BEVO BEAT

Replacing Mack: Steve Patterson’s Big Board

Posted December 18th, 2014

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Steve Patterson has a tall task ahead of him. By his own admission, the Texas men’s athletic director must find a new football coach who can recruit, handle influential boosters, help the athletes graduate and be their mentor and be media savvy enough to sell it all.

And one more thing. “You’ve got to win,” Patterson said on Dec. 15, at Mack Brown’s farewell press conference. “You gotta win big.”

Patterson has a long list of candidates to choose from, and the process can be messy if left unorganized. The American-Statesman will constantly update this page with news and notes about various potential candidates as the story develops.

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Friday’s developments:

Call it Black Friday for the Texas Longhorns. Two prominent names on the rumor mill — Baylor’s Art Briles and UCLA’s Jim Mora — took themselves out of the race.

Jimbo Fisher didn’t make news, but his quarterback did. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, during BCS championship game media availability, cracked that if Fisher comes to Texas, he’d transfer right along with him.

Vanderbilt’s James Franklin may be in the mix for the Penn State job. Will the Longhorns or Nittany Lions make their hire first?

Past developments: Jan. 1 — The American-Statesman reported that Baylor’s Art Briles was willing to be interviewed and would accept the Texas job if it was offered, and confirmed that Texas AD Steve Patterson had already interviewed Louisville’s Charlie Strong for four hours in Louisville. Dec. 27 — 247Sports reported that Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was out of the running, news broke that Penn State’s Bill O’Brien would interview with the Houston Texans, Miami’s Al Golden gave a non-denial denial, and Baylor’s Art Briles came out on top of Sports Illustrated’s 32-man coaching bracket powered by online voting, beating out San Franciso 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in the final. Dec. 26 — The American-Statesman reported that Texas’ eight-person search committee, formed Dec. 18, hasn’t even met yet, either by phone or in person. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien continued to generate NFL buzz. Sports Illustrated’s 32-man online coaching bracket was narrowed to two finalists (Briles vs. Harbaugh). Dec. 24 — Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he expected his job status to be cleared up this coming Sunday, after the regular-season finale against the Giants. His departure or return has a big impact on Art Briles’ future, many believe. SI’s Pete Thamel explored why Penn State’s Bill O’Brien might leave — for the NFL. And SI’s 32-man interactive coaching bracket was narrowed to an Elite Eight of Vandy’s James Franklin, FSU’s Jimbo Fisher, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Briles, ESPN’s Jon Gruden, San Fran’s Jim Harbaugh, Stanford’s David Shaw and OSU’s Mike Gundy. Dec. 23 — Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was voted coach of the year by the Associated Press, and a report had Vanderbilt’s James Franklin having reached out to Penn State about a potential opening there in the event that Bill O’Brien leaves. Dec. 22 — A look into Bill O’Brien’s contract revealed that it was amended last summer to lower the buyout money any NFL team would have to play Penn State (from $19.33 million down to $6.48 million), though a college wanting to hire him would have to pay $11.08 million. And there was a report that Major Applewhite may be linked to Florida’s offensive coordinator position. Dec. 20 — Forbes reported on Jed Hughes, the Korn/Ferry executive who’s been tabbed to help with Texas’ coaching search after helping USC get Steve Sarkisian and Ohio State land Jim Tressel. Baylor’s Art Briles gave a non-denial denial response to a question about other schools courting him. Dec. 18 — Texas formed a search committee to help Patterson find the new coach. It’s mostly the same names that were on the committee that found Patterson; there were updates (see below) on several potential candidates, including Baylor’s Art Briles, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, LSU’s Les Miles and North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, among others. Dec. 19 — Urban Meyer and Jimbo Fisher gave non-denial denials about the Texas job, and Jim Harbaugh said he “absolutely” wanted to coach the 49ers for several years.

WHO’S KIRK BOHLS HOPING FOR? BILL O’BRIEN.

He has everything Texas needs. He’s in the process of coaching Penn State out of the Jerry Sandusky trauma with two winning seasons already despite only 60 scholarships available when most FBS teams have 85 and despite a two-year bowl ban. He’s coached under Bill Belichick. He’s coached at Duke. He grooms quarterbacks. He’s only 44. And he looks like a man’s coach.

The one drawback could be the likelihood he goes to an NFL team first. But he’s my guy.

WHO’S CEDRIC GOLDEN HOPING FOR? JAMES FRANKLIN.

File this under the he’s-done-more-with-less file. Vanderbilt is never going to win the SEC, but Franklin has run a clean ship while recruiting players who actually do fall under the label of student-athletes. While there exists the danger of replacing one 8-4 coach with another, Franklin’s Commodores are 15-4 in their last 19 games and 23-15 on his watch, but there’s the understanding that he coaches in the best conference in college football.

Texas has never hired an African-American head football coach, so there is historical context attached. But Franklin’s skin color has nothing to do with the fact that he should be considered. He’s a good, young coach with plenty of upside.

THE DREAM CANDIDATE

Nick Saban, Alabama: Taken out of the mix on Dec. 13 when he agreed to a new contract extension at Alabama. In a statement issued that night, Saban said: “We are excited about the future and the University of Alabama is where I plan to end my coaching career.” But then placed back into the mix because two sources are saying that there’s still a chance he ends up in Austin.

