October 28, 2014

The List, Part III

It's inevitable, folks.  Mike London is going to piss away the 9-win talent we have on the team and finish 4-8 or 5-7... and finally, mercifully, FINALLY get shitcanned.

Say what you will about the Virginia job.  I happen to be very bullish about the fact that it's a good job in the world of college football.  We're in a Power 5 conference.  We have good facilities and a sound infrastructure.  Our fans have - at times in the past - filled a 60,000+ seat stadium.  We're located in fertile recruiting territory, with close proximity to Northern Virginia and the DC Metro area, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.  The ACC presents a fairly easy path to winning seasons and bowl appearances.  After a decade-plus of losing, the fanbase is ready to back even a modest winner; our expectations are through-the-floor low, and easy to meet (and exceed).  Recent performance on the field will tell you that we're on par with the Kansases, Colorados, and Indianas of the world... but the Virginia job is much better than any of those.  Still, we won't be able to compete against Florida or Michigan for the big-name coaching talent.  We have to find a guy who believes in the upside present at Virginia; who can hear the Sleeping Giant snoring.

Is Virginia a so-called "destination job?"  Maybe, maybe not.  But I hold out hope that we'll find our next George Welsh with this upcoming search, not just a guy who'll come in and win, and then use that success as a stepping stone to a bigger / better opportunity.  I want us to find our version of Gary Patterson.  (And no, Gary Patterson isn't leaving TCU to come be our Gary Patterson.)

This post is my attempt to present to Wahooze Nation the first, best, and most comprehensive list of candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant head coaching position at the University of Virginia.  

You won't see mention of any totally unrealistic candidates.  (For example, the name Mike Tomlin has appeared on at least one reputed message board, and that's just nuts.  Tomlin isn't going to leave the Steelers to come coach at UVA.  Jeez.  Mike Tomlin's not on The List.  Gary Patterson's not on The List.)  

You also won't see mention of any candidates who are well below the standard we should be setting.  (For example, as much as I love the offense Bob Stitt has built at the Colorado School of Mines, he's still too small-time for our coaching search.  Stitt's not on The List.)  

I'm trying to make The List complete, but I don't want it to be exhaustive.  That's not the goal!  The goal is to present a list of candidates, any of whom I think have a realistic chance to be the next head football coach at the University of Virginia.

Bob Stitt, genius architect of the fly-sweep,
is NOT a viable candidate for the UVA head coaching vacancy.

I wrote Part I and Part II a year ago.  A lot of things have changed, but a lot of things remain the same.  I still have the following preferences...

1) The candidate should possess a specific D-1A / FBS background. I don't want NFL guys, and I don't want D-1AA (or lower) guys. Not that the NFLers and AAers don't have their merits, but Al Groh (NFL background) and Mike London (1AA background) haunt my dreams. I just want a coach who is familiar with this specific level of football, and is comfortable trying to build a winner from the back end of a BCS conference.
No more Mike Londons.
2) I want a coach who comes from a successful program and/or from a successful coaching tree. I want the coach to be very familiar with winning, to know what it takes to win, to know what winning tastes like, and to understand the inner workings of a winning program.  He needs to bring a strong blueprint to the drafting table.

3) He needs to be young. Not old. Despite London's failings, I'm okay with getting another guy who can grow along with the program, because that would go on to promote loyalty when the coach ascends to notoriety. But also - call me an ageist, that's fine - I just like young and energetic guys more than I like old fuddy-duddies. Personal preference.

Sorry, June Jones.  You're too old.
And too grouchy.

4) My preference, and this is a strong preference, is that the coach has an extensive background coaching on the offensive side of the ball. I'm open to current/former offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, wide receiver coaches, etc. I just want an offensive-minded head coach, and break away from the Groh and London rut of always putting the defense first and only giving us splattered dogshit to look at on O.

5) Most importantly, I think we need a coach who will install and run a specific offensive system at UVA. I'm talking a comprehensive system that transcends plays and formations and Xs and Os, and gives us an tangible offensive identity to build up and then build around. Once you have that, you can recruit specific pieces and parts to fit that system. My personal preference is for high-octane passing offenses, hurry-up spreads and whatnot, and specifically the Air Raid. (And look, part of the reason I want the Air Raid is because it's a brand of football that would be a blast to watch. Sometimes the plight of the fan doesn't need to be so complicated. Bring in a guy who runs a fun system, and the fans will be happy and excited to come and watch it, and the recruits will flock to it. Air Raid fueled by 757 talent... it could be tremendous.)

And I have a few *NEW* preferences...

