October 9, 2015

Tony Bennett for Football (TBFF)

"We need to find the Tony Bennett for football."

You'll hear that phrase a lot from Virginia fans these days.

Before you join the hive mind on that buzz, consider:

1) Tony Bennett was a head coach at a Power Conference school when Virginia came calling.

2) He had a winning career record (63-33) as a head coach at said P5 school (Washington State).

3) He was 40 years old when he left Wazzu for UVA.  Young by college coaching standards.

4) UVA was able to offer him a raise from his current salary.

5) He viewed Virginia as a so-called "destination job;" as a place he could go and build a program that would be uniquely his; a place where he could coach for 30 years and then retire.

I'm here today to tell you that I'm not sure if a Tony Bennett for Football (TBFF) exists as a realistic potential hire for Virginia in December 2015.  I have my doubts.

Let's take a quick look at each of the P5 conferences, to see if we can find a truly viable TBFF...


We aren't getting Nick Saban, Les Miles, Kevin Sumlin, Dan Mullen, or Hugh Freeze.  Steve Spurrier is too old (70), and wouldn't be interested in this start-from-scratch rebuilding job.  Gary Pinkel is 63, and a Mizzou lifer.  Jim McElwain was just hired by Florida, and wouldn't move again so quickly after being hired.  Plus, it's Florida --- we aren't hiring anyone away from UF.  In fact, I seriously doubt we could draw ANY of these SEC coaches.  However, for purposes of this exercise, we should consider:

Bret Bielema, Arkansas - Maybe they're getting tired of him at Arkansas, because he has a losing record there: 12-18 in 2.5 seasons.  But when you add in his seven seasons at Wisconsin, he's 80-42 overall at the P5 level.  He's 45, so I'm willing to say that's fairly TBFF-ian.  Would he view Virginia as a destination?  I dunno, he could be an extreme longshot of an outside possibility for UVA.  He's worth a phone call from the search committee, I'd say.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn - He's 49, so on the "not really all that young" side of young, but he has a 23-9 record at Auburn, including an appearance in the 2013 national championship game.  Auburn fans seem to be pissy about the 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record in 2014 and the slow start (3-2, 0-2 SEC) to this season.  Can he be had?  UVA would need to pitch something in the Saban/Harbaugh realm of $7mil per season to make it happen, and I think that's probably an impossibility.  Not a TBFF.

Mark Richt, Georgia - He's 55, and if Georgia fires him, he'll just retire to work in his ministry.  Or so I've heard.  Not a TBFF.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky - Now this one might have some legs.  He's 48, being paid $3.3mil by Kentucky (we can match/beat that), but has an 11-18 record at UK.  However, and it's a big however, Wildcat boosters seem to be really happy with the way he's building that program.  So we'll see.  I won't completely rule him out of TBFF consideration.

Butch Jones, Tennessee - Tennessee is a totally unrealistic fanbase, and thus, is unhappy with Butch Jones' 14-16 (5-13 SEC) rebuilding job to date.  He's 47, and won at Central Michigan and Cincinnati before landing at UT... but could UVA compete with the $3.6mil the Vols are paying?  My gut says no, but I am willing to marinate a little bit on Butch Jones as a potential TBFF.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt - Said simply, he's sucking at Vanderbilt (5-12, 0-10 SEC in his first year and a half).  No thanks.

Big Ten

Harbaugh, Dantonio, Urban Meyer - nope.  Bill Cubit is interim at Illinois.  Mike Riley is in his first season at Nebraska.  Kyle Flood, Darrell Hazell, and Randy Edsall are each about to get shitcanned themselves.  That leaves us with...

Kevin Wilson, Indiana - He has the Hoosiers playing well in 2015 after a rough first four years (14-34, 6-26 B1G).  I just don't see enough historical winning to justify TBFF status!

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa - At 60 years old, this is his 17th season at Iowa.  His 120-85 (69-60 B1G) record looks pretty good, but he's gotten a bit stale.  At one point around 2004 he was pretty hot shit... but that was a decade ago.  Not a TBFF.

