Analyzing the New Head Coaches ... 2005
Posted Feb 15, 2007

Richard Cirminiello breaks down and analyzes 2005's new head coaches.

By Richard Cirminiello

If it's true you can't go home again, someone forgot to tell this year's collection of first-year head coaches, many of whom will be making return engagements of one kind or another.  Dave Wannstedt, Charlie Weis and Mike Gundy have accepted positions at their alma maters.  Frank Solich, Walt Harris, Terry Hoeppner and Ed Orgeron are moving much closer to their hometowns.  Brent Guy and Bill Cubit have returned to former employers with beefed up titles.  And Steve Spurrier and Tyrone Willingham are back in the SEC and Pac-10, respectively.

In this business, there's an advantage to familiarity and old contacts, and many of this year's new hires used it deftly during the interview process.  They're a part of the whopping 22 (that's a 19% turnover in I-A coaches) rookie skippers who'll get their first good look this spring at what they inherited, and just how realistic those early promises were when they accepted the jobs.  

Head Coach:
Bronco Mendenhall
Former Coach: Gary Crowton – Offensive coordinator at Oregon

Bio: In a short time, by coaching standards, Mendenhall, 38, has navigated through a career maze to one of the highest-profile jobs outside the BCS conferences.  After serving two seasons as the Cougars' defensive coordinator, he takes over for the man who brought him to Provo, Gary Crowton.  He's a defensive guru, who's also made stops at Northern Arizona, Oregon State, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico.  His Lobo defenses from 1998-2002 were perennially the most disruptive in the Mountain West.      

The Skinny: The task of returning BYU to its glory days falls to Mendenhall, an outstanding defensive coach, who's never held a position with nearly this much responsibility.  Since opening the 2001 season 12-0, the Cougars have gone 14-23, precipitating the need for a change at the top.   

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: LB Cameron Jensen.  Jensen had a breakout season in Mendenhall's aggressive 3-3-5 scheme last year, leading the Cougars in tackles and tackles for loss.  One more fall to digest the unique system will prove to be a plus for the junior.     

East Carolina
Head Coach:
Skip Holtz
Former Coach: John Thompson – Co-defensive coordinator at South Carolina

Bio: The 41-year old son of legendary college coach Lou Holtz is about to undertake the second rebuilding project of his young career.  Randy Edsall has done a magnificent job in Storrs, but many don't realize it was Holtz who began building the current UConn foundation when he was head coach of the Huskies from 1994-1998.  The graduate of Notre Dame spent four seasons in South Bend, the final two as offensive coordinator in 1992 and 1993.  Since 1999, he's been reunited with his dad, coaching the South Carolina offense and quarterbacks in a variety of capacities.

The Skinny: Six years ago, Holtz was a hot name in the coaching ranks, and just a couple of years ago, his dad's likely successor in Columbia.  However, that was before he was stripped of his offensive coordinator duties, and Steve Spurrier became available.  Holtz didn't exactly distinguish himself at South Carolina, so he has to feel pretty good about taking the reins of a program hell-bent on regaining its respectability. 

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: RB Chris Johnson.  Holtz would love to air it out more often, but with no proven quarterbacks on the roster, and a reputation to rebuild, he'll lean heavily on last year's leading rusher.

Head Coach:
Urban Meyer
Former Coach:
Ron Zook – Head coach at Illinois

Bio: From Bowling Green to Utah.  From Utah to Florida.  It hasn't taken Meyer, 40, very long to go from anonymity to the height of his profession.  He completed his two-year stay in Salt Lake City with a 16-game winning streak and a blowout win in the Fiesta Bowl, the first-ever BCS bowl appearance by a non-BCS school.  It was the coronation for a coach, who's rightly being hailed as one of the best offensive minds in America.  At Bowling Green, he engineered the biggest turnaround of any team in 2001, and led the Falcons into the Top 25 a year later.  In four seasons, he has an impeccable record of 39-8.  Meyer cut his teeth as a wide receivers coach with Colorado State and Notre Dame.       

The Skinny: If there's a flaw in Meyer as a head coach, it has yet to be exposed, music to the ears of all Irish fans.  Oops, Gator fans.  There'll never be another Steve Spurrier in these parts, but Meyer's intense demeanor, competitive nature and flair for the dramatic on offense will be the next best thing.  His rebuilding plans can be measured by an hour glass, so you can fit Florida for an SEC crown within two years.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Chris Leak.  No, he's not a perfect fit for Meyer's read option, but in an offense this combustible, a player of Leak's caliber should put up even better numbers than he did last year.  Meyer's Xs and Os helped turned Josh Harris and Alex Smith into college stars the last three years.

