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Coaching Search 2011: Day 9, 8:38 p.m. - Report: Fedora accepts North Carolina job; Where does Kansas go from here and how quickly?


Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora.

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora.

8:38 p.m. Update:

The Winston-Salem Journal, in North Carolina, is reporting that three sources have told the paper that Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora has agreed to become the Tar Heels next head coach.


If the report turns out to be accurate — and there's no reason to believe it's not — the move likely will spark a fast response from KU, which, according to sources, had held out hope and been in the running for Fedora as late as Tuesday morning.

Where the Jayhawks turn now is anyone's guess. The search has been air tight and nobody from KU is saying much at all about candidates or the location of AD Sheahon Zenger, who has been on the road interviewing candidates since last Wednesday.

Some names rumored to be in the running include:

Dave Christensen, Wyoming
Dirk Koetter, Jacksonville Jaguars OC
Troy Calhoun, Air Force
Gus Malzahn, Auburn OC
Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech
Chris Petersen, Boise State

As I've said all along, I still believe there's a better-than-good chance that a name or two that hasn't been mentioned during the past nine days could wind up being the guy.

Working like crazy to come up with a list of guys that could be.

Stay tuned...

3:43 p.m. Update:

Just got a tip from a colleague who said that the name Todd Graham was being thrown around the press box at last night's Pittsburgh Penguins game.

Graham just finished his first year at Pitt (6-6), and although moving so quickly to a job that most would not consider to be better doesn't make much sense, there are a couple of factors that make it worth looking into.

  1. Graham is a native of Dallas, was an extremely successful high school coach in the state and spent a few seasons at Tulsa before moving to Pitt. Obviously, his ties to the Midwest and his Texas roots could benefit him at KU.

  2. Graham just lost three members of his coaching staff to Arizona. All three were former staff members of Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia and they chose to rejoin Rich Rod out west.

I'm making some calls to see if I can track down Graham right now. This could be absolutely nothing but it also could be one of those "unmentioned" names.

Graham makes $2 million at Pitt and he and his wife have six children.

I also have a call into Dirk Koetter. Not sure if he'll call back and won't read too much into it either way, but I'm hoping to hear from him. 

Stay tuned...

1:13 p.m. Update:

Here's a little more on Fedora and UNC... Several outlets are now reporting that Carolina has made Fedora an offer. Doesn't mean he's going to accept it, doesn't mean he isn't. But it's now clear that an offer seems to be on the table for Fedora.


The sooner he decides where he's headed, the sooner the rest of us can move on.

Stay tuned...

1:04 p.m. Update:

Just got a call back from the Florida State athletic department and both FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher and FSU athletic director Randy Spetman said they have not received any requests from KU regarding permission to speak with FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

Not a huge surprise here. And, because of their past connections, this does not mean that Stoops and KU AD Sheahon Zenger did not speak about the job. Just that nothing formal was done.

Most have moved on from Stoops as a candidate here, but I've seen people out there still asking about him.

It really feels like this thing is heating up and moving closer to reaching the end.

Stay tuned...

11:21 a.m. Update:

Just got done reading some UNC message boards and thought I'd pass along this tidbit for perspective.

Although a bunch of Carolina fans seem pumped by the rumors that Larry Fedora is expected to be named UNC's new coach later today, there seems to be an equal number of Tar Heels who are not impressed.

Many of the complaints go like this: "Four years at a small school, sounds about right. I'd expect that to be the best we could do."

Just struck me as funny how the guy KU fans have been rooting for big-time during the past week or so is only drawing a lukewarm response from the fans of the school that might actually get him.

Again, just for perspective. At the end of this thing, KU will have hired a solid coach, big name or not. Even though the rumors all point to Fedora going to UNC or A&M, I'm not 100 percent convinced he's out of the mix for KU just yet.

Unlikely? Sure. But sources said early on in this thing that he would probably pick KU over Arizona State because of his Texas/Big 12 ties. If it comes down to that, and UNC and A&M go different directions, Fedora could still be KU's guy.

Crazier things have happened.

One more note.... This morning, I also heard back from Patrick Strong, an agent who works at the firm that represents both Fedora and Sonny Dykes. All that Strong told me that I can share was that the company has a policy of not commenting on job openings.

Back to the phones. Stay tuned...

10:14 a.m. Update:

Justin Hopkins, of 24/7sports.com, is reporting that SMU head coach June Jones has informed his staff, that he will stay at SMU.

Jones, a long shot candidate for KU, was rumored to be in the running for the job at Arizona State.

Here's more on where Jones stood with the Sun Devils from azcentral.com. Although this may not seem that interesting to KU fans, it's worth skimming because there's talk in there about how ASU's search has become incredibly quiet in recent days.


One more note of interest: Miami head coach Al Golden has become the latest to say 'No thanks' to UCLA.


Stay tuned...

8:59 a.m. Update:

Although Monday was a pretty quiet day in terms of actual news on Kansas University’s ongoing coaching search, it may have been pretty productive.

Of course, nothing has been confirmed through KU, but multiple sources not connected with Kansas have said that KU may be getting close to making a decision.

