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Coaching Search 2011: Day 2, 4:44 p.m. - Couple of rumblings, darkhorse candidates, a timeline, and more...


Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Fedora

Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Fedora

4:44 p.m. Update:

Starting to hear a couple of rumblings that could impact the coaching search at KU.

The first is out of Ole Miss, where some are reporting that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, 35, may be hired by the Rebels.

That would be a great job for Smart, who wasn't really ever a KU candidate. The one way this does relate to KU is this: If Smart is hired by Mississippi, it shows us that coaches can negotiate for jobs even while still working for their current teams, which may or may not be still preparing for games and/or bowls.

That may seem obvious, but I've seen more than a few people questioning this. I checked with the folks at KU for official word and they said it comes down to the discretion of the athletic director and the coach. There usually is no official policy.

The second bit of interest stems from Washington State officially opening its job. WSU AD Bill Moos has said in many places that he will target Mike Leach and Leach will be on his short list of candidates.

The following report sheds a little more light on that thought. It leads with the writer predicting that Leach would be announced at WSU today, but since the 2 p.m. news conference he references has come and gone, that part is out the window. Still, there's some interesting stuff about why WSU wants Leach and may go after him with reckless abandon... Take a look. Or don't.


More to come. Stay tuned...

2:33 p.m. Update:

There's been a lot of talk out there about what names are out there other than those who many have identified as KU's top tier candidates.

I'm waiting on a couple of phone calls still, but while I wait, here's a quick look at some of the guys who weren't on our original list but could have a place in this whole thing.

Dave Christensen - 50 - Former Missouri offensive coordinator now in his third year at Wyoming. Named top offensive coordinator in the nation in 2007. Knows the area, knows the conference and has had early success at Wyoming. Two bowls in three years.

Dana Dimel - 49 - Kansas State co-offensive coordinator with ties to Zenger from days at Wyoming.

Sonny Dykes - 42 - Louisiana Tech hed coach and son of legendary former Texas Tech head coach Spike Dykes. Great recruiting ties in Texas and 13-11 in two seasons at La Tech, including 8-4 this season and a WAC championship.

Justin Fuente - 35 - Co-offensive coordinator at TCU, now in his 5th season with the Horned Frogs. Before TCU, spent six seasons as QBs coach at Illinois State while Zenger was there.

June Jones - 58 - Currently the head coach at SMU, Jones guided Hawaii to a BCS berth in 2007 and is known as one of the brighter offensive minds in the college game. Will have gone to three bowls in four years at SMU and six bowls in nine seasons at Hawaii.

Jeff Monken - 44 - Georgia Southern head coach who is 19-7 during his two seasons in charge. Key player in helping Paul Johnson develop that wacky offense at Georgia Tech. Once interviewed with Zenger for the Illinois State job.

While these names are good to know, I’d be pretty surprised if one of them emerged as a serious candidate for the job. One or two of them might be granted an interview but it’s hard to see them beating out the list above them.

You never know, though.

Stay tuned...

11:47 a.m. Update:

I've said this on various radio shows and podcasts but it just hit me that I may not have written it here. Based on what I've been able to gather, here's the way I see the timing of this whole search going.

Because of his past connections with him, as well as Mike Leach's sterling resume, KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger knows exactly what he's got in Leach as a candidate. I believe that's where he sets the bar.

With that in mind, he'll do his due diligence here and make sure that he gets the absolute best hire for Kansas in all areas — fit, finances, feel and fan support, among other things.

I haven't been able to nail down the number yet but it's looking like Zenger will interview between 3-5 other candidates during the next 3-5 days. He'll give each one a fair shake and each one will be seriously considered. He'll then see how closely each candidate comes to reaching the bar set by Leach.

If someone reaches that same level or perhaps even surpasses it, that could very well be the next head coach at Kansas. Depending on who it is — if anyone reaches that level — going that direction could save KU money and eliminate the "risk" that many believe comes with hiring Leach.

If none of the "other candidates" reach that level, then I think Zenger's decision is made for him and Leach is the guy.

I'd expect the interviews to take place throughout the week, possibly even into Sunday and Monday. And then I'd expect that a hire may be made sometime mid-to-late next week.

Again, this is just my read on the situation and it is based off of the information I've gotten from a number of different sources.

Leach is a hot commodity and there are a lot of schools going after him, so if he is the guy Zenger ultimately wants and things get hot elsewhere, the time frame could change quickly and this thing could be over sooner.

As for who the other candidates who will get interviews might be.... that's the mystery. Mark Stoops and Larry Fedora seem likely, Brent Venables is a possibility and there may even be a name or two who hasn't been talked about much by those following this thing.

Time will tell. Stay tuned...

9:58 a.m. Update:

Not a whole lot shaking yet today, but as I made a few calls and checked out a few websites, I stumbled upon a couple of interesting articles that you might like to read.

The first comes from the Seattle Times and explores the idea of Washington State hiring Mike Leach.


The second is Leach talking about his interest in the Mississippi job, albeit in fairly vague terms.


As you can see, this concept of Leach being the front-runner at most openings is no joke. The man has a lot of power right now and is wanted by nearly everybody out there. How that impacts his chances of coming to Kansas remains to be seen. KU continues to possess the one thing that no other job out there can, though, and that's the ability to return to the Big 12 Conference, which many seem to think would be appealing to Leach on several levels.

