With so many potential candidates and so little information surfacing, it can be difficult to dissect the Kansas University football program’s ongoing coaching search.
As the quest to find Turner Gill’s replacement enters Day 9 and moves forward after one of its quietest days to date, it seems safe to place the remaining candidates into a few different categories.
Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is off the table and Southern Miss star Larry Fedora — one of the hottest names on the planet — might not be an option for KU much longer. Fedora, whose stock soared following last weekend’s 49-28 pounding of then-No. 6 Houston in the Conference USA championship game, is rumored to be the top candidate at North Carolina, while Arizona State and Texas A&M are also in pursuit.
With Leach signing on at Washington State and the odds of landing Fedora dwindling, KU’s options shift to a couple of other groupings — former head coaches, current head coaches and current assistant coaches.
All three groups include worthy candidates, but sources have indicated that KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger may be inclined to stick to one of the key points in the criteria he outlined last week before hitting the road. If that’s the case, head coaching experience becomes key.
Many of the names kicked around as potential options for Kansas fit the criteria, with Dave Christensen (Wyoming), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), June Jones (SMU), Chris Petersen (Boise State), Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech) and Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois) all currently employed in the college ranks.
Gaining access to interview the guys who have jobs already is a little tougher than finding one’s way into a conversation with former head coaches such as Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee) and Houston Nutt (Ole Miss) or Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, who was the head coach at Boise State and Arizona State before jumping to the NFL.
The reason? Common courtesy, according to KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony, who said ADs often times will ask permission to speak to a coach who is under contract with another school.
“There’s no policy,” Marchiony said. “It’s just what the athletic director feels is in the best interest of his school. Part of that is what the AD feels is in the best interest of any potential candidate, as well.”
Calls Monday, from the Journal-World to more than half a dozen athletic departments that employ coaches believed to be KU candidates, yielded little information about the depth of KU’s search. Most athletic directors either ignored inquiries about whether KU had sought permission to contact their coaches or were unavailable. The only one who was reached, Louisiana Tech’s Bruce Van de Velde, said he had no comment at this time.
While head coaching experience seems to be a major bonus for candidates interested in landing the KU job, a handful of assistant coaches could remain in the hunt should Zenger choose to go away from the guys above.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, and perhaps even Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables each could rise into the top tier in the coming days. For now, it appears as if their lack of head coaching experience may keep them on the back burner.
As was the case Monday, a lot of what KU is able to do in its search depends on how openings at Texas A&M, North Carolina and Arizona State are filled first.