6) I see Virginia as a southern school when it comes to football.  Therefore, I want a new coach to bring a little bit of that southern football attitude.  Not a win-at-all-costs mentality like you'll see in the SEC... but maybe a win-at-many-costs mentality.  And I want to see our team go out and hit some people, and play with some real passion.  I want to see us play southern football.

7) The new coach has to be a good "sell" to the fanbase.  As in, he either needs to be a hot name, or have a system to get excited about, or have a gaudy winning record behind him.  We've got to get into the business of wooing back our fans, and the most important part of that is hiring a buzz-worthy new head coach.

8) No soft touch.  No mickeymouse bullshit.  And please, no crying.  I want a taskmaster, not a players' coach.  Mike London is supposedly beloved by his players, but what has that gotten us?  (The answer to the rhetorical question: a 1-13 record against our biggest rivals.)  Instead, I'd like to see the next coach be the sort of dude who'll put his foot up someone's ass and then break it off.  Muff a punt?  Fuck you, go grab some bench.  Miss a block?  Fuck you, hit the pine.  Miss a tackle?  Welcome to the third team, asshole.  I guess what I'm saying is that on the Al Groh to Mike London scale, I want a guy somewhere in the middle, with maybe a slight shade to the Groh side.

Okay, enough preamble.  You want The List, I want to give you The List.  Let's do it.

Guys from the first two Lists I still like:

Mark Hudspeth, HC, Louisiana-Lafayette -- He'll be one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel when it starts spinning in late November / early December.  He checks all eight of the boxes for the preferences I listed above.  The problem - and it's a BIG problem - is that the Virginia job might now be too small-time for Huddy.  It's pretty much common knowledge that he'll get an SEC offer before too long, and now that he's making north of $1 million per season at ULL, he can afford to be patient.  He might even be the guy in the crosshairs for the Florida opening.  A good article if you want to learn more about Hudspeth: UL-Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth's vision becomes reality as 2014 season nears  NFL executives have said: "He really seems to have the pulse of his team, but he doesn't micromanage. He's a creative offensive guy and he can recruit. That's not an easy place to win and he's done just that." "The guy at Louisiana-Lafayette would be my choice. He's turned that place around. He's found a way to win nine games each of the three years he's been there. He did a nice job at North Alabama earlier in his career, too. He's a winner."  (Source: Ask 5: Top up-and-coming coaches outside 'Power 5' leagues)

If we want Huddy, we have to pounce quickly and decisively.

Pat Narduzzi, DC, Michigan State -- He was a atop UConn's wish list a year ago, but withdrew from the search.  He's on the radar at Kansas, but seems to be keeping it at arm's length.  I think, ultimately, Narduzzi is a guy whose star is so big right now, he'll be able to hand-pick his head coaching opportunity.  I actually think that the Virginia job might offer the best of what Narduzzi is looking for --- it's not Florida or Michigan, but offers a [far] better crack at big-time success than UConn or Kansas.  Anyway, I think this is a guy we'll really need to keep tabs on once our search starts heating up.  If you want to gain a better understanding of Narduzzi the candidate and what he'd bring to the table at UVA, HERE's a good read.  (Warning, prepare to get excited.)

Chad Morris, OC, Clemson -- The shine is coming off a little bit, now that Tajh Boyd, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Dwayne Allen, and Andre Ellington are all in the NFL.  Still, Morris is a phenomenal offensive mind, and the "Smashmouth Spread" is a sight to behold.  He's a Texas guy, and is probably holding out for a P5 job in the state of Texas.  But with A&M, UT, and Texas Tech nowhere close to replacing their coaches, why couldn't Virginia be a possible destination?  One thing is certain -- we'd need to top Morris' annual salary of $1.3 million.  Yikes.  I don't think Chad Morris-to-UVA is the pipe dream it once was; his profile has shrunk and his options have thinned out.  But it's still a very expensive option for such a relatively unknown head coaching commodity.

Mike Bobo, OC, Georgia -- He just hit the big four-oh (so he's the right age), comes equipped with the Mark Richt blueprint, and is ready to take over his own program.  He's never been outside the Bulldawgs cocoon, which is a concern.  Still, since 2001, Bobo has served an integral role in helping Georgia win close to 70% of its games against SEC opponents.  Seven times, the Bulldogs have finished in the Top 10 of the final rankings.  His name is one that is gaining traction very quickly, and knowing how much Hoofans coveted Richt once upon a time (prior to hiring Al Groh in 2000)... why not now invest in Richt Junior?  (To learn a bit more about the offense Mike Bobo runs at Georgia, click HERE.)

Philip Montgomery, OC, Baylor -- I hear Montgomery is "notoriously private," and maybe he doesn't aspire to a head coaching job away from Art Briles' loving bosom.  But hey, anyone with the keys to the Baylor Offensive Machine, and who studied under The Architect, should be strongly considered for any P5 opening in 2014.  That includes Virginia.