Saban update, Jan. 3: Saban’s Crimson Tide fell to Oklahoma in Thursday night’s Sugar Bowl, 45-31. So his focus — and telephone, should Steve Patterson choose to make the call — no longer need to be focused on a bowl game. … Alabama, by the way, has the country’s No. 1-rated recruiting class right now. Saban’s losing his starting quarterback of the past three seasons in AJ McCarron.

Earlier Saban updates — Dec. 23: Late last week, Saban faced reporters for the first time since his big contract extension was announced on Dec. 13, during Texas’ football banquet. He wasn’t in much of a mood to discuss to his new deal (“I think I already made a reaction to that. Don’t you watch ESPN? Didn’t you see what they put down across the bottom line? That’s my reaction to it. So I don’t have any more reactions to it and it’s over, so why do we want to talk about that? Do we want to look forward? I’m looking forward.”), or his future at Alabama (“I made a commitment to the players that are here and I’m happy to be committed to them, and I want them to make the same kind of commitment to the program and their future success.”), or especially how far discussions had gone with Texas (“There were no talks.”).

THE REAL CANDIDATES

Art Briles, Baylor: Just because Briles signed a new contract this month doesn’t mean he should be dismissed. Of all the serious candidates, there is no other person who is more Texan than Briles. There are some at UT that feel like the school should never hire “the Baylor coach,” which is ridiculous when we’re talking about Briles.

Briles’ pros: Has won at both the high school (Stephenville) and college (UH, Baylor) level. Quarterback guru. Has turned Baylor into one of the country’s best offenses. Knows the state. Excellent recruiter who recognized Robert Griffin III to be a college quarterback, not athlete.

Briles’ cons: He just signed an extension with Baylor, a 10-year deal through 2023 that pays him $4 million starting off. That shiny new $260 million stadium’s on the way. Would he want to head south on I-35 after leading Baylor to its first-ever BCS bowl game?

Briles update, Jan. 3: Despite reports this week that Briles would (a) be interested in interviewing and (b) accept if Texas offered, the Baylor coach — two days after the 52-42 Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida — came out Friday saying he’s staying in Waco. “Contrary to reports and rumors I am a Baylor Bear – 2013 Big 12 Champs,” Briles tweeted. Then came his official statement:

“I have no desire to pursue other coaching positions. As I’ve said many times, I am both humbled and honored to be the head coach at Baylor University, and believe we have something special going here. I look forward to leading the Bears onto the field next fall at McLane Stadium and defending our Big 12 championship that our players and coaches worked so hard to win this season. There is tremendous excitement for our program’s future, and I look forward to many more great seasons at Baylor.”

So, we’re giving Briles a Big Board X.

Earlier Briles updates — Jan. 1: The American-Statesman reported that while Briles had not yet been interviewed, a source very close to him said he’d be willing to discuss Texas’ opening with athletic director Steve Patterson. Two sources, including the one telling us Briles would be willing to talk, have said he’d accept the Longhorns’ job — if offered. … We already have reported that he has been one of a handful of coaches that Texas has already vetted. … Briles, who has been liked to both the Texas and Washington Redskins openings, told reporters Tuesday that he hadn’t been contacted about the Redskins’ job. “It’s all rumors and speculation,” Briles said. “I haven’t had any contact with anyone collegiately or NFL.” But Briles did go on to say he is curious how his offensive system would translate at the NFL level. Dec. 27: Sports Illustrated’s online Texas coaching bracket project — a 32-man field set up like March Madness, fueled by online voting — came to an end Friday, and Briles beat out San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for fans’ votes to replace Mack Brown. Briles was a No. 2 seed, and he beat out Longhorns defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Louisville’s Charlie Strong and Harbaugh on the way to the virtual coaching gig. … Dec. 26: The Washington Times’ Mike Harris wrote that Briles and Bill Cowher would be the two names that rise above the rest should the Redskins part ways with Mike Shanahan. Dec. 24: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who has only one year left on his contract, said he expects his status to be cleared up by owner Daniel Snyder after Sunday’s final game against the New York Giants, but sounded like he wants to stay in Washington, if it were up to him (“No, I’ve told you from day one, I love these guys. We’ve been working extremely hard to put this thing together. … But I’m looking forward to building this team. Like I said, I’ll get the chance to sit down with Dan at the end of the season, and we’ll go from there.” Dec. 22: CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora reported that NFL sources continue to suggest Briles would be open to a Redskins offer, despite Briles’ denials. Dec. 20: Briles gave a non-denial denial on Thursday, answering a question about other schools looking at him by saying “As a staff, and me personally, we feel very humbled and blessed to be at Baylor, 100 percent. It’s a great university with great people in a great location. With the facilities we have now, the grass is green here.” … Dec. 19: Despite reports that Robert Griffin III’s father has been lobbying Redksins owner Daniel Snyder to fire Mike Shanahan and replace him with Briles, RGIII told the USA Today about that claim: “It’s false.” … Dec. 18: Briles is starting to get some buzz as a possible replacement to Mike Shanahan with the Washington Redskins; NFL insiders Peter King and Jason LaCanfora have both said the Skins could give him a look. That would, of course, reunite him with RGIII. And now we’re hearing that RGIII’s dad, Robert Griffin II (that makes him RG2, doesn’t it?) is lobbying to get Briles hired in D.C. as well. … Dec. 17: If online betting sites are your thing, then Bovada’s got the odds for Texas next coach. Briles opened at 9/2.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State: Hard to imagine Meyer leaving after two successful years. The Buckeyes just landed an oral commitment from the nation’s No. 1-ranked linebacker, according to Rivals.com. Leaving Ohio State for Texas is a lateral move for him.

