Art Briles’ tenure at Baylor ended on Thursday, as the 60-year-old coach was fired as a result of the findings from the Pepper Hamilton investigation into football program and athletic department. With Briles out, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will serve as the program’s head coach for the 2016 season. While Bennett has previous head coaching experience and is a veteran assistant, it’s unlikely the program will keep this current staff in place after this season. Instead, a full house cleaning of the staff is likely in order.
Who might take over as Baylor’s coach for 2017 and beyond? Here are a few names to watch as the 2016 season progresses.
Five Potential Candidates for Baylor in 2017
Sonny Dykes, head coach, California
Dykes is 14-23 at California, but the Golden Bears have made significant progress under his watch. After a 1-11 mark in 2013, California improved to 5-7 in 2014 and 8-5 in 2015. Prior to taking over in Berkeley, Dykes went 22-15 at Louisiana Tech and also worked as an assistant at Arizona, Texas Tech and Kentucky. Despite a contract extension after the 2015 season, an opportunity to coach back in his home state of Texas could be appealing to Dykes.
Willie Fritz, head coach, Tulane
Fritz is entering his first year at Tulane, but the Kansas native has ties to the state of Texas from a stint as an assistant at Sam Houston State and later as the program’s head coach from 2010-13. Fritz went 97-47 at Central Missouri from 1997-09 and guided Sam Houston State to a 40-15 mark over four years, which included back-to-back trips to the FCS Championship. Fritz helped Georgia Southern transition to the FBS level in 2014 and went 17-7 over the last two years with the Eagles.
Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie, Co-Offensive Coordinators, TCU
TCU’s offense has made significant progress under Meacham and Cumbie, averaging over 40 points in each of the last two years. Meacham is the team’s play-caller, but both coaches are rising stars after helping the Horned Frogs’ offense emerge as one of the best in the Big 12. Prior to his stint at TCU, Meacham also has previous experience in the Big 12 after a stop at Oklahoma State (2005-12). The one downside: Neither coach has FBS head coaching experience.
Chad Morris, head coach, SMU
Morris is another rising star to watch in the coaching ranks and has deep ties to the state of Texas. The Dallas native worked from 1994-09 as a high school head coach at five different Texas high schools and later spent one season at Tulsa (2010) as the team’s offensive coordinator. After four years at Clemson, Morris was hired at SMU and went 2-10 in his debut. He’s one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should move up the FBS coaching ladder over the next few years.
Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma
Riley’s arrival at Oklahoma sparked immediate improvement for the Sooners’ offense in 2015, and it’s only a matter of time before the Texas native gets a chance to run his own program. Under Riley's direction, the Sooners averaged 43.5 points a game last season. Prior to taking over in Norman as the play-caller, Riley worked for five years at East Carolina and also had a stint at Texas Tech (2007-09) under Mike Leach.