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November 25, 2012

Who Could Be Auburn’s Next Football Coach? Check Out 30 Names To Keep Your Eye On

AUBURN, Ala. – Here’s what we can safely assume Auburn would look for in a new head coach:

- Somebody with SEC roots, or at least strong southern ties. Every Auburn head coach since 1950 either went to Auburn (Ralph “Shug” Jordan), served as an assistant at Auburn (Doug Barfield, Gene Chizik), played football in the SEC (Pat Dye) came directly from an SEC program (Tommy Tuberville) or came directly from an in-state program (Terry Bowden).

- Somebody who can recruit. Hard. That’s what Chizik hung his hat on, and what’s necessary of whoever has to coach the other major program in this state alongside the Sabanator.

- Somebody relatively young, but not exactly a spring chicken. Pat Dye was 41 when he started at Auburn. Bowden was 37. Tuberville was 44, Chizik was 47.

- Somebody with previous head coaching experience. The last four hires did – Tuberville had four years at Ole Miss under his belt, Chizik was taken straight from Iowa State while Dye and Bowden cut their teeth at non-BCS programs. This rule might be a little more negotiable; Will Muschamp, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Bret Bielema, Bo Pelini and Paul Rhoads (to name six) are getting along fine in their first head jobs.

Here’s a short list of five hot candidates (with ages in parentheses) which make the most sense in orange and blue. Then follows a longer list of 25 secondary people to keep in mind as well. 30 names in all.


JIMBO FISHER (47), Florida State

Auburn’d love to have him back – he was QBs coach from 1993-98, Terry Bowden’s entire tenure. Question is whether Jimbo would leave what he’s got in Tallahassee for a school which broke it off with Bowden on awkward terms.

GUS MALZAHN (46), Arkansas State

Sexy name. Auburn knows if he’s really, really ready to take on the big, bad SEC. Would he bolt the Red Wolves after one year, with many of his former Auburn recruits on this roster?


KIRBY SMART (36), defensive coordinator, Alabama

Jumping ship directly from the Jets to the Sharks? From the Montagues to the Capulets? Weirder things have happened, I suppose. Saban has all but guaranteed he’ll be leading a major program sooner rather than later.

Smart has no head coaching experience. But his credentials speak for themselves. The Saban Way works. Now, how responsible has Smart been for the wild success at Alabama? Might be a reasonably price-efficient risk to find out.


BOBBY PETRINO (51), former head coach, Arkansas.

Talk about a firestorm. Talk about rolling the dice. He’d be one of the most polarizing possible picks not only among the Auburn Family, but fan bases across the SEC.

His glittering 75-26 college record as a head coach is a factor, but so is his involvement in ‘Jetgate’ from Tommy Tuberville’s ouster, and the way he basically quit on the Atlanta Falcons to flee for Arkansas. Then he was involved in a motorcycle accident and his unsavory relationship with a young woman he hired to the athletic department was uncovered. That might be too much for the three SEC schools seeking a head coach besides Arkansas to overlook.

But then again. 75-26. 


CHARLIE STRONG (52), Louisville

In his 30 years of coaching, 21 have been with SEC schools – including 2002-09 as Florida’s defensive coordinator. What Steve Kragthorpe couldn’t clean up from the Petrino mess, Strong has done impeccably. There’s absolutely no question if Strong wants to leave, now’s the time to do so … like, about five seconds after the Cardinals play their bowl game . When Louisville was 8-0, it was only ranked 10th in the BCS standings because the Big East is the Big East. And that’s the long-term crutch.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich would lead you to believe his school will pull out all the stops to keep their man.

But it’s not like SEC schools will nickel-and-dime their coaches. Six of the 14 highest-paid coaches entering this year in college football are in this conference, including Chizik. Strong’s contract explicitly states his salary (before bonuses) is $1.6 million a year, a below-average figure in the SEC.

So Louisville’s honchos might be ready for a financial fight, and good on them. But they might lose. Question will be, which SEC school will win? 


CHRIS PETERSEN (48), Boise State

Okay, that 82-8 career record’s pretty ridiculous. But he has zero southeast connections. None. Not happening. That said, he has been hotly-rumored to be headed to Arkansas, or perhaps Oregon if Chip Kelly leaves for the NFL.


