Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys was fired on Tuesday after his first full season with the program. Claeys guided the Golden Gophers to a 9-4 record in 2016 and was 2-4 as the program’s interim coach after Jerry Kill stepped down due to health reasons last year. While Claeys led Minnesota to a nine-win season and a Holiday Bowl victory over Washington State, there was a lot of turmoil surrounding this program at the end of the year. A player boycott over suspensions threatened to derail Minnesota’s appearance in the Holiday Bowl, and Claeys later supported the boycott over Twitter. The boycott and Claeys’ tweet did not sit well with many in the fanbase or administration, and the overall turmoil – not on-field performance – prompted athletic director Mark Coyle to make a change.
6 Coaching Candidates to Replace Tracy Claeys at Minnesota
Craig Bohl, head coach, Wyoming
Bohl agreed an extension through 2023 at Wyoming earlier this offseason, but Minnesota should at least inquire about his interest in the job. The Nebraska native worked as an assistant with a handful of FBS programs (Rice, Duke, Wisconsin and Nebraska) before landing the head coaching job at North Dakota State in 2003. Under Bohl’s watch, the Bison went 104-32 and claimed three consecutive national championships (2011-13). Additionally, North Dakota State only had one losing season (2009) during Bohl’s tenure. After a 4-8 mark in his first year at Wyoming (2014), Bohl went 2-10 in 2015 but improved to 8-6 in 2016. Bohl’s style and track record of player development would fit in well at Minnesota.
Troy Calhoun, head coach, Air Force
Calhoun was connected to this job through the rumor mill in 2010 before Minnesota hired Jerry Kill. Considering Calhoun coaches at his alma mater and has a good run going in Colorado Springs, it would take a lot for the former AFA quarterback to leave. Calhoun is 77-53 at Air Force since 2007 and has guided the Falcons to bowl appearances in nine out of 10 seasons. He also spent time in the NFL with the Broncos and Texans and coached as an assistant at Ohio and Wake Forest.
P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan
Fleck is one of college football’s rising stars in the head coaching ranks and it’s only a matter of time before he gets an opportunity at a Power 5 program. After a playing career at Northern Illinois, Fleck had a short stint in the NFL before becoming a graduate assistant at Ohio State in 2006. Fleck quickly worked his way through the coaching ranks with stops at Northern Illinois (2007-09), Rutgers (2010-11) and with the Buccaneers (2012). He was hired as Western Michigan’s head coach in 2013 and went 1-11 in his debut. However, the Broncos have three consecutive winning seasons and finished 2016 as the top Group of 5 program with a 13-1 record and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl. Fleck is 30-22 in four seasons with Western Michigan. He's the early favorite for this job.
Bryan Harsin, head coach, Boise State
Harsin worked for current Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle at Boise State, so there’s a natural connection between the two parties. However, since Harsin is from Boise and coaching at his alma mater, it’s probably safe to assume he’s in no hurry to leave for a different job. Harsin worked as an assistant at Boise State from 2001-10 before taking over the offensive coordinator duties at Texas from 2011-12. He spent one year as the head coach at Arkansas State (7-5) before jumping to Boise State to replace Chris Petersen in 2014. Over the last three seasons, the Broncos are 31-9 under Harsin’s direction.
Chris Klieman, head coach, North Dakota State
Klieman has picked up where Craig Bohl left off at North Dakota State. Over the last three years, the Bison are 40-5 under Klieman’s direction and claimed back-to-back national championships in 2014-15. North Dakota State finished 12-2 in 2016 and lost in the FCS semifinals to James Madison. The Iowa native also has stops as an assistant on his resume from stints at Northern Iowa, Kansas, Missouri State and Western Illinois.
Greg Schiano, defensive coordinator, Ohio State
Schiano returned to the college ranks in 2016 and called the defensive signals for Ohio State’s standout defense. Prior to joining Urban Meyer’s staff in Columbus, Schiano was out of football for two seasons after an 11-21 record as Tampa Bay’s head coach from 2012-13. Schiano has a better track record as a college head coach, going 68-67 at Rutgers from 2001-11. Under Schiano’s direction, the Scarlet Knights went from one of the worst teams in the Big East to a consistent bowl team. From 2005-11, Rutgers made six bowl appearances. Prior to that run, the school had just one previous trip to a postseason game.