Scott Frost, OC, Oregon -- Detecting a theme here yet?  Young offensive coordinator, juggernaut modern offense.  Scott Frost knows the Blur, and he probably has an idea on how to build it from scratch.  Being a midwestern kid who played his college ball at Nebraska, Frost is already in the center of the radar for the Kansas opening... but if that doesn't pan out, I think he definitely merits at least an interview at UVA.

Ruffin McNeill, HC, ECU -- He's coaching at his alma mater, so I highly doubt he'd leave.  That said, Virginia could more than triple his $400K yearly salary.  Landing McNeill might mean also landing Lincoln Riley as our new offensive coordinator, which would mean the Air Raid would be arriving at UVA.  Amen and Hallelujah.

Greg Schiano, currently unemployed -- Okay, yes, he's a dick.  He's a dick, and he was a flop in Tampa Bay.  But you have to remember 2001 thru 2011, when Schiano won at Rutgers - AT RUTGERS!!! - and took the Scarlet Knights to six bowl games in seven years.  At one point, Schiano was a legit head coaching candidate at Miami.  Anyway, he's a dick, but he's a damn good football coach who knows how to build a successful college program from the ground up.  HERE's a fun read about Schiano's defensive philosophy (his background is on the defensive side of the ball).

Willie Fritz, HC, Georgia Southern -- Georgia Southern is 6-2 in its first season in the FBS, and the man leading the charge is Willie Fritz.  He's not young, but he's good, sporting a zesty .691 record through stops at Central Missouri and Sam Houston State prior to arriving at Georgia Southern.  Make no mistake, this is not a sexy option for UVA... but it might be a smart option.  Fritz could step in and lead us to a decade of relative success before retiring and passing the program along to the next coach, in a much better state than it's in today.

Troy Calhoun, HC, Air Force -- I think this ship probably sailed in 2009.  HOWEVER, a poster on Wahoos247 presented a compelling argument. "My choice is Troy Calhoun. I think he can be pulled from the Air Force Academy even though he is an alum. He has pro experience at Houston and ACC experience at Wake. He may enjoy a nice change of scenery. He runs a disciplined program with tough academic requirements."  I still buy Calhoun as a candidate for the UVA job.  It's an underwhelming option, but it checks a lot of the boxes the UVA administration will be interested in checking.

New names -- poach-a-coach options from other colleges:

Matt Wells, HC, Utah State -- NFL executives have said: "He's a sharp, focused guy. I like his demeanor and presence. He'll get a big job soon." "He inherited a good program, but he's done a nice job."  (Source: Ask 5: Top up-and-coming coaches outside 'Power 5' leagues)  Matt Wells is a Utah State alum, but his star is on the rise in a very big way.  I'm not sure exactly why, but Matt Wells feels like a fit for UVA.  He's certainly well-respected in the coaching community, and if our search began in the back channels a year ago, Wells might be a guy whose name has continued to bubble up.

Justin Fuente, HC, Memphis -- Yeahbuddy.  Even fucking Memphis has been able to find a quality coach while we've been pulling our pud with Mike London.  The good news is that it's Memphis, and we can poach this guy pretty easily if we wanted to.  Fuente saw first-hand how Gary Patterson built the TCU program, and is in year three of doing the same good work for the Tigers.  His overall losing record would be a tough sell to Hoofans, but I think we'll see Memphis in a bowl game at the end of this season.

Matt Campbell, HC, Toledo -- Young dude, bright mind, winning at Toledo.  I include his name on The List because I feel like I'm obligated, because he gets mentioned for every mid-level P5 opening that materializes.  But speaking honestly, I would be incredibly underwhelmed if Matt Campbell were Virginia's next head coach.

Tony Levine, HC, Houston -- "Given all the big-name coordinators who passed through Houston under Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin, it seemed like a stretch when athletics director Mack Rhoades gave the job to a relatively unknown career special teams coach. But Levine has proved to be a smart, efficient recruiter and promising CEO. After going 8-5 last season, the Cougars are primed to take the next step and could very well win the American Athletic Conference and the major bowl bid that goes to the highest-ranked 'Group of Five' team."  (Source: 10 college football coaches poised to emerge as hot hires)  Smart, efficient, promising CEO... that sounds like exactly the kind of dude I want running Virginia Football.  This would not be an easy sell to Hoofans, but I think Levine is engaging enough to win fans over quickly.

Doc Holliday, HC, Marshall -- His name is popular on the message boards because OH MY GOD MARSHALL IS EIGHT AND OH!  But look, Holliday is an older dude (he's 57) who's in just his fifth season as a head coach.  He's built something with the Thundering Herd, no doubt... but I think that story is theirs, not ours.  He ain't our huckleberry.  But if you insist, HERE's a really good Q&A with the Good Doctor.