Jerry Kill, Minnesota - He's been a head coach since 1994, and he's only 54 years old.  That means he's been at it for a solid 20 years, posting a very solid 151-98 record.  The problem is that he's only 28-28 (13-20 B1G) at Minnesota.  A .500 coach at the P5 level is not TBFF material.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - If you believe UVA can compete against a school from the almighty (sarcasm) Big Ten, then you should look closely at Pat Fitzgerald.  His solid 65-53 record at an elite academic institution screams "UVA fit."  He's 40 years old, and checks all the boxes.  Northwestern pays him $2.5mil per season, and I think Virginia would need to dangle $4+mil to even begin its pursuit.  That being said, if you really want a TBFF, here's your guy.

James Franklin, Penn State - Yuck.  I just hate this guy; I feel like he's a total slimeball.  However, he's young (43) and wins (35-22 at the P5 level -- 24-15 at Vandy and 11-7 at State Penn), so there's that.  Two more things: Franklin already makes $4.4mil, so he's out of our price range, and... c'mon!  We aren't honestly going to try to talk about attracting a coach away from Penn State to come coach at UVA, are we?  This is a total non-starter.

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin - He was very much 'meh' at Pitt for three seasons (19-19, 10-13 Big East/ACC) and he's been 'meh' at Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1 B1G), plus he's already 49.  No thanks.


I'd venture that Art Briles and Bob Stoops are completely out of our range.  Mike Gundy is too.  Gary Patterson is too (but I'll still talk a little about him, because his name slips through Hoofans' lips enough to warrant a closer look).  Bill Snyder is way too old, and a K-State lifer.  David Beaty is in his first season at Kansas.  Meanwhile, Paul Rhoads and Charlie Strong are about to be fired.  So here are the Big XII coaches we should look at:

Gary Patterson, TCU - I won't waste my time talking about his age (55) or salary ($3.9mil).  Instead, I'll merely point to the fact that he MADE the Texas Christian program.  In 15 seasons there, he got them into a power conference, went to 13 bowl games, and transformed a middling mid-major program into a program that dwarfs Virginia's in just about every way.  He'd be a slam dunk hire, but he's well out of reach for UVA.  He might have been TBFF in 2005, but in 2015 the ship has sailed.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech - He's young (36), handsome (see below), and... kinda-sorta winning (15-15 in 2.5 seasons, 6-14 Big XII).  He's a Texas Tech alum who makes $3.1mil, so that's a tough pry for Virginia.  Given the current climate in Lubbock (fans are turning on him, it seems), he might be happy to find an escape...?  Who knows?  I'd say he's a darkhorse TBFF.

Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia - 44, makes $2.9mil, and runs a unique system.  There are Tony Bennett parallels to be drawn here.  He also is on a bit of a hot seat at West Virginia, despite a solid-enough 31-24 record with the Mountaineers.  His problem is that he hasn't been able to win in the Big XII, posting just an 11-17 record in conference.  He can be had, I think... but would Virginia want him?  More specifically, would Virginia want to pay him $3+mil per season?  Not really a TBFF, in my eyes.


We aren't pulling Mark Helfrich, David Shaw, Jim Mora Jr., or Chris Petersen.  Mike Leach - as much as I absolutely love the dude - isn't a cultural fit at UVA (which kinda makes me hate UVA a little bit).  Steve Sarkisian has too many off-field issues swirling around him right now; he's radioactive.  Gary Andersen is in his first season at Oregon State.  Mike MacIntyre has sucked at Colorado (9-20, 1-18 Pac-12).  Therefore, we consider:

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona - I honestly think he's out of our (and Poly's) wheelhouse.  52 years old, $3.2mil per season, 29-16 (15-14 Pac-12) at 'Zona.  He's a good coach, I just don't see it as a fit for UVA to pursue.  In my opinion, he is not a TBFF.

Todd Graham, Arizona State - I love his system, but I hate the guy.  His pedestrian 6-6 (4-3 Big East) mark at Pitt kind of tells the story of what he could accomplish at UVA.  At 50, he's a little bit older than you'd like, and his $3mil/season salary puts him nearly out of our price range.  31-14 (20-9 Pac-12) makes him a sexy name, but I think he might be destined for one of the elite jobs in college football before too long.  It doesn't feel right for UVA, any of it.