Meyer’s pros: A proven winner. And a proven national championship winner. Knows how to rebuild programs (see Utah, or Florida, or Ohio State). Obviously has no issues with leaving a good program for another (see Utah, or Florida).

Meyer’s cons: It’d be expensive to get him. Only three coaches (Nick Saban, Mack Brown, Bob Stoops) made more money this season than Meyer did ($4.3 million).

Meyer update, Jan. 1: It doesn’t look like Meyer’s interested in either the NFL (Cleveland Browns) or another college job (Texas Longhorns), at least according to Meyer himself. When asked after an Ohio State practice this week in advance of Friday’s Orange Bowl whether he had interest in the Browns, Meyer said, “No. I’m not looking at any jobs.”

Earlier Meyer updates — Dec. 26: Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith — who once was linked as a possibility to replace DeLoss Dodds at Texas — addressed Meyer’s contract (he’s in the second year of a six-year deal): The Buckeyes “will have to face that music down the road. What year that will be, I don’t know,” Smith told the Toledo Blade. “Obviously, we’re at the pinnacle. We’re a program that strives for national championships and playing in those national championship games, and I imagine at some point in time we’re going to be there. We compensate our people consistent with the expectations and accomplishment. When we get to that point, I’m sure we’re going to be in that (financial) mix. I don’t know when that will be, but we’re going to be there. I know it’s going to come.” … The Columbus Post-Dispatch is looking at potential coaches from Meyer’s staff who may be leaving Ohio State for other jobs or a head coaching position somewhere — Everett Withers (who has already been hired by James Madison as the Virginia school’s head coach), RBs coach Stan Drayton (who was a finalist for Florida Atlantic’s head coaching job) and OL/co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner (who was a finalist for Army). “Whenever you have the last two seasons like we’ve had, they’re hot guys,” Meyer said, two days before Withers was hired by James Madison. “I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls about our guys, head coaching opportunities. Nothing’s happened yet.” Withers will coach at Ohio State through the Orange Bowl. … The Toledo Blade also took a look at Meyer’s history. When Meyer was at Utah, there was a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for three specific schools without penalty — Ohio State, Notre Dame or Michigan; Meyer, who was born and raised in Ohio, went to Florida after the 2004 season. Dec. 22: There’s speculation that Meyer might lose star quarterback Braxton Miller to the NFL, though he’s only being projected as a fifth- or sixth-round pick. Dec. 20: Had Ohio State beaten Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, Meyer would’ve been rewarded with an extra contract year worth at least $4 million, plus a $350,000 bonus for winning the Big Ten title and a spot in the national championship game. He’s getting a $150,000 for making the Orange Bowl. … Dec. 19: Meyer tried to douse any speculation about the Texas job by saying, “I’m here. I’m the coach at Ohio State.” But does that really say anything? We already know where he is. It’s where he might go that’s the question. … Later in that Orange Bowl presser, he had this to say, when asked about his relationship with Mack: “Really good friends — (but) we don’t talk much about jobs. I’m very close with his wife, Sally, and they’re great friends with Shelley, so it’s more about our children, lives, wives. We don’t talk much about (jobs). … I care about Mack. I don’t look at Mack as a football coach, I look at him as a friend. I really love the guy, he’s a great friend of mine, and we’ll talk in the offseason a little bit.” … Dec. 18: Meyer, during Orange Bowl media availability, was asked what his take was on the Longhorns’ opening. “There’s no take,” he responded. “I’m here. I’m the coach at Ohio State.”

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: The Seminoles are listed as the favorite to win this year’s BCS national championship game against Auburn. Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston has at least two years remaining. Fisher just agreed to a new contract extension on Dec. 7.

Fisher’s pros: Has his Seminoles playing for a national championship. Guided Winston, a redshirt freshman, to a Heisman season. Took over for Bobby Bowden and has Florida State back on top.

Fisher’s cons: Would he really leave the country’s No. 1-ranked team to rebuild Texas? The Horns may have to wait till January, since Fisher’s got a game to plan for.