I do find it interesting that Leach has not said much at all about the Kansas job. Granted it's only been open for a little more than a day, but even in the days leading up to Turner Gill's dismissal there wasn't much out there connecting Kansas and Leach, even on the rumor mill.

That can be read one of two ways: (a) he's not interested and not talking or thinking about Kansas; (b) he's very interested, perhaps even in negotiations, and is trying to keep that off the radar. Hard to say which — if either — is right at this point, but I lean toward option B.

More to come. Stay tuned...

8:28 a.m. Update:

OK, here we go with Day 2 of Kansas University's coaching search. Not a lot happening as of yet, but we'll kick things off with a quick recap and a deeper look at Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora... Here goes:

KU’s isn’t the only college football coaching job that’s open right now, and what happens elsewhere could go a long way toward determining what direction Kansas goes. In an attempt to keep things straight, here’s what the Journal-World learned Monday:

There are a few names you can cross off the list: Jim Tressel, Mike Stoops and Jim Leavitt all appear to be out.

Sources told the Journal-World that Tressel would have no interest in the job. He also never was approached about it.

As for Leavitt, who currently coaches linebackers for the San Francisco 49ers, the timing may be the biggest obstacle for him. Although he has ties to Zenger, he would not be able to join the program for at least two more months because of the ongoing NFL season. Furthermore, the mistreatment of players that led to his dismissal at South Florida continues to be an issue.

With that said, it appears that Mike Leach remains KU’s top target, with Larry Fedora, of Southern Miss, not far behind. Fedora’s name is gaining steam at Ole Miss, and if the Rebels take him off the board, that could eliminate one of KU’s top options.

In addition, UCLA, which long has been rumored to have interest in Leach, appears to have pegged Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Houston’s Kevin Sumlin as its top choices, making a Leach-to-Kansas move more plausible.

That leaves those two, along with Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, Oklahoma DC Brent Venables and a host of darkhorse candidates as names worth tracking from here on out.

The following comes from Fedora's bio on the Southern Miss web site:

When Larry Fedora accepted the job to become the 18th head coach at the University of Southern Mississippi, he promised that his football team would "attack" in all phases of the game.

That is exactly what the Golden Eagles have done during his three seasons as the program's mentor.

In his first year in Hattiesburg, Fedora's squad broke 36 school records on the way to ending the season with a five-game winning streak to reach a bowl game. The Golden Eagles extended that streak in 2009 to eight games - the longest consecutive winning streak for the program since the 1958-59 seasons - and in the process through the course of the season kept several program streaks intact during the season and now into the 2010 season including:

• 17th straight current winning season, which trails only Florida, Florida State and Virginia Tech • ninth straight bowl appearance • at least seven wins in 14 of the past 15 seasons • appearing in the 13th bowl game in the last 14 seasons

The Fedora era has drawn record crowds. The 2009 opener against Alcorn State set a stadium record for attendance with 36,232 and the overall mark for the year was 184,178. The Golden Eagles averaged over 30,000 fans for the second straight year with 30,696 in 2009 and broke their own record of 30,079 set in 2008. In 2010, the Golden Eagles averaged 29,400.

The Golden Eagles have become an offensive juggernaut during Fedora's tenure and again did not disappoint in 2010. In 2008, one of the school records they established was most total offensive yards with 5,636. They came close to breaking that record again in 2009 with 5,413 yards of total offense. In 2010, the team is on the cusp of breaking the school record, gaining 5,498 during the regular season.

The Golden Eagles finished 31st in the nation in total offense in 2009, after finishing No. 20 the year before - the highest finish for the Golden Eagles since becoming a member of the FBS.

Southern Miss, known for its defense over the years, has seen a return to the "Nasty Bunch" style of days gone by. The "Nasty Bunch" defense was given to those Golden Eagle defenses back in the late-70s and early 1980s for its stingy style and given the name by then former defensive coordinator and later head coach, Jim Carmody. The Golden Eagles have forced turnovers in 35 of 38 games during the Fedora era and two or more in 26 contests. That turnover margin helped the Golden Eagles rank No. 10 in turnover margin nationally for the second consecutive year in 2009.

In 2010, the Golden Eagles had 20 players be cited by Conference USA for their play, including first team performers Cameron Zipp, Johdrick Morris and Danny Hrapmann.

The successes for Fedora for his program have not been limited to just the field. The school was one of 39 FBS institutions in 2009 recognized for its Graduation Success Rate (GSR) by the American Football Coaches Association. The Golden Eagles achieved a rate of better than 90 percent to go along with Notre Dame and Miami - both at 100 percent - as well as Alabama, Boston College, Connecticut, Duke, Navy, Northwestern, Penn State and Rice.

Here's a little more on Fedora, including recent stories about the vacancies out there and a couple of videos...

Fedora focused on C-USA Championship Game: http://blogs.clarionledger.com/um/2011/11/28/larry-fedora-says-he-is-focused-on-c-usa-championship/

Quick Q&A with Coach Fedora: http://www.usm.edu/news/qa/catching-larry-fedora

Excerpt of a Fedora halftime speech from a 2011 game vs. East Carolina. USM led 38-14:

Fedora mic'd up during a 2011 practice: http://multimedia.foxsports.com/m/video/44849347/mic-d-up-larry-fedora.htm?r_src=ramp

Stay tuned...


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