November 6, 2015

The List, Part IV

It's time.  This is probably going to be the longest post in Wahooze history.

Past editions:
Okay, first, let's spend a little time debunking some myths on our upcoming (and inevitable) coaching search.

Myth #1: There are too many other open jobs! *GULP!* It’s obviously a bad year to be looking for a new coach!

Calm down! Don’t panic!  While there are a lot of P5 jobs already open (Illinois, USC, Maryland, South Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, VT) and more sure to open up (Syracuse, Virginia, Rutgers, Purdue, Iowa State) and even more that *could* open up (West Virginia, Oregon, Utah, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas State), I’m not worried.  In fact, I’m not worried at all.  Why?  Because while there stands to be an inordinate number of open jobs, there are also way more quality coaching candidates than usual.  Look no further than the AP Top-25… where we've seen Memphis, Houston, Toldeo, and Temple ranked.  Boom, that’s four coaching candidates right there in Justin Fuente, Tom Herman, Matt Campbell, and Matt Rhule.  Meanwhile, Navy (Ken Niumatololo) is winning, Marshall (Doc Holliday) is winning, Western Kentucky (Jeff Brohm) is winning, Bowling Green (Dino Babers) is winning, Western Michigan (P.J. Fleck) is winning, Northern Illinois (Rod Carey) is winning, Utah State (Matt Wells) is winning, Air Force (Troy Calhoun) is winning, and there's always Mark Hudspeth at Louisiana-Lafayette. That’s 13 candidates, getting the job done on the field, playing D-1A football, ready to make the leap to P5 jobs.  And that’s not to mention Kirby Smart, who is said to be ready to take over his own program, or Greg Schiano, who is said to be ready to return to college football, or Pep Hamilton, who is suddenly out of a job in Indianapolis and will probably be looking to return to college football.  So with seven P5 jobs already open, another five certain to open, and six others on the “maybe” list (I consider half of those will pop), that leaves 15 openings for 16+ candidates.  An oversimplification, sure.  But no matter how many different ways I crunch the numbers, Virginia comes out okay.  It’s like a giant game of musical chairs… and UVA is one of the chairs.  (The key is finding the right ass to fill our chair.)

Myth #2: Mike London will be back, so UVA can kick the can down the road and let the new AD make the coaching decision.

Uh, no.  I mean, no offense, I get the fear.  We’re the beaten dogs known as Virginia football fans, it’s okay to be a bit skittish and cower and whimper when that bad hand gets raised.  But, look, how is a new coach hired by the Littlepage regime going to be any different than Tony Bennett or Brian O’Connor for the new Athletic Director who is hired after Littlepage retires?  The assumption being, if the football coach hired in 2015 is good, the new AD won’t care, he’ll just go with the flow.   And if the new football coach hired in 2015 is bad, then maybe the new AD will hire a better coach three or four or five years from now.  I just don’t get the consternation. Unless, of course, you believe…

Myth #3: There’s not enough money to make a football coaching change in 2015.

If this is true, then everything is way worse than I ever thought, and we truly are screwed six ways from Sunday.  The reality is, there’s not enough money to NOT make a coaching change after this season and at least try to begin reversing football’s fortunes at UVA.

Myth #4: No matter what, Jon Oliver is going to screw everything up.

I have three points to make here:

1) No coaching search at the P5 level is made by the Athletic Director and his main-man toadie.  Ever.  It’s always, always, ALWAYS some sort of a committee.   And if you think UVA will deviate from the committee approach, well, then, you don’t know UVA. (UVA is committee crazy, y’all.)

2) The OOC schedule in 2016 and 2017 is pretty tame.  {2016: Richmond, Central Michigan, @ UConn, @ Oregon // 2017: William & Mary, UConn, Indiana, @ Boise State.}  Maybe Jon Oliver drops the scheduling atomic bomb on 2018 and onward… but any new coach worth hiring is going to demand some say in the scheduling.  (Stoolpigeons of Mike London’s stature are rare birds indeed.) 

3) Any new coach worth hiring is going to have his own ideas on how to construct his coaching staff. (Again, pillow-soft pushovers like London are rare.) No wiggle room for a meddlesome wannabe GM.

That's Jon Oliver, on the left.

Myth #5: Virginia is a bad job, nobody is going to want it.

Child, please.  You sound like Eeyore.  Virginia might not be the BEST job, it might not be a GREAT job, but dammit it’s a GOOD job.  Better than Illinois, Syracuse, Rutgers, Purdue, and any of the open G5 jobs at least… and that matters in the game of musical chairs.  You love UVA, right?  So will coaching candidates, for many of the same reasons. Relax and have confidence in this awesome University.

Myth #6: Our fanbase sucks ass.

No it doesn’t.  We’ve just been losing for too long, and we’re lost in the wilderness right now.  Look at basketball and baseball and know that we pack the house for a winner.  It’s a proven fact.

Myth #7: Our facilities are awful.

Nope.  Wrong.  The stadium is fine, there’s an indoor practice facility, and there’s a $50mil capital project for the renovated football offices.  We’re not elite, but we’re also not in a bad spot.  Stop worrying about this.   Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret: College football coaches are ego-maniacs. They love the idea that they can be a part of (responsible for!) castle building at the school of their choice.

Myth #8: Academics are too hard at UVA.

People have been whining about this forever, but all I can say is that Duke, Stanford, UCLA, Cal, and Northwestern are a combined 30-10 right now.  Stop making excuses.  Besides, the right coach will do what Tony Bennett has done, and will weaponize our strong academics on the recruiting trail.

Myth #9: Mike London is going to win enough games down the stretch to save his job.