Fisher update, Jan. 3:  Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston addressed Texas rumors on Friday, during a press conference in advance of Monday’s national championship game — not only about the rumors that Fisher is on Texas’ short list, but also about last fall’s reports that he was interested in Texas coming out of high school. Winston said — probably jokingly — that he’d follow Fisher to Texas: “I mess with Coach Fisher about that. Me and Coach Fisher, we’re not worried about that. We’re worried about winning a national championship. … Even if Coach Fisher leaves, I’m going to say  ‘Coach, can I go?” Winston then was asked a follow-up about his original answer: “Yeah, I’m going to ask him. That’s my coach. That’s my head coach.” And then on whether Fisher’s high school coach actually did call Mack Brown during Winston’s senior year: “Oh yeah! I even tried to call. I wanted to go to Texas bad!” … Some new details emerged Friday on Fisher’s recently-signed new deal: As part of the negotiations, Florida State will give raises to Fisher’s nine assistant coaches, a 17-percent overall increase. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt ($500,000) and offensive line coach Rick Trickett ($455,000) are Fisher’s two highest-paid assistants. Five of the nine coaches make between $275,000 and $325,000. “Within Jimbo’s contract, we built in a certain percentage increase for assistant coaches that he will basically be able to determine,” FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox told the Tallahassee Democrat. “And then, generally, we might still have one or two assistant coaches who will get offers elsewhere, and then you may have to go back and look at did we have enough in the pool to make sure that we keep that coach? And if we don’t, we’ll need to go back and look at what we need to do to make sure that coach is happy and stays.”

Earlier Fisher updates — Jan.1: Fisher has a new five-year contract extension with Florida State on Tuesday, a $21 million but one that also doesn’t include a buyout penalty if he wants to leave. So even though he’s got the extension, there’s nothing preventing another school from hiring him. Fisher, 45-10 with the Seminoles, will be one of the country’s highest-paid coaches at $4.1 million a year. “I think that there’s a sense of relief that it’s done, but anytime you’re one of the top coaches in the country and there’s a top program that’s open, you’re going to be on the list because that institution, Texas, can go and get basically anybody they want,” FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox told the Associated Press on Tuesday. Dec. 20: What do you earn in a month? Fisher could end up with more than half a million dollars earned in bonuses alone over the past month — if Florida State wins its next game. Fisher has picked up $325,000 in bonuses over the holidays, and could score another $225,000 if Florida State beats Auburn in the national championship game, according to Forbes. … How does that all break down? He got $125,000 for earning a BCS title game bid, will get $100,000 for finishing in the top five, and got $100,000 for winning the ACC title. He’ll get another $125,000 for the BCS title and another $100,000 for going undefeated. Dec. 19: Fisher was asked about any distractions for the national championship game because he’s been linked to coaching vacancies. “I’m going to talk about our team, that’s all I’m going to talk about,” he said after the Seminoles’ practice. “I ain’t getting into all the rumors. It’s unfair to those teams and our team. We’re planning here, getting ready for a game, that’s where I plan on being, right here getting ready for a game. That’s my sole focus and that is it.” … Again, like Meyer, that answer falls short of stating he’s sure he’ll be back as Florida State’s coach in 2014. All it really says is he’s preparing his team to play in the last game of 2013. … Dec. 18: Count ESPN’s Paul Finebaum among those who think Fisher and Texas might work. “I think he would run to Texas,” Finebaum said on The Tim Brando Show this week. “yes, he has the Heisman Trophy winner coming back. He may be a national champion. He’s in a league where basically you have to win one or two games and beat Florida at the end of the year, which isn’t that difficult anymore. But you know, and most reasonable college football fans know, that he hasn’t been that happy there. They haven’t been all that happy with him until recently. I think he remembers the awkward transition after Bobby (Bowden). I think he remembers the president and athletic director down there not in a hurry to give him a raise and an extension a couple of years ago. I think he would race out of there and I wouldn’t blame him a bit.” … Dec. 17: The online betting site Bovada is listing Fisher with 15/1 odds of landing the job.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn: With two miracle finishes in November, the Tigers landed in the SEC title game. Then, Auburn bumped off Missouri and moved on to the BCS national title affair against Florida State. Malzahn received a new six-year deal that starts at $3.85 million annually and escalates from there.

Malzahn’s pros: Has Auburn playing for the national championship, beating Alabama along the way to get there. Doesn’t have deep roots at Auburn. One of the country’s top offensive minds.

Malzahn’s cons: He’s on top of the SEC world right now, so why would he down-shift to the Big 12?

Malzahn update, Jan. 1: The Cleveland Browns are “very interested” in Malzahn, according to a CBSSports.com report. NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora is reporting that the Browns want to interview both Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. And Malzahn’s the one “who has most captured the imagination” of the Browns, according to La Canfora’s source. Cleveland already has received permission to interview three other candidates (Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Seahawks DC Dan Quinn and Cardinals DC Todd Bowles).

Earlier Malzahn updates — Dec. 27: Bobby Burton of 247Sports is reporting that Malzahn will not get the job, though he said it wasn’t sure whether the lack of interest was on the Auburn coach’s or Texas’ part. Burton went on to say Jimbo Fisher and Art Briles are the front-runners. Dec. 23: Malzahn was named the Associated Press’ coach of the year, over David Cutcliffe, Jimbo Fisher and Mark Dantonio. Dec. 20: A Forbes story reported that Malzahn has already collected $375,000 in bonuses for leading Auburn to 12 wins and the SEC title, and will get another $250,000 for making it to the BCS title game and finishing in top five. But a win over Florida State on Jan. 6 would bring another $375,000 (for a national championship and a 13th win), which means winning a national championship would cap a $1 million holiday in terms of bonuses alone. Dec. 17: Malzahn won the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by the Football Writers Association of America, joining Terry Bowden (1993) as the only Auburn coach to win it. He’s only the third coach in history to win the award in his first season (Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen in 2001, Army’s Tom Cahill in 1966).

