By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
After just two seasons at Kansas, Turner Gill was fired on Sunday. Gill’s record through two years was an awful 5-19, winning only one Big 12 game. Although the Jayhawks began this season with a 2-0 record, they lost 10 straight to close the year and only two of those defeats were by less than 10 points.
Who will replace Gill as Kansas’ next head coach?
Tim Beckman, head coach, Toledo – Beckman might be more inclined to wait for a job in the Big Ten, but has been a solid coach at Toledo through three seasons (21-16). The Rockets fell just a victory short of winning the MAC West this year. He has Big 12 coaching experience, working under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State from 2007-08. Would the Jayhawks go to the MAC again after Gill’s failed stint at Kansas?
Dave Christensen, head coach, Wyoming – Christensen is a name that Kansas' fans are certainly familiar with, as he worked at Missouri under Gary Pinkel from 1997-08. He has served as Wyoming’s head coach for the last three seasons, leading the Cowboys to a 17-19 record during that span. Wyoming played in a bowl in 2009 and will likely make a postseason trip this year. Christensen is known for his offenses and has done a good job at Wyoming, especially working with inexperienced quarterbacks.
Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Texas – Diaz has made a quick climb up the coaching ladder. He started his career as a graduate assistant at Florida State in 1998, before jumping to NC State in 2000. Diaz later became MTSU’s defensive coordinator in 2006 and took the same position at Mississippi State in 2010, before leaving after one year to coach at Texas. Diaz is a high-energy coach and one of the nation’s top defensive minds. Considering the struggles of Kansas’ defense this year, Diaz would be someone who can immediately help on that side of the ball. The only drawback? No head coaching experience.
Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Dykes has quietly done a good job at Louisiana Tech, leading the Bulldogs to an 8-4 record and a WAC title this season. He has just two years of head coaching experience, but a solid resume as an assistant at Arizona, Texas Tech and Kentucky. His father (Spike) was the head coach at Texas Tech from 1986-99 and led the Red Raiders to an 82-67-1 record. If Kansas doesn’t want to go after Mike Leach, why not one of his disciples from Texas Tech?
Larry Fedora, head coach, Southern Miss – Just like Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, Fedora is going to be mentioned for nearly every BCS job that comes open this offseason. In four seasons at Southern Miss, he has recorded a 32-19 record and led the Golden Eagles to a Conference USA East Division title this year. Fedora spent time as an assistant at Florida and Oklahoma State, so he is certainly familiar with what it takes to win at the BCS level. Considering Fedora could be in the mix at Illinois, North Carolina and Ole Miss, Kansas is going to have competition for his services.
Mike Leach, former Texas Tech head coach – Considering what transpired at Texas Tech, Leach certainly comes with some baggage. However, his results on the field are impressive. In 10 years with the Red Raiders, he recorded an 84-43 record and 10 bowl appearances. Kansas has not made a bowl appearance since 2008, so the program needs a shot in the arm. Leach’s high-powered offenses would be entertaining, but would need a year or two to build personnel if he takes over at Kansas. He is expected to be in the mix for coaching jobs at Arizona State and Illinois.
Jim Leavitt, former South Florida head coach – Leavitt had a messy exit from South Florida in 2009, when he was fired after an investigation into allegations about his treatment of a player during halftime of a game against Louisville. While his exit was not ideal, Leavitt built the South Florida program from scratch, turning it into a consistent bowl team. The Bulls made a bowl every year from 2005-09, but never finished higher than third in the conference. Leavitt played at Missouri and coached at Kansas State from 1990-95, so he’s certainly familiar with the Big 12. Like Leach, Leavitt has some baggage, but has produced solid results on the field.
Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops is one of college football’s rising stars in the assistant ranks. He joined the Seminoles in 2009 as the defensive coordinator, with previous stops as an assistant at Arizona, Miami, Houston, Wyoming and South Florida. Florida State’s defense has shown big progress in two seasons since Stoops took over, with the Seminoles finishing in the top 20 of scoring defense both times. He does not have any head coaching experience, but has developed a strong resume as an assistant. A longshot, but Stoops is a coach that is going to get a shot at a BCS job in the near future.
Mike Stoops, former Arizona head coach – Stoops was fired at Arizona midway through this season. He posted a 41-49 record through eight seasons in Tucson, including three consecutive bowl trips. Stoops left Arizona in a much better position than he inherited it, but was unable to turn it into a contender in the Pac-10 (and now Pac-12). He is very familiar with coaching in the Big 12, thanks to stops at Kansas State (1992-98) and Oklahoma (1999-03). Stoops is a longshot, but considering his familiarity with the Big 12, is someone to watch during the search.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston – Sumlin is one of the hottest names in coaching searches this season. He has been mentioned as a candidate for Ole Miss, Arizona State, North Carolina and Illinois. In four years with Houston, Sumlin has a 35-16 record, and has the Cougars on the doorstep of their first appearance in the BCS. He also has a solid resume, spending time as an assistant at Minnesota, Purdue, Texas A&M and under Bob Stops at Oklahoma. Sumlin will have his choice of jobs this offseason, so the Jayhawks will have to move quick if he is their No. 1 target.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Venables is regarded as one of the top assistants in college football since joining Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 1999. He has worked as the Sooners’ defensive coordinator and associate head coach during his time in Norman. Venables is a Kansas native and coached at Kansas State from 1993-98. He is certainly due for a shot at a BCS school, but could be sought for the Illinois, Arizona State or Ole Miss jobs. Needless to say, Venables can be very selective with his decision on where to become a head coach.