@ Miami, @ Louisville, Duke, Virginia Tech.

We haven't won on the road in over three years.  (Seriously!  Look it up!)

@ Miami - loss

@ Louisville - loss

Mike London is a combined 1-15 against what I consider to be our biggest rivals (UNC, Duke, VT).

Duke - loss

VT - loss

3-9, here we come.  Mike London won't save his job.

With the myths safely debunked, let's review the quick wish-list of traits I want in any coaching candidate.  None of these are "musts," but they are my preferences.  My strong 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 FBS football, and is comfortable trying to build a winner from the back end of a Power Five conference.

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.  (Bonus points if he comes equipped with, say, Nick Saban or Urban Meyer program-building blueprints.)

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.  (Think Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.)  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.  I also hit on this a couple of weeks ago, in the Bare Cupboard post.  There is some roster rebuilding to be done at Virginia.  We need a young guy who will carry some real nitroglycerin on the recruiting trail.  We need someone with the youthful energy and single-minded obsessive stupidity to pull those 100-hour weeks it's going to take to get Virginia Football headed back in the right direction.  Long days and nights on the road, recruiting.  Mickey D's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Hotels, motels, airports, rental cars.  It's going to be a grind.  It's a young man's game.  This is why Mack Brown (64, but an old 64) or the intriguing Joe Moglia (66) are not included on The List, Part IV.

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 a 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.

Virginia's offense, 2005-2015.

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 / NOVA / DMV talent... it could be tremendous.)

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 1-15 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.  Another onside kick recovered by the enemey?  Hey assistant coach, you're fucking fired.  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.

9) We need a strong talent evaluator and an adept talent developer.  I'm not talking about "RAWWRR, RAH-RAH, RECRUITING!" because realistically Virginia is going to top out at a steady diet of 3☆ talent with maybe the occasional 4☆ or 5☆ guy.  Therefore, we need a head coach (and a coaching staff) who can: a) find the underrated / under-recruited talents, and b) coach 'em up.  Mike London is known as a great recruiter, but he kind of sucks at both of those things, by the way.

10) Specifically, find and develop quarterbacks.  The quarterback is the guy who can elevate mediocre teams into good teams, and good teams into great teams.  Unless you're Alabama and can out-talent everyone else, you have to have a head coach who can find (and develop) quarterbacks.

11) Professional sideline behavior.  The Anti-London, if you will.  No flying chest bumps.  No dropping to your knees, overcome with emotion.  No head-to-toe camo.  No prayers visibly flung toward the heavens.  Just, simply, professional sideline behavior.  Look the part, coach.  Act the part.


Okay, almost there...

The List is my attempt to present to Hoofans with the 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 fucking Pittsburgh Steelers to come coach at UVA.  Jeez.  Mike Tomlin's not on The List.  Gary Patterson's not on The List.  Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Dan Mullen, Gary Patterson, 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 like what Everett Withers is doing at JMU, he's still too small-time for our coaching search. Everett's not on The List.  Pete Lembo at Ball State, 3-6 so far in 2015 after a bad 5-7 season in 2014.  Lembo isn't winning enough to be on The List.  Chad Morris, 1-7 at SMU, not on The List.  Ruffin McNeill, not winning at ECU since Lincoln Riley left, not on The List.  Tony Levine, fired from Houston, not on The List.  Tim DeRuyter, no longer winning at Fresno State, not on The List.)

Mark Richt might get canned at Georgia.  Gus Malzahn could finish 5-7 at Auburn this season, and maybe he gets fired.  Chip Kelly in Philly.  Et cetera.  Too many hypotheticals, and I have to draw the line somewhere.  Those guys are 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.

Whew, that was a lot of preamble.  Enough of that, let's get to it.