Jim Mora, UCLA: The Bruins went 9-3 this season and the school moved quickly to lock up Mora with a six-year deal that stretches out to 2019. But Mora has just the type of clean-cut, wholesome image that Texas likes to project.

Mora update, Jan. 3: Reports surfaced Thursday, most notably by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that Texas has contacted Mora’s agent after Mack Brown resigned in mid-December. But on Friday, Mora — like Briles — first tweeted, then said that he was staying. “It is always flattering when someone is interested in you. But I am committed to being the UCLA coach.”

We had doubts on Mora’s viability as a true candidate, and thus already had X’d him out on this Big Board. Now that he’s for sure out of the race, his X continues to mark the spot.

Earlier Mora updates — Jan. 1: We’re calling Mora out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates. Dec. 17: Mora was asked about Texas. “It’s flattering,” he told reporters. “I think it says a lot about our program and the direction we’re heading. But I am very, very, very, extremely, delightfully happy to be the head coach at UCLA, and want to be for a long, long time. I couldn’t be happier and more excited about the future of UCLA football. I’m happy they want me here.” … The online betting site Bovada is listing Mora with 10/1 odds of landing the job.

David Shaw, Stanford: Shaw would be considered a fantastic hire, but it’s unlikely UT could pry him away from his alma mater. ESPN has reported that Shaw has no interest in future NFL openings.

Shaw’s pros: Comes from a great academic school. Comes from a great academic school that also has a great football program. Appears to run a clean program. Took the Stanford reins from Jim Harbaugh and hasn’t missed a beat, so maybe replacing someone like Mack at Texas wouldn’t be too big of an ordeal. Has led Stanford to a 34-6 record the past three years.

Shaw’s cons: Maybe it’s the pros, not another college move, that’s in his future. He’s been an NFL assistant in Philadelphia, Oakland and Baltimore.

Shaw update, Jan. 1: Like others on this Big Board list, Shaw has made it clear he’s not going anywhere. “I have no desire to pursue another job,” Shaw told SI’s Pete Thamel. He’s been linked to not only Texas, but also NFL destinations, including the Lions and Redskins. The American-Statesman has already reported that Shaw is among a handful of candidates that Texas has already vetted, and is one of four — Art Briles, Jimbo Fisher and Charlie Strong the others — considered above the other candidates.

Earlier Shaw updates — Dec. 17: The online betting site Bovada is listing Shaw with 10/1 odds of landing the job.

James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Franklin, who also was considered a candidate for the USC job, has made Vanderbilt competitive, and that alone deserves attention. Some news reports have indicated it’s only a matter of time before Franklin is lured away from Nashville.

Franklin’s pros: He’s young (41). Has led Vandy to three bowls in his first three years. Can have back-to-back 9-win seasons with a win over Houston in the Compass Bowl.

Franklin’s cons: At Vandy, he hasn’t fared well against the SEC’s elite.

Franklin update, Jan. 3: Penn State’s top three candidates are Franklin, Miami’s Al Golden and Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, according to an ESPN report. But none of the three have yet met with the school; Golden and Munchak are former Nittany Lions players. Munchak’s expected to meet with Titans brass no Friday to discuss his future. Penn State’s interim coach, Larry Johnson, also said Friday that he intends to apply for the permanent job. … Vanderbilt’s bowl game is Saturday, vs. Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Earlier Franklin updatesJan. 1: Pennlive.com’s Bob Flounders is reporting that Franklin and Miami’s Al Golden top Penn State’s wish list as the replacement for Bill O’Brien, according to a source close to the Penn State program. The Nittany Lions on Wednesday named defensive line coach Larry Johnson the interim coach. … NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora’s reporting that the Cleveland Browns are interested in Franklin and want to interview both him and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. Dec. 23: According to PennLive.com’s David Jones, one of Franklin’s representatives has already reached out to Penn State about a possible opening with the Nittany Lions, should Bill O’Brien leave. Jones reports that Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano also have inquired about the Penn State situation as well. Dec. 19: Interesting post from Al.com’s Mark Heim. When Franklin was asked this week about the Texas job specifically, this is how Vandy’s coach answered: “Really excited about the program-development period we are in right now and working with these young guys. Really excited about playing Houston. We’ve watched them on film. We think they’re really talented. I think it is going to be a challenge for us. That’s what our focus is. Any of those other things, we don’t talk about. They are outside of our control or focus or concern.” Dec. 17: If online betting sites are your thing, then Bovada’s got the odds for Texas next coach. Franklin opened at 5/1.

Todd Graham, Arizona State: Won’t happen. He’s a non-starter even though he has a connection to Patterson, who was at Arizona State before coming to Texas. ASU officials have confirmed to the American-Statesman that Patterson and university president Michael Crow have an agreement he will not hire any ASU coaches for five years.

Charlie Strong, Louisville: Last January, Louisville gave Strong a contract extension that made him one of the 10 highest-paid coaches in the nation. The deal was worth an estimated $3.7 million annually. He’s got ties to Florida and people watch him simply because of his ties to Urban Meyer (he was Meyer’s defensive coordinator at Florida).