Sonny Dykes, California - He's 45 and makes on $2mil per season at Cal, but - to this point! - he hasn't been winning.  He's just 11-18 (5-15 Pac-12), but things are looking up.  You guys already know that I lust after the Air Raid at UVA, so I'm a little bit biased on this one.  Personally, I'd love to see Sonny Dykes as a real candidate at UVA.  I'll go ahead and say that if he's not considered a TBFF, then he should be.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah - Surprisingly old at 55, but his $2.6mil salaray can be topped and his 89-43 overall record at Utah is impeccable.  However, his 15-22 mark in four seasons of Pac-12 play leaves something to be desired, plus it is said that he is deeply rooted in his Mormon faith and the Salt Lake area.  He's been at odds with the Utah AD, but I doubt this is a nut for Virginia to crack.


I can't really imagine UVA poaching a coach from a fellow conference school.  It's just not our style.  But it could happen, so I guess we should take a look in the name of thoroughness.  Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher - well out of our depth.  Frank Beamer - no fucking thanks.  Bobby Petrino has too much off-field baggage for UVA.  David Cutcliffe is a very good coach, but he's too old (61) to start fresh again.  Paul Johnson (58) is also too old, plus he's a prick.  Scott Shafer is likely to get canned at Syracuse.  Pat Narduzzi won't leave Pitt after just one season, much to my chagrin.  Larry Fedora... I suspect... is simply a non-starter for us.  That leaves...

Steve Addazio, Boston College - It's not unprecedented for BC to lose a coach to another ACC school, and 'Daz is doing good things in Chestnut Hill.  It doesn't feel like he'd be interested in leaving anytime soon, and although UVA's athletic department is superior, it probably couldn't offer a big raise from Addazio's $2.6mil/season salary.  As much as I like the 'Daz, this just isn't TBFF territory.

Al Golden, Miami - Once the offseason dominoes begin to fall, Al Golden will no longer be employed at Miami.  The question is, would Virginia want to jump back into bed with a Groh affiliate?  Miami is paying $2.5mil, and that's a figure Virginia could easily match.  Golden's 31-23 (16-16 ACC) record sounds pretty good to long-suffering Hoofans, I'd imagine.  Can he win without the 4- and 5-star athletes he was reeling in at Miami?  I dunno.  His Hurricane teams don't look particularly well-coached, either.  Golden is 46... and I'm willing to put him in the TBFF ballpark, but probably up near the concession stand, buying a hot dog.

Dave Doeren, NC State - He's just starting to get some traction in Raleigh, and I don't think he'd want to make the lateral move to Virginia.  HOWEVER, we can top that $2.2mil salary.  He's got a losing ACC record (3-14) at State, and that doesn't move the needle in any direction other than down for me.  Pass.

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest - If we had done a coaching search following the 2013 season like we should have, I'm convinced that Clawson would have been our guy.  In a year and a half at Wake, he's 5-12 overall, 1-9 in the ACC.  So, not good.  But the arrow is pointing up.  He's still pretty young (48) and a proven program builder with ties to the state of Virginia.  If we want to try to poach an ACC coach, I think he'd be our target.

In Summary...

Definitely Tony Bennett for Football material:
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Sonny Dykes, California
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Big, fat maybes:
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Al Golden, Miami


  1. Hard pass on Todd Graham. I watched that whole saga with Pitt unfold right before my eyes. He's a scumbag and ASU is apparently his "dream job" even if hes coaching like it isnt.

    You could hire Graham today and he could be out the door tomorrow.

  2. I am so excited about the next 3 months on this blog! Nobody does a better job than Kendel of daydreaming about UVa coaching candidates.

  3. Kinda spooked about competing with Tech for a head coach this winter.

    1. Don't be --- I have a feeling we'll be looking at two totally different candidate pools.

  4. No offense on the great research Kendall - it is great BTW - but give me the BOC of football or the Brian Boland of football vs. TB. Not taking anything away from TB but he's got a long way to go to catch up to either of the other 2.

  5. When I met Doug Doughty at the Sugar Bowl, he thought the guy back then wouldve been Al Golden...

  6. After watching Pittsburgh today I want someone like narduzzi. He's a tough minded guy and his background at mich st is obvious to me. I'm curious to see how he recruits.

    On the flipside, if Virginia wants to win another game this year they need to get away from the power running game... It's not realistic at all. I believe a more finesse style of offense is a must, but Fairchild will never figure that out. Also the offense as a whole continues to look like a high school team. Nothing looks fluent or practiced at all, johns has no time to throw and you can see that by the way his feet look like he's having a panic attack.

