Gil LeBreton

Texas can meet any price for Charlie Strong’s successor

If Texas fires Charlie Strong, then the Longhorns could be looking at paying Michigan money (more than $9 million a year) for its next coach.
If Texas fires Charlie Strong, then the Longhorns could be looking at paying Michigan money (more than $9 million a year) for its next coach. AP

The list of possible Charlie Strong replacements is impressive.

And much too long.

Tom Herman? Chris Petersen? Justin Fuente?

All well and good. But this is Texas. Nobody in college football has more money. No job in college football is more coveted.

So why, pray tell, is there even a “list” at all?

In USA Today this week, they published their annual compilation of college coaches salaries. And surprise! There is a new No. 1.

Unseating Alabama’s Nick Saban as the highest paid college coach in the land is Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, whose total compensation this season is listed as $9,004,000.

That’s right. Harbaugh makes more than $2 million more than Saban.

Saban has five national championships. Harbaugh won the 2015 Citrus Bowl.

Pardon the snarkiness. Harbaugh is a “Michigan guy,” as Bo Schembechler used to say, and he’s masterfully restored the Wolverines program to national relevance.

But that’s my point. Michigan wanted him, and Michigan made sure it got him, even if Harbaugh, as head coach of the NFL 49ers, possessed a football job that only 31 others had.

If history has told us anything, especially about sports, it’s that everyone has a price. It might be $9 million, but it’s a price.

And Texas, with its Longhorn Network, isn’t the kind of program that has to go around checking price tags. In the currency of college football, the Longhorns coach’s picture is on the $100 bill.

So forget the list. For athletic director Mike Perrin, there should be no list — instead, just a long and probably expensive negotiation, as it pries a very good coach from his already comfortable sideline.

Houston’s Herman? Stanford’s David Shaw? The young prodigy, Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck?

All good names. But I’m not here to add to a list. Just try to spend a minute in Texas’ very wealthy shoes.

You can believe what you want, but there was a fleeting moment in 2013 when powerful boosters at Texas thought they had a chance of stealing Saban. But it was too messy at the time. The athletic director’s chair was changing. Saban backed away and acted as if it never happened.

He should be the first one that Perrin calls, especially if Saban — yawn — wins another national championship this year at Alabama.

Tuscaloosa versus Austin? Is this a trick question?

Things change. Goals change. Minds change.

Maybe even Nick Saban changes.

If I’m Mike Perrin, that’s my list, even if it breaks the Harbaugh bank.

Consider the other path. Of all the faulty habits in college athletics, none is more flawed — and costly — than the so-called coaching search firms.

Parker Executive Search is one, Collegiate Sports Associates is another. Athletic directors often seek out their well-paid recommendations.

But think about it. Most of those football coaches that Parker and Chuck Neinas recommended over the years have already been fired.

Strong was recommended to UT by a search firm. So what’s the point, other than just another opinion?

Texas is in a unique position, offering a unique job. It won’t be looking at price tags.

It will be on a camping trip — at some very good coach’s front door. There is no need to leave until Perrin gets the answer it wants.

Everyone has a price.

No. 8 Baylor at Texas

2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8

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