"I have not yet begun to defile myself."

Joey Jones, HC, South Alabama -- "Only the hardest of hardcore fans would know about the job Jones has done in building South Alabama's program from scratch. But last season, just the Jaguars' second in FBS, they beat Tulane, Western Kentucky, Kent State and Louisiana-Lafayette and nearly knocked off Tennessee in Knoxville. Another good year and he won't be a secret much longer."  (Source: 10 college football coaches poised to emerge as hot hires)  South Alabama is 5-2, but with no marquee wins in 2014.  Joey Jones is a name that might pop soon, but it's not popping yet.

Kyle Flood, HC, Rutgers -- Meh.  I'd rather have Greg Schiano than a Greg Schiano disciple.

New names -- college coordinators throbbing for a promotion:

Rhett Lashlee, OC, Auburn -- He's only 31 years old, but has been coaching under Gus Malzahn for a decade.  Lashlee would be a huge risk, but it would be the kind of bold choice that could lead to the rare proverbial 'home run hire.'  I will say this, we could do much worse than to pick a guy who comes equipped with the Malzahn Blueprint.  (THIS OFFENSE would be my dream come true for UVA.)  Plus, it is said that Lashlee is much more at home and comfortable in the spotlight than is his boss... so... Young guy with charisma, building the Malzahn offense at Virginia?  Sign me up.

Tom Herman, OC, Ohio State -- The talking heads are saying all colleges with openings should be taking a long look at this dude.  He's 39, and it seems like the timing is right for him to get a head coaching job like the one that will be available at Virginia.  Herman is a Texan, so - like Chad Morris - his attention might be fixed on openings in the Longhorn state.  The intriguing thing here is the Urban Meyer coaching tree.

Brent Venables, DC, Clemson -- Things I like about Venables: He's young, knows the ACC, comes equipped with the Stoops Blueprint.  Things I don't like about Venables: He seems like a douche, he's a defense guy and not an offense guy, and probably covets a Big XII job over ours.

Kirby Smart, DC, Alabama -- Nick Saban, bros.  THIS GUY KNOWS HOW TO COACH LIKE NICK SABAN.  Smart has shot down other suitors in the past, and there's no reason to think Virginia is special... other than the fact that Virginia is special.  People in the know will tell you that Kirby Smart is a pipe dream for UVA, but I figure we can pay up to $3.5 million / year for the right guy, and Kirbs might just be the right guy.  Nick Saban, bros.

Mike Norvell, OC, Arizona State -- "Another young guy (he's 32) who is widely recognized as a terrific play-caller and has had a big hand in building one of the nation's top offenses. Todd Graham trusted Norvell enough to give him the title of deputy head coach, but keeping him much longer could be a challenge if the Sun Devils are as productive as they were last season when they averaged 39.7 points."  (Source: 10 college football coaches poised to emerge as hot hires)

Kurt Roper, OC, Florida -- Yeah, I know, Florida sucks, especially on offense.  But this is Roper's first year in Gainesville.  Prior to 2014, he coached under David Cutcliffe for 17 years.  So if you're jealous of what is brewing at Duke, Roper is our chance to emulate it.

Jeremy Pruitt, DC, Georgia -- Alabama under Nick Saban, FSU under Jimbo Fisher, and now Georgia under Mark Richt.  Pruitt has seen it done, and seen it done well.  He's won national championships.  Plural.  Championships.  You don't hear his name as much as you hear Narduzzi or Morris or Smart... but I have a hard time understanding why he's not on the same tier as those guys.  He's 40 years old and ready for this opportunity.  Read up: Jeremy Pruitt brings 'business-like' approach, successful background to Georgia

Brian VanGorder, DC, Notre Dame -- Mike V, now married to a lifelong Fighting Irish fan, says: "VanGorder is currently in his first season as the DC at Notre Dame. Previous to this season he has served as the DC for the Auburn Tigers (2012) and Georgia Bulldogs (2001-2004). VanGorder has bounced between the NFL and college the past few seasons, including a three year stint as DC of the Falcons from 2008-2011. The big knock on him would be a lack of HC experience, with only one season as HC of Georiga Southern where he went 3-8 (fartsound). Not sure he's really a realistic candidate, but worth mentioning I think."  Yeah Mike, not sure he's really a realistic candidate.  He looks like a freaking Batman villain.


Eddie Gran, OC, Cincinnati -- Great recruiter with extensive experience at FSU.  He knows the ACC, he knows the east coast, and he's been around the block, biding his time.  I know, a 'meh' option, but worthy of mention in this space.

