolutely no sense.
Edsall, the 52-year-old Connecticut coach was in the running for the Notre Dame job last year. Given the issues Brian Kelly had in his first season in South Bend, Edsall could wind up there sooner than later after taking the Huskies to their first BCS bowl game this season as Big East champions. I thought of Edsall eventually coming to Maryland when Friedgen was coming off a 2-10 season and Connecticut AD Jeff Hathaway was rumored last summer to be heading back to his alma mater. That didn't happen, and it appears neither will Edsall.
Willingham had success at Stanford and early on at Notre Dame, but his four-year stay at Washington, culminating with an 0-11 record in 2008, essentially ended his major college head coaching career. As recently as last summer, Willingham told a reporter in North Carolina that he was retired from coaching. Kevin Anderson, who is already being criticized for the way he handled Fridge's firing, should let it be known as soon as possible that Willingham is not on Maryland's short - or long - list.
Same goes for Mike Locksley. Though highly regarded as a recruiter at Maryland and Illinois, Locksley has been a disaster on and off the field at New Mexico. The Lobos have gone 1-11 in each of Locksley's two years, and the only time he has made national news was for allegedly punching an assistant coach and harrassing a female staff member. So that eliminates Locksley.
So who aside from Leach is on the list - and who might be worth interviewing?
While I believe that Leach remains the best choice to fill seats immediately, compete for ACC championships and graduate players (nearly 80 percent at Texas Tech), Anderson and Maryland president Wallace Loh seem to exude a different aura than their respective predecessors. Unless Plank is really calling the shots - and that remains a possibility - I see them going after candidates with a certain kind of pedigree and personality that doesn't quite fit the mold of the former Texas Tech coach.
If that happens, here are four names to ponder:
Paul Chryst: The 45-year-old Wisconsin offensive coordinator could emerge as a serious candidate, if he's interested in leaving his hometown and alma mater. The Rose Bowl-bound Badgers have been an offensive juggernaut this season, with the nation's fourth-best scoring average (43.5). Over the past five years, Wisconsin has averaged more than 30 points and close to 400 yards a game. Chryst was at Oregon State for two seasons (2003-04) when Anderson was the school's assistant athletic director and has connections to Pat Richter, the former Wisconsin AD who Anderson hired as a consultant on the search. I think if Leach's messy departure at Texas Tech and quirky personality become a sticking point, Chryst could be sold to fans, boosters and the administration in College Park. After all, Friedgen had never been a head coach before returning to Maryland in 2000. Chryst, who many in the Big Ten thought was going to become the new Minnesota coach, is not known as a dynamic recruiter, but neither is the man he'd be replacing.
Ken Niumatalolo: The third-year Navy coach has continued the success of Paul Johnson in Annapolis. He has won 27 games (going into Thursday night's Poinsettia Bowl against San Diego State), including two wins over Notre Dame. The option offense is definitely not an attraction for a large segment of recruits or fans, but Niumatalolo also spent time calling plays for John Robinson after the former USC coach went to UNLV. With quarterback Ricky Dobbs and some other top Navy players graduating, the Midshipmen might have a little rebuilding to do. Having covered Niumatalolo, I think it will take a lot to pry him away.
Jeff Tedford: With Anderson's ties to the West Coast and Pac-10, you know he's familiar with the Cal coach. Though the Golden Bears are coming off their worst season (5-7) since Tedford took over in 2002, he is known for being offensive-minded and producing future NFL quarterbacks, including Aaron Rodgers. (He also coached Kyle Boller, as well as Trent Dilfer, so Ravens fans might be impressed.) Tedford's son is playing for him right now, but he might be tired of trying to win the Pac-10, having done it only once (2006) and likely won't again given the rise of Oregon and Stanford.
Larry Johnson: The longtime Penn State assistant has been mentioned when the Maryland job opened in the past, mostly because of his ties to the area as a high school coach in Charles County and in Nothern Virginia as well as a dominant recruiter for Joe Paterno. Some believe that Johnson has remained at Penn State so long that he might eventually take over, but he is closing in on 60 and probably will be viewed as too old when Paterno decides to retire. He would certainly have the edge on any potential candidate when it comes to recruiting, but this seems like a longshot.
Now, your turn: Who do you think Maryland should hire?
- College Football
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