LAST UPDATED: 8:05 p.m. EST, December 9
We’ve had a lot of fun with our bad suggestions to fill USF’s vacant head coaching job (and we’ll have some more today), but it’s time to talk about the real candidates.
You know how we do it around here. We’ve been down this road before in 2012, and once more in 2014. We’ll keep this page updated as much as we can as new candidates surface, but this search might not take too long.
Charlie Strong: +150 (UPDATED: -350) (UPDATED AGAIN: -1000)
Current Job: unemployed
Last Job: Head coach, University of Texas
Pluses: Defensive mind that has recruited the state of Florida effectively for decades. Won big at Louisville.
Minuses: Texas sucked pretty bad the last three years. Not a good game coach.
This might be a perfect fit in the short term. Texas is paying him $5 million per year for the next two years, but also gets 50% of his income. So if USF paid him $2 million, he’d keep $1 million and send $1 million back to Austin. USF picked up $1.7 million from Taggart as part of his buyout today, so combining that money could get you a big-name coach pretty cheap.
And Strong has extensive ties to the state, having coached for the Gators four separate times in his career. He’s always recruited the state well, and has two Big East Coach of the Year awards and a Sugar Bowl from his four seasons in charge at Louisville.
Of course, keeping a guy like Strong for more than a couple years if he has success at USF will be a challenge. Unfortunately, that probably applies to every guy on this list.
UPDATE (Dec 8): There’s a report from Roy Cummings, longtime Tampa Tribune veteran, that says USF is in negotiations with Strong with an eye on getting something wrapped up before a recruiting dead period begins next week. At the very least there seems to be significant interest on USF’s part, and thanks to Strong’s buyout from Texas he is definitely in the right price range.
UPDATE (Dec 9): Strong is reportedly in Tampa for negotiations. This makes him an even bigger favorite.
Lane Kiffin: +300 (UPDATED: +1000) (UPDATED AGAIN: +300)
Current Job: Offensive coordinator, Alabama
Pluses: Well-regarded offensive mind that has revolutionized the way Alabama moves the football. Had a 10-win season at USC in the middle of punitive NCAA sanctions.
Minuses: Basically everything else he’s done.
He got sued by the Raiders. He left Tennessee in the lurch after one season. He didn’t win nearly enough at USC and got fired on the tarmac. But he’s also been seated at the right hand of the father, Nick Saban, for three seasons now. That’s full redemption in the eyes of many. (Not that that’s always worked out; see Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp.)
Dennis Dodd is reporting about Kiffin “that well has been poisoned” partially because his former brother-in-law David Reaves is a current USF assistant (Reaves’ sister Layla divorced Kiffin earlier this year). We’ve already written why we think it’d be an odd hire. But hey, stranger things have happened. It would certainly qualify as a “splash,” though who knows if it’s a good one or a bad one.
UPDATE (Dec 8): Apparently Houston has decided to roll the dice with Kiffin. Not official yet, but this would be quite a relief.
UPDATE (Dec 9): Houston promoted offensive coordinator Major Applewhite instead. That may make Kiffin the #2 option behind Strong.
Field: +600 (UPDATED: +1000) (UPDATED AGAIN: +800)
We’ve never been through a football coaching search with Mark Harlan. Maybe he has some connections to assistant coaches or lower-level head coaches that no one knows about. His track record with coaches so far has been pretty good, and he’s had a way of selling USF to coaches who buy into his vision of the program as a sleeping giant. If Harlan strikes out on Kiffin and Strong, the field becomes a huge favorite. This could also include candidates like Lincoln Riley, who are generally interesting but don’t have any real links to USF.
UPDATE (Dec 9): With Strong reportedly in Tampa for negotiations, and Kiffin available again as a fallback option, an off-the-board candidate seems less likely. But it might be the third most-likely result, as there are no reports USF has talked to any of the below candidates. We’ll dial the payoff back slightly.
Frank Wilson: +1000
Current Job: head coach, UTSA.
Pluses: Took a stalled-out Roadrunners program and brought it to a 6-6 record in his first year in charge. Has a lengthy track record as a high school head coach and college assistant. An absolute monster on the recruiting trail.
Minuses: Only one year as head coach at UTSA. Might not quite be ready to make the jump to this level. Has worked for Houston Nutt, Lane Kiffin, and Les Miles, any or all of whom might have given him brain damage.
This is a pretty interesting name. Wilson took over in San Antonio from program founder Larry Coker, who had some pretty dreadful recruiting classes, and got them a break-even record in year one. Right now UTSA is neck and neck with Western Kentucky for the best recruiting class in Conference USA, and the two of them are miles ahead of everyone else in that league. Seems like just a matter of time before he has a league title contender and bigger schools interested in him.
Lawrence Dawsey: +1500
Current Job: wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator, Florida State.
Pluses: Has been learning at the feet of Jimbo Fisher for a decade as an assistant coach. Part of FSU’s national title-winning staff in 2013 as passing game coordinator. Has Jameis Winston in his corner. Fits USF’s budget.
Minuses: No head coaching or even solo coordinator experience. Seems like FSU fans would not be too disappointed to see him leave.
We don’t know much about Dawsey’s credentials, so it’s hard to say how serious a candidate he is or how well he could do as a head coach. He has plenty of ties to Tampa, having played for the Bucs for five years and starting his coaching career as USF’s wide receivers coach from 2004-06. Let’s just slot him as “unlikely” for now.
Les Miles: +2000
Current Job: unemployed.
Former Job: Head coach, LSU.
Pluses: Won a national title, two SEC championsips, and three BCS bowls at LSU. Before that, lifted up Oklahoma State from the depths of mediocrity to a Cotton Bowl.
Minuses: Faded his last few years at LSU because his teams couldn’t score points. Had weird falling outs with assistant coaches. Prefers a Cro-Magnon offensive scheme that probably wouldn’t work at this level. Would give Jamie an aneurysm with his game management.
Hat would be tons of fun to watch and cover and it would certainly generate a lot of interest. But it may not generate as many wins as people expect, and it would be mighty expensive. Likely more than USF can afford. Oh well.
Larry Scott: +3000
Current Job: tight ends coach/special teams coordinator, Tennessee.
Pluses: Former USF player and coach. Strong, deep Florida recruiting ties. Went 4-1 as Miami’s interim coach in 2015 after Al Golden was fired.
Minuses: Other than the interim stint, no head coaching experience. No coordinator experience. Appears to be more valuable to a program as a recruiter (a very useful talent to be sure) than a coach.
It’s hard to say no to someone from USF’s O.G. Just seems like this is an idea whose time has come and gone. Actually, we were a little surprised he wasn’t on the odds board back in 2012. We don’t think anyone is opposed to Larry personally, but going from position coach to head coach might be too much of a leap for him.
Greg Schiano: +Oh go to hell
Current Job: Defensive coordinator, Ohio State
Pluses: Buckeyes’ defense has improved under him. The only coach Rutgers has had in like 100 years that’s been worth a damn.
Minuses: Would need an armored car to get in and out of Raymond James Stadium.
Seriously: Fuck this guy.
If they hire him, we’re shutting down the blog and not supporting USF football until he’s fired. We’re 100% out. He would piss off so many crossover USF/Bucs season ticket holders that we’d lose a ton of money. And he’s a real shitbag to people personally.