Most college coaching searches are conducted over weeks — sometimes days. To find a replacement for Maryland football coach Randy Edsall, athletic director Kevin Anderson will have a couple of months.
In some ways, it might make the search easier, given that Anderson will have a lot more time than he did when he hired Edsall to replace Ralph Friedgen in 2011. In other ways, maneuvering through the process after a midseason firing is "tricky," according to former Wisconsin athletic director Pat Richter.
Richter, who since 2004 has helped universities find coaches and athletic administrators as a headhunter for a Chicago-based executive search firm, was involved in the search that led Maryland to hiring Edsall away from Connecticut.
Given the timing of Edsall's firing, Richter said Maryland has no choice but to use an outside search firm to identify potential candidates.
"There's kind of an unwritten rule in the business that if Maryland wanted to talk with a coach right now, especially if he's a head coach, they'd have to get permission from the athletic director. A search firm doesn't have to do that," Richter said Monday. "It's an advantage and I think it's a fairly big advantage."
As of Tuesday, Anderson had not decided whether to use a search firm or form a search committee to identify candidates, according to an athletic department spokesman.
Richter said midseason changes are not the norm in college football, but that it does happen.
"It happened at Minnesota with Tim Brewster, it happened at Illinois before the season started and now at Maryland. That's three in the Big Ten right there," Richter said.
Within hours after Richter spoke, two other schools with a larger national profile than Maryland found themselves looking for their next head coach.
Southern Cal athletic director Pat Haden fired Steve Sarkisian a day after Sarkisian had taken a leave of absence following an incident where the coach appeared to be drunk at an athletic department fundraising event. South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier then announced his retirement Tuesday, effective immediately.
Though the landscape has suddenly become more crowded, Maryland expects to be more competitive in attracting a high-profile coach than it was the last time.
With the help of added television revenue from its affiliation with the Big Ten, Maryland plans to significantly increase the overall package, perhaps double the $2.1 million Edsall made, according to those with knowledge of the financial framework. The new coach will likely also inherit one of the program's top recruiting classes, led by four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. Though Byrd Stadium could be considered a deterrent because of its age and size, a $155 million project that will include an indoor practice facility could be part of the lure.
Anderson still faces a number of obstacles in making a splashy hire.
One of them is that Maryland hasn't been a traditional football power and its success has been sporadic, at best. Another is the fact that the Terps are in arguably the toughest division in college football, largely because of three coaches — Urban Meyer of Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State.
"You have to have the belief — and they have to have the belief — that they are going to get the next Harbaugh or Urban Meyer," Richter said.
Richter said Maryland should be able to make a quality hire — either a current head coach or a coordinator at a highly ranked program — to replace Edsall. As athletic director at Wisconsin, Richter tried to lure Don Nehlen away from West Virginia. When Nehlen opted to remain in Morgantown, W.Va., Richter settled for Notre Dame defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez.
Going into the search, the Badgers had suffered five straight losing seasons under three different coaches. After Alvarez's first team went 1-10, and his next two were 5-6, the Badgers have been a factor in the Big Ten ever since, with winning records in 20 of 22 seasons.
Among those being mentioned are two head coaches with ties to the Big Ten: first-year Houston coach Tom Herman, a former offensive coordinator at Ohio State, and Temple coach Matt Rhule, who played at Penn State under Joe Paterno. There is also a possibility that Maryland will make a run at Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, sources said.
Richter said one question he would ask a prospective candidate was who he was bringing with him.
"Then it tells you there are people willing to put their careers on the line and they feel very confident that the person is going to be a successful head coach," Richter said.
One name that has been on Maryland's radar for a while is Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback who helped develop former Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota. Though the Ducks are not as potent as they were with Mariota, they are still ranked in the top 10 in both overall offense and scoring offense this season.
Richter said there is a bit of a gamble whenever a coaching change is made.
"I think there are guys out there like [Frost], it's risky, but there are times when it's risky with [someone who is already] a head coach," Richter said. "It has to be tailored to fit the school and the circumstances and where you're at a particular time. There's some gut feel to it."