Sunday, November 4, 2018

11 possible candidates to become KU football’s next head coach

LSU head coach Les Miles is carried off the field after an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. LSU won 19-7. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

LSU head coach Les Miles is carried off the field after an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. LSU won 19-7. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)


Once everyone officially learned Sunday afternoon that Kansas athletic director Jeff Long was searching for a new head football coach to replace David Beaty, Long used the power of social media to divulge some details about what he’s looking for in a candidate.

Throwing out on Twitter phrases such as “experienced head coach” and “proven program builder” while describing his ideal hire, Long let KU football’s long-suffering fan base know he wants to find someone who is “committed to breaking the cycle” of a historically losing program. KU, of course, hasn’t won more than three games in a season since Mark Mangino’s final season in charge, in 2009.

With that in mind, here is a speculative list of potential candidates for Long to consider and/or pursue.

- Les Miles, former LSU and Oklahoma State head coach

The most attractive free agent in college football, Miles’ 2007 LSU team won a national championship.

He went 114-34 with the Tigers in 11-plus seasons, before being fired four games into the 2016 season. LSU was 7-4 in bowl games with Miles at the helm.

Miles first made a name for himself as a head coach in the Big 12, leading Oklahoma State to a 28-21 mark and three bowl appearances in four seasons.

He owns a .721 winning percentage as a head coach and would carry more clout than just about anyone who would consider coaching at KU.

But it’s unclear at this point whether a coach of Miles’ stature would actually want to take on the significant chore of overhauling the Kansas football program.

- Dave Doeren, North Carolina State head coach

Currently in his sixth season at N.C. State, Doeren is 40-32 at the ACC program.

Getting Doeren, a Kansas native and former KU assistant, back to Lawrence would cost some money, too, in the form of a $6 million buyout to get him out of his contract with the Wolfpack.

Doeren went 23-4 at Northern Illinois in his first head coaching job and now possesses a 4-1 record in bowl games, with N.C. State already bowl-eligible for this coming postseason.

- Jason Candle, Toledo head coach

In his third full season at Toledo, where he replaced now-Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, Candle became a quick success story.

Toledo is 26-11 since Candle took over, including an 11-3 mark in 2017.

The Rockers currently stand at 5-4 this season.

- Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic head coach

It didn’t work out for Kiffin at Tennessee, where he was fired after one season, or USC, which got rid of him five games into Year 4.

While that may take some of the luster off a Kiffin hire for most Power Five programs, KU isn’t like most major conference teams.

Plus, Kiffin found instant success at Florida Atlantic in 2017, going 11-3 and leading the team to a win in the Boca Raton Bowl.

The Owls are currently 4-5 this season.

- Seth Littrell, North Texas head coach

A graduate assistant for Mark Mangino at Kansas once upon a time, in 2002-04, Littrell has found success at North Texas, going 9-5 in his second season, in 2017. This year, he’s currently 7-2.

Littrell is 21-15 in his third season as a head coach.

- Jeff Tedford, Fresno State head coach

Currently 18-5 at Fresno State in his second year with the Mountain West team, Tedford inherited a program that went 1-11 in 2016.

Tedford went 82-57 previously, in 11 years at Cal, and owns a 6-3 bowl record.

- Willie Fritz, Tulane head coach

A Johnson County native who played defensive back at Pittsburg State, Fritz has developed recruiting contacts in Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Louisiana during a coaching career that started in junior college, advanced to NCAA Division II, then FCS and now FBS.

But in his third season at Tulane, Fritz currently holds a 13-20 record.

Previously, he went 18-7 in two seasons at Georgia Southern.

- Jim Leavitt, Oregon defensive coordinator

Though currently employed as Oregon’s defensive coordinator, Leavitt spent 10 seasons at South Florida, building the program up from scratch.

By the time he left following the 2009 season, Leavitt had a 75-44 record and took USF to five consecutive bowls, going 3-2 in the postseason.

Before taking over at USF, Leavitt worked for Bill Snyder as an assistant at Kansas State.

- Jeff Monken, Army head coach

After enduring losing seasons in his first two years on the job, Army’s fifth-year coach already has assured himself of a third straight year with at least seven wins.