New names -- zany outside-the-box ideas:

Al Golden, HC, Miami -- The Canes are now 5-3 and playing pretty well, so the talk of Golden getting the axe has probably died down.  That said, if Golden does get fired... bet your ass he'd be a viable candidate at Virginia.  Heck, we might even be sniffing around already, given his hotseat status.  Maybe Golden Al would like the chance to start fresh at a school that doesn't do a bunch of illegal shit that makes the head coach's job more difficult?  He knows the Virginia job pretty well from his time under Al Groh and is a big enough name to provide a "splashy" hire for UVA.

Lincoln Riley, OC, ECU -- Two words: Air Raid.  AIR RAID, YOU FRESHMAN BITCHES!  Want a young Mike Leach without all of the bullshit that comes along with Mike Leach?  Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?  Well, to make it happen, UVA would have to roll the dice on this 31-year old kid.  Read... Inside the game: Why East Carolina's offense is clicking

Lance Leipold, HC, Wisconsin-Whitewater -- He's a Division III head coach, but he has a 100-6 record.  That's a .943 winning percentage.  Holy Jesus.  But anyway, not a realistic candidate for UVA, but worth mentioning since he's BY FAR the fastest coach to 100 victories.  I do think it would be cool for us to give a guy like this a chance at our BCS conference school.

Guys who didn't make The List:

Pete Lembo, HC, Ball State -- I hate the timing.  I HATE the timing.  I continue to believe that Pete Lembo is a perfect fit for the Virginia job.  It just so happens that his Ball State team is 3-5, and Lembo is looking at his first losing season since his first season at Elon, in 2006.  He built/rebuilt the Lehigh, Elon, and Ball State programs, and has 13.5 seasons as a head coach with a stellar .665 winning percentage.  But Hoofans and boosters wouldn't be on board with Virginia bringing in a coach who just posted a losing season in the MAC, so Lembo is sadly a non-starter for our 2014 coaching search.  HOWEVER, if you hear anyone say "I want the football version of Tony Bennett," it's Pete Lembo.  (Remember, Bennett went 17-16 and missed the NCAAs during his last season at Wazzu.)

Tim DeRuyter, HC, Fresno State -- Fresno is currently 3-5, and DeRuyter is making $1.6 million a season.  He'd be too expensive and also (like Lembo) too tough of a sell with a current losing record in a lesser conference.

Jim McElwain, HC, Colorado State -- He's a scorching-hot name in the coaching search circles, but he's not coming to UVA.  I'll just let this article do my talking: CSU Rams' Jim McElwain hot commodity among coaching ranks  The $1.5 million salary and $7.5 million buyout takes McElwain off the table for Virginia.

Craig Bohl, HC, Wyoming -- I have no doubt that Bohl is a very good coach; he went 104-32 with three national championships at North Dakota State.  But he's already 56 years old and has spent his whole career in the Badlands.  It's just too much --- moving to an area he's not familiar with, trying to start from scratch developing contacts in the regional coaching community.  I just see too many potential hurdles for Bohl at UVA, but I'm sure he'll do fantastic things at Wyoming (it was a really smart hire for them this past offseason).

Brady Hoke, HC, Michigan -- His résumé is underwhelming, and he's being run out of the Michigan job on a rail.  He'll resurface somewhere eventually... likely the MAC.  He's too radioactive to be considered for the Virginia job.

Jim Grobe, currently unemployed -- He's a Hoo, and won an ACC championship at Wake Freaking Forest.  But at this point, he's just too old (62) and not buzzy enough.  If we hired him, you'd be able to hear an audible groan emitted from the fanbase.  Won't happen.

Ed Orgeron, currently unemployed -- Ah, man.  I love this dude.  But he's got too much spotty off-the-field stuff to be a realistic option for UVA.  I bet he lands a head coaching job this offseason, though... it just won't be in Charlottesville.

Ken Niumatalolo, HC, Navy -- Thanks to Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech, I think a coach devoted to running the triple option just isn't a viable option for Virginia.

Pep Hamilton, OC, Indianapolis Colts -- Virginia Tech fans are going apeshit over this guy, hoping he'll replace Beamer.  The reality is that Pep won't leave Indy for anything less than a marquee head coaching job (or an NFL job), and Tech ain't it... nor is UVA.

Jim Tressel, currently unemployed -- Sweatervest knows how to build a program and is a winner, but there is no way UVA touches a guy with so much off-field stink on him.  Plus, he's already 61... too old to be "starting over" at a place like Virginia.

Skip Holtz, HC, Louisiana Tech -- Just... no.

Bud Foster, DC, Virginia Tech -- Nope.  No way in hell.  The dude's a shithead who won't / doesn't recruit.  I include him here so that nobody bothers putting his name in the comments section when I ask for additional ideas for names to add to The List.  Show a little pride, Hoofans.

