By: Barrett Sallee
Even while the news of Tommy Tuberville's departure from Auburn is still sending shockwaves through the SEC, the Tigers have important business to take care of. Having already gotten a late start in the off-season coaching carousel, Auburn now must act quickly and decisively in naming a new head coach. But who will it be? Here are a few names to ponder…
Brian Kelly – Cincinnati Bearcats
Kelly was the hot name being bandied about prior to the opening at Auburn. But, just yesterday, Kelly stated that he was happy with the Bearcats and wouldn't be accepting another job. But, that was yesterday, and the job at Auburn wasn't available yesterday.
In his 2+ seasons at Cincinnati, Kelly has led the Bearcats to back-to-back 10-win seasons, the 2008 Big East title, a 2-0 bowl record and was named the 2007 Big East Coach of the Year. Prior to joining the Bearcats, Kelly spent three years as the head coach of Central Michigan where he led the Chippewas the 2006 MAC Championship and a 19-16 record. With stops at Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State, Kelly has compiled a 157-56-2 career record.
Kelly has a long track record of success, and should be high atop the Tigers wish list. SEC loyalists will tell you that Kelly's track-record of winning doesn't mean anything in the SEC. But, winning is winning, no matter where you are.
Mike Leach – Texas Tech Red Raiders
Leach has made a name for himself this season, leading the Texas Tech Red Raiders to a share of the Big XII South division title, and, and one point, a #2 national ranking. The success of his aerial attack behind QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree has raised quite a few eyebrows in the college football world. Leach has already interviewed for the vacant head coaching position at Washington, and has already discussed contract extensions with Texas Tech. Someone is going to make Leach a rich man this off-season, and it could be Auburn.
Leach also has a long history of success as both a coordinator and a head coach. During his time at Texas Tech, Leach has led the Red Raiders to a 76-38 record and a 5-3 record in bowl games.
The Birmingham (Ala.) News has already reported that an unofficial representative of Auburn has already contacted Leach, along with Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.
Will Muschamp – Texas Longhorns
Muschamp earned cult hero-like status during his two years as Auburn's Defensive Coordinator from 2006-2007, after a fiery YouTube moment during the 2007 Arkansas game. "Coach Boom," as he's known to the Auburn faithful, has been designated as the Coach-In-Waiting for the Texas Longhorns after Mack Brown eventually retires. But, that doesn't mean that Muschamp can't field offers for other jobs.
Muschamp has familiarity with the Auburn program, but doesn't have any head coaching experience. While Muschamp may be a fine head coach eventually, Auburn has to ask itself if they can afford to take the chance on an unproven Muschamp, while Nick Saban is up the road in Tuscaloosa, having already led Alabama back from the grips of despair.
Turner Gill – Buffalo Bulls
Gill was an eyelash away from getting the job at his alma mater, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, last season. While Gill's 14-21 overall record at Buffalo is far from eye-popping, he has led the Bulls back from a 2-10 record in his first year, to back-to-back MAC East titles, with the 2008 division title being outright.
Gill is a bit of a gamble, since he hasn't led a team to any prolonged success. But, he's got the Bulls going in the right direction, and will get a quality job somewhere in the near future. It could take a while for Auburn to build itself back, and if the decision-makers on the Plains decide that they are farther away than originally thought, Gill might be the perfect guy for the situation.
This might be a bit of a long shot, but there have been some rumblings that the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach might want to get back into coaching either in the NFL or in college provided it's the right situation. Is Auburn the right situation? That would be up for Cowher to decide. But, a Cowher vs. Saban Iron Bowl would be quite fun.
Other names to watch: Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech, Todd Graham – Tulsa, Mark Dantonio – Michigan State
Whatever Auburn does, they must act quickly. With the recruiting season already in full gear, the new head coach needs to get a staff together and out on the road as quickly as possible. Not only meeting new recruits, but also convincing the players already committed to the school under the Tuberville regime to stick to their commitment to the Auburn Tigers.
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Big XII Blunder – December 1, 2008
Arkansas' Loss Has Been Ole Miss' Gain – November 23, 2008
SEC Championship Hype A Bit Premature – November 20, 2008
Auburn vs. Georgia Still Has Meaning – November 12, 2008
Auburn In Must-Win Situation vs. Ole Miss – October 28, 2008
Georgia vs. LSU – SEC Elimination Game – October 21, 2008
Franklin's Firing Isn't All Bad – October 8, 2008
SEC West September Synopsis – September 28, 2008
Fixing Auburn's Offense – September 15, 2008
Wells or Not, USC's Defense Will Dominate – September 10, 2008
No Need To Panic, Auburn Fans – September 2, 2008
SEC and ESPN Reach Mega Deal – August 25, 2008
What Will Happen In The SEC – August 18, 2008
Bama Is Not Back – August 5, 2008
SEC Under-The-Radar Games – July 26, 2008
Enough With The Buckeyes – July 16, 2008
SEC Coaches: How Many Is Too Many? - July 8, 2008
New Coordinators No Problem For Auburn - July 1, 2008