Monken went 8-5 in Year 3, 10-3 in Year 4 and currently has Army at 7-2.

Earlier this season, with the help of a methodical triple option offense, Monken nearly directed his team to an upset victory at Oklahoma, before the Sooners prevailed, 28-21, in overtime.

He’s 2-0 in bowl games, as well.

- Troy Calhoun, Air Force head coach

In charge of Air Force football since 2007, could it be difficult to pry Calhoun away from a program he has taken to nine bowl games, going 4-5?

Calhoun, 3-6 this season, is currently 85-66 utilizing a triple option offense.

- Bret Bielema, former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach

Working for the New England Patriots as a consultant for Bill Belichick, it seems unlikely Long would hire Bielema, because he already did so at Arkansas.

Long was fired shortly before Bielema's tenure with the Razorbacks concluded in 2017, however.

Bielema went 29-34 in five seasons at Arkansas, reaching three bowl games and going 2-1 in the postseason.

His past with Long makes a reunion seem implausible. Still, Bielema is likely available. And before he was a head coach in the SEC, he went 68-24 (.739 winning percentage) in seven seasons at Wisconsin. The Badgers played in six bowl games in that span, going 2-4.


Dyrk Dugan 4 years ago

Doeren is the hire; it would right a tremendous wrong from 2011, when he was the perfect candidate then; and Zenger passed on him, inexplicably in my view. The big problems? One of them is the huge buyout (which the main moneybags could probably cover); and the fact that NC State will be in a bowl game. He’d have to be allowed to coach that game if he wanted to, and that would delay the organization and recruiting here. Now, since we don’t really have a recruiting class to hold, starting from scratch Jan. 1, wouldn’t be that bad. I would hope we at least would have a conversation with him; he definitely WOULD recruit KS and the KC area; he’s already done it once. There’s a heckuva football team out there, scattered around the region and nationally of all the local football players KU shunned or didn’t land; it would be fun see those kids coming up, dressing on Saturdays in crimson and blue.

Brian Wilson 4 years ago

Doreen is the hire. But it's a downward move and the money is too much.
Miles might be good but like Weis, is he hungry, what does he have to prove?

Why isn't Tim Rebowe from Nicholls on this list? He kicked our butts out of the gate this year. He has a winning record. He only make about $150K a year so its a low cost buyout, He is considered one of the best recruiters in the Louisiana area (much Like Hull) which could be a great fit, He has built a winning program recruiting 2 star locals building a team the right way. And, my guess is he is hungry to win at the Power 5 level.

Brett McCabe 4 years ago

Good catch on Rebowe. He should definitely be on the list.

Larry McGlinn 4 years ago

Let's just get Adidas to pay the buyout.....

David Kemp 4 years ago

Out of that list Doeren would be pick but too expensive. Leaving 1. Miles 2. Littrell 3. Leavitt

Dillon Davis 4 years ago

In Dennis Dodd's article at CBS, he said David Booth is in for the funding of the new coach - meaning we may be able to pony up for his buyout and salary. Having Booth involved gives us a chance.

David Robinett 4 years ago

Hard to imagine Miles having the sustained commitment level for this job.

Chris DeWeese 4 years ago

I agree. I think he's too old with very little left to prove.

Michael Maris 4 years ago


Lane Kiffin wasn't fired from Tennessee. He departed for the USC opening and pissed off Vol Nation.

Mike Hart 4 years ago

Lane Kiffin is a dirt bag. He left Tennessee with them holding the bag. If he would shun Tennessee for a better opportunity, who on Earth would you think he would stay any length of time at Kansas? His longest tenure... ANYWHERE is Southern Cal... 2010-2013, where he was fired 3 games into the 2013 season. He bolted Tennessee after signing a SEVEN year contract... and he left after one year. Just the kind of "stability" the Kansas program is looking for.

John Joseph Gorski 4 years ago

Littrell and Leavett are both going to be candidates at KSU as well.

Chris Bailey 4 years ago

Leavitt was offered the head coaching job and was suppose to assume that role January 1st 2018 but Snyder shot it down. Leavitt now has a clause in his contract at Oregon that he has no buyout if he's named the HC at K-State. If they get their man then it's Leavitt but Snyder wants his son so who knows.

Brett McCabe 4 years ago

All are good candidates. Fritz would be a strong choice. Tulane is competing, are headed to a bowl (most likely), has experience recruiting Louisiana, knows Kansas/Missouri and would take the job.

Ed Noyes 4 years ago

Miles is a band-aid and an irritating one at that. Doeren is the hire. Recently committed funds and other donors can account for the buy-out. I am almost 72 so don't make another mistake...LOL !!

Chris Bailey 4 years ago

Hell if we make another one at 45 I may not see a winner in my lifetime. :)

Aaron Paisley 4 years ago

For those of yall calling for Doeren, why would he leave NC State for Kansas at this point? He's got a big buyout, NC State alums would likely increase his salary to keep him, and lastly, it's not even a lateral career move, it's a downward move.

Dave Doeren is not coming to Kansas.

Chris Bailey 4 years ago

I agree. AND he's probably pissed off that he was passed over not once but twice by Zenger for the job.

Dane Pratt 4 years ago

Lane Kiffin is the only coach on this list I would be opposed to.

We had our chance with Doeren and blew it. Unless KU is his dream job the chances of landing him are next to zero.

Joe Joseph 4 years ago

Aside from money, I cant imagine any of those coaches having any desire to leave their current gigs for the KU job.

Dane Pratt 4 years ago

Agree. Our last two hires could not have gotten a job offer from any P5 school.

Kirk Garrett 4 years ago

Come on, these guys are pros. There’s no way that Doeren is still feeling irked by being passed over seven years ago, when all of the administration has turned over since that time.

Then again, I don’t know why he’d want to leave his current gig to come here.

I’d love to have Littrell. I’ll take Miles too. I don’t care for Bielema.

Chris Bailey 4 years ago

He was passed over not once but twice. And my money is strongly on Miles. The buzz is singing his name and has been since we hired Jeff Long. It makes the most sense from a dollars standpoint and honestly anyone who thinks that Miles isn't gonna get kids to come here just on name recognition is crazy. He is a winner he's not a Charlie Weis. He won for a long time at LSU. He won a NC and was consistently ranked in the top ten. Every coach leaves and most are fired. Doesn't meant that the mad hatter can't resurrect his career in Lawrence and this would be his last stop I'm sure.

Thomas Wagner 4 years ago

I really wish someone would look at this under the radar head coach. This guys can get it done.

Brian Bohannon from Kennesaw State. Maybe the Big South isn't the most impressive conference, but look at this background, where he is from, and what he has accomplished.

Just so you know - I have no relationship with this coach or program. I did a deep dive into up and coming coaches on my own who have the same ideals I believe that it takes to make a difference. I was looking for someone who doesn't coach the same ways as everyone else. Who believes in his own philosophy and is willing to march to his own beliefs.

Brett McCabe 4 years ago

One of the pluses of hiring a Monken or Calhoun or a Bohannon is that there is very little chance that you'll lose them. Bigger, better programs won't come calling because they are too afraid of the system. This kind of hire could be a very long term answer. It would also be a faster start in terms of recruiting because you won't be looking for the same guys that everyone else is looking for. I'd be thrilled with any three of them, but it will take some guts to make that hire.

Because KSU is smarter than us in all things football, don't be surprised if they don't beat us to the punch if Snyder retires. That type of approach screams KSU. For KU, we too often think we're above it and so we always end up below it.

Curtis Hedrick 4 years ago

And judging by his attire he's already familiar with Adidas.

Matt Gauntt 4 years ago

Dave Doeren isn't leaving NC State. Give up on that one. Why would he? Lane Kiffin? The guy that left Tennessee high and dry when a better offer came along from USC? Pass Bielema - not happening Candle - Lived his whole life in Ohio. Had a couple good seasons but is struggling this season. Pass Litrell is going to KSU. Snyder is done at the end of this season Tedford would be a good choice The rest......ehh

Go after Miles as 1st choice and Tedford 2nd. Miles would bring instant credibility and recruiting. Would be a good choice with Tony Hull.

David Kemp 4 years ago

I agree secure Miles. Only one who won’t be tied up in post season play til after early signing period. He is open and can start now

Joey Meyer 4 years ago

If it's not a surefire candidate, please please please could we get a triple-option coach? I would love to see us take an unconventional approach, recruit different players and compete on a much better level by doing so.

Brett McCabe 4 years ago

Listened to the Long press conference tonight. Some interesting things that KU Sports will explain better than me. One point, though, is this sort of prevailing opinion in the offices of the KUAD that somehow KU football fans are part of the problem.

I'd like to ask Mr. Long if he would continue to invest his money and time in a business that failed year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year? And, if he quits investing after 10 years, does that mean he's not a reliable supporter?

Mr. Long, you should have been asking Kansas fans, very nicely, to come out to the Texas game. In fact, why don't you offer a deal to those of us who had season tickets for years and finally said enough is enough? Do something to show you actually appreciate Kansas football fans. That might be a nice start.

Dane Pratt 4 years ago

I disagree Brett. Supporting your alma mater is not a business proposition so I don't think your analogy works. The kids put in all the blood, sweat and tears. All the fans have to do is show up. If it helps bring a flask of your favorite adult beverage.

Brian Wilson 4 years ago

In theory I agree with you Dane. But Brett has a really good point. KU has not done one D*** THING for the fans or the students for years. And, "All the fans have to do is show up" is untrue. The fans have to pay money for those tickets by working hard at their jobs. Win or lose, its the responsibility of the coach and program to put a quality sports event on the field that not only represents KU but is entertaining.

Chris DeWeese 4 years ago

I respect Jeff Long, but he's got to remember all the pain we KU fans have endured for decades. It's not as simple as just showing up. There is a lot of planning and money that goes into attending a game, and when the product on the field is so crappy it's just not worth the trouble. The administration simply haven't given fans much of a reason to come out (e.g. not much of a fan experience, poor facilities, bad teams, etc.).

Dustin Peterson 4 years ago

Let’s get Miles for 4-5 years, get the ship in shape, then see if Harbaugh’s wife wants to move back to KC.

Tony Bandle 4 years ago

I was at the game Saturday.

The largest part of the crowd was Iowa State fans. The second largest part of the crowd was empty blue bleacher seats. The third largest group were a alumni and relatives of the band members. The fourth largest group was the band, the ushers and the concession guys.

The smallest group was the students...of which I hardly saw any. Whoever gets hired better generate an instant buzz to give this program a heartbeat again.

Is there enough money in the world to pry Lou Saban from Alabama!!!???

Doug Roberts 4 years ago

Honest question: If Miles is so great, why have all other programs passed on him these last several years?

Eric Eakins 4 years ago

Who says they have? Maybe he is the one passing???

Doug Roberts 4 years ago

Eric, that could be the case as well, I just don't know. I was hoping someone with more knowledge could shed some light on it.

If he really wanted to get back into coaching, though, and he's a great candidate, there have been several programs that I'll bet would've offered him the job. Turn down those other opportunities, but then take the Kansas job?! It just seems unlikely to me.

Mike Hart 4 years ago

Nope. He has interviewed for...and been passed over for a number of HC positions (Arizona, Minnesota, numerous others). Article also touches on why he was let go at LSU... terrible offenses... total inability to pass the football.

Dane Pratt 4 years ago

If he's the one doing the passing then it seems likely he will pass on us. I would say we are the least attractive P5 program in the country.

David Meredith 4 years ago

I would love Doeren. But seems unlikely he would leave a top 20 team. I like the North Texas coach Litrell too.... but feeling like Miles is somehow coming here.

Bville Hawk 4 years ago

Tom, you have mentioned Ed Warriner in the past as being a viable candidate. I know he doesn't fit the AD's criteria of previous head coaching experience but just wondered why you didn't include him in this column that was posted before the AD's press conference.

Richie Wilson 4 years ago

Monken or Candle almost with out a doubt. Miles smells of Weiss getting about 3.5 million and doing a half ass job and then retiring. I think he's damn near 70 years old.

Freddie Garza 4 years ago

Oh sweet Jesus, here comes the parade of delusion.

The next KU head football coach will be some guy no one's ever heard of, who's not on this list. Because THAT'S who we are as a football program.