The List, Part IV

~~~ The Phenomenal Four ~~~
This quartet of young up-and-comers is going to be on everybody's short list for the 2015 coaching vacancies.  They are all the buzz in coaching circles right now.  Their teams are ranked.  Their teams are winning.  They are red-hot right now.  I like love any of the four for the Virginia job.

Justin Fuente, Memphis
He's THE hotness on the potential coaching lists right now, and hiring him would be a major splash for Virginia.  Memphis is ranked #15, Fuente is proving that he can build a program (at literally one of the WORST jobs in the FBS), and he comes equipped with the Gary Patterson blueprints from TCU.  He's young, no-nonsense, and everything looks great with this guy.  My one reason for pause is this: Fuente 2015 feels an awful lot like Tim DeRuyter 2013.  DeRuyter fell to pieces after Derek Carr, how will Fuente fare after Paxton Lynch?  Also, UVA would need to compete in and win the bidding war to land Fuente.  I like him a lot, but it feels like a longshot to me.

The rise of Justin Fuente at Memphis

How Justin Fuente turned an underdog among underdogs into the Memphis that beat Ole Miss

Where will Justin Fuente be coaching in 2016?

On the precipice: Justin Fuente, Paxton Lynch and Memphis' reinvention into a football contender

"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line," Fuente says, "and that's the way I prefer to communicate with our team." That's also the way he has reshaped his program, steady and sure, standing at 4–8, pointing at 10 wins and winding up there in short order. It's been direct, but it hasn't been easy.

Tom Herman, Houston
If Fuente is 1, Herman is 1a.  In his first season as a head coach, he has Houston at 8-0 and ranked #18.  He's got the Urban Meyer blueprints.  He's young, knows how to construct an offense, instills toughness in his team, and has the proper level of obsessive-compulsiveness.  He's a nutjob, in a totally good way.  Herman is also a Mensa member, so, like, he's an actual genius.  Concerns: He's all about the state of Texas, and he's only been a head coach for less than a year.  Some are saying he's a lock for South Carolina, I'm not so sure.  I'm also not sure Herman will be willing to leave Houston so soon, choosing to instead stick with the Cougs another season and see what happens with Charlie Strong at Texas.  Make no mistake -- if Virginia has a chance to land Tom Herman, it has to try.

Houston, we have an opportunity: Could Tom Herman soon be destined for a Power Five gig?

Trials at Ohio State fueling Houston's resurgence under Tom Herman

My education as a head coach: What has gone into starting to reshape Houston's program

I've really made an effort to drum up interest in Houston football since taking over. I've said yes to every possible speaking engagement I could. I spoke at a rodeo. I was at the Bear Bryant coach of the year award. I've played in a lot of golf tournaments. But I was most fired up about speaking at Houston's commencement. I spoke without notes. I spoke from the heart. I told a story about the kids we're raising in society, and how all these soccer moms from Dublin, Ohio, don't want to keep score in kids' games. They were looking at me like I was jerk because I said that I taught my kid to keep score. Are you kidding me? I'm not the one who is messed up here. They're going to keep score in life. It's O.K. I've failed hundreds of thousands of times. I probably failed 100 times today. But winning is not supposed to matter to me? I don't know if I'll ever be able to grasp that. Forget the awards. You should want to be the best at whatever your chosen field is. I want my kids to win. Winners get the corner office, the big house, the hot wife, the whole nine. I said that at commencement. Then I said that the people who don't win, they get cubicles, the hoopty ride, the not-so-hot wife.

That was a joke, and it didn't go over so well with some folks. But it underscores the intangibles we're going to represent philosophically here at Houston. If you're going to be in the Peace Corps, be the best Peace Corps worker in the world. If you're going to be a teacher, be the best teacher on the planet. Winning isn't just about the material things you attain, it's about being your best in all you do. After my speech, I got a few anonymous emails from people complaining. Everyone else, they ate it up. There were 8,000 people there and only two anonymous emailers complained, I consider that a win. We plan on doing a lot of winning at Houston.

Matt Campbell, Toledo
"Recruit, retain, develop."  Those are the tenets of Campbell's coaching style.  A lot of Hoofans have fallen in love with the 35-year old (2nd-youngest HC in the FBS) because of his consistency, maturity, steadiness, intelligence, honesty, and directness.  Personality-wise, he's about the closest thing you'll find to Tony Bennett in this coaching search.  Potential downsides here: Campbell is still REALLY young, he's never coached outside of the state of Ohio, and he's never coached under any of the greats (even though he has weekly conversations with Urban Meyer).  He also doesn't come equipped with a marquee system or scheme.  I don't think Campbell will be as sought-after as Fuente or Herman, but he's still a hot name for which Virginia will have to compete.

Toledo finally turns corner with Arkansas win

For Toledo and Matt Campbell, little things lead to big success

It’s his consistency, basically,” senior cornerback Cheatham Norrils said. “He tries to figure out ways to grow but he doesn’t change his expectation or what he wants out of the team. He always preaches about the process. If you perfect your process, you’ll be fine.


I got a sheet of paper and wrote three words down,” [Campbell] said. “Recruit, retain, develop.”

And the results are showing this year, largely with a group of seniors and juniors he recruited early on from a prototype he identified for what players at every position on the field should look like physically and mentally.

We dissected it and said, ‘This is what we want,’ ” Campbell said. “And then we didn’t miss very often.

Once he gets them, Campbell is, in his own words, “brutally honest” with players about where they stand and what they need to do to improve. It’s a trait he appreciated while playing under the legendary Larry Kehres at Mount Union and has brought to Toledo, where one-on-one meetings with the head coach are frequent.

Matt Rhule, Temple
Rhule is the last to the party among the Phenomenal Four, but the job he's done at Temple is perhaps the most noteworthy of the four.  I mean, he beat Penn State, got Temple ranked (currently #23), drew ESPN College Gameday to Philadelphia, and damn near beat Notre Dame.  Rhule's whole thing, his modus operandi, is talent development.  That's what he's all about, and he does his job very well.  Like Campbell, he doesn't run a blisteringly awesome system or anything like that, he just spins hay into gold with lightly-recruited players.  He's considered an "old school" type of coach.  He'll be chased in the 2015 coaching market, but he has just seen Al Golden (who left Temple for Miami in 2010) get thrown out on his ass, and I'm sure Rhule will be very choosy when it comes to selecting his next destination... or choosing to stay at Temple and trying to get an on-campus stadium built.  Rhule is a Penn State guy with an o-line background, so he's exactly what you'd expect -- blue collar, blood and guts, everyman, battler, grinder, old school..

Temple's amazing turnaround lifts Owls into top 25

No trick, just treat: Undefeated Temple hopes to add to its dream season and put a scare into the Power Five

Nowhere is the school's Moneyball mentality more apparent than in recruiting. To find undiscovered talent, the Owls, like other Group of Five schools, rely heavily on the American Idol approach, holding open auditions. In recent summers Temple has hosted one-week camps in which up to 2,000 high schoolers show up, including girls, hoping to become what Rhule calls "diamonds in the rough that we discover only by seeing with our own eyes." Rhule estimates that 60% of his roster came through one of these camps, including senior cornerback Tavon Young, who attended as a Maryland high schooler and caught the attention of Temple coaches during drills. He started as a true freshman and is now a team captain.

What the Temple coaches look for in a player is athleticism and versatility. "We don't worry, get too caught up, about position," Rhule says. "Once they get here, our guys will find the right place for them." That partly explains why the soul of the Owls—an impenetrable defense—is built around speedy players who fly around the field. Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who leads the team in tackles and is on every major award watch list this fall, was heralded as a first baseman and catcher at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., (UConn, the school he wanted to attend, was interested in him only for baseball), but lightly recruited for football because he was then 6' 1" and barely 200 pounds. Rhule, an assistant when he first saw Matakevich, looked past his size and saw his potential, and the now 235-pounder has rewarded that foresight. Like Matakevich, junior defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis was mostly ignored out of Hunterdon (N.J.) Central High but is now, as the Owls' most dominant inside defender, drawing the attention of NFL scouts.


Rhule can seem old-school: He has a poster of John Wooden's pyramid of success on his wall, and he cites lessons that he learned as a linebacker under Joe Paterno at Penn State in the mid 1990s ("He told me I should consider being a coach, which was his nice way of saying I shouldn't play") and as an assistant offensive line coach under Tom Coughlin with the New York Giants in 2012. But Rhule is also a coach who blares Young Jeezy over the practice field, who sports a scraggly beard that makes him look as if he's wandered out of the brush on Survivor and who, if needed, will order his troops around like Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. Players who were around after the team started 0–3 in '13 still shake their heads and shudder: Rhule, a longtime Temple assistant under Golden and Addazio, was so disgusted with the performances of the seniors that he told them to go away and not come back for a week. (The team had a bye.) He made the remaining players participate in daily scrimmages at full speed all week while running gassers in full pads for every missed third-down conversion or minor error. Young, the captain, calls it the moment the team realized, "O.K., we've got to get this fixed."

