Sunday, December 6, 2015

As the Coaching Carousel Turns: Weekend Edition

As the Coaching Carousel Turns: 12/4/15

It’s another day on the Carousel, as more moves are happening throughout the day, including some surprises. Here’s the latest:


East Carolina
In the shocker of the day, East Carolina dismissed Ruffin McNeil after what was termed a “deliberate” process of evaluation. I am guessing it had to be as many moves were made a week ago or more, and 12 schools have already hired coaches.
McNeil was largely popular amongst the fan bases at both Texas Tech and at East Carolina, but ECU is making a push for bigger and better these days. ECU went 13-12 the last two season overall, and had finished 8-8 in two seasons of AAC play. That was not good enough for the administration, who placed the names of all the schools in the AAC that had better records during that period of time in their release, which is something not previously seen.
If that is truly the case, I find their early candidate list a bit baffling. The first candidate mentioned is Rick Stockstill at Middle Tennessee, a coach who has lived in the middle his entire career. Stockstill’s stock has been slipping at MTSU, but he did manage to get the Blue Raiders back to a bowl this season. Still, his career record at MTSU is right at .500, which is something that I would not see as being advantageous to where ECU is trying to go.
Another name is NC State OC Matt Canada. This name seems to fit more into the mold of what could make ECU better than they are currently. Canada has built a solid offense at NC State, and even found a way to make Jacoby Brissett into a decent QB, something nobody thought possible at one point.
The 3rd candidate is Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey. I am a huge Carey fan, but not for ECU. For one thing, I view moving from NIU to ECU is nothing more than a lateral move. Both programs are G5 schools, and NIU has a better overall track record in recent years. I see Carey moving up, not laterally.

This was more a mutual parting of ways than an outright firing, but I am certain that Kerwin Bell would rather have stayed on at JU rather than leave at this point without having lined up another job first. The first thing to be clear about is that Bell is an outstanding coach. Any other program should be lucky to have him running their program, and he should latch on somewhere fairly quickly. Very few coaches have been able to win regularly with so little in the way of overall resources. JU is a very small school, but Bell was starting to feel the restraints of coaching and winning in a non-scholarship environment. JU was on probation this season within only the Pioneer League for having given scholarship type benefits to athletes in the football program. This was not an NCAA violation, but was a PFL policy violation, and so the Dolphins were ineligible for the league title or the auto-bid for the tournament.
The event that led to his departure seems to have come in the midst of differing philosophy between Bell and the administration over continuing as a non-scholarship program, with Bell feeling strongly that the program was stable and strong enough to start offering scholarship benefits. Of course that move would also entail JU moving conferences, but Bell felt that was an acceptable thing at this point in time. The school felt strongly in the other direction, and so Bell felt that he had done all he could to make it work.
There has only been one candidate mentioned for this job, and that is Ian Shields, who resigned at Lenoir-Rhyne after finishing 17-6 over the last two seasons. I would expect this to get done fairly quickly. Shields was mentioned by the website as the only candidate at this time.
Update (12/6)...Ian Shields indeed is the new head coach at JU as of today. This deal had been set up for days. It's a solid hire of a coach that can win right away.

The shocker of the season thus far has been Virginia’s sudden and out of nowhere hiring of BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall today to a contract that will pay him $3.25 million in his first season. There is not a ton of news on this hire or where it came from as of yet. Mendenhall will coach BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Tigers made official what I had been pushing for during their search, and they hired DC Barry Odom as their next football search, replacing the retiring Gary Pinkel. Odom’s hiring came as a moment of jubilation amongst the players currently on the football team, and that kind of reaction was exactly why I had pushed so hard for his hiring in the first place.
Odom is an immensely talented DC, and while the offense collapsed in 2015, the Tiger defense was still as fearsome as always. Odom is apparently considering bringing in Josh Heupel, currently of Utah State and formerly of Oklahoma, to run the offense, and that deal could get done over the weekend or early next week. That would bring an increased tempo in offensive pace, which would benefit the Tigers in improving over their bottomed out 2015 season.
In short, this was a solid hire for Missouri.

Memphis, I feel, jumped the gun a little bit in hiring Mike Norvell, the current OC at Arizona State, to run their program. Memphis had been in extended negotiations with Barry Odom, but I had felt all along that Odom’s heart was really in waiting out the Missouri situation, and Memphis finally had to move along.
Norvell is a good OC, but Arizona State and Pitt hardly got over the hump during his days working under Todd Graham. The Sun Devils did have a decent offense this season, but for me, it is about the body of work, so I cannot really get behind Norvell just yet.
Memphis had also had preliminary discussions with UAB coach Bill Clark, as he tries to rebuild the program for a 2017 re-launch, but Clark decided to stay put and see the project through.