While I firmly believe that Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora was a legit option for KU prior to last weekend’s Conference USA championship game, Fedora’s stock rose too fast and too high for KU to be considered a favorite.

Fedora, who has emerged as a top candidate at nearly every major opening in the country, appears to have his pick among Arizona State, North Carolina and Texas A&M. Many believe it’s easier to win at Carolina and Arizona State than it is at Kansas, and A&M, though headed to the SEC next year, is located in Fedora’s hometown and has long been considered a dream landing spot.

So with Fedora all but off of KU’s board, the question becomes who’s left? Plenty of names have been kicked around and most have compelling cases for coming to Kansas.

But as we wrote last night, it seems that Zenger’s desire to hire a current or former head coach, preferably with at least some kind of BCS experience, may be the trump card in this situation. If so, that would eliminate a lot of names right away.

Of course, it’s still possible that talks with those types of candidates could break down or stall, which then would keep small-school coaches such as Sonny Dykes or SMU’s June Jones as well as assistant coaches such as Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Florida State’s Mark Stoops and even Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst in the mix.

But, for now, let’s go on the assumption that Zenger’s looking for a head coach with BCS-level experience. With all that in mind, here’s my best guess at KU’s current list (no order) followed by another look at their extended bios.

Dirk Koetter
Dave Christensen
Phillip Fulmer
Houston Nutt
Troy Calhoun

• Troy Calhoun, 45, Air Force Academy head coach
Record at school: 39-23 in 5 seasons (4 bowl appearances)
Current salary: $889,095 per year
Why it makes sense: Experience all over the board from Ohio and Air Force to Wake Forest and the NFL. Offensive-minded coach who knows how to utilize multiple running backs, a position that should be a strength at Kansas for at least the next few years. Named Mountain West coach of the year in 2007 and known for creative offensive gameplans.
Why it might not happen: His is not the biggest name of the bunch and he seems to be pretty happy at Air Force, where he starred as a quarterback during his playing days and began his coaching career under the legendary Fisher DeBerry.

• Dave Christensen, 50, Wyoming head coach
Record at school: 17-18 in 3 seasons. (2 bowl appearances)
Current salary: $843,376 per year
Why it makes sense: Record-setting former Missouri offensive coordinator knows the area well and has recruiting ties throughout the Big 12 from his 12 seasons at Mizzou. Took over at Wyoming in 2009 and has led the Cowboys to bowls in two of his three seasons.
Why it might not happen: Could be a reach, and his losing record in the Mountain West Conference might hit too close to home for people still feeling burned by KU’s hire of Gill, who arrived at KU in 2009 with a 20-30 record in four seasons in the MAC.

• Phillip Fulmer, 61, former University of Tennessee head coach
Record at school: 152-52 in 17 seasons at Tennessee (15 bowl appearances)
Current salary: Made $2.4 million in final year at Tennessee (2008)
Why it makes sense: Fulmer was forced out at Tennessee after an uncharacteristic 5-7 record in 2008. All he did before that was win 10 games in ’07, nine games in ’06 and 10 in 2002 and 2003, as well. Oh, he also guided the Vols to the 1998 national championship. Although the Tennessee native has spent all but four years of his coaching life in his home state, the four years away were in Kansas at Wichita State. Expressed interest in and interviewed for vacancies at Louisville and UConn in late 2009 and appears to be interested in the KU opening this time around.
Why it might not happen: Fulmer’s been out of the game for three seasons now and could have trouble adapting to the spread offenses — both offensively and defensively — currently in favor in the Big 12.

• Dirk Koetter, 52, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator and former head coach at Arizona State and Boise State.
Record at school: 26-10 in 3 seasons at Boise (2 bowl appearances); 40-34 in 6 seasons at ASU (4 bowl appearances)
Current salary: Not Available.
Why it makes sense: Was the man who got Boise State going before handing over the keys to Dan Hawkins and Chris Petersen. Has served as an offensive coordinator at five schools — including Missouri from 1989-93 — and, in 29 years, has developed ties to dozens of coaches, which could lead to him hiring an impressive staff.
Why it might not happen: Not incredibly familiar with Big 12 country and has been away from the college game for five years.

• Houston Nutt, 54, former Ole Miss and Arkansas head coach
Record at school: 75-48 in 10 seasons at Arkansas (8 bowl appearances); 24-26 in 4 seaons at Ole Miss (2 bowl appearances).
Current salary: Made $2.7 million at Ole Miss in 2011
Why it makes sense: Coached 14 seasons in the SEC and finished with more than a handful of division titles and has openly said he’s interested in the gig. Disciplined, understands how to clean up, build and sustain a program and has the respect to do so. Also figures to be able to attract good assistants and is one of few options left for KU that offers name recognition that fans may be drawn to.
Why it might not happen: Finished the 2011 season at 2-10 and was fired by Ole Miss. In fact, Nutt has been fired from each of his past two jobs. Although his experience makes him a solid candidate, is that the message KU wants to send to its fan base?

Source for salary information: USA Today.


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