~~~ Compelling Cases for Five Others ~~~
These are guys I specifically consider to be fantastic fits for the Virginia job.  They don't have the current buzz of the Phenomenal Four, but there's a very good hire for Virginia among the names in this section.

Matt Wells, Utah State
If Matt Campbell is the most like Tony Bennett, then Matt Wells is the most like Brian O'Connor -- a sharp, focused guy with the right demeanor and presence.  He's just an organized, put-together person, and a head coach with a plan.  He's 24-12 in his 3rd season at Utah State, poised to take the Aggies to another bowl game, poised to win a third bowl game in as many tries.  There's not much flash to what Wells does, he just wins.  I absolutely love this guy for the UVA job; he feels very "Virginia" to me.

Matt Wells finds balance on and off the field

Troy Calhoun, Air Force
He should have been a candidate for UVA in 2009.  He was pretty perfect for us at that time.  Since then, Air Force has gone:

  • 9-4 in 2010
  • 7-6 in 2011
  • 6-7 in 2012
  • 2-10 in 2013 (yikes)
  • 10-3 in 2014
  • 5-3 in 2015

That little dip doesn't scare me, though.  In fact, it shows me that this coach can stumble a bit and then rebuild his roster and update his plan.  It proves that there is some dynamism to his craft.  I kind of dig it.  And this article, well, it drives everything home as to why Troy Calhoun would be a great fit at UVA.

Why Air Force's Troy Calhoun is the nation's most overlooked coach

Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
You aren't hearing much about Hudspeth right now because the Ragin' Cajuns stumbled out of the gate, going 1-3 before rallying to 3-4.  I won't hold blowout losses against Akron or Louisiana Tech against Huddy --- he's still the same dude who goes 9-4 and takes Louisiana-Lafayette to the New Orleans Bowl (and wins it) every season. He's still the same dude who went 66-21 at North Alabama. He's still the same dude who is destined to be the next southern football coaching star.

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."

Sonny Dykes, California
Okay, full disclosure here -- I want the Air Raid at Virginia, and I want it bad.  If you're not going to get Mike Leach, then the guy you want to coach the Air Raid at your school is Sonny Dykes.

His run as a head coach (so far):

  • 2010 Louisiana Tech -- 5-7
  • 2011 Louisiana Tech -- 8-5
  • 2012 Louisiana Tech -- 9-3
  • 2013 California -- 1-11
  • 2014 California -- 5-7
  • 2015 California -- 5-3...
Does it look like he can build a program from nothing?  I sure think it does.  Is Cal a strong academic institution, like UVA?  Uh, yeah.

But he certainly wouldn't leave Cal to come to Virginia, would he?

There's some bad blood there, and it's getting worse.  The timing is pretty perfect for UVA to swoop in and get this guy.

Note: Here's the immediate impact of installing the Air Raid...

From 1994-1996 the University of Kentucky went 9-24 while scoring 149, 223, and 138 points. Upon hiring Hal Mumme to run the Air Raid, they went 18-17 while scoring 348, 431, and 328 points from 1997-1999.

From 1996-1998 the University of Oklahoma scored 255, 232, and 184 points. In 1999 (running the Air Raid) they would score 430 points and finish 13-0 while scoring 481 points in 2000. The 481 points were the most they had scored in a season since 1987 when they were coached by Barry Switzer.

From 1997-1999 Texas Tech University scored 245, 315, and 253 points. From 2000-2002 they would score 330, 402, and 537 points while improving their record to 9-5 by 2002. From 2002-2009 they never won fewer than 8 games under Mike Leach and his Air Raid system.

From 2000-2002 the University of Houston scored 211, 190, and 320 points. In 2003, under Art Briles, they scored 448 points. That was the most since 1990 when they were coached by John Jenkins. Art would have two more seasons in which his teams would score over 440 points in a season. Kevin Sumlin would then take that up a notch with his teams scoring 528, 591, 452, and 660 points from 2008-2011.  All Air Raid.

