Texas hasn’t officially made a coaching change, but all signs point to Saturday’s matchup against TCU as the final regular season game of Charlie Strong’s tenure in Austin. Strong is 16-20 through three seasons leading the Longhorns and posted losing records in his first two years on campus. This season’s team seemed to be on the right track after a win over Notre Dame in the opener, and the offense improved behind new play-caller Sterlin Gilbert. However, the Longhorns lost a 50-43 shootout against California in September, which began a three-game losing streak. Texas rebounded to win three of its next four conference matchups, providing some signs of progress for Strong to sell in order to return in 2017. But the biggest setback of Strong’s tenure was an overtime 24-21 loss to Kansas on Nov. 19.
Barring a change of heart by the Texas administrators, a new coach will lead the Longhorns in 2017. Who could be the next coach at one of college football’s top jobs? Here are five names to watch:
5 Candidates to Replace Charlie Strong at Texas
Tom Herman, head coach, Houston
Normally, we would list candidates in alphabetical order. However, the list of coaching candidates for Texas begins and (likely) ends with Herman. The California native has extensive ties to the state of Texas, spending time in the Lone Star State as an assistant at Texas (1999-00), Sam Houston State (2001-04), Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08) and is in his second season as the head coach at Houston. Under his watch, the Cougars are 22-3 overall and finished No. 8 nationally after a 13-1 mark last year. Herman was also one of the nation’s top assistant coaches during his stint as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator from 2012-14. Herman is one of the nation’s rising stars and a great fit in Austin.
Larry Fedora, head coach, North Carolina
Fedora is 40-23 during his five seasons at North Carolina and is a native of the state of Texas (College Station). Before landing his first FBS head coaching gig at Southern Miss in 2008, Fedora worked as an assistant at Oklahoma State, Florida, MTSU, Air Force and Baylor. Under his watch, the Tar Heels posted an 11-win season last fall and claimed the Coastal Division title for the first time in school history.
Bryan Harsin, head coach, Boise State
Harsin is a name familiar to many in Austin, as he worked under Mack Brown as the program’s offensive coordinator from 2011-12. The former Boise State quarterback is another rising star in the Group of 5 head coaching ranks, guiding the Broncos to a 31-7 record over the last three seasons. Harsin also spent one year at Arkansas State (2013) and guided the Red Wolves to a 7-5 record that season.
Mike MacIntyre, head coach, Colorado
MacIntyre should be the national coach of the year at the end of the 2016 season. Under his watch, Colorado has made major improvement in on-field results and could win the Pac-12 South with a victory over Utah this week. After winning just three Pac-12 games from 2013-15 and inheriting a mess of a roster from former coach Jon Embree, MacIntyre has guided the Buffaloes to a 9-2 overall mark and 7-1 record in conference play this season. And prior to Colorado, MacIntyre worked the same type of turnaround at San Jose State. The Spartans went 1-12 in his first year but improved to 10-2 in the 2012 regular season.
Philip Montgomery, head coach, Tulsa
Montgomery is another coach with ties to the state of Texas. After a playing career in college at Tarleton State in Stephenville, Montgomery worked as an assistant in the high school ranks from 1995-02. Montgomery worked at Houston under Art Briles as an assistant from 2003-07 and again at Baylor from 2008-14. Montgomery was hired as Tulsa’s coach in 2015 and guided the Golden Hurricane to a 6-7 record – a four-win improvement from the previous year. Tulsa is 8-3 in 2016 and is led by one of the nation’s top offenses (41.5 ppg).