Head Coach: Ron Zook
Former Coach: Ron Turner – Offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears

Bio: College football's nomad of the coaching fraternity is on his way to the Big Ten.  Fresh off his headline-grabbing ouster from Florida, Zook, 50, is undertaking his 15th different position over the past three decades.  From college to the NFL, the former Miami (OH) defensive back has amassed a deep resume with a concentration on defense and special teams; Zook's been a defensive coordinator with Cincinnati, Kansas, Virginia Tech, Florida and the New Orleans Saints.  A three-year mark of 23-14 with the Gators was woefully below expectations, making him a Pariah in Gainesville.      

The Skinny:
Dennis Rodman couldn't rebound as well as Zook did after getting fired by the Gators last fall.  His game management skills will continue to be questioned, but he's a good motivator, and an even better recruiter, two things that were lacking at the tail end of Ron Turner's tenure.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: Champaign.  No one's ready to mention Zook in the same breath as Robert Zuppke, but he will bring a much-needed boost in energy and talent for at least the honeymoon period.   

Head Coach:
Terry Hoeppner
Former Coach: Gerry DiNardo – Currently out of coaching 

Bio: Hoeppner, 57, parlayed six winning seasons as the head coach of Miami (OH) into a nice pay raise and a head job in the Big Ten.  He returns to his home state, where he was raised, played high school ball and coordinated the defense at Franklin College.  Hoeppner's a model of perseverance, spending a decade coaching high school teams in three different states and 15 seasons as a RedHawk assistant before landing the position he just left.  The highlight of his 48-24 career record was 2003's 13-1 mark and the school's first bowl game in 17 years.   

The Skinny: Pay aside, you have to wonder if this is a promotion or a lateral move for Hoeppner.  At Miami, he would have contended for a MAC title and a bowl every year, especially since Marshall is now a member of C-USA.  In Bloomington, where the program has gotten steadily worse over the past decade, he'll be a speed bag for a deep Big Ten.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: CB Tracy Porter.  Hoeppner's done well with defensive backs over the years, like Sheldon White, Paris Johnson, Matt Pusateri and Darrell Hunter.  As a true freshman, Porter started seven games before being injured, and earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman first team.    

Head Coach:
Les Miles
Former Coach: Nick Saban – Head coach of the Miami Dolphins

Bio: Following a methodical career path, Miles, 51, has ascended to the upper echelon of the college coaching profession.  In just four years, he led Oklahoma State out of a funk, and gained national recognition for knocking off Oklahoma twice.  He leaves Stillwater with a 28-21 record, and bowl appearances in three straight years.  Sandwiched between stints at OSU, Miles coached tight ends for another Cowboy team, the Dallas Cowboys, from 1998-2000.  By far, his longest stop in any one job was the eight years he spent at his alma mater, Michigan, from 1987-1994.  

The Skinny: Nick Saban brought the Tigers to the pinnacle of the sport, and now it's Miles' task to keep them there.  After working small wonders at a school that was the clear stepchild in its own state, it'll be interesting to see what the coach can accomplish at an elite program.  Retaining Jimbo Fisher and luring Bo Pelini out of Oklahoma, gives Miles a pair of top young coordinators with lots of big-game experience.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: The local media.  Miles doesn't have any one distinguishing characteristic, but he is considered one of the warmer personalities in college coaching, something that will never be said about Saban.

Miami University
Head Coach:
Shane Montgomery
Former Coach: Terry Hoeppner – Head coach at Indiana

Bio: Terry Hoeppner's departure created an opening for Montgomery, 37, to continue his climb in the coaching ranks.  As the RedHawks' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach since 2001, he's been a big reason the program is in the midst of its best run in years.  In 2003, Montgomery was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the game's top assistant.  Prior to Miami, he held several different titles in eight seasons at Tennessee-Chattanooga.  As a quarterback with NC State from 1987-1989, he earned three letters, and was named MVP of the Peach Bowl and Copper Bowl in successive seasons.     

The Skinny: Miami had a rising star on its own campus, so it made no sense to look elsewhere to fill the void.  The program has a good thing going, and retaining an up-and-comer like Montgomery increases the likelihood of maintaining that trend. 

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Josh Betts.  The quickest way to derail the progress of a quarterback is to change his coach, his system and his terminology.  With Montgomery staying in Oxford, Betts won't have to worry about any of that as he aims to improve on last year's first season as a starter.

Head Coach:
Ed Orgeron
Former Coach: David Cutcliffe – Quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame

Bio: In Orgeron, 43, the Rebs get the preeminent teacher of defensive linemen and one of the top recruiters in the country.  Since graduating from Northwestern State, he's overseen the defensive line at Miami, Syracuse and, most recently, USC.  He's been on the staff of four national championship teams, and has tutored the likes of Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland, Warren Sapp, Kenechi Udeze, Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson.  Oregeron spent seven seasons with the Trojans, the last four doubling as the recruiting coordinator.          

The Skinny: Orgeron's a terrific coach, but a curious choice for a program looking to stray from mediocrity.  Not only does he have no head coaching experience, but he's never even held a coordinator's job.  USC is so hot these days that the equipment manager might get looks at a few I-AA schools.  He's intense and fiery, but figures to get schooled early in a league that's home to Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier, Urban Meyer, Phillip Fulmer, Tommy Tubervile and Les Miles.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: DT Jerrell Powe.  After giving a verbal to LSU, the blue-chip  freshman changed course, and opted to stay home.  If he clears some academic hurdles, Powe will spend the next four years with a coach whose worked with some of the best tackles of the past two decades.  

New Mexico State
Head Coach:
Hal Mumme
Former Coach: Tony Samuel – Currently out of coaching

Bio: No stranger to reclamation projects, Mumme's back in Division I-A determined to save a sinking program that hasn't bowled in 45 years.  He's a classic, gunslinging renegade, who's built his career on a pass-happy offense patterned after the BYU teams of the 1980s.  After bouncing around obscure spots, like Valdosta State and Iowa Wesleyan, Mumme, 52,  went mainstream in 1997 when he took over the Kentucky program.  In four seasons, he led the ‘Cats to new heights before leading them into the ground amid more than three dozen NCAA violations.  Mumme spent the last two seasons reviving a Southeastern Louisiana program, which had been dormant for nearly two decades.             

The Skinny: When you're New Mexico State, you need a hook to attract recruits and land a few Thursday night games on ESPN2.  Mumme offers that unique angle by way of a non-traditional offense that's as entertaining as it is tough to slow down.  Yeah, he brings baggage, but when your program is on the edge of extinction, you're wise to take chances.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Royal Gill.  If Mumme's system can help Tim Couch to the top of the 1999 NFL Draft, the 6-5 transfer from Pima Community College has to feel pretty good about moving on to Las Cruces.

Notre Dame
Head Coach: Charlie Weis
Former Coach: Tyrone Willingham – Head coach at Washington

Bio: No longer dividing his time between New England and a menagerie of recruiting trips, Weis, 48, can finally devote all of his energy to coaching his alma mater.  Fresh off his third Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, he's set for his first head job, and first job outside the NFL since leading Franklin Township (N.J.) High School to a state title in 1989.  Weis is a classic rags-to-riches story of a coach, who didn't play the game and earned his stripes at the high school level before Bill Parcells gave him his first break in 1990.  Since then, he's spent every season working for either Parcells or Bill Belichek, a pair of future Hall-of-Famers.       

The Skinny: Weis wasn't the first choice of the Irish.  In fact, he wasn't even on the short list after Tyrone Willingham was fired.  However, he's here now, and Notre Dame fans are getting used to the idea of having him—and his four Super Bowl rings—in South Bend.  Weis wisely addressed a shortcoming by hiring three assistants with college head coaching experience.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Brady Quinn.  Quinn has the potential to be a very good pro-style passer, and Weis is the kind of offensive mentor to bring it out.  Between he and David Cutcliffe, the two have coached Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning over the past seven years.

Head Coach:
Frank Solich
Former Coach: Brian Knorr – Currently out of coaching

Bio: In an off-season filled with surprise hires, Ohio may have set the bar by landing the 60-year old Cleveland native.  Solich spent a quarter of a century at his alma mater, Nebraska, coaching backs for Tom Osborne for many years, and assuming the role of head coach over his final six seasons in Lincoln.  Despite compiling a 58-19 record, he was dumped by a fledgling athletic administration, which lost confidence in his ability to keep the Huskers among the nation's elite.          