From 2009-2011 Texas A&M University scored 427, 382, and 475 points. Kevin Sumlin took over and led the 2012 Aggies to an 11-2 record while scoring 578 points and garnering a Heisman Trophy for QB Johnny Manziel.

Yards, touchdowns, points, high-fives, wins, Sportscenter, fistpumps, records being broken and barenaked titties being flashed, that's all I'm asking for.  The Air Raid at Virginia, let's do this fucking thing.

Learn more about the Air Raid:

Coach Leach goes deep, very deep

The Air Raid offense: History, evolution, weirdness - from Mumme to Leach to Franklin to Holgorsen and beyond

Greg Schiano
He's well-known as a giant prick, and he's currently out of a job.  Your gut reaction is "ewwww, yuck, Greg Schiano?"  Not so fast.  Read this.

'Gotta coach somebody'

No, seriously.  Click the link and read the damn article.

Now... doesn't that sound like someone you'd love to have coaching at Virginia?

I think Schiano would give us everything we've lacked under Mike London.  He'd be like a good version of Al Groh, but with more winning!

Parting shot on this one, take a look at what Schiano did at Rutgers, a notoriously moribund college football program before his arrival.

  • 2001 -- 2-9
  • 2002 -- 1-11
  • 2003 -- 5-7
  • 2004 -- 4-7
  • 2005 -- 7-5 (bowl game loss)
  • 2006 -- 11-2 (bowl game win, finished season ranked #12)
  • 2007 -- 8-5 (bowl game win)
  • 2008 -- 8-5 (bowl game win)
  • 2009 -- 9-4 (bowl game win)
  • 2010 -- 4-8
  • 2011 -- 9-4 (bowl game win)

That's a 68-67 run at Rutgers - RUTGERS! - including a 56-33 run after he got things built and rolling.  And now he's even better at the whole head coaching thing?  Child, please.  We'd be crazy to not want that at Virginia.

Personally, I think Miami would be nuts to not go after Schiano... but it sounds like they are zeroing in on Butch (Motherfucking) Davis, so their loss could be Virginia's gain.  There is some potential competition for Schiano from Maryland, but I think the Terps are really all over the place, and might just be dumb enough to wait out Chip Kelly's season in Philadelphia.  Anyway, I'd be pretty happy if we moved on Schiano.

~~~ Other Up-and-Comers ~~~
These dudes don't have the buzz of Fuente, Herman, or the three Matts, but each of the four are quality P5 coaching candidates in their own right.  I'll speak to their potential fit at Virginia.

Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky
We want a hot young offensive coach, he's a hot young offensive coach.  He's winning at WKU (15-7 in 1.5 seasons), but perhaps more importantly, his teams are moving the ball (#5 in yardage, #3 in passing) and scoring points.  With his high-octane passing offense, Brohm is on the universal short list of up-and-comers.  I think it'd be a reach for Virginia, but with that offense, at least it's a calculated risk, and at least we'd be watching some fun football.

Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Babers isn't as young as we might want (he's 54), but his teams at Bowling Green are proving to be offensive juggernauts (#2 in yardage, #1 in passing).  He's winning at Bowling Green, as well -- 15-8 in 1.5 seasons.  Prior to BGSU, he went 19-7 at Eastern Illinois.  Babers is going to land a P5 job this offseason, and if it's not Virginia, look at Illinois or maybe Iowa State or Purdue.  I actually really like this guy, I think he gives a good interview.  Definitely a 'Plan B' type for UVA, but Babers would bring some serious offensive firepower in his Xs and Os, learned from THE Art Briles at Baylor.

Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
I'm just sort of 'meh' on this dude; thinking that NIU is just a good program being handed down from one decent coach to the next.  I certainly don't think Carey has done anything special at Northern Illinois.  It was Dave Doeren who took them to the 2012 Orange Bowl.  So let me ask, do we want a slightly-less-good version of NC State's coach?  Didn't think so.

P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
Another guy I'm 'meh' on.  He's the youngest coach in the FBS (he's 34), and is known as a tireless and innovative recruiter.  But the Xs and Os are maybe not there.  I feel like we've already gone down that rocky road with a recruiter who isn't particularly adept at the actual coaching part of coaching, and it hasn't gone all that well.  Meanwhile, I seriously doubt Fleck could attract a top-notch staff of assistant coaches.  No thanks.  Too young, too froo-froo, not proven enough.

~~~ More Plan-B Guys ~~~
The first nine dudes I listed (Fuente, Herman, the three Matts, Calhoun, Huddy, Dykes, Schiano) are my top tier of options for UVA, while Brohm and Babers join these three as my next tier.

Al Golden
I know, I know.  Groan, right?  Golden just sort of fizzled out at football-delusional Miami, posting a 32-25 record across 4.5 seasons while he faced down the Nevin Shapiro scandal and the associated sanctions.  Golden has some of that Al Groh taint on him still.  It's also been said that Golden would NEVER work for Jon Oliver again (I'm expecting Oliver to be canned after the season along with London, but that's just a guess).  Maybe worst of all, he insists on keeping his good buddy Mark D'Onofrio as his defensive coordinator, and by all accounts, D'Onofrio simply is not a good coach.  No, worst of all, Golden went 1-4 against Mike London.  Wait, why did I list Al Golden here?  Oh, right -- he's still the same guy that was regarded as one of the brightest young minds in college football just five years ago.  I actually think Miami was a terrible situation for Golden.  If he had just stayed at Temple or gone just about anywhere else, I think he'd be regarded as a top-20 college football head coach right now.  I'd be open to giving him the chance to (re-)prove himself at Virginia.