Strong’s pros: Energetic. A rising name in the coaching ranks. Was mentioned as a possibility back in 2011 to replace Will Muschamp as Texas’ defensive coordinator. Defensive-minded, yet coaches one of the country’s most dynamic quarterbacks. And he’s a minority candidate. Led Louisville to a Sugar Bowl win last year, and was one win away from a second straight BCS bowl berth this season.

Strong’s cons: We’re still looking for some.

Strong update, Jan. 1: We’ve confirmed that Strong has already interviewed with Texas, a four-hour meeting in Louisville between the Cardinals coach and Texas AD Steve Patterson. A Louisville Courier-Journal report said Patterson telephoned Louisville AD Tom Jurich seeking permission to talk with Strong, but that the two athletic directors didn’t make contact with each other.

Earlier Strong updates — Dec. 27: What kind of coach would Strong be at Texas? While not asked that direct question Friday during a Russell Athletic Bowl luncheon, he was asked about his philosophy. “I’m a defensive coach,” Strong said. “If you’ve ever seen our plan to win, the first one is play great defense. … Everybody has to contribute, from the offensive side to the defensive side to the special teams side, and that’s what it’s all about, and that’s what it’ll always be. I’m a defensive coach. If the score was 9-3, it wouldn’t bother me at all. If it was 15-12, it wouldn’t bother me at all. I just know at the end of the day, if you’re going to win, you’re going to win with great defense.” Dec. 26: The Louisville Courier-Journal reported on Strong’s program’s academic success, as 93 of his 98 players have graduated and Louisville’s single-year APR score has grown from 896 (2009-10) to 948 (2011-12, Strong’s first year) to expectations it’ll lead the country when 2012-13 numbers are released. Dec. 20: Earlier in the week, Gainesville Sun reporter Pat Dooley tweeted that he had spoken to Strong specifically about Texas, and that Strong “had no interest.” Dec. 17: Strong had this to say today regarding the Texas opening to the Louisville Courier-Journal: “I don’t even think about it. I don’t even worry about it. I have a good job here. I have a really good job here. There’s a lot of work to be done here. The only thing I can control is what’s happening right here.” … If online betting sites are your thing, then Bovada’s got the odds for Texas’ next coach. Strong opened at 2/1.

Les Miles, LSU: The “Mad Hatter” would liven things up at the Forty Acres. Miles wins enough to stay in LSU fans’ good graces. But he also plays in the toughest division in college football – the SEC West. It’s hard for LSU to get to the top with Alabama a constant threat.

Miles’ pros: He’s won a national championship. He’s built up a couple of programs. He’s a good recruiter. His daughter is on Texas’ swimming team.

Miles’ cons: Haven’t heard much in the way of interest coming out of Baton Rouge.

Miles update, Jan. 1: We’re calling Miles out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates. … On Monday, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said that Texas has not asked him for permission to speak to Miles.

Earlier Miles updates — Dec. 18: Miles was asked about the Texas opening by the Baton Rouge/New Orleans Advocate. He didn’t bite. “Oh please, let’s not kick my name around,” Miles said.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: C’mon now. Let’s be real.

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: He’s young but there’s no way T. Boone Pickens let’s Gundy leave at this point, especially when the Cowboys were so close to winning the Big 12 title this year.

Gundy’s pros: Knows how to form great offenses. Basically coaching 3-star talent to play at higher levels. Recruits the state already. Knows Texas high school coaches, recruits.

Gundy’s cons: Does Texas really want to get into a bidding war with Pickens? Gundy’s 1-8 coaching against Oklahoma.

Gundy update, Jan. 1:  The Daily Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson asked Gundy on Monday at the Cotton Bowl whether any other schools have contacted him or his agent. “No, nobody’s contacted me,” Gundy answered.

Earlier Gundy updates: Dec. 26: The Daily Oklahoma’s Berry Tramel offered his takes on several hot-button Longhorns coaching search rumors — Is Gundy a candidate? (“Sure. I think the Horns will try to hit a home run — Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh — but are more likely to end up with a program-builder like Gundy, James Franklin, Pat Fitzgerald, Charlie Strong, etc.”), is Bob Stoops a candidate? (“I’ll say no.”), who should Texas hire? (“Briles”), and who will Texas hire? (“I’ve been saying James Franklin”). Dec. 19: The Daily Oklahoman’s Gina Mizell has published a story quoting Gundy that he hasn’t had contact with Texas. “If you are winning and have success and you, knock on wood, are established, (being mentioned for other jobs) is always going to happen,” Gundy said. “And there is nothing you can do about it. I haven’t had any contact. I don’t have any contact. I don’t even mess with it. I learned from a year ago that I don’t even get involved in any of it.” … When pressed a bit further, he said: “Just out of respect for everybody, it’s not really something for me to comment on. I haven’t even thought about any of that.” … Also, Gundy said his agent is no longer Jimmy Sexton, who also reps Nick Saban and had the now-infamous January phone call with UT regents about Texas wooing the Alabama coach. Dec. 18: After the online betting site Bovada listed Gundy as a 2/1 pick to be hired at Texas, the Tulsa World spoke to Bovada sportsbook manager Kevin Bradley. Just how did the site get to 2/1 odds? “When we set odds on things like this, where there are no stats to go off of, we are looking at and reading the same things in the media that everyone else is and try and rank the candidates. Once that is done, we put percentages to what we think and go from there.” … Earlier updates — Dec. 17: If online betting sites are your thing, then Bovada’s got the odds for Texas next coach. Gundy opened at 2/1.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: Sumlin just agreed to a new contact that includes a $5 million buyout on both sides. If A&M fires Sumlin sometime before 2019, the school has to pay him $5 million. But if Sumlin leaves on his own before 2016, he’s got to pay A&M $5 million.