Rutgers (12/6)
Ohio State co-DC Chris Ash has been offered the head coaching job at Rutgers despite having earlier pulled himself out from consideration. Ah is likely to accept the job.

Montana State
The Bobcats went the unknown path in hiring Washington assistant Jeff Choate as their next head football coach. Choate replaces Rob Ashe.


South Carolina
Will Muschamp is still keeping up his myopic approach to the South Carolina job, and is rallying up a staff should he get the call to become the next head coach of the Gamecocks. He has apparently offered Marcus Lattimore a spot on his staff, and has reached out to several other candidates as well for various staff positions.
Muschamp is acting prematurely, as South Carolina is still seeking other candidates, including Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who interviews today according to multiple sources. Rodriguez seems ready and willing to leave the desert for a return down south, and so has had his name attached at both Virginia and South Carolina now. It seems a matter of time until he moves on somewhere, whether or not that’s South Carolina, however, remains to be seen.
Update: Greg Schiano is now a candidate for the job and is expected to interview fairly shortly along with Rodriguez. Larry Fedora is coming up connected to this search as well, but UNC is trying to lock down a nice extension for him. One more candidate that is definitely in the mix is South Florida coach Willie Taggert, who is in the middle of another successful rebuilding project with the Bulls.
Update 2 (12/6): In a shocking twist of absolute stupidity, South Carolina hired Muschamp after Rich Rodriguez spurned their offer and returned to Arizona. It looks like Rodriguez was playing UA for an extension all along, and used SC to get it done.
The hire itself is a disaster for the Gamecocks. It just stinks of desperation after they were getting shot down time and again. Muschamp was a wreck at Florida, burned all his bridges with the administration and the fan base, and couldn't win at one of the most winnable locales in the nation. Get ready for the days of old, Gamecock fans, where you just felt fortunate to win 6 or 7 games. Remember the Sparky Woods days? You'll be praying for those to come back.
When asked about his name being attached to Syracuse, Dino Babers was very vague and stated that he was only concerned with Bowling Green winning the MAC title tonight. I would expect Babers to make a decision as early as Saturday. Right now, he is the odds on favorite for this job.
Update (12/5): Babers was made head coach of the Orange after winning the MAC title, and was officially announced on Saturday.
Tom Herman has signed his contract extension at Houston. He will be payed $2.8 million per season, the highest salary in the G5 coaching ranks. His buyout through 2017 will be $2.5 million. That’s not a bad rate if another school wants him bad enough and can lure him away (potentially UCLA if Mora leaves for the NFL…Bruins could dangle the chance for an offensive mind such as Herman to work with Josh Rosen).

A search firm has been contracted to help ULM in their search to replace Todd Berry. Interviews are set to begin next week.

Add to this list now as Bronco Mendenhall pulled a shocker and accepted the Virginia job this afternoon. This move was purely under the radar mastery on part of Virginia, and so we do not have a candidate list as of yet. I would have to assume that Matt Wells of Utah State will get a call, as should Troy Calhoun of Air Force, however there could be an on staff option at this time.
My assumption right now would be that BYU will want to make as much as a splash as possible for a potential bid to join a conference such as the Big 12 in the near future. This will be a very important hire here.
Update (12/6): Early candidates are Kilane Sitaki of Oregon State, current OC Robert Anae, Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell, and Navy coach Ken Niamataolo. All belong to LDS, which is a requirement for BYU's head coaching job.

North Texas
UNT has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to discuss their coaching situation. It is largely believed that Seth Litrell is the guy, as I have been saying all week. This should be finalized tomorrow.
Update (12/6): After UNC lost to Clemson in the ACC title game, Litrell was officially announced as the new coach at UNT.

New candidates for the job are Baylor OC Kendal Briles (already turned down the North Texas job), LSU assistant Frank Wilson, and Oklahoma State OC Mike Yurcich, according to Wilson would appear to be the early favorite.

Eastern Kentucky
Southern Miss OC Chip Lindsey was offered the job, but has declined. EKU is now back in the hunt once again.

Austin Peay
APSU has a brand new candidates list per including Eastern Kentucky assistant Walt Wells (likely not to be retained at EKU), Delta State coach Todd Cooley, Georgia Tech LB coach Andy McCollum, and Chattanooga WR coach Will Healy. According to the post, they want this done by Christmas.

More news as it becomes available…

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