Pep Hamilton
It wasn't long ago that Virginia tech fans were creaming their jeans over this guy.  Since then, he tried his hand at coaching in the NFL... and was just scapegoated by the Colts.  Hamilton is the same bright offensive mind who helped turn Andrew Luck into Andrew Luck, and he's still got the Jim Harbaugh blueprints from Stanford.  I have no idea where Hamilton's ambitions lie, but if he wants to create his own version of Stanford on the east coast, please allow me to introduce him to UVA.

Lance Leipold, Buffalo
This is what I said a year ago:

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.

Since then, Leipold took the job at Buffalo, and has the Bulls at 5-4 and playing pretty well.  It's clear to me that Leipold knows what he's doing.

~~~ Thinking Outside the Box ~~~
Here are a few other guys I think would be interesting options for UVA.  Use your imagination a little bit, guys.  Projections!

Bob Stitt, Montana
He's at Montana now, and only 4-4, but GOOD GOD his offensive acumen.  I'd be failing at my job here if I didn't mention Stitt, and link you this:

How Montana coach Bobb Stitt's fun and lethal offense actually works

The run game is basically just a constraint. The offense is designed to punish every opponent response with the passing game, and when Stitt can, he goes for the throat.


Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns
Kurt Roper, Browns senior offensive assistant
They're going to get fired in Cleveland, and I'm listing these two as a package deal.  Pettine is an NFL guy through and through, after his playing days at UVA ended in '88.  He's pretty well-regarded in coaching circles, and is generally seen as a guy who knows what the fuck he is doing, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  It's just that the Cleveland Browns are a toxic organization.  Roper, meanwhile, was David Cutcliffe's right hand man at Ole Miss and Duke, and he brings that Cutty blueprint with him, along with some handsome offensive prowess.  I don't know, this is probably a long reach, but I like the way this pu-pu platter tastes.

Mario Cristobal, Alabama OL coach
He might be the top pick for UCF and the SMART pick for Miami, but if he slips through those two cracks, UVA should take a long look.  The dude can coach, and I think he would take a P5 job like ours and really run with it.

Why Mario Cristobal should be the next Miami Hurricanes football coach

Why I think he'd be a neat fit at Virginia:

  • He's got good head coaching experience
  • He built a solid program from literally nothing at FIU
  • He's developed under Nick Saban and now carries the Saban blueprints
  • He's got a ton of connections in the coaching biz, and would be able to build a good staff at UVA
  • He'd deliver the ability to recruit the state of Florida

I just think Cristobal would be a very interesting option for us.

Bo Pelini, Youngstown State
If Bobby Petrino can land back in the ACC, there's a chance Pelini can catapult from Youngstown State to a solid job. He may be gruff, but a 70% winning percentage at Nebraska is hard to ignore.

David Bailiff, Rice
Okay, there is absolutely nothing flashy here.  Keep in mind that Rice is one of the toughest academic institutions in the FBS with pretty much zero football tradition.  In 9.5 seasons, Bailiff has gone:

  • 2007 -- 3-9
  • 2008 -- 10-3 (bowl game win)
  • 2009 -- 2-10
  • 2010 -- 4-8
  • 2011 -- 4-8
  • 2012 -- 7-6 (bowl game win)
  • 2013 -- 10-4 (bowl game loss)
  • 2014 -- 8-5 (bowl game win)
  • 2015 -- 4-4

That's 52-57 at Rice, whom he has playing good, solid, fundamentally-sound football.  He's a Texas guy, but might jump at any chance to coach a P5 program, especially one with similar academic standards to the ones he's been working with at Rice.  Underwhelming, I know.  Just a gut feeling that Bailiff would be a solid coach for us if we ended up hiring him (even though the few remaining Hoofans would revolt.)

Not gonna lie, I also like that he's a little bit of a fat guy.

Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
I dunno, I'm kind of petering out here.  I don't know much about Willie Fritz, but he's 55, kicked ass at Central Missouri (D2) for 13 years before making the jump up to Sam Houston State (FCS/D-1AA), where he kicked ass for four years before making the jump up to Georgia Southern (new to FBS/D-1A), where he has kicked ass for a year and a half.  Take a look for yourself.

~~~ Thanks, But No Thanks ~~~
Here are some guys you might think you want, but you really don't want.  I'll tell you why.

Ken Niumatololo, Navy
I love this guy, but he's a triple option coach and will only ever coach the triple option.  With Paul Johnson popping the ACC's triple option cherry at Georgia Tech, there's not room for the wishbone at UVA.

Doc Holliday, Marshall
He's winning, but he's West Virginia through and through.  For him, I think it's WVU or bust.  Plus, he's already 58, and looks much older than that.  Damn...

Doug Marrone, Jaguars OL coach / assistant head coach
He went .500 at Syracuse while turning Ryan Nassib into an NFL draft pick at the quarterback position.  That's where the good news ends.  Marrone wasn't bad with the Bills (15-17), but he was seen as a colossal prick, super abrasive, just kind of a jerk.  I think he's a good coach, just not what we're looking for at UVA.  I do expect to see him return to college in short order, even though he hates recruiting.

