Football coaching rumor mill churns

John F. Silver

UConn is 0-7 on the season and fired its coach four games in.

Who would want this job in the left over conference called the American Athletic Conference?

If you going by the rumor mills, there seems to be a lot of interest.

Just this week, former Houston coach Houston Nutt’s name was linked to the UConn head coaching job.  The CT Post talked with a high school coach in Connecticut that had heard from Nutt. Now, does that mean UConn’s interested? That remains to be seen as many of these “interested links” scream of agents getting their clients’ names out.  We’ve heard from such sites as footballscoop.com that Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi (a hot commodity) could be a good fit and there were even national folks floating the name of former California coach Jeff Tedford for the job. We’ve heard of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride with the Giants and of course Hartford’s own Eric Mangini, who is working as an NFL analyst at ESPN as possible fits.

Just in the last 48 hours another interesting names surfaces in current Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, a Manchester, N.H. native, via footballrumormill.com.  That Mullen rumor spawned a decent post from SB Nation site for Miss. State in whomthecowbelltolls.com (google alerts is an amazing feature) about Mullen’s availability.

My comment on all of this is simple — there are a lot of candidates out there and this coaching search is going to be radically different than the one run that ultimately led to the hiring of since deposed head coach Paul Pasqualoni. The last search, in January, was bereft of candidates with Pasqualoni and Mark Whipple the only names that even made any sense on that list three years ago. The Huskies can’t lose anymore recruiting days in December and I would expect a decision on the staff relatively soon to give recruiting a chance the final eight weeks before signing day.

Nutt, Mullen, Narduzzi and NFL guys?

One of the narratives that I didn’t buy into about UConn nationwide is somehow the job isn’t attractive. I think UConn’s football job is a very attractive job for several reasons.

1. The Huskies can win the American and will have the biggest athletic budget in the American.  That means something. The Huskies are a major conference program by all metrics right now except affiliation. That counts for something over the long haul.

2. The facilities are top notch and the fanbase and fan support isn’t split. UConn is this region’s top sport team. It’s a high-profile job.

3. You can get to 6-6 and be hailed a hero. Who doesn’t want that on their resume? Mullen, for example, is 33-26 in five years at Miss State. If he went 9-4, 7-6 and 8-5 the fan base would be delighted. The goal is Top 25 caliber, not national title contender.

 

4. The next coach will have a long leash. Because Pasqualoni was fired four games into his third season, there is little chance outside of a complete disaster that the next coach won’t get an abundance of time.  Director of Athletic Warde Manuel isn’t going to have a quick-trigger with a football coach he brings in. There is going to be patience there for the coach to build from the ground up.

5. $2 million reasons?

That last one brings up an interesting case for Manuel. That $2 million is a big number for the university and the athletic department.

The Huskies paid Paul Pasqualoni a $1.6 million per year average and were going to pay him $1.9 million this year.

Are the Huskies willing to go north of $2 million per year for a coach? Manuel didn’t shy away from a big number on the day he fired Pasqualoni, though he did rule out an outlandish number such as $5 million.

If the Huskies go to $2 million, the candidate pool increases dramatically.  Considering the influx of cash from TV contracts coming, it would seem the next round of coaches could be in for a windfall from the Power 5 teams.  Do the Huskies have to go north of $2 million to get the guy they want?

If UConn goes to $2 million, that would put the Huskies in the range of some of the high-profile coaches that have been bandied out on the internet.

Mullen, for example, is paid $2.65 million this year by Miss. State.  That is ranked, currently, 22nd in all of Division I.

Coaches that make $2 million?

Some of those at that level are Jim Mora (UCLA), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Kyle Whittingham (UTAH), Mark D’Antonio (Michigan State), June Jones (SMU).

Some coaches, such as Maryland’s Randy Edsall, UCF’s George O’Leary and even Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze are paid in the $1.5 to $1.7 million range.  Miami’s Al Golden is at $1.75 million.

There are good coaches being paid in the $1.5-$1.7 range. Could $2 million spring them?

Let’s separate some of the speculated candidates into pools.

UConn guys and holdovers:

Interim head coach T.J. Weist ($450,000 prorated)

Rob Ambrose, Towson

Joe Moorhead, Fordham

Note: Salary isn’t an issue

MAC coaches

If the Huskies want to go to the MAC and get a young head coach they would have little problem matching salary

Ball State’s Pete Lembo ($400,000)

Bowling Green’s Dave Clawson ($375,000)

Toledo’s Matt Campbell ($400,000)

Power 5 Coordinators

MSU DC Pat Narduzzi ($512,000)

Clemson OC Chad Morris? ($1.3 million!)

Big ticket items

Dan Mullen ($2.65 million)

Houston Nutt

Eric Mangini?

Jeff Tedford?

The Huskies have a long way to go before the end of the season. What the Huskies can pay and what fits the budget and is realistic is still being negotiated. The Huskies can go get a young coach from the MAC or I-AA quite easily. It can also go for the big ticket items if need be, within reason.

One thing is sure, UConn won’t be suffering from a dearth of candidates. If the rumor and gossip mill has taught us anything it’s that a college football job willing to pay will get plenty of attention.

 

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