The Next Michigan Wolverines Football Head Coach: Who's Contending?

Unless Brady Hoke wins out, discovers a cure for Ebola, and single handedly defeats ISIL/ISIS, he will be relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines sometime before this coming January. Michigan, after several bad seasons, thinks that they are still a top echelon program that can attract a top name coach. It is possible that they can, but they are a program in transition and have been for several years now. Let’s look at the popular possibilities and how likely they are.

The Top Candidates

Les Miles, Current Head Coach of LSU

A Michigan alum, former player and former assistant coach with the football team, Miles is also in charge of a young team in transition at LSU. If he would even entertain the notion of leaving the swamp for Ann Arbor, this could be that year. We know that he has considered leaving LSU in the past for Michigan, but ultimately decided to stay. The question is which transition project would he want? LSU with Fournette and another great recruiting class incoming to LSU (and two young QBs to choose from) or maybe struggling to a top 25 recruiting class at Michigan at 2017 is the year you target to recover?

The Possibility: No way. Even if Miles would consider leaving LSU, Michigan is too much of a wreck for him to seriously consider.

John or Jim Harbaugh, Current Head Coaches of San Francisco and Baltimore

Their father was a long-time assistant in the 70s at Michigan and Jim was the starting QB for the Wolverines(John played at Miami of Ohio). Both are in, shall we say insecure, situations in the NFL. John appears to have a problem with his GM over the Ray Rice mess and Jim has alienated his locker room (according to anonymous sources). Both could be looking for new homes come January, but a move to college seems unlikely for either. Both coaches appear to have playoff teams and will be coaching meaningful games during the time where they have to be recruiting for their first potential recruiting class. If either of them were to leave their current NFL jobs, they would be immediately the top available candidate for any head coaching jobs.

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: Not happening. Both would rather take over a horrible NFL team than a crappy college program unless they had several months to put in the time recruiting.

Mike Gundy, current head coach at Oklahoma State.

A former Les Miles coordinator, he has the combo of youth, skill, and recommendations (from Miles) to be a strong candidate. Also, while Oklahoma State has been a top program in the Big 12 for several years, they hav enot seen that translate into top recruiting classes. It is possible that Gundy sees Michigan as a program that he could turn around quickly. However, it is as possible that Gundy-a former Oklahoma State player and assistant coach-wants to make it to 25 total seasons in Stillwater and nothing will get him to leave on his own.

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: Probably not. It is hard to see him leaving Stillwater unless its for a dream job. Michigan is not that. If Miles left LSU, LSU probably could get Gundy.

Butch Jones, current head coach at Tennessee.

Jones has turned out to be a recruiting dynamo in Knoxville, but that has not translated to consistent winning. Down the road that might come, but the patience in Knoxville might not be high enough for him to wait 2-3 seasons. If a bigger program comes calling, it might be hard for him to resist. On the other hand, six wins a year at U-T might be better than similar success at Michigan where they have even less patience.  

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: Maybe, but only if Jones wants out of Tennessee and no one else offers him the job.

The more realistic options

Pat Fitzgerald, current head coach at Northwestern.

Fitzgerald has cobbled together a decent team throughout the years despite having a second rate program that has not recruited well. To give you an idea of scale, since Lloyd Carr left Michigan, they’ve won 41 games. In that time frame, Fitzgerald has won 45. He’s young, smart and has that hard working personality that the big blue fans will love.

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: If Michigan called, Fitzgerald would listen.

Greg Schiano, unemployed

Schiano was approached by Michigan in 2007 and was very close to replacing Lloyd Carr (why he did not take it probably had to do with Schiano wanting to keep himself costless in case he had a shot at the Miami job). On paper, he seems like a good fit. He recruits well, is tough and wants a new job. In reality, he seems like another Brady Hoke and would chafe against the Michigan admin.

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: Schiano is trying not to look desperate for when UM calls him.

Tyrone Wheatley, RBs coach with the Buffalo Bills

He is a famous alum that the fans remember and appears to have the intangibles that you would want in a coach (high energy, fan/player friendly and smart). The only question is if he can handle going from an NFL position coach to in charge of one of the oldest and biggest programs in college football.

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: Maybe if the big names say no, they would turn to him.

Michael Shanahan, unemployed

Shanahan appears done with the NFL and he burned a lot of bridges on his way out in Washington. He did so in an attempt to get the Texans’ job, but that flamed out quickly after his Shanahanigans. So, he has turned his eyes to college football and try to become the next Steve Spurrier in so many ways. He is available, tanned, rested, and ready.  

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: Doubtful. He wants the Florida job (which he will not get) so he will turn his eyes to Michigan, but an 18 year old kid in high school was two years old when he won his last super bowl.

Assistant Coach bingo:

Any number of big program assistant coaches could fit into this possibility. Some parameters: it would have to be a good recruiter, young (under 55), and has experience in a big conference. The names that jump out immediately:

Cam Cameron, OC LSU

GA Mangus, OC/QB coach South Carolina

Pat Narduzzi, DC Michigan State

Philip Montgomery, OC Baylor

Jake Spavital, OC Texas A&M

The possibility on the Jon Fox scale of probability: One of these will be the real next head coach.