Chad Morris, SMU
I think he's a total doucher who waited too long at Clemson, and now stands at 1-7 at SMU... despite getting them on track offensively in many ways.  Besides, as I understand it, he's married to coaching in the state of Texas.

~~~ Assistants on the Rise ~~~
Okay, I've become a pretty firm believer in the following career path for a coach:

  • Step 1: FBS assistant
  • Step 2: Head coach at a Group of Five (or FCS) school
  • Step 3: Head coach at a Power Five school

That's why I am no longer pimping guys like Rhett Lashlee or Scott Frost, never mind the fact that both are too young, the bloom has come off the rose now that Auburn is middling, and Oregon is struggling (by Oregon standards) without Marcus Mariota.  Meanwhile, Lincoln Riley is still way too young (although AIR RAID!), Jeremy Pruitt's rep is taking hits left and right, and there's no way in hell that Kirby Smart takes any job other than Georgia (or maybe South Carolina or Virginia Tech).  Also, nobody mention Lane Kiffin, please.  Talk about a total non-starter for a school like UVA.

But if you really feel the need to consider the assistant coaches, first check out this article, which I will quote in italics, below:

My picks for the most interesting fits for UVA...

Scottie Montgomery, Duke associate head coach / offensive coordinator
The 37-year old former Duke receiver has an NFL coaching background and was the guy David Cutcliffe hand-picked to call the plays. That says a lot.  I like him because he knows the ACC and has seen how to build a team up from a talent crater in the Coastal.

Mike Sanford, Notre Dame offensive coordinator
The son of a longtime college football coach, the 33-year old Sanford is a rising star who checks every box for an AD. He's done great work this year with DeShone Kizer.  I get the sense Sanford is on the fast track (like Tom Herman was).  If we want him, we'd need to get to him early.

Dana Dimel, Kansas State offensive coordinator
Despite this season's difficulties — the Wildcats' starting quarterback was injured in the season opener — his numbers over the years are spectacular. And it's not like Kansas State overwhelms opponents with talent.  UVA could do much worse than to bring in a guy who comes equipped with Bill Snyder's blueprints for program-building and renaissance.

Ed Warinner, Ohio State offensive coordinator
Urban Meyer offensive coordinators have a pretty good track record of becoming good head coaches.  It's true, and this dude has really paid his dues through the years.

D.J. Durkin, Michigan defensive coordinator
Only 37, he already has an impressive résumé coming out of the Harbaugh/Stanford tree and then working under Will Muschamp at Florida.  It's said that if you want a Harbaugh and you can't get Jim or John, then go after Durkin.

Mike Norvell, Arizona State offensive coordinator and deputy head coach (whatever that means)
Though Arizona State has had a disappointing season, the 33-year old Norvell has been in the mix for head coaching jobs already and will continue to get looks because of his up-tempo system.  I just love that offense.

Geoff Collins, Florida defensive coordinator
Recruiting, energy, swagger and an aggressive defensive system that worked at Mississippi State and this year at Florida. It's not a matter of if, but when.  He's an SEC guy who might be able to bring that brand of football to Virginia.

Ed Orgeron, LSU defensive line coach
It seems like someone is going to give him another shot sooner or later. His reputation has gotten better because of the way he succeeded in the USC interim gig in 2013.  There's no chance he's a candidate at UVA, but I love him too much not to mention him.

Mike Bloomgren, Stanford OC / OL coach / assistant head coachHe's got that Stanford Plan that UVA fans seem to covet.

~~~ One more coach I want to mention ~~~
Unless our new head coach is going to coach his own special teams ala Beamer (a model I really like, by the way), we're going to need a special teams coordinator.  I would like to submit the name DeLane Fitzgerald, current head coach at D3 Frostburg State in Maryland.  Fitzgerald grew up in Nelson County, has almost a decade of head coaching experience, and frankly, coaches the best special teams in college football.  Hiring DeLane Fitzgerald to coach Virginia's special teams is an idea I do not back down from.

Okay, time to wrap this juggernaut up.  I guess you probably want me to rank the candidates in my order of preference.  I guess I can [try to] do that.  How about a top 16?

#1 Matt Rhule
#2 Matt Campbell
#3 Greg Schiano
#4 Matt Wells

#5 Sonny Dykes
#6 Troy Calhoun
#7 Dino Babers
#8 Justin Fuente
#9 Tom Herman
#10 Mark Hudspeth
#11 Pep Hamilton
#12 Jeff Brohm
#13 Al Golden
#14 Bob Stitt
#15 Lance Leipold
#16 Mario Cristobal

I'd honestly be happy with any of those 16 guys as the next head coach at Virginia.  There are probably others I'd be able to quickly get behind, as well.

I'm just starving for a change.  I think most Hoofans are with me.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this monster.  It took me about a year to out it together, and the better part of a week to write.  I'm sure it's riddled with typos, but I did my best to edit the damn thing.  Anyway, let's buckle up for what should be a fun month of November.

One last thing:


  1. holy crap, this is amazing

  2. Totally agree on Schiano, I'm a Panthers fan and hated him at Tampa. I really like him on ESPN though and respect someone who can self examine like that.

    1. YES to Schiano. And you know what? I think it is totally possible that he is UVA's next head coach.

  3. Wow! Great job with this list. And I think I could live with most of the guys as well. It is ironic that the article on the 1990 team was in the Progress today. Imagine an old salt like Coach Welsh letting his OC install some "Run and Shoot" elements to the offense. That team sure was fun to watch. And I'd love to see an offense like that on the home side in Scott Stadium again....

  4. Great stuff here. Coaching search is the only thing I want to talk about when it comes to UVa football. I agree with a lot of what you said and think you did a great job of exhaustively covering all realistic candidates.

    I agree with Fuente as the top choice, unfortunately I think he's over our head now. I do think we could land Campbell or Wells and would be excited by either.

    Also, I think you are sleeping on Fleck from WMU. I think he's a fast riser and reminds me of Harbaugh (who went from San Diego to Stanford), although he may be without the ability, as you pointed out, to attract a top-notch staff of assistant coaches. I don't think anyone else on your list would have more piss and vinegar on the recruiting trail, selling the program, which is important given the obvious need for re-energizing the program.