There you go.  29 names to consider, 12 names to rule out.

I'll help you out a little bit more.  Below is a list of current FBS head coaches who are either absolutely out of our league, or otherwise not realistic options for Virginia (listed in alphabetical order by last name).  Don't let anyone try to talk about our need to go after one of these dudes, because it just ain't happening:

  • Art Briles, Baylor
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
  • Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
  • Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
  • Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
  • Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
  • Butch Jones, Tennessee
  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
  • Mike Leach, Washington State (but oh man, do I wish...)
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Bronco Mendenhall, BYU
  • Urban Meyer, Ohio State
  • Les Miles, LSU
  • Jim Mora Jr., UCLA
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
  • Gary Patterson, TCU
  • Chris Petersen, Washington
  • Bobby Petrino, Louisville
  • Gary Pinkel, Missouri
  • Mark Richt, Georgia (no, he is not going to get fired)
  • Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • David Shaw, Stanford
  • Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
  • Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
  • Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Newsflash: Not happening.

Futhermore, Mike Tomlin, Jim Harbaugh, nor any other current NFL head coach is going to come to Virginia.  Just stop.

I have no idea who the next football head coach at the University of Virginia is going to be, but I feel pretty damn good about my chances of having named the guy among the 29 coaches I outlined, earlier in the post.  My best guess at the top five candidates: Hudspeth, Narduzzi, Matt Wells, Pruitt... and Lembo.

Stay tuned, Hoofans.  Could be a wild ride.

Oh, and if you have any ideas on coaches that I missed or overlooked, please, PLEASE deposit your coaching candidates in the comments.  Thanks!  Thanks for reading!!


  1. Fantastic. You have a gift. How long did this take you to put together?

    1. Thanks for reading!

      All told, took about 8-10 hours of reading, research, and writing. That's after 12 months of generalized research on the topic. This post is completely subjective and centered on conjecture... but there is a lot of research behind it.

    2. Brian Kelly of ND is coming to UVA... he is coming as head coach of ND next season to kick the snot out of a no talent program like UVA... and I will be there... GO IRISH !!

  2. Awesome list, Kendall. I guess the question is, if pushed and you had to make a decision right now, which of these choices is The One?

    1. Hudspeth. Narduzzi a close second. Lembo still a mean dog in this fight (I still really, really like the guy).

      As always, thanks for reading and commenting, rager!

    2. Dude, don't thank me. You offer about the best content around, AND you don't pull any punches.

      Well, like you said, unless Hudspeth is holding out for something better. Last year, some Mississippi rednecks I'm acquaintances with were jawjacking about hiring him. I'm sure they don't feel that way now, but they were big on him, just knew he secretly wanted to be a Bulldog, and how he'd better not go to Ole Miss, etc. Are there SEC coaches gonna be fired this year where he might go?

      I'd heard other people talk about Rhett Lashlee, but d'you think he'd hitch his horses to our wagon indefinitely- he's 31. Seems like he'd want to fill out time as an OC for longer before that, unless he's somehow convinced to make Virginia a Beamer-esque position.

    3. Dan Mullen to Florida, Hudspeth to Mississippi State. I can see that as being a very possible scenario.

      As for Lashlee... who knows? I have no idea what kind of ambition/motivation he has. But if he's anything like his boss and mentor, he's yearning for a crack at leading his own program.

  3. Wow, thanks. Nice list, I'd personally like a young guy from a school with good coaching pedigree....ie Kirby Smart or Jeremy Pruitt. But im also sure guys like that are high on radar for schools like Michigan. I can wish, right?

    1. I don't think it's all that far-fetched, man. There are only 14 jobs in the SEC, and only about half of those are in any sort of flux. Florida will open. LSU might open if Les Miles goes to Michigan. Mississippi State might open if Mullen goes to Florida. Beyond those, I don't see any changes coming in that conference.

      Besides, the really big dogs would rather poach-a-coach and bring in a head coach from elsewhere, not chase a coordinator.

      Thanks for reading, by the way!

  4. To piggyback on the above poster's comment, do you think anyone on this list is at risk of going to Michigan or Florida? Michigan sounds like they are reaching for the stars with Harbaugh and Les Miles, but Florida is the one that concerns me. My guess is they will get their pick of the Southern coaching candidates, specifically first crack at Hudspeth. Whether they want him or not is a different story.

    1. I don't think Hudspeth would be anything other than an extreme fallback option for Florida. We're talking about one of the top ten coaching positions in the NCAA. They'll be aiming extremely high.

