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Colorado Football: Who Should the Buffaloes Hire to be the Next Head Coach?

Colorado made the easy decision to move on from Karl Dorrell.
Karl Dorrell, Colorado Buffaloes Football

Colorado became the second Pac-12 college football head-coaching job to open this year after the Sunday firing of coach Karl Dorrell. The hire of Dorrell was questionable for the start, so it's no surprise the Buffaloes are back in the market for a head coach just 23 games into his tenure. Dorrell went 4-2 in the abbreviated 2020 season but finished 4-8 last year and was off to a brutal 0-5 start in '22.

Since joining the Pac-12, Colorado has only one winning season in a full regular season slate. Although this job may not have the resources or in-state talent pool of some of the other vacancies right now, it's still a good opening for the right coach and capable of winning consistently in the Pac-12. 

Related: Coaching Candidates to Replace Karl Dorrell at Colorado

Who should Colorado hire to replace Dorrell? Athlon's editors and contributors debate which coach is the best fit in Boulder:

Colorado Football: Who Should the Buffaloes Hire to be the Next Head Coach?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Colorado has plenty of good candidates who would probably take the job, but this also has the makings of a wide-open search. Former BYU and Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall would be my pick to take over in Boulder next fall. Before taking over in Charlottesville, Mendenhall spent most of his coaching career out West and went 99-43 as the head coach at BYU. Although Mendenhall stepped down after a successful stint (36-38) at Virginia, he seems recharged for another stint on the sidelines. Mendenhall's ability to develop strong team culture and talent would give Colorado some much-needed stability and maximize (or get the most) out of all of the resources and advantages in place. If Mendenhall isn't interested, Air Force's Troy Calhoun or Illinois defensive coordinator (and former Colorado player) Ryan Walters makes sense here. Considering how wide-open this job can be, names like San Jose State's Brent Brennan, Kent State's Sean Lewis or Tulane's Willie Fritz could be mentioned here too.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
A reunion with program legend Eric Bieniemy would make for a great story and definitely help Colorado win the press conference. But I have a hard time seeing him leaving the NFL, especially in the position he holds, for a massive rebuilding job like the Buffaloes. So unless he is told he's not HC material in the pros, I think Bieniemy stays put. So I think it needs to be someone young who the administration will give plenty of time to try and turn things around. So as intriguing as a Bryan Harsin return to the region (should Auburn cut ties) sounds, I'm going in a different direction. Ricky Rahne intrigues me but he doesn't have any ties to the area or Pac-12 and I think that's important. Jeff Grimes has both as a former Colorado assistant and I'd also be willing to do a lot of homework on Weber State head coach Jay Hill. Yes, it would be a jump for Hill but again, patience must be afforded to whoever gets this job. I would probably lean slightly towards Grimes since he already has some history with the Buffs.

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
It's no surprise that the Dorrell hiring didn't work out. It was a head-scratching hire, especially considering his only college coaching experience since a failed UCLA run was one rough year as Vanderbilt's OC. But what was a surprise was how quickly Colorado became perhaps the worst Power 5 team. While Colorado might like to go for a splashy coordinator hire — perhaps Baylor OC Jeff Grimes, who was previously a Buffaloes assistant from 2007-08 — the program could probably use a more established name. One name that will likely be hitting the market soon is Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin, who has never been a good cultural fit for the SEC school. However, a return west to a smaller-conference school with less pressure could be the right move for Harsin, who will draw plenty of intrigue from programs despite a 9-9 record at Auburn.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
The time to bring Eric Bieniemy home is right now for Colorado. Bieniemy has waited long enough for his opportunity for a head coaching gig, and he would be getting it at the right time to turn his alma mater around. The homecoming story can be a setup for failure, but Bieniemy won't be the next Scott Frost at Nebraska.

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
I think Colorado should see what happens with Bryan Harsin, The current Auburn coach is not going to voluntarily leave behind an SEC gig and paycheck. But if he is relieved of his duties and collects the substantial buyout that would be coming his way, a return to the western part of the country might be just what the doctor ordered for the former Boise State head coach. Colorado, in the current college football landscape, is not an easy job and though many in Boulder will be clamoring for former Buff – and current Chiefs assistant – Eric Bieniemy, I think it is unlikely that he will leave his spot in Kansas City to face a massive overhaul at Colorado. But Harsin, who knows the area and where to go for players, will be anxious to prove that he is a quality coach and that the mess at Auburn goes much deeper than the head football coach.