Dane Pratt 4 years ago

Not sure how many of these prospects would even consider the job. It's a risky proposition coaching at KU. If you fail here your head coaching days are pretty much over unless you want to coach at Liberty or Missouri State.

Brian Wilson 4 years ago

Exactly. which is why we hired Beaty! He is all we could get!.

We only had 23 Juniors and Seniors when Beaty started. No coach in his right mind would have accepted the job unless desperate to try.

But now the next coach will have over 50 Juniors and Seniors.
The new coach will have to scramble to fill the 18 scholarships for next year. Maybe not with elite athletes....but, there are plenty of 2 star players and late bloomers with potential that would love a chance to play at a Power 5

Brad Avery 4 years ago

Beyond the obvious ones, Tedford is a very interesting candidate. He has actually taken two one win teams, Cal and Fresno State, and turned them into winners. He has had pro experience with Tampa Bay and the CFL. Plus there is this from Wiki:

Tedford is known as a groomer of quarterbacks.[14] Two of his pupils have achieved the highest success in the NFL: Super Bowl champions Trent Dilfer and Aaron Rodgers. Dilfer won Super Bowl XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens. Rodgers passed for over 4,000 yards in his first two full-time seasons after waiting on the bench behind Brett Favre for three seasons and led the Green Bay Packers to a championship in Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers has received four Pro Bowl invitations and has won the MVP award twice. Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, David Carr, and Kyle Boller also had outstanding college careers and were first round picks in the NFL draft.

Edward Daub 4 years ago

Sleeper Candidate #12 is Coaching in Italy.

Larry McGlinn 4 years ago

As a realistic KU fan I think Monken is the best choice. He has shown at Army that he can play tough teams even with inferior athletes, and that is going to be the case for awhile, if not always, at KU. I don't think we'll hire him because someone in the athletic department has delusions of grandeur bringing in Weis2, i.e. Les Miles.

Randy Bombardier 4 years ago

Tedford, Monken, Miles, Doren, Neal Brown (Troy) are my faves. Tedford and Miles have the experience that lends itself to this overhaul. Doreen could stay a long time, Monken could really shake up the conference with his offensive schemes, and Brown could be a bright young star. Tough call. If either of the first two are interested that's probably the way to go. If Miles works 5 or 6.more years rights the ship then transitioning to Doren would still be possible and set the stage for his return.

Michael Maris 4 years ago

Decisions decisions decisions. I hope and pray that A.D. Long will hire the CORRECT guy to begin the process of leading this downtrodden football program out of the bottom of the conference. There's ALWAYS going to be a team at the bottom of ANY Conference. However, I believe that the University of Kansas / Kansas University Athletic Department has far to many financial resources to allow their football program to be a continual bottom feeder in the Big XII Conference (or ANY Conference). So, the time to stop the hemorrhaging has come. The Mangino Era brought the Jayhawk's football fan base to a new level of expectation. And, we (the fan base) are tired of this yearly trek to the bottom of the conference standings. To know that Dave Doeren wanted the Jayhawks Head Coaching job, and didn't even get a sniff is truly upsetting. Shame on former A.D. Zenger, he had a candidate well within his reach and desired to take over the Jayhawks program. We (the Alumni and fan base) entrusted you to correct the problem created by former A.D. Lew Perkins, and you failed miserably. Maybe the purple runs in your veins far more than any crimson did.

Dennis Strick 4 years ago

Again, the same thing I said in August, September, and October. This decision is already made. All of this other is window dressing. Do you really think a new AD fresh off the truck from a real football school like Arkansas (arguably second tier that it is) would take this job with all of its current and upcoming football challenges and risk his national reputation without having an agreement in principal, or a contract in hand with a highly seasoned, nationally successful Head Coach like Les Miles? If you do you really don't understand big time, big money college athletics. Why does he not need a search committee? The Search is already over. He pulled the trigger this weekend just to keep Maryland from making any last minute "The Governor Called and Your Program is Saved From The Gallows by a Surprise Get"

Brett McCabe 4 years ago

Can't argue your logic but, if this is a done deal, than Long deserves and Oscar for the show he put on last night.

Brad Watson 4 years ago

Chizik or SWEATER VEST! them Mr. Long!...Both need another chance

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