Perpetually a target of coaching rumors. TCU’s less obscure than Boise State – geographically and by new conference affiliation – but Patterson seems content in Fort Worth. 

DANA HOLGORSEN (41), West Virginia

Amazing first half to 2012 went awry with a five-game losing streak. It’d be a total blindside to the Mountaineers. But you never know. Rich Rodriguez has set a precedent for these types of things.


SONNY DYKES (42), Louisiana Tech

WAC champs last year, logged time ranked this year. Spent two one-year stints as an assistant at Kentucky.


Born and raised in Birmingham. Alabama grad. Bear Bryant disciple. Manning brothers mentor. Spent six years at Banks (Ala.), followed by the next 17 years at Tennessee (an eternity as an assistant) and then seven fine seasons at Ole Miss. He’s 21-36 at Duke, but 6-3 this year. On paper, makes a lot of sense. Again, the two unknown factors are a) Auburn’s interest in bringing him to his home state, and b) Cutcliffe’s interest in leaving Duke for a new job in his late 50s. Cutcliffe’s already shot down rumors of him going back to Tennessee, and he did recently sign a very long-term extension to stay with the Blue Devils until the end of this decade.

MIKE MACINTYRE (47), San Jose State

Miami native played two years each at Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech, has spent time on Georgia, Ole Miss staffs.  Spartans are 10-2, no easy feat for a program which has gone bowling once in 22 years. MacIntyre just signed a long-term extension in January.

TODD BERRY (51), Louisiana-Monroe

Moderate success throughout his career … at 46-78, that’s being kind. But he has shown some guts this season with the Warhawks.

SKIP HOLTZ (48), South Florida

Six years at South Carolina, from 1999-2004. Not a good year for the Bulls, at 3-8. Record of 88-70 as a collegiate head coach at UConn, East Carolina and USF. Son of Lou, who previously insisted Auburn couldn’t fire Chizik.

STEVE ADDAZIO (53), Temple

Was on offensive staff at Florida from 2005-10. They did okay. Has a 12-11 record in two years with the Owls, beat Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl last year.

MARIO CRISTOBAL (42), Florida International

Stock was probably higher the past couple years, as surprise co-Sun Belt champs in 2010 and 8-5 last year. Now the Panthers went meek 3-9 in 2012.

RICK STOCKSTILL (54), Middle Tennessee

Former Florida State quarterback stopped for two years in the SEC (South Carolina WR coach, 2004-05) before his first head gig with the Blue Raiders. An even 43-43 in seven years, but he went 10-3 in 2009 and they’re 8-3 today.

WILLIE TAGGART (35), Western Kentucky

Would he leave his alma mater? He’s a bright young coaching prospect.

KEVIN WILSON (51), Indiana

Hey, he’s got to be considered. Auburn clearly has a thing for Big Ten coaches with experience in Florida and a 5-19 lifetime record.

TIM BECKMAN (47), Illinois

Waaaaaaaay back in 1988-89, he was a grad assistant under Pat Dye. Hasn’t been in SEC country since. And he just started with the Illini this year. And he’s 2-10. But hey, he’s got Auburn ties, darn it.

TIM STOWERS (54), former head coach, Georgia Southern/Rhode Island

Currently an assistant at Central Connecticut, his resume doesn’t scream SEC coach in the making. But he is from Union Springs, Ala. … he was a two-year letterman for Auburn, as a linebacker and two-way lineman … served five years on the Auburn staff after college … has an 84-80 record in 14 years as a head coach, but none at the Division I level. It’s an outside-the-box thought.


DAN MULLEN (40), Mississippi State

Fifteen years ago, Auburn poached Tuberville from Ole Miss after four years and a 25-20 record, including 12-20 in the SEC. Mullen is 28-18 in his fourth season, including 12-16 in the SEC. Just saying. Granted, they’d have to bury the hatchet, since Mullen was rumored to tattle on Auburn during the Cam Newton recruiting investigation saga.

JAMES FRANKLIN (40), Vanderbilt

Did some impressive things with this 8-win squad in Nashville. Funny thing is, his win over Auburn wasn’t particularly well-coached.

WILL MUSCHAMP (41), Florida

If Florida’s 2012 was like its 2011, this might have been a serious consideration, since Gators fans would’ve been anxious for a change. Not anymore.


Note: None have ever been a collegiate head coach

MANNY DIAZ (38), defensive coordinator, Texas

This season hasn’t gone as the Longhorns would have hoped, but like Smart, he’s a future head coach. Future could be now. Diaz – yet another Miami-born member of this list – has spent basically his whole career in the southeast at NC State, Middle Tennessee and Mississippi State.

LORENZO WARD (45), defensive coordinator, South Carolina

Another guy who’s been successful in and out of the SEC that makes sense on paper. But would Auburn want him, and would he want Auburn (or, for that matter, a head coaching opportunity in general)? All about fitting a round peg into a round hole.

DAN ROUSHAR (49), offensive coordinator, Michigan State

PAT NARDUZZI (46), defensive coordinator, Michigan State

Mark Dantonio’s signed a contract for life in East Lansing, but he won’t be able to hold onto his coordinators forever. Neither guy has much experience in SEC country.

TODD MONKEN (45), offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State

Can I interest you in the No. 3 offense in the country? He stepped in for Dana Holgorsen, and that’s worked out okay for West Virginia. Monken logged a combined six years in Louisiana (La Tech, LSU) coaching receivers.

KLIFF KINGSBURY (33), offensive coordinator, Texas A&M

He is but four years older than a current rookie quarterback in the NFL. He’s three months older than Toledo’s Matt Campbell, currently the youngest Division I head coach. But he’s already got four full years at Houston as a quality control, QB coach and coordinator, and Johnny Manziel’s breakout has landed Kingsbury on the Broyles Award short list. Why not?

MARK STOOPS (45), defensive coordinator, Florida State

Younger brother of Bob. If Jimbo’s not interested in Auburn, maybe just go a couple offices down the hall and knock on that door.


  1. 30? Seriously? You gotta give us more than that. By more I mean less than 30.

    Comment by CHB — November 25, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

  2. Steve Addazio?!?!? Skip Holtz?!? Is this a giant trolling article?

    Comment by jdinmacon — November 25, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

  3. Darell Hazel of Kent State University should be at the top of this list

    Comment by Alan Pinkerton — November 25, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

  4. My top 3:

    1) Willie Taggert
    2) Charlie Strong
    3) Gus

    Kirby Smart would be a coup of epic proportions.
    Dan Mullen can suck an egg.
    Just don’t see Jimbo leaving FSU.

    Gotta make the call to Chris Petersen, David Shaw, and James Franklin.

    Finally, I could care less about Petrino’s bedside manner. It’s the stunts he pulled at Louisville, ATL, and ARK that show his real agenda. He’d be great for a couple of years before pulling a Todd Graham (see: Bobby Petrino) and jumping ship.

    Comment by SMDAU — November 26, 2012 @ 12:22 am

  5. I rnthink Mike Singletary should be considered for the Auburn coaching position. NFL Hall of Famer, assistant at Baylor, head coach of 49ers. Family oriented, religious guy who epitomizes hard nose football.

    Comment by dennis` — November 26, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  6. What are your thoughts on Mike Leach?

    Comment by Stan McCullars — November 26, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  7. Rich Rod at Arizona would be a perfect fit for this squad.

    Comment by Bill Ford — November 26, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  8. Jimbo Fisher??? No, No, No and No. I live down here in Tallahassee and believe me, he doesn’t have an unwavering fan base down here. He has been driving the FSU offense now for five years and head coaching for the last two of those. Will Muschamp comes in to Florida and two years, bam kicks FSU to the curb in their front yard. So beware of what you wish for here.

