Who should Maryland hire to rebuild the football program? Here are five possibilities

Whoever accepts the job as DJ Durkin’s successor at Maryland should understand this: The last football coach to leave College Park by his own choice was Bobby Ross in 1987.

Now, who’s interested?

In his first major hire since becoming athletic director in late June, Damon Evans should try to make the hire as soon as he can while the best candidates are still on the market.

Here is a list of some possibilities:

Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley

Why he could get the job.

As soon as Durkin was placed on administrative leave in mid-August, many pointed to the former longtime Terps assistant and offensive coordinator as a potential replacement.

Locksley, 48, remains a popular figure among former Maryland players he helped recruit — Vernon Davis, Shawne Merriman and Stefon Diggs among them — as well as with local high school coaches and even some current Terps.

His candidacy has only been enhanced this season by the offensive dominance of the Crimson Tide, particularly in the play of quarterback and Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa. Locksley is a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant.

Unlike former Maryland coach Randy Edsall, whose comment about Maryland being his “dream job” was scoffed at throughout his nearly five-year tenure, this actually could be that for Locksley, who grew up in the area and played at Towson State.

Why he might not get it (or take it)

Unless Locksley can somehow persuade Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s No. 2 quarterback, to join him in College Park, those who didn’t think Locksley should replace Edsall back in 2015 probably haven’t changed their minds. Evans could be one of them.

As much as he has proved to be an effective offensive coordinator even before his time in Tuscaloosa, his record as a head coach — 2-26 in a little over two seasons at New Mexico and 1-5 after taking over for Edsall — remains a sticking point.

When is the last time a coach with a 3-31 record ever got another shot? It might actually be better to find someone with the same type of resume as Locksley’s who hasn’t been a head coach to sell as a legitimate successor to Durkin.

There has also been speculation that Locksley didn’t like the way he was treated by former athletic director Kevin Anderson and Evans after the 2015 season ended and won’t take the Maryland job unless Evans is gone before the hire is made, which seems unlikely.

Maryland interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada

Why he could get the job

As the team’s offensive coordinator since early January and the interim coach for the past three months, the 46-year-old Canada built a big support base among the players and their parents.

According to those familiar with the situation, he also built a good relationship with Evans, who knows something about taking over after being the interim.

Canada did a great job with the media, loosening things up in terms of access, especially with the freshmen Durkin rarely allowed to be interviewed and who play a vital role for the Terps.

That Maryland still has to pay Canada for the next three seasons (around $2 million total) might also come into play for a school that now needs to shell out over $5 million to pay off Durkin.

Why he might not get it (or take it)

It’s not only that Canada might not get the job, it’s possible he could get a better offer — at least a solid one — before Evans is ready to make a move.

An Indiana native, Canada has already been mentioned as a legitimate candidate at Purdue if Jeff Brohm leaves to go back to his alma mater at Louisville to replace Bobby Petrino.

There is also a matter of the team’s offense, which played well in stretches against Texas, the overtime loss to Ohio State as well as against some of the Big Ten’s second-tier teams, but struggled against nearly every other quality opponent.

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell

Why he could get the job

The fact that he is closely tied to Ohio State — as both a player and later as an assistant under Jim Tressel, as interim head coach after Tressel was fired and then as a co-defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer — is certainly a plus on anyone’s resume.

If Fickell, 45, gets one of Maryland’s top recruiters, wide receivers coach Chris Beatty or cornerbacks coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, to remain in College Park, that would be helpful, as would Fickell’s own recruiting connections in Ohio.

Why he might not get it (or take it)

Before this season’s 10-2 mark, Fickell’s record as a head coach was not exactly overwhelming. He was 6-7 replacing Tressel at Ohio State during the 2011 season, and he’s now 14-10 during his two years as a full-time head coach with the Bearcats.

Fickell inherited a program that had averaged nearly nine wins a season for a decade under previous coaches such as Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones and Tommy Tuberville. All but Tuberville used the Bearcats to get a better job.

Given Meyer’s health scares — including his current situation with an arachnoid cyst in his brain that he manages with medication yet still has led Meyer to have some problems on the sideline this season — Fickell might be waiting for his former boss to retire.

Ohio State co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day

Why he might get the job

The attraction to Day is pretty obvious.

Aside from his connection to the Buckeyes, there’s Day’s age (39) and offensive ties to Chip Kelly that go back to his days as a college quarterback at New Hampshire playing for then-unknown coordinator.

Day has a track record as an assistant at programs that were turned around such as Boston College and Temple. Doing it as a head coach is totally different, but Day can also claim to have the highest winning percentage (3-0 taking over for Meyer during his suspension).

Why he might not get it (or take it)

Even more than Fickell, Day might have already been deemed the coach-in-waiting if Meyer decides to pack it in or is told by his doctors and wife to do so. Being designated as the interim was certainly an indication of how Meyer and Ohio State AD Gene Smith feel about him.

While Fickell has a perfect record as an interim, which given the opposition to start the season wasn’t much a surprise, Evans’ top priority after finding someone who can recruit the Baltimore-Washington corridor is making sure he gets someone who can coach. Day’s record is pretty inconclusive.

Washington State coach Mike Leach

Why he could get the job

There are still some fans who speak in terms of what-if: What would the state of the program be now if “The Pirate” had spent the past eight years in College Park instead of the past seven in Pullman, Wash?

For the same reason that Anderson gave serious thought to hiring Leach back then — despite his quirky behavior and the possibility of a lawsuit against ESPN’s Craig James still being discussed — Evans should do the same this time.

Leach, 57, would not only fill seats at Maryland Stadium with his version of Hal Mumme’s “Air Raid Offense,” his political tweets and less-than-politically correct comments might actually take some headlines away from the pro teams in Washington and Baltimore.

Why he might not get it (or take it)

There are still many on campus who remember how things went awry when it looked as if Leach was going to replace Ralph Friedgen back in 2010.

While the details vary depending on who you talk to, the consensus was that Leach would not play well along the Beltway as he would in places like Lubbock, Texas, and Pullman.

Given the fact that President Wallace Loh will still be around until the end of June, if not longer, it seems unlikely Leach would come unless he got assurances there will be a change in leadership.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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