I tossed some names around last week while talking about the Ole Miss football coaching vacancy. Let’s check in on those guys and add a couple of new names to the list:
Updated Monday night to reflect Arizona’s hiring of Rich Rodriguez, other developments.
Art Briles, 55 (turns 56 on Dec. 3), Baylor head coach: There’s some chatter that Briles, who has led Baylor to back-to-back seven-win seasons, is rising on the charts in Oxford. Here is an open letter calling for Baylor to pay the man. You may have watched his work late Saturday night, as the Bears beat Oklahoma 45-38.
Briles is 56-53 in stops at Baylor and previously at Houston. In each case, the teams had fallen on hard times before he arrived. Presumably, he would help Ole Miss get a quick handhold on recruiting in Texas – a big issue now that Texas A&M is headed to the league.
Mario Cristobal, 41, Florida International head coach: His team improved to 7-4 by beating Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. No new buzz in the past week; with so much chaos in Florida right now, there may soon be opportunities close to home.
Manny Diaz, 37, Texas defensive coordinator: The Longhorns lost 17-13 to Kansas State, but Diaz is getting raves for his efforts in Austin. And a plurality (35%) of voters at our website last week thought he would be the Rebels’ best choice. By all accounts, the former Mississippi State assistant seems ready to step up as a head coach. A defensive guy, yes, but it’s defense that wins titles in the SEC. And he would set up a rent-free three-bedroom condo in Dan Mullen’s head from the moment he got to Oxford.
Sonny Dykes, 42, Louisiana Tech head coach: His Bulldogs are 7-4 and on a six-game winning streak, including that 27-7 win in Oxford. There was some talk in the past week of his being a possible candidate at Arizona, where he was an offensive coordinator, bu that job has now been filled. He also was OC at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.
Larry Fedora, 49, Southern Miss head coach: No, losing last week at UAB should not affect his status as an attractive coaching candidate. Losing to UAB three years in a row … well, heck, maybe that should.
Hugh Freeze, 42, Arkansas State head coach: The Red Wolves are on an eight-game winning streak and are headed to a bowl game in Mobile. He was part of Ed Orgeron’s staff, which means he has seen recruiting done right in Oxford. And he’s been a quick winner as a head coach at Lambuth and ASU, so maybe he learned some other stuff.
Skip Holtz, 47, South Florida head coach: USF has lost 5 of 6. Can’t help him as a serious SEC prospect just now, yet there’s talk that North Carolina wants him.
Mark Hudspeth, 43, Louisiana-Lafayette head coach: The former North Alabama head coach, whose Ragin Cajuns are 8-3 in his first season, could generate some buzz when his team goes to Arizona this weekend. His team is also headed to the New Orleans Bowl.
Mike Leach, 50, former Texas Tech head coach: Gets his name attached to just about every significant vacancy, including the one in Oxford. No new developments in the past week. It seems to me, though, that when inactive coaches like Leach can talk to the press about open jobs while currently employed coaches cannot, it tends to distort reality a little.
Gus Malzahn, 46, Auburn offensive coordinator: I thought it was significant that Malzahn’s wife started following my Twitter account last week – but as soon as I pointed that out, she was gone. Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweeted last week that Malzahn is “favoring Ole Miss.” (I’m still favoring my left ankle after tweaking it over the weekend.)
Kirby Smart, 35, Alabama defensive coordinator: Doesn’t talk to media from behind walls of Fortress Saban. Destined for big things, but it’s still hard seeing him wanting to start in SEC West.
Charlie Strong, 51, Louisville head coach: Best known as a defensive coach, his Cardinals are now 6-5 on the season but rank 108th in scoring. Not a good selling point, plus he just signed that extension through 2018 or some such.
Tommy Tuberville, 57, Texas Tech head coach: His Red Raiders (2-6) have now lost four in a row since stunning Oklahoma. As I said last week, Lubbock folks would be happy to pack his van for a (far-fetched) return trip to Oxford.
Off the list
Rich Rodriguez, 48, former West Virginia and Michigan coach: Will be introduced as Arizona’s new head coach on Tuesday.
What I wrote on Sunday night: Added to this list by popular demand. Like Leach, another one of those kitchen sink guys whose names get put on lists like this. Called Ole Miss “a special place” in an interview with the Memphis paper a few days ago. Let me remind you of this score from last season: Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14. Yeah, that was him.