MORGANTOWN — Now who?
That’s the burning question as Rich Rodriguez is being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor today.
Here’s a quick handicap on what would appear to be the top candidates even before the West Virginia administration moves toward a replacement:
3-1 Doc Holliday
A former Don Nehlen assistant, Holliday is well versed in the spread offense having served under Urban Meyer as associate coach at Florida. Holliday is considered one of the top recruiters in the state of Florida. He has coached for 30 years, been to 19 bowls and coached in two national championship games, including WVU’s 1988 Fiesta Bowl meeting with Notre Dame. Holliday coached at WVU from 1979 to 1999 and at North Carolina State from 2000 to 2004 before moving on to Florida.
5-1 Terry Bowden
A WVU graduate and the son of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, Terry’s first year as a major college coach saw him lead Auburn to an 11-0 record. He finished his stay there with a 47-17-1 mark, resigning in mid-year 1998 when he suspected he was about to be fired. He previously coached at Samford and recently served as a football commentator for ABC-TV. Bowden predicted earlier this year that he would be coaching a major college team next year.
6-1 Jimbo Fisher
Fisher, also a West Virginian, played quarterback for Terry Bowden and was named Division II Player of the Year. He coached under Bowden at Auburn, then went to LSU where he was considered one of the best offensive coordinators in America, coaching quarterbacks Josh Booty and JaMarcus Russell, last year’s No. 1 NFL draft pick. Fisher joined Bobby Bowden at Florida State this year and recently signed a contract that designated him as Bowden’s replacement when he retires. The contract is said to have an escape clause if he is offered the West Virginia job.
8-1 Butch Jones
Butch Jones was wide receivers coach for Rodriguez for two years, helping develop wide receiver Darius Reynaud. Prior to that he was at Central Michigan for seven years as an assistant coach. This past year Jones replaced Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and did an amazing job. After losing three of his first four games, Jones straightened things out and finished at 8-4 and has a spot in the Motor City Bowl against Purdue.
10-1 Tommy Bowden
Just two weeks ago Bowden, for whom Rodriguez served as offensive coordinator at both Tulane and Clemson, signed a three-year extension. That normally would take him out of the running, but contracts don’t seem to mean a whole lot these days in the coaching business. A former Morgantown High player who also played at WVU, Tommy is Bobby’s son and Terry’s brother. Bowden’s contract pays him $1.1 million a year with a chance to earn $1.4, meaning he’s not out of WVU’s price range. He does have a $4 million buyout, but the school should get $4 million from Rodriguez on his buyout.
15-1 Todd Graham
Brought to WVU when he was a Texas high school coach by Rodriguez, Graham was solid as a defensive coordinator. Graham took over at Rice last year with the promise “We will win” and made good on it, leading the Owls to their first bowl bid in 45 years. After that he replaced Steve Kragthorpe at Tulsa this year and went 9-4. He earns $1.1 million as the highest paid coach Conference USA.
20-1 Any Rodriguez assistant
It’s almost certain that the administration will want to cut its ties with most of Rodriguez’s assistants. It’s expected that he will take Tony Gibson, Calvin Magee and Tony Gibson to Michigan along with Dusty Rutledge, the video coordinator, who could be in line for the director of football operations job at Michigan. Bill Kirelawich probably would stay on at WVU but not as head coach, as would Bill Stewart.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.
MORGANTOWN — Now who?
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