    Comment by Alan Byrd — November 26, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  9. […] Brenner: Who’s Next? Check Out 30 Names To Keep Your Eye On […]

    Pingback by Five Names I Purposely Left Off | War Eagle Extra — November 26, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

  10. They should go talk to Jeff Fisher about leaving St.

    Comment by Billy — November 26, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

  11. Mike Leach is a complete non-starter. Forget that he’s only had one year at his current job (also an issue for RichRod). Ignore that his brief experience in the South was over a decade and a half ago (and only briefly in the SEC). His biggest problem is his baggage. Regardless of which side you believe in regarding the Adam James affair, the new allegations at Wazzou make him radioactive.

    With our PR issues for the last few years, Auburn is going to go with someone who is if not squeaky clean, at least very well-scrubbed.

    Comment by Jay G. — November 26, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

  12. Kyle Shanahan – NFL ties / innovative OC / ben all over country

    Comment by Jeff F — November 26, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

  13. I belive Pete Carroll should be courted. Very long shot he would leave Seattle, but again this is a wish list. He would have the ego to compete with Saban.

    Comment by Ron C — November 26, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

  14. Gus Malzahn would by my top pick, and he would jump at the chance to coach Auburn. But equally important is the new Offensive and Defensive coordinators, they have a tremendous impact on success. Another consideration is keeping the excellent 2013 recruiting class intact.

    Comment by Roger Rader — November 26, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

  15. The “Smart” money would be on Gus, though the (Kirby) Smart option has it’s appeal given the sad state of our Defense.

    Comment by Track 'em Tigers — November 26, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

  16. Bob Diaco

    Comment by Christopher Weaver — November 27, 2012 @ 9:07 am

  17. Gus or Petrino would instantly give you a better more productive offense at the expense of our defense. DC choice would be crucial with either of those two. If team discipline is as big an issue as some would have us believe, then I don’t think Gus or Petrino would be a good solution to that particular problem.

    If we really want a defense-first, Saban-esque style team, then you throw the kitchen sinks at Kirby Smart, then Charlie Strong. Smart would be Muschamp 2.0 in my opinion.

    I’m not sold on James Franklin. But winning 8-9 games at Vandy is nothing to sniff at.

    You also have to look hard at Hugh Freeze (ohhhh wouldn’t they loooove that at Ole Miss!!!) and Larry Fedora.

    Comment by jdinmacon — November 27, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  18. Butch Davis should be #1 on the list.

    Comment by Carroll — November 27, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  19. I like the Pete Carroll proposal…highly successful everywhere he’s been.

    Comment by RayRay — November 27, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

  20. Mike Singletary??? HELL YES! But then I like young Mr. Peterson at Boise. I think our real best and most productive chance would be Charlie STrong. Man I like that guy. But can you imagine what a disciplinarian Singletary would be to those young skulls who seem to be straying so much of late? Wow…

    Comment by Bill Moto — November 27, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

  21. They should look into bill cowher ex-pittsbug coach or someone with that credentials

    Comment by charles lemley — November 27, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

  22. AUBURN needs GUZ MAL baby just because his following year after a championship wasn’t a following championship, does’t mean he shouldve even been let go in the first place . All in tiger fan ,much love.

    Comment by rob shelton — November 27, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

  23. Pete Carroll?!? Mike Singletary??!! Guys, put the pipe down and wake up to reality.

    There are some very interesting names on this list, but it’s a long-shot that AU hires a big name coach with the reported $11M in buyouts due to the departing staff… unless the university can use the NCAA investigations to void those buyouts.

    IMO, here are the 3 most realistic expectations:
    1) Charlie Strong – he would be amazing for AU. This is the long-shot big name coach.
    2) Willie Taggert – yes David Shaw would be amazing… and also pretty unrealistic. Taggert is a long-time Jack Harbaugh disciple, coached Toby Gerhart to a Heisman at Stanford as the RBs coach, and would be an excellent long-term hire for AU. Discipline, running game, stout defense; I like this guy a lot!
    3) a name that was left completely off the list… Mark Hudspeth – he’s turned UL-Lafayette into a hard nosed running and defensive team and has been able to win at a school that’s not known for winning.

    Comment by GoldMember — November 28, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

  24. As an proud Auburn Alum in the DFW area, I vote for Bobby Petrino–I want a winner and someone to bring Auburn back to the good ol’ Pat Dye days–War Eagle!!

    Comment by Susan Bolinger — November 29, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

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