  5. Did your research on Pressel turn up this? http://web.ysu.edu/president

  6. I would not be upset with Lembo at all. He has BUILT three solid programs. I prefer someone with the demonstrated success of building it, not inheriting players. I want them to be able get their own groceries and cook the meal.:) As you noted TB had a sub par year his last year at Wazzu. Also, Welsh had a horrible year in 86 and average years in 87 and 88 and then took off from 89-98. Wahoowa!

    1. Thank you. I really want Lembo to be a candidate Hoofans are excited about. Ball State has NIU, UMass, Eastern Michigan, and Bowling Green left to play. Will be tough to rally from 3-5 to a bowl game, but it's possible. They are certainly playing better ball than they were earlier in the season.

  7. What about a combo of Jim Tressel with a young OC that can be groomed to be Sweatervests replacement.

    1. A sound model, but no way UVA goes for a guy with that much off-field baggage. Not our style. At all.

    2. OK, switch Sweatervest for Mack Brown. I know he's in talks with SMU, but we've got better pieces in place and more money.

  8. Finally got through this all. Very impressive, K. I am only a very casual observer of college football, but I'm still on the Lembo train.

  9. I have been against the Fire Mike London train for a while now, but given the soul-crushing loss to UNC, I think it is time to entertain the notion. I've come out guns hot before when you talked about firing London and now I will eat my crow.

    Mmmmm, crow.

    As far as a new guy, I have a few thoughts:

    1) I would like to hire an existing HC, and one with some experience (Hudspeth fits the bill perfectly). London's 2 seasons of success at Richmond was with someone else's pre-developed players. While here, we have recruited great talent and done shit to develop them and put them in positions to succeed (rushing 5'10" 190lbs Smoke between the tackles?). If recruiting sites mean anything, we should at least be a top 30 team consistently, and we are a far cry from it.

    2) If London goes, I want Oliver to go too. He has shown a habit of meddling in staff hiring decisions, specifically after the 2008 and 2012 seasons. Worse yet, these changes left us with even worse W-L results than before. I believe this kind of hands on (mis)management could spook some of the more desirable candidates looking at the UVA job. Also, the fact that Mike London was the only candidate interviewed for the HC job does not sit right with me.

    1. I think it's a certainty that if London goes, so does Oliver. Jon Oliver staked his livelihood on the London hire... and on retaining London after the 2-10 season.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Stuart!

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  11. If we hire a 31-year old dude, I will punch myself in the 40-year-old balls.

    1. Yeah, it'd be a tough pill to swallow. But hey, a 31-year old would have 35 years ahead of him in the coaching world! The stars could align for us to find our version of Frank Beamer (one can hope).

  12. I presume Tim Murphy is too old (68, I think)?

    1. He's 58, but I wasn't all that interested in an Ivy League coach. A guy like Leipold is younger, does more winning, and does more recruiting.

  13. My top choices might be Lembo, Wells, Lashlee, Hudspeth, Riley, Pruitt, and Narduzzi, in no particular order. Don't see us grabbing Hudspeth because, well, the SEC. But make no mistake I think that him or Lashlee would be homerun hires. You have to like what Lashlee can bring, he is engaging, energetic, brings that southern flair to the position, and anyone associated with Gus Malzahn makes me giddy (Love that offense). Really like Wells also, you are right, he seems like a UVA hire. I think he can succeed and be here for a long time if he does well. Only reason I put Riley and not Ruffin is because I just don't see him leaving his Alma Mater, but if we got Ruffin I would be very excited. I suppose if we are going to get a defensive minded coach then Narduzzi and Pruitt would be our best options, and even though I want an offensive coach I wouldn't be to upset over having those guys at all. Lembo has been on my mind ever since his team put the smack down on us. He is bright and seems like the kind of guy UVa would hire. Anyways I enjoyed this post very much, great job. Lets hope Oliver and London will be gone by years end.

  14. You posted such a cool picture of Narduzzi! It has to be him!

  15. I hear Charlie Weis is available.

  16. Just wrote a long post extolling the virtues of this piece and your blog, but it was erased when I had to sign-in to post! Oh well, suffice it to say, great stuff and I agree with the majority of your picks, especially Pete Lembo, Ruffin McNeil, Mark Hudspeth, and (long-shot) Al Golden. Golden's in my "others receiving votes" category along with a few others, but I think there are plenty of decent candidates out there, if only the athletics department will venture to think outside of the box the way they did with Tony Bennett.

  17. Why not Ken N from Navy? The Georgia Tech offense under Paul Johnson is highly productive every year and GT would win the Coastal most every season if not for chronically bad defensive play. I would consider the Paul Johnson blueprint to be as appealing as those of Malzahn, Morris, etc.

    1. The triple option WOULD have been appealing if it were going to be brand new to the ACC... but with Paul Johnson already here, it's too "old hat" for what we should be looking for, IN MY HUMBLE OPINION.