  7. After watching Pittsburgh today I want someone like narduzzi. He's a tough minded guy and his background at mich st is obvious to me. I'm curious to see how he recruits.

    On the flipside, if Virginia wants to win another game this year they need to get away from the power running game... It's not realistic at all. I believe a more finesse style of offense is a must, but Fairchild will never figure that out. Also the offense as a whole continues to look like a high school team. Nothing looks fluent or practiced at all, johns has no time to throw and you can see that by the way his feet look like he's having a panic attack.

  8. If Al Golden is the next UVA coach, I am SOOOOOOOOOO done.

  9. I know he doesn't fit this methodology but how about Bill Lazor.?

  10. No more former guys, need someone fresh

  11. Maryland fires football coach Randy Edsall; seeks coach to 'excite fan base' ... this was the headlines in Baltimore Sun.....I guess UVA officials don't care about their dwindling fan base and season ticket holders !!

  12. Thoughts on Bobby Wilder at ODU?

    1. Air Raid, local-ish. 757 Ties, has track record developing QB, is a great salesman for a program...shoe seems to fit, although ODU has not been stellar this year (breaking in a new QB)

    2. I like him, but I'm not sure we can sell anyone on bringing in another FCS coach.

    3. I tend to agree with you. I have had my eye on him for a while and lusted after his style, success and now really love how he has sold the program, etc. I know that stuff matters in cfb, and he checks all my boxes.

      Also, does he count as FCS still? He was bowl-eligible in first year of FBS ball last year and London only really has 2 yrs of head coaching experience on him. I know its weird what with ODU being independent/ineligible for 3 of his 6 yrs of coaching but I feel he is a realistic hire. Most other Power 5 guys seem to be reaching in my opinion...

      Dino Babers? Justin Fuente? I would imagine Fuente gets some love from South Carolina here shortly...

    4. Other than the Air Raid, those are the same things that made London a "good hire" so I'll pass

    5. Well to be fair, those are the things you want in a coach, no? London has obviously not worked out, but it is not like we want someone who CAN'T do any of those things. UVA is a weird situation and support is dwindling. I think he has an ideal personality (like London!) but his team promises to be more exciting than this crew we have been trotting out recently. Just some thoughts. I know his kid is at ODU and he seems happy with the situation, but UVA could open up a lot of doors for him professionally.

      I think I would give Dino Babers a look too, if he has any ability to recruit the DMV area.

      Fuente and Herman are absolute pipe dreams in my mind and Fitzgerald doesn't do much for me - with South Carolina open now...I think one of those two (Fuente/Herman) gets that job.

      Any thoughts on DJ Durkin? DC at Michigan. I think Harbaugh has washed the Muschamp off of him. Dude can recruit and has plenty of experience just no head coaching experience, which is definitely important. I am just spitballing here, and trying to be realistic as I want this to change just as much as ya'll!

  13. Pat Fitzgerald is not realistic and I'd rather pass even if he's available. He is former player and NW alum. He is a good enough coach to keep NW respectable-ish (with an occasional upstart year) for a school which is fine with that and doesn't really have higher aspirations. Bottomline I don't see him getting canned anytime soon and I can't see him leaving on his own. Nor would we want him. He's good not great. I'd like to believe UVA has higher aspirations. Basketball and Baseball (and other sports) are setting the right standard. Fitzgerlad is no TBFF. That said I have no idea who is. TB may have been a miracle hire.

    1. Yeah, Fitzgerald is absolutely not realistic. Sorry for the confusion on that one. I just think he checks all of the boxes, is all.

  14. How did the UVA football program get this low?

  15. My personal top picks....
    1) Fitzgerald
    2) Fuente - Memphis
    3) Herman - Houston

    The biggest issue is that UVA has to be willing to crack the 3 million mark on a new hire to get the right hire.

  16. This is getting to be like groundhogs day. Every week we lose, every week we read of some things that were better-the improvement of certain players, the desire to get a win, we are trying, we are close, same ole same ole. I really like London personally-I believe the players love him-but I was at the Pitt game and its sad. How can football lag this far behind all our other awesome men's and women's sports programs? I believe we may win 4 games this year, London back next year, and so it goes.