    I also don't like the Air Raid, and I know that "high-octane passing offenses, hurry-up spreads and whatnot, and specifically the Air Raid" (highlighted in preference 5), is not what anyone would associate with a southern football attitude. Dinking and dunking down the field with 5 yard passes is widely seen as the near opposite of southern football (Texas does not count as southern, they are their own thing). May be nitpicking here, but it seems like the only hole in your article.

    Thank you so much for this post, I am eagerly counting down the days until I can be excited about UVa football again.

    1. Great comments! Thanks!

      I very well may be sleeping on Fleck. I'll make it a point to do more reading on him this week. You raise some good points re: recruiting and energizing the program.

      Air Raid and southern football... there is such a thing as a "smashmouth spread."
      Granted, what I want is pure Air Raid, because I just think it's fun to watch, and becuase I think it works in helping a less-talented team notch wins.

    2. Yeah, just check out what Mike Leach has done at WSU this year. I can't imagine they aren't the least "talented" team in the PAC-12.

  5. Regarding Hudspeth, how much do you think the NCAA charges against ULL will affect his stock? (For those who don't know: a former assistant was found to have literally made up recruits' ACT scores out of whole cloth.) I know that Hud was not implicated in anything, but I have to imagine it would hurt him, especially for a school like Virginia.

    Also, that article about Dykes you linked to is a good argument against him: 1) It suggested that academic issues are one reason why he wants out. That's not the only reason, sure, but if that's the case, I can't imagine he'd want to trade one Public Ivy for another. 2) His current AD has a "disengaged ... management style." How is that not a description of Littlepage letting Oliver micromanage, especially in football? Sure, CL probably won't be in McCue much longer, but again, why would he come here just to deal with the exact same problem?

    In fact, if put those two things together, Dykes might be a better fit in Blacksburg than Charlottesville.

    1. Great points on Huddy and Dykes.

      I think Hudspeth is teflon when it comes to that ACT score scandal, but you're right, UVA might steer clear.

      Dykes' issues at Cal are strictly contractual. I think he's been pointing out reasons why that job is so tough... and why he needs/deserves a more robust contract.

  6. Add Freddie Kitchens, Assistant Coach of the AZ Cardinals to your list. He was a quarterback at Alabama and coached at Miss State and North Texas before starting his NFL coaching career with the Dallas Cowboys. His wife has family in Virginia and they are interested.

  7. Any particular reason no mention of Bobby Wilder at ODU (or did I miss him?)? I see he was on previous iterations of this list. Air-Raid, program builder, direct 757 connection, record of qb development. Seems like he belongs on the list, given that you have guys like Kurt Roper on there. Basically, I am just interested in your opinion on him...?

    1. I like Wilder quite a lot, but I think he's a notch below the level Virginia should (and will) be aiming. Plus, I'm not sure Wilder would leave Old Dominion. PLUS, he's not currently winning.

    2. Fair. I, probably much like you, just want a departure from the current quasi-pro style knock-off Alabama thing we have been going with for a while now, which is why I am down on Rhule and Golden. Pro style is a nice ideal, but if you don't absolutely dominate on the lines and play above average special teams, (spoiler: we don't do any of that consistently) it is a tough scheme to watch fall apart.

      I would do bad bad things for Fuente, Campbell, or Herman. Particularly Herman.

  8. Finally made it through this behemoth (and the prereqs). Damn. Hella impressive, K. I don't know enough to know anything about any of this stuff, but I'm very, very interested in Virginia Football going Air Raid.

  9. A name that not a lot of people have been talking about is Doug Meacham, TCU offensive coordinator. He's a Texas guy, so it's not likely he would want to come here but that air raid style would be fun to watch. Fun to think about though

  10. If you can win at northwestern you can win anywhere....

  11. I see you have changed the order of your 16 at the end. I like your 1 and 2. They are like 1a and 1b to me, but I would put Campbell ahead of Rhule.

  12. If London doesn't get fired this year then I will not be renewing my tickets that I have had for 34 years.. I know of 2 other long time ticket holders that will do the same.. Total of 14 tickets

  13. Bo Pelina or Les Miles

  14. Les Miles, Chip Kelly or Jeff Brohm.

  15. Since Les in at LSU to stay its time to go after Pat Fitzgerald. He is a rising mind and star in college football. We need someone not tied to UVa football at all that's where we went wrong with London.

  16. Since Les in at LSU to stay its time to go after Pat Fitzgerald. He is a rising mind and star in college football. We need someone not tied to UVa football at all that's where we went wrong with London.

  17. Fantastic work on this. When a committee is formed this should be required reading!!! Looks like VA Tech already beat UVA to the punch with Fuente and many of the others will be falling soon too. UVA Admin needs to get off their collective ass and pull the trigger. Beamer gone means a reset on Virginia recruiting and somewhat of an unknown at both schools assuming UVA makes the only smart move and removes London. What kid worth anything would come to UVA next year if super lame duck London returns? The next coach needs to be very well compensated and given a lengthy package. If that is done then getting a top choice from this list will be much easier to achieve. Go Whoos!!!

  18. LONDON has resigned !! Let the party start !!! No Al Golden !!!! Bo Pelina

  19. Richt Richt Richt

  20. Mark Richt come on Mark Richt!!!

  21. Mark Richt is total nonsense. The ad and richt mutually agreed he would step down and be allowed to take part in other duties within the university. Either the Notre Dame oc or troy Calhoun would be my guess. He will fit the university first as a person and be a football coach second.