  18. I would like to see Lahslee, Pruitt, or Morris so we can keep Tenuta and avoid paying his buyout.

    1. No way in hell a new coach agrees to retain any of the staff, with the possible expection of a position coach (with recruiting heft) like Marques Hagans.

  19. I really like Lincoln Riley. I'd rather have him than Ruffin McNeil from ECU. This is most likely Riley's last season at ECU. He's been courted by big-time programs to be OC, but they wouldn't hire him as HC at his age. UVa, however, could afford to take a shot with him at HC, as long as he had a couple of very experienced "greybeards" to help him the responsibilites of being a HC at a Power 5 school.

    1. I like this idea too. Needs a sage, wise, experienced DC to go along with him.

  20. Kendall (or Mike or Pierce),

    If we do somehow make it to 6-6 and go to a bowl game, what do you think the chances are we still fire London? I feel like we would keep him, but in my head I still want to pull for a bowl this year. I'd rather us still let him go, though.

    1. He'll save his job at 6-6 and a bowl appearance, based on everything I've heard.

    2. I'd bet they'd keep him.

      Me, I'd still fire him

  21. Is it me, or do these candidates --except for Hudspeth--just not excite anyone THAT MUCH? I am not saying they are boring, but just that there are no sure fire turnaround candidates out there.

    1. It's you. If you can't see exciting potential in some of these guys, then you'e just blind to exciting potential. Sorry.

  22. What about Wilcox? I know you mentioned you don't like his Pacific Northwest roots, but is that enough to remove him from the list?

    Also, don't know much about him, but thoughts on Jake Spavital?

    1. Both guys just barely missed The List. But I like both. The timing and fit just doesn't feel right!

  23. Mike Bloomgren the OC at Stanford wouldn't be a bad hire. He coached Andrew Luck and knows what it takes to win at a strong academic school.

    1. Good thought! But isn't he fairly new to the OC role?

  24. Great post. Whatever they do - no "reactionary" hires please. By that I mean gaga for some flavor-of-the-month offensive coach who'll have us running track meets but fields a D that can't stop the grandma's home all-stars in 2 years. London was a reactionary hire b/c the administration wanted an "enthusiastic" coach to counter the all-business Groh. Gillen was a reactionary hire to the brutal style of ball Jeff Jones played. Bennett was a successful hire because the administration *took its time,* thought outside the box, and got the best coach it could find who still meshed with the school's values. Styles change as the game evolves over the years (also style depends on the types of athletes you can realistically recruit). We need to find the best coach we can, let him assemble a good staff and recruit the right players to do what they want to do, and then go out and play sounder football on gameday. We can and will do better than what we've seen the last six or seven years, I know it.

  25. Isn't Derek Dooley worth at least discussing in a "other remote possibilities" kind of way? Yes, he bombed at Tennessee, but still.....family coaching tree, Saban coaching tree, UVA alum law degree, still just 46, AD experience (might be a negative if Littlepage is concerned).....

    1. I actually like the idea of Dooley for Assistant Athletic Director for Football, assuming Jon Oliver is gone and we look to fill that role. Dooley is a really smart guy with experience in administration (was AD at LaTech) and some good connections in the coaching world. From WRs coach with the Cowboys to HC at UVA is too big of a jump right now. I do like Dooley, though.

  26. A great hire would be Joe Moglia at Coastal Carolina. He would also be a perfect fit for the University. Doubt he will ever leave Myrtle Beach though. He send just as many players to the NFL as UVA does

  27. Great list K. How about Rex Ryan? lol

  28. The more I look at it, the more I think Tom Herman might be a particularly good fit. I know you have him on the list, but his name doesn't seem to be getting much, if any, discussion here or elsehwere. He's 39, seems like a really smart (literally, a Mensa member), well-spoken guy, and gives off the same kind of class vibe that UVA likes and that you see with Bennett, O'Connor, etc. He's got a very successful offensive system - a no-huddle, spread "Jet" offense. He's been at Ohio State for the last three years under Urban Meyer. Another key factor: He also was OC/QB at Rice, where ran top 10 national offenses in a high-academic environment. Things I've read suggest he's one of those top assistants who is "ready to run a program," which could mean nothing, but I take to mean that he's considered well prepared for the management aspects of the job, not just for calling plays. I believe he's also considered a good recruiter. He really seems to check off just about every box I can think of and just feels like someone who would fit into UVA's preferred mold.

  29. Sonny Cumbie might have an incredibly high ceiling. Worthy of consideration. Not sure if he'll ever leave the Big 12, but TCU is the most improved offense in the country, and Texas Tech has fallen apart since his departure. He's only 33, but there's evidence to suggest his future is extremely bright.