Sumlin update, Jan. 1: We’re calling Sumlin out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates. … ESPN has reported that Sumlin’s staying put at Texas A&M, and won’t consider any offers from NFL teams. It didn’t mention college jobs, but Sumlin should no longer be considered a possibility to jump ships from College Station to Austin. … Sumlin improved to 2-0 in bowl games at Texas A&M; the Aggies beat Duke in Tuesday night’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

FROM THE PROS

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers: Some would ask why Harbaugh would leave the NFL, especially when he’s got a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick? Maybe the NFL isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He turned down a contract extension presented to him before this season. Bay Area reports peg his current salary at approximately $8 million annually. The San Jose Mercury News reported that Harbaugh and the 49ers have talked about creating a new long-term contract after the season.

Harbaugh’s pros: He’s a winner. He won big at Stanford. Took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Helped groom Andrew Luck. Driven.

Harbaugh’s cons: Would he really want to leave an NFL gig? Would Texas really want to dish out $8 million-plus for a coach not named Nick Saban?

Harbaugh update, Jan. 1:  We’re calling Harbaugh — as well as the other NFL names that have been mentioned — out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates. … Right before Monday’s Alamo Bowl, Texas AD Steve Patterson said he expects Texas’ next coach to be in place prior to Jan. 15, the end of the NCAA’s dead period. Harbaugh’s 49ers are in the playoffs (vs. Green Bay this Saturday), which means he may not be finished with the NFL season for a few more weeks.

Earlier Harbaugh updates: Dec. 26: More “happy to be coaching here” words from Harbaugh, who on Tuesday — the day after his 50th birthday, and the day after San Fran’s big 34-24 MNF win over the Falcons: “I was and still am happier than a pig in slop.” Dec. 19: Harbaugh said he “absolutely” wants to be the 49ers coach for many years. When pressed if he’s interested in coaching San Fran for many years, he said: “Absolutely.” And then, according to the San Jose Mercury News, he poked fun of reports linking him to the Texas opening. “We can all agree that an unnamed source is hearsay,” Harbaugh said. “Beware of unnamed sources. They speak with forked tongue.” … Harbaugh’s in the third year of a five-year, $25 million contract he signed in 2011. Dec. 17: The online betting site Bovada is listing Harbaugh with 20/1 odds of landing the job.

Harbaugh, by the way, is one of seven NFL coaches who also have been college coaches. They are:

Bruce Arians, Cardinals (Temple)

Pete Carroll, Seahawks (USC)

Tom Coughlin, Giants (Boston College)

Jim Harbaugh, 49ers (Stanford)

Chip Kelly, Eagles (Oregon)

Doug Marrone, Bills (Syracuse)

Greg Schiano, Buccaneers (Rutgers)

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: Carroll was wildly successful in the college ranks before going back to the NFL. He was the losing coach when Texas defeated USC in the 2005 national championship game. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Carroll was on Patterson’s “A-list” of coaches he’d consider, along with fellow NFLers Chip Kelly and Mike McCarthy.

Carroll’s pros: Has won both in the NFL and college. Lots of experience. Players love him. Turned USC into a national power. Produced three Heisman winners with the Trojans.

Carroll’s cons: He’s turned Seattle into one of the NFL’s top franchises; they’re young, talented and have a great defense and an exciting second-year quarterback. Been there, done that as far as college goes. Ran into NCAA issues at USC.

Carroll update, Jan. 1: We’re calling Carroll — as well as the other NFL names that have been mentioned — out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates.

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles: Kelly is an intriguing name, but he comes with baggage. Kelly received an 18-month show-cause penalty from the NCAA Committee on Infractions for his role, whatever it was, in the Willie Lyles saga. The NCAA determined that Oregon paid Lyles $25,000 for what turned out to be non-existent recruiting materials. Patterson would have to go before the NCAA’s infractions committee and explain why Kelly should be given a second chance at the college ranks. No way Patterson is going to take on that PR nightmare with his first major hire.

Kelly’s pros: His Oregon offenses were among the country’s most exciting to watch.

Kelly’s cons: NCAA issues; would Texas want to go from squaky-clean Mack to having to talk the NCAA into letting Kelly back into college coaching?

Kelly update, Jan. 1: We’re calling Kelly — as well as the other NFL names that have been mentioned — out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates.

