Regardless of Friday’s outcome when Texas closes its regular-season slate against TCU, expect the worst-kept secret in college football to be revealed soon thereafter in Austin.
Texas administrators finally will confirm, to the surprise of no one, they are severing ties with football coach Charlie Strong after three seasons that failed to produce a single winning record. And the move, which has been widely reported by media outlets since the Longhorns (5-6, 3-5 Big 12) became last week’s footnote to stories about Kansas (2-9, 1-7) breaking its 19-game losing streak against Big 12 opponents, will trigger the official start of a busy off-season coaching carousel in the Lone Star State.
Before the carousel stops spinning, it could relocate new head football coaches to at least five major college programs in the Lone Star State: Texas, Houston, Baylor, SMU and Texas Tech. More programs could be impacted if there are surprise resignations/firings involving coaches having less-than-stellar seasons that are not sitting on the hottest of hot seats in the college football world.
As of this week, the only top-10 list involving Texas’ college football programs can be found at CoachesHotSeat.com. The website ranks the nation’s most embattled coaches, and individuals holding the three highest-profile jobs in Texas have climbed into this week’s Top 10.
Strong is No. 1, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury is No. 4 and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin is ninth. Among that trio, only Sumlin has a team also listed in this week’s Associated Press poll.
The Aggies (8-3, 4-3 SEC) are at No. 22 but have lost two of their last three games heading into Thursday’s regular-season finale in Kyle Field against No. 25 LSU (6-4, 4-3). If A&M drops that one, the Aggies will have turned a 6-0 start into an 8-4 finish and will post a record of .500 or below against SEC opponents for a fourth consecutive season.
3 Number of Texas coaches in the Top 10 on CoachesHotSeat.com: No. 1 Charlie Strong, No. 4 Kliff Kingsbury, No. 9 Kevin Sumlin.
In fairness, A&M played its last full game with starting quarterback Trevor Knight, sidelined by a shoulder injury, while improving to 7-1 during an Oct. 29 triumph over New Mexico State. That factor should mitigate the team’s third consecutive late-season backslide after a fast September start. But when discontent seeps into the minds and wallets of disappointed boosters, interesting things happen. Stay tuned.
As things stand, four of the nation’s hottest coaching seats can be found in Texas. UTEP coach Sean Kugler, whose team is 3-8, checked in at No. 14 with the folks at CoachesHotSeat.com and Rice’s David Bailiff, perched at No. 26 during a 3-8 season, would top the “receiving votes” category if the list was treated the same as the AP’s weekly Top 25 poll.
As we peer into the crystal football and wait for the coaching carousel to spin, here is a forecast at what we expect to see when 2017 spring football drills open for the Lone Star State’s college teams:
Texas: Tom Herman, after a stellar two-year run at Houston, will oversee the Longhorns’ fortunes and inherit a wealth of young talent put in place by Strong. Herman, the offensive coordinator who helped carry Ohio State to the 2014 national championship behind a third-team quarterback, brings along defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who has distinguished himself in big-game situations with the Cougars.
Houston: The Cougars turn to Major Applewhite, their offensive coordinator the past two seasons, to build on a strong foundation in H-Town.
Baylor: In search of a classy coach with deep Texas recruiting ties who can operate a spread offense, the Bears lure SMU’s Chad Morris to Waco with a long-term contract to clean up the residue from the Art Briles era.
18 Houston’s ranking in the AP poll, the highest ranking of Texas teams.
SMU: Now considered a program on the rise thanks to Morris, SMU kicks the tires on several notable play-callers, including TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, before turning over the program to Lincoln Riley, the Oklahoma offensive coordinator and a Muleshoe native.
Texas Tech: Despite missing a bowl game this season, Kingsbury gets a reprieve until 2017 in large part because of a clause in his contract calls for a $9.4 million buyout if he is dismissed after this season. The number falls to $6.8 million after next season and, at this point, the former Red Raiders’ quarterback still has enough influential friends who want to see what happens next year before making a biding decision.
Texas A&M: Sumlin returns for 2017, but with pressure to find a quarterback who can make an instant impact on the program as Knight did this season.
Other programs: Expect curiosity from UTEP, if it has an opening, in Meacham and fellow TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie. But it’s hard to see that program prying either guy out of Fort Worth. Bailiff, who has led Rice to four bowl games in 10 seasons, deserves to return.
Briles family: The crystal ball, at this point, shows no member of the Briles clan working at one of Texas’ college programs next spring. But the ball remains clouded on this issue.