The Skinny: Getting a head coach with Solich's background qualifies as a heist for a program that hasn't been the same since Jim Grobe left for Wake Forest five years ago.  He's spent a lifetime in the company of Big 8/Big 12 players and coaches, which brings instant credibility to a campus seeking a football identity.  The only downside is the distinct possibility that this could be a steppingstone job.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: RB Kalvin McRae.  After dipping its toe into the 21st century, and installing the spread offense, Ohio returns to a more familiar power running game.  Solich isn't bringing the option to Athens, but McRae, who led the ‘Cats in rushing a freshman in 2004, should expect a sharp increase in carries.   

Oklahoma State
Head Coach:
Mike Gundy
Former Coach: Les Miles – Head coach at LSU

Bio: Only Pistol Pete is more Cowboy these days than Gundy, 37, who's spent most of his adult life in Stillwater.  After Les Miles sought greener pastures at LSU, OSU's all-time leading passer was promoted from offensive coordinator, making him the youngest head coach in I-A.  Gundy has ventured outside Oklahoma to coach Baylor quarterbacks for a year and Maryland receivers for four, but 10 of the past 14 seasons have been spent with the ‘Pokes.   

The Skinny: Gundy's completely geeked to have this job, which can be contagious to the players, staff and local community.  His agenda will be to continue the momentum Miles built, and stop the cycle of up-and-down periods that's plagued the program.  He's long looked the part of a future head coach, but has far exceeded everyone's timetable.  Dibs on dubbing Gundy The Mahatma if he's an instant success.    

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QBs Donovan Woods and Bobby Reid.  Gundy's affinity for the pass, coupled with the early departure of Vernand Morency, means more passing attempts for whichever quarterback gets handed the ball.

Head Coach:
Dave Wannstedt
Former Coach: Walt Harris – Head coach at Stanford

Bio: After 16 up-and-down seasons with three of the most storied NFL organizations, Wannstedt, 52, heads back to college determined to lead his alma mater to the glory days of the 1970s.  He'll forever be linked to Jimmy Johnson, for whom he served as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Miami and the Dallas Cowboys.  Together, the two won a national championship in 1987 and a pair of Super Bowls in the early 1990s.  Wannstedt's head coaching career with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins was a mixed bag of mediocrity and unfulfilled expectations. 

The Skinny: If the transition to the college game is a smooth one, Wannstedt looks like an ideal fit for Pittsburgh.  For years, the Panthers tried to lure him back home, but only after last year's debacle in Miami did it come to fruition.  He leads with passion and integrity, and has already created the kind of commotion around the Steel City that was foreign to Walt Harris.  Like Pete Carroll, Wannstedt relates well to young people, and could be better suited for coaching at this level.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: LB H.B. Blades.  Already the Panthers' top defender, Blades should become an even bigger factor in a defense that's predicated on speed and attacking.

San Jose State
Head Coach:
Dick Tomey
Former Coach: Fitz Hill - Executive director of the Ouachita Opportunity Fund

Bio: At an age when most coaches are winding down, the 66-year old Tomey is attempting to breathe life into a Spartan program that's had one winning season since 1992.  He's had an extensive 40-year career, all at the college level with the exception of a one-year assignment in San Francisco.  Tomey's first two head coaching jobs were at Hawaii and Arizona, where he compiled a record of 158-110-7, and is the career wins leader at both schools.  In Tucson, he took the Wildcats to new heights, including seven bowl trips and the program's only Top 10 finishes in 1993 and 1998.       

The Skinny: Rather than remain an assistant under Mack Brown, Tomey will try to prove he's still got it at one of the weakest and insolvent programs in America.  Did he really want another head job this bad?  The Spartans got a fiery veteran, but this marriage looks more likely to wind up like John Robinson at UNLV or Rich Brooks at Kentucky than Mike Price at UTEP.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: Defense.  The Spartans have needed help on D since the program's birth, so Tomey, one of the masterminds of Arizona's famed Desert Swarm defense, faces the biggest challenge of his career.

South Carolina
Head Coach:
Steve Spurrier
Former Coach: Lou Holtz – Retired from coaching

Bio: Spurrier's return to college sidelines surprised no one, but his destination caught plenty of people off guard.  Prior to two forgettable seasons with the Washington Redskins, he sustained one of the great coaching runs in the modern era of college football.  In a dozen memorable seasons at Florida, the colorful Spurrier, 59, compiled a 122-27-1 record, won six SEC titles and one national championship, and broke all kinds of records with his wide open Fun ‘n Gun offense.  Often overshadowed in the resume is his ACC crown at Duke in 1989 and his Heisman Trophy as a Gator in 1966.      