Earlier Kelly updates — Dec. 23: Kelly is coming to Texas this week — the state, not the campus. His Eagles play at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Sunday for the NFC East title and a playoff spot. Dec. 17: The online betting site Bovada is listing Kelly with 10/1 odds of landing the job. … Earlier updates — Dec. 16: Kelly was asked The Question on Monday. He didn’t bite. “I understand you have to ask the question, but I’m not involved in any jobs,” he told ESPN. “I’m the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m going to prepare for the Bears and prepare for the Cowboys after that. Hopefully we have an opportunity to go to the playoffs and I’m going to be here for a while.” … Earlier, ESPN’s Mortensen reported that Kelly was on Patterson’s “A-list” of coaches he’d consider, along with fellow NFLers Pete Carroll and Mike McCarthy.

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers: A source close to Tomlin has told the American-Statesmen on two occasions that Tomlin is not leaving the Steelers. “No way, no how,” the source said.

Tomlin’s pros: Young. Focused. Stern, yet close to his players. Super Bowl champion.

Tomlin’s cons: Would be hard to pry him from the NFL. Plus, an inside source is saying no way.

Tomlin update, Jan. 1: We’re ready to call Tomlin — as well as the other NFL names that have been mentioned — out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates.

Earlier Tomlin updates — Dec. 17: The online betting site Bovada is listing Tomlin with 20/1 odds of landing the job.

Gary Kubiak, former Houston Texans coach: He was fired by the Texans last month after the team started 2-11. He went 61-63 with just two wildcard appearances in his eight seasons in Houston. His health is also an issue.

Kubiak’s pros: Well, he’s available. Immediately. Offensive-minded. Knows the state — a high school QB from Houston, a college QB at Texas A&M, coach of the Texans for eight years.

Kubiak’s cons: Well, he’s available because he got fired. Also had a health scare this season. And never has been a head coach in college.

Kubiak update, Jan. 1 — We’re calling Kubiak — as well as the other NFL names that have been mentioned — out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates.

SOME UNDER THE RADAR

Bill O’Brien, Penn State: O’Brien took over after the legendary Joe Paterno and pledged his allegiance to Penn State. But he interviewed for two NFL openings last year. It’s hard to gauge whether his 15-9 record is truly reflective of his coaching acumen.

O’Brien’s pros: You think Texas is dealing with negativity? Nothing compared to what O’Brien inherited at Penn State. Has done more with less. He’s 44. Can go from NCAA-imposed scholarship restrictions and bowl ban to one of the hottest schools in the country when it comes to recruiting.

O’Brien’s cons: There’s a $6.7 million buyout clause. May want to go back to the NFL rather than stay in college.

O’Brien update, Jan. 1:  O’Brien is coming to Texas — the state, not the school. The former Penn State coach will replace Kubiak as the next coach of the Houston Texans.

Earlier O’Brien updates: Dec. 27: NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that O’Brien will interview with the Houston Texans. Can you say $6.5 million buyout? It’s also been reported that the Texans have already interviewed former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith. Dec. 26: Speculation on O’Brien’s coaching future continued to focus on the NFL, not another college job. The Vikings, Lions and Texans are reportedly the teams most interested in him. Dec. 24: SI’s Pete Thamel, appearing on the Big Ten Network, discussed O’Brien’s status. On the NFL: “Certainly the old buyout was just such an astronomical amount, a clear anamoly if you’re in the business and talk to agents and deal with contracts all the time. I’ve never seen a buyout bigger than that.” And on what that lower buyout means: “It certainly does lead to legitimate speculation that thsi could be the end of Bill O’Brien’s time at Penn State, and we’ll find out in the next couple weeks.” And on why the timing’s right for O’Brien’s departure: “The next couple years are going to be very difficult, uphill sledding and Bill O’Brien didn’t sign up for this, remember. He did not have knowledge of these sanctions when he took the job. And I really think nobody in their right mind could blame Bill O’Brien for not wanting to spend the prime of his coaching career with one hand tied behind his back, and if he stayed at Penn State, that’s what he would be doing.” Texas, by the way, did not come up in the interview. Dec. 20: O’Brien’s contract shows that it was amended last year to lower the buyout any NFL team would have to pay Penn State to hire him. The NFL buyout is $6.48 million this year, down from $19.33 million last year. If another college hires him, it would have to pay Penn State $11.08 million. At least one NFL team has reportedly reached out to him already. Dec. 19: There may have been some movement on the O’Brien-to-Texas front, depending on how you look at it. Reports say former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has interviewed with the Houston Texans. … O’Brien has been linked to the Texans opening as well as Texas’. … Dec. 18: According to Houston’s CultureMap website, a source is saying O’Brien has emerged as the top candidate to replace Gary Kubiak as head coach of the Houston Texans. O’Brien’s also been linked to Minnesota Vikings rumors, too. … Dec. 17: The online betting site Bovada is listing O’Brien with 15/2 odds of landing the job.

David Cutcliffe, Duke: Would Texas hire a 59-year-old coach for a job knowing they want to hire someone who could conceivably be here for a decade?

Cutcliffe’s pros: When it comes to QBs, he can coach ’em up. Winning without signing big-time recruits.

Cutcliffe’s cons: Solid college creds, but not one of those wow candidates.

Cutcliffe update, Jan. 1:  We’re calling Cutcliffe out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates. … