The silly season is in full swing, and top candidates are rapidly coming off the board. But fear not, fans of programs with a current vacancy at head coach, the best-case scenario for your favorite college football team is still appealing.
Now, this is a realistic list. Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh cannot be cloned 42 times each to create a Football Bowl Subdivision full of elite coaches. Each of the teams discussed have targeted, are rumored to be interested or have a reasonable chance to swipe the coach from his current job.
Virginia Tech, Iowa State and Maryland have each absolutely nailed their reported hirings, while Georgia and UCF made solid moves. Which programs will join the top group?
Memphis: Lincoln Riley
Now that Barry Odom is reportedly out of the picture, Memphis should turn its attention to the Lincoln Riley, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma.
Before accepting his current position, Riley spent five years at East Carolina in an identical capacity. While with the Pirates, he guided an offense highlighted by Shane Carden and the NCAA’s all-time receptions leader Justin Hardy.
Riley was also the receivers coach at Texas Tech when Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola were still playing college football.
Memphis will likely need to replace quarterback Paxton Lynch, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, as well as leading receiver Mose Frazier. Bringing in Riley would ease the transition process and retain Memphis’ potential to be an explosive offense in 2016.
Miami: Dan Mullen
It appears the athletic department has made a concerted effort to grab a “Miami guy.” Butch Davis, Greg Schiano and Mark Richt have each made headlines as possibilities, but Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post notes it’s not clear if Richt is truly interested or just listening.
Enter Dan Mullen. The Mississippi State head coach isn’t a glamorous choice because he doesn’t have a connection to South Florida, undoubtedly the richest recruiting ground in the country.
However, just imagine what someone who has compiled a 54-35 record during seven seasons in Starkville as part of the disastrous SEC West could do at Miami in the ACC Coastal. Yeah, that’s good for The U.
Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger says Mullen dodged questions about a reported interview with Miami officials. That’s not-so-secret code for confirming it happened. Seal the deal, Hurricanes.
Update: Richt is expected to be named Miami head coach, per Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.
Missouri: Sonny Dykes
Missouri’s offense lacked firepower in 2015. Cal head coach Sonny Dykes could help change that problem.
A disciple of Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack, Dykes has overseen offenses that included Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Nick Foles, Colby Cameron, Quinton Patton and Kenneth Dixon. Long story short, the man knows how to use playmakers on offense.
Dykes has lifted the Bears out of the Pac-12 cellar and made them a competitive team in 2015, helping the program achieve bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011.
Unfortunately for Cal, Dykes has “mentally moved on” from Berkeley, according to KNBR’s Dieter Kurtenbach. Missouri would be wise to offer Dykes the job and reap the rewards on offense in the shaky SEC East Division.
Rutgers: Joe Moglia
Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media reported that former Temple and Miami head coach Al Golden is a leading candidate for the vacancy at Rutgers. The move would make plenty of sense, but the State University of New Jersey ought to target someone who has made a lot of cents.
Joe Moglia, the current leader of the Coastal Carolina football program, was once the chief executive officer at TD Ameritrade. He boasts a 41-13 record, three shared conference championships and four consecutive playoff appearances in his four seasons at the helm of the Chanticleers.
Not only would Moglia bring a respectable coaching history, the former CEO certainly be able to provide advice to an athletic department severely lacking accountability.
Golden is a stellar recruiter and would help Rutgers become slightly better than mediocre once again, but Moglia is the better candidate.
South Carolina: Will Muschamp
The biggest problem with Florida head coach Will Muschamp was his nauseating offenses. If the current Auburn defensive coordinator accepts the South Carolina job, there’s a bit of hope that history won’t repeat itself.
Larry Williams of Rivals said Muschamp contacted Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott about running the offense at South Carolina, which is working to replace Steve Spurrier.
While that particular move might not happen, it shows Muschamp is willing to change his old style. That’s good news for the fans of Muschamp’s potential landing spot because he’s a defensive-minded coach, and South Carolina desperately needs help on that side of the ball.
Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reported Muschamp is receiving consideration for the job. Big-name options are dwindling, and Muschamp has one of the highest ceilings for success of the remaining candidates.
Syracuse: Dino Babers
Dino Babers has quite the list of coaching stops on his résumé, and Syracuse seems like another notch set to be recorded.
The 54-year-old has been an assistant or head coach at Hawaii, Arizona State, Eastern Illinois, UNLV, Northern Arizona, Purdue, San Diego State, Arizona, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Baylor, back to Eastern Illinois and is now at Bowling Green.
He’s also a conference championship machine. With Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, Babers helped EIU win Ohio Valley titles in 2012 and 2013 as well as Mid-American Conference crowns at BGSU with Matt Johnson.
Plus, there could be a trend. Babers moved on from Eastern Illinois to Bowling Green after Garoppolo ran out of eligibility. Johnson is preparing for his final two games under center for Bowling Green.
Babers is on the rise, and moving from the MAC to the Atlantic Coast Conference is a commendable progression.
Virginia: Mark Richt
Though ESPN’s Travis Haney said Richt is unlikely to coach anywhere in 2016, the former Georgia head coach is still going through the interview process. At worst, Virginia has hope.
Richt would be an unbelievable hire for a program that has reached double-digit wins just once in its 112-year history. Once! Virginia managed nine wins on five other occasions.
Whether you want to call it a mutual departure or a firing doesn’t matter. Richt was directed toward the door in Athens for underachieving—read: not winning a national championship.
But he averaged 9.7 wins during his 15 years coaching the Bulldogs. You know what a coach would get at Virginia for tallying 10 wins per season? A statue.
Update: Sorry, Wahoos. Richt is expected to be named Miami head coach, per Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.