AUBURN, Ala. — I’m so glad the passionate Auburn people out there had their chance to weigh in on my possibly-too-long list of names, both logical and random, that shan’t be completely dismissed when looking Auburn’s football future.
I know a few live chat regulars (next one’s Thursday afternoon, by the way) eagerly anticipated the full list. It was put together about a month ago on a just-in-case basis, and was tinkered with now and again right up until last night before release.
I think the consensus among all of us beat hacks who spend regular time in the Auburn football facility is the short list consists of the following, ordered only by last name alphabetically: Jimbo Fisher. Gus Malzahn. Bobby Petrino. Kirby Smart.
I’m probably a little higher on Charlie Strong than others. That’s not because I know anything. I’m just using the innate values I’ve used my entire writing career, and that’s use logic and reason to make an assessment, speculative as it might be.
You saw the other 25 names. Some make waaaaaaaay more sense than others. Let’s all remember that if I or anyone else had made a similarly-quantitative list four years ago, chances are Gene Chizik’s name was not on it.
I appreciate all the feedback. I’ll try to respond to a few Twitter inquiries later. Again, pop in on my usual Thursday live chat, and we’ll talk it over some more.
For now, let me go over five hot names who are suggested the most often that were not on my coaching short or long list. I’ll explain why they weren’t. Again, ages in parentheses.
JEFF FISHER (54), head coach, St. Louis Rams: I cannot for the life of me fathom why he’s even being discussed. The reasons for him to come here are his son, Trent, is an up-and-coming safety, and … uh … that’s all I got.
I’m going to write this in all caps, annoying as that is, to bang home this point. HE HAS NEVER COACHED COLLEGE FOOTBALL A DAY IN HIS LIFE.
Oh, and I guess this too. HE IS BANKING $35 MILLION OVER THE NEXT FIVE SEASONS, WHICH IF YOU’RE NOT MATHEMATICALLY INCLINED SHAKES OUT TO SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.
I can only imagine how that teleconference interview would go.
Jay Jacobs: “Hey Jeff, how’d you like to leave the most powerful sports league in the world, less than a year after you went back into coaching and started a new life in St. Louis, to cut your salary in half and have to do all your own recruiting for the first time in your career?”
Pat Sullivan: “Don’t forget about the possible NCAA investigation.”
Jacobs: “Oh, yes, of course, Jeff. This is a plum job at a great university, but there’s a chance you’re walking into some baggage right from the start. Plus, you get to recruit against Nick Saban! You didn’t really like coaching in a division where all your opponents are starting rookie quarterbacks, did you?”
Bo Jackson: “Compliment his moustache.”
Jacobs: “Jeff, your moustache is majestic. So, whaddya say?”
Jeff Fisher: //line went dead about two minutes ago//
BOB STOOPS (52), head coach, Oklahoma Sooners: Okay, sarcasm rant over. Rumors – not necessarily reports – say Stoops’ act is wearing thin in Norman. I don’t know so much about that. Oklahoma’s easily one of the top-five powerful football programs in the country, and that doesn’t matter whether they’re in the weakening Big 12 or not. He’s the third-highest paid coach in America. I don’t doubt Auburn’s boosters will make sure to take care of Gene Chizik’s replacement, but Stoops would almost certainly take a pay cut to enter a lesser situation.
BILL O’BRIEN (43), head coach, Penn State Nittany Lions: I go back to one of my basic rules about life: people generally don’t uproot their families and go wherever else in their first year of a new place, unless they’re really unhappy or are totally content with playing hopscotch throughout their careers. (Don’t discount this theory with Malzahn.) O’Brien swore his allegiance to a crumbling Penn State program, and pulled off an unbelievable coaching performance, beating Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin with a depleted roster. So, no doubt he’s a ball coach. But it’d be a stunner to see him bolt, unless he blatantly lied to a heartbroken fan base.
DAVE DOEREN (40), head coach, Northern Illinois Huskies: My buddy Ryan Wood has been beating this drum for a while, and finally wrote about it today. He makes a lot of valid points. Yes, Wood covered Doeren at NIU, and I myself was in college at Wisconsin when Doeren was a linebackers coach under Bret Bielema. Good guy. Good values. And, as we all saw this year, good coach. Great prospect.
I guess I just worry about the lack of a strong southern recruiting base. Yes, he’s plucked some good players out of Mobile. But unlike some of the big names on my list and others, Doeren has zero coaching experience on a day-to-day basis in the south. That stuff matters, when you evaluate Auburn’s history of hires, going back to Shug and persisting through Dye, Barfield, Bowden, Tuberville and Chizik.
JIM TRESSEL (59), former head coach, Ohio State Buckeyes: Another Auburn beat writer with some insight: James Crepea went to Ohio State and covered some Tressel. Auburn would have to jump through some mad loopholes to swing this by the NCAA, which banished Tressel from NCAA programs for five years starting with this one. From a P.R. standpoint, he’d basically be Petrino, minus the southern roots. And, well, Tressel’s old. We went over this yesterday: Auburn’s not looking for a guy on the back nine. I don’t see this happening at all.