The Skinny: Major props must go out to a South Carolina athletic administration, which replaced one legendary coach (Lou Holtz) with another.  Spurrier's a winner, he's back in his element and he's got something to prove after crapping out in the capital.  He's already signed a Top 20 recruiting class, and has the community buzzing as though it's a Saturday night at Williams-Brice.  It's just a matter of time before he has all the pieces in place, and the ‘Cocks competing for their first SEC title.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: Everyone outside Gainesville.  Gator fans hate this move for obvious reasons, but everyone from the fans and the media to the NCAA is thrilled a magnetic personality like Spurrier is back where he belongs.  Regardless who you root for, he's good for the game.       

Head Coach:
Walt Harris
Former Coach: Buddy Teevens – Head coach at Dartmouth

Bio: Harris' third head coaching position has him returning home to Northern California.  The 58-year old South San Francisco native parlayed five straight winning seasons and last year's Big East championship at Pittsburgh into a job he deeply coveted.  While his early days were spent coaching defenses, Harris first got noticed as Johnny Majors' offensive coordinator at Tennessee from 1983-1988.  Success in Knoxville led to the head job at Pacific, his alma mater.  Harris has coached quarterbacks with the New York Jets, University of Illinois and Ohio State, and is considered one of the more innovative offensive minds in the college game.             

The Skinny: Buddy Teevens' tenure was a colossal failure, and in his place, the Cardinal landed a solid, veteran coach, who should immediately stabilize the program.  In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, Harris exited a blatantly strained situation at Pittsburgh with the last laugh and the school's first league title.              

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Trent Edwards.  Harris has tutored 14 NFL quarterbacks, so he knows a little something about getting to the next plateau.  Edwards needs some fine-tuning, but is talented enough to become Harris' No. 15.

Head Coach:
Greg Robinson
Former Coach: Paul Pasqualoni – Assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys

Bio: It took 53 years, and 30 seasons as an assistant, but Robinson has finally landed his first head job.  Although he spent the first 15 years of his career at the college level and last fall as the co-coordinator of the Texas defense, he's best known for his achievements in the NFL.  From 1994-2003, Robinson was the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, picking up Super Bowl rings with Denver in 1997 and 1998.  In eight bowl appearances, including four Rose Bowls with UCLA and Texas, his teams have yet to lose.                

The Skinny: My, what one successful season in Austin can do for a career.  Isn't this the same Robinson who resigned from his post with the Chiefs one year ago after Peyton Manning shredded his unit in the playoffs?  Paul Pasqualoni had some great moments with the Orange, but his best days were behind him, and new athletic director Daryl Gross wisely sought a new direction.  In a diluted Big East, Syracuse is a sleeping giant.        

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: DE James Wyche.  He'll do just fine on talent alone, but the presence of Robinson—a defensive guru with NFL ties—should only help Wyche's draft position in April of 2006.    

Head Coach:
Mike Sanford
Former Coach: John Robinson – Retired from coaching

Bio: Utah's unprecedented success last fall spawned new gigs for Urban Meyer in Gainesville, Kyle Whittingham in Salt Lake City and Sanford in Sin City.  Along with Meyer, Sanford, 49, was one of the architects of a Ute spread offense which baffled defenses last season.  The USC graduate has spent his entire career on offense, making stops at Long Beach State, Purdue, USC, Notre Dame, Stanford and with the San Diego Chargers. Ironically, Sanford's first job was as a graduate assistant under John Robinson, the man he's replacing at UNLV.                

The Skinny: UNLV is a program long on potential.  Robinson failed to tap it, but Sanford is confident he will.  The coach brings a fresh energy and a read-option attack that's geared toward putting fans in the seats and points on the board.  Sanford and his coaches assembled a terrific first recruiting class, highlighted by statement wins in the Las Vegas area.         

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QBs Shane Steichen and Jarrod Jackson.  Whoever wins the right to run Sanford's offense will get an opportunity for instant success and notoriety.  Jackson's a mid-year junior-college transfer with the quick feet that intrigues his new boss.        

