Which three coaches are best candidates to move up?
At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in college football.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: You're an athletic director with a job opening at a major school. Who are your three leading college candidates to fill the job?
The easy answer would be TCU's Gary Patterson, Boise State's Chris Petersen and Utah's Kyle Whittingham. But that each still is at that program shows that they probably aren't going to leave. Therefore, as a AD, I have to find good coaches I have a chance to get, so my top candidates would be Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, Arizona coach Mike Stoops and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Mullen has done a great job transforming Mississippi State into a bowl-eligible team; heck, the Bulldogs held Cameron Newton in check and almost beat Auburn. If he can do that in Starkville, imagine what he can for good ol' "Buchanan U." Meanwhile, Arizona was a bad program before Stoops' arrival. Now, they have had back-to-back eight-win seasons, and are Pac-10 title contenders this season. "Buchanan U." would be proud to have him. Finally, Smart again has assembled a strong defense. Seven of Alabama's opponents have managed fewer than 21 points. If a team in need has problems on defense, he has to be a target. Smart eventually will be a great head coach for some team; it may as well be mine.
- OLIN BUCHANAN
My three are Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, Temple coach Al Golden and Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. In two-plus seasons, Sumlin has proven to be an adept coach. He is showing resourcefulness this season, having to deal with injuries at quarterback while keeping the Cougars competitive. He also has great recruiting skills. Golden took a coach-killer job and has made it attractive by turning the Owls into the top program in the MAC. Last season, Golden guided Temple to its first bowl since 1979. He's a throwback from the Joe Paterno coaching tree, completing the look by sporting a tie on the sideline. Golden is going places. As for Rhoads, show me any coach recently who has done more with less. You can't. Gene Chizik ran from this job after two seasons with a 5-19 mark. But in less than two seasons in Ames, Rhoads already has trumped Chizik, forging a 11-10 record. Can Iowa State keep him?
- TOM DIENHART
Like others, I'm going to eliminate some unrealistic candidates - Chris Petersen, Gary Patterson, Kyle Whittingham and Will Muschamp. My list consists of Temple coach Al Golden, San Diego State coach Brady Hoke and Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. Temple is bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season under Golden, and the Owls might win the MAC this season. He may be the unofficial coach-in-waiting at Penn State, but if I'm an athletic director, I'm reaching out to this miracle worker anyway. Hoke needed to go to San Diego State to prove that his 12-2 season at Ball State in 2008 was not a fluke. The Aztecs likely are bowl-bound in his second season. He was 15-31 in his first four seasons at Ball State, but he's 28-17 in his past two seasons as a head coach. Throw in his credentials that includes stops at Michigan and Oregon State as an assistant, and Hoke is attractive a coaching candidate as any. Finally, my coordinator candidate is Stoops. The one-year turnaround he has executed at Florida State has been remarkable; he also has a long resume that includes successful stops at Arizona and Miami. If it's possible for a Stoops to be underrated, Mark may be just that.
- DAVID FOX
My choices are Temple's Al Golden, SMU's June Jones and Stanford's Jim Harbaugh. Golden has made Temple football relevant, which was thought to be impossible. He's a former Penn State player and assistant, and is a defense-first coach. While I would prefer a guy who's offense-minded, Golden's success at Temple make him a must-interview guy. Jones took Hawaii to a BCS bowl, which is a miracle in and of itself. Now in his third season at SMU, Jones has turned the Mustangs into league title contenders. He is well-paid at SMU, but presumably I am a deep-pockets AD and I know he will build an offense that will put folks in the seats, which means increased ticket revenue; in addition, I will make sure he has enough money to hire an elite defensive coordinator. Actually, the first call would go to Harbaugh, just to make him say "no." He has everything a sharp AD would want - he's smart, he has an NFL background, he's media-savvy, he recruits well, he runs a productive offense. Most important, the guy oozes confidence. He plays not just to win but to stomp on opponents, and that's the kind of coach I want. Harbaugh is much more likely to leave Stanford for an NFL job than for another college job, but, hey, if I have $3.5 million or so to work with, why not dream big?
- MIKE HUGUENIN
I'm going to start out by assuming Boise State's Chris Petersen, TCU's Gary Patterson and Utah's Kyle Whittingham aren't available. All three already have shown they don't have much interest in leaving their jobs, and Whittingham's team is on its way to joining a major conference. I'd start out by trying to lure two of the nation's top assistants: Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Malzahn worked wonders with Auburn's offense last season, and he has shown this season what he can do when he has an elite quarterback. Muschamp's intensity and recruiting ability would make him an instant success wherever he begins his head-coaching career. Muschamp would be difficult to pry away since he already has been named coach-in-waiting at Texas, but Mack Brown doesn't seem interested in retiring anytime soon. We may as well call Muschamp to see if he wants to go ahead and start his head-coaching career. Once we throw Peterson, Patterson and Whittingham out of the mix, I consider Air Force's Troy Calhoun the most promising coach from outside the six major conferences. Calhoun rejected overtures from Tennessee last winter, but we may as well see if he has any interest in leaving his alma mater. If not, we could stay within the Mountain West Conference and give San Diego State's Brady Hoke a call.