The inevitable and reasonable happened, as Michigan did what should have been done a long time ago and fired Brady Hoke. Now beings the race to find a head coach replacement. Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles are the usual names that come up, but also the most difficult to obtain. Dan Mullen, Gary Patterson and Butch Jones might be a bit easier to sign.
Jim Harbaugh is the name on everyone’s lips in Ann Arbor. But is it realistic? Head coaches who left the college scene and do well in the NFL don’t just come back. While Michigan can compete with anyone in terms of salary, it’s simply not the same challenge, not to mention Harbaugh still having a job with the 49ers. He might also get traded to the Oakland Raiders, and there’s one more year on his contract. It’s a great option to have, probably the best, but it’s just difficult to see happening.
Les Miles is another fantasy trope, but a little bit more down to earth. Every time Michigan make a change at head coach Miles names comes up. While Michigan can offer more money than LSU (Miles makes $4.3 million a season before bonuses, which haven’t been coming lately), the Tigers have been a good home for Miles for a decade which has included five top 10 finished and winning the national championship in 2010.
The South makes for better recruiting, a higher level of football and frankly, right now, LSU is a better program than Michigan in this sport. Money and sentimentality are the advantages Michigan have in this hire, but Miles is also signed until 2019. With Michigan and their AD proclaiming they’re not looking for just a Michigan man, which was the only thing Hoke had going for him, maybe Miles isn’t what they’re looking for.
Below the elite options, things get a lot more realistic. Gary Patterson of TCU has been mentioned as someone who should be considered. Outside the Big 12 and this season as well, Patterson had done a remarkable job with the Horned Frogs. But he’s had offers to leave TCU in the past and said no. What do Michigan have to offer that convinces Patterson to leave, knowing it’s a rebuilding job, but for a more lucrative school?
Dan Mullen of Mississippi State is being considered for every top job available (Florida, Nebraska as well). The Mississippi State head coach who loves running through the middle a bit too much maybe peaked with Mississippi State this season. With fierce competition within the state and in the SEC in general, maybe going 10-2 is the best that can be achieved with this program. Winners don’t usually think that way, but maybe Mullen will jump on the opportunity.
Butch Jones still hasn’t completed his job at Tennessee. While recruiting consecutive top-10 classes is nice, it needs to turn into wins. Jones did it pretty well in Cincinnati and is also from Michigan. After going aggressively at Miles and Harbaugh, Jones is probably their favorite option, but a very difficult one to persuade. Mark Stoops, also in the SEC East (Kentucky) is making more PR than actual results in Lexington. He’s a good recruiter, especially in Ohio which is very important to Michigan, but going 7-17 as a head coach might be something of an obstacle. Hoke was 47-50 with small schools when he was hired.
A sorta out-there name is Mike Gundy. The Oklahoma State head coach is reportedly unhappy with things in Stillwater. It’s not just the losing season for the first time since his first year on the job, but tensions with decision makers at the university. Can an offensive minded coach that has nothing to do with Michigan work? It depends if the rumors about Gundy actually being overrated and successful only due to good coordinators true. Still hard to see him going anywhere at the moment.