Head Coach:
Kyle Whittingham
Former Coach: Urban Meyer – Head coach at Florida

Bio: After a decade as the Utes' defensive coordinator, Whittingham, 45, takes over for Urban Meyer and assumes his first head coaching position.  During his tenure in Salt Lake City, the former BYU linebacker has regularly produced underrated and fundamentally sound defenses that have ranked in the Top 25 in points allowed six of the last eight years.  Prior to joining Utah, Whittingham spent six seasons at Idaho State, the last two as defensive coordinator. 

The Skinny: Talk about an impossible act to follow.  All Whittingham has to do is replace Meyer the year after the Utes go 12-0 and become the first non-BCS school to win a BCS bowl game.  It won't be easy, but the administration greased the skids by staying in-house and keeping some degree of continuity.  Whittingham will lean on new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to implement a system around the personnel and develop promising young quarterback Brian Johnson.     

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: The defense.  The offense will get tweaked and retrofitted, but with Whittingham staying put, and Gary Andersen getting promoted to defensive coordinator, the 4-3 defense remains a constant.      

Utah State
Head Coach:
Brent Guy
Former Coach: Mick Dennehy – Currently out of coaching

After four seasons, the 44-year old Guy left his post as Arizona State's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach to become the 25th head coach in Utah State history.  No stranger to Logan, he coached Aggie linebackers from 1992-1994, and was Dirk Koetter's defensive coordinator at Boise State from 1998-2000, when the Broncos won two Big West titles, and his unit led the league in total defense and scoring defense in back-to-back seasons.  While at Oklahoma State, he was coached by Jimmy Johnson.

The Skinny:
Utah State's move to the WAC and dire need to upgrade facilities signal a pivotal time in the program's history.  Those around Cache Valley are hopeful the high-energy Guy can effectively usher in a new era of Aggie football while helping raise the $16 million needed to give Romney Stadium an extreme makeover.  While he's a key to the future, Guy's also a bridge to the past.  He was on staff in 1993 when the school captured its lone bowl victory.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: LB Jared Johnstun.  Having been one himself and coached a handful in the NFL, Guy knows linebackers.  Johnstun's the best one he'll inherit, and the kind of personality that could make him a leader of the 2005 defense.      

Head Coach:
Tyrone Willingham
Former Coach: Keith Gilbertson – Currently out of coaching

Bio: Willingham, 51, returns to the Pac-10 on the heels of his highly publicized dismissal from Notre Dame.  His resume is as robust and diverse as any first-year coach, and includes substantive experience on both sides of the ball, a three-year stint with the Minnesota Vikings and ten seasons as a head coach.  During that decade, he holds a record of 65-51-1.  While at Stanford, Willingham guided the Cardinal to their first league title and Rose Bowl appearance in nearly three decades, and was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

The Skinny: Seeking substance over style, the administration found their man in Willingham.  He's the epitome of sideline professionalism and preparation, but after failing to turn around the Irish in three years, some have begun to wonder out loud if he's just an average head coach.  And then there's that lone bowl victory in ten seasons.  The dichotomy with Willingham is that parents and administrators adore him, while boosters and fans grow frustrated by the lack of big wins and big-name recruits.  He'll have his hands full with a rebuilding Husky program that's short on talent, even shorter on funds and coming off a one-win season.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: Seattle.  After the off-field distractions of Rick Neuheisel and on-field ineptitude of Keith Gilbertson, the community is thirsty for a grande double espresso-sized cup of stability. 

Western Michigan
Head Coach:
Bill Cubit
Former Coach: Gary Darnell – Currently out of coaching

Bio: Cubit, 51, returns to Kalamazoo, the place where he coached the Bronco offense to some impressive results from 1997-1999.  Since leaving Western Michigan, the 30-year veteran of the sidelines has held the titles of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in each of the last five seasons, one with Missouri, two with Rutgers and the last two at Stanford.  His only collegiate head coaching experience came at Division III Widener from 1992-1996.  In the early 1970s, Cubit was a record-setting wide receiver at Delaware.                

The Skinny: Things had become stale under Gary Darnell, once a trendy candidate whenever coaching vacancies opened up.  With the Broncos riding a streak of four straight losing seasons, capped by last year's 1-10 fiasco, a change at the top was inevitable.  Cubit's a link to the days when Western was lighting up MAC defenses, and quarterback Tim Lester was rewriting NCAA record books.          

Putting Out the Welcome Mat: QB Ryan Cubit.  Yeah, it has to be sort of weird when your dad's the coach, but at least Ryan won't have to work overtime learning a new system or new terminology.  He's been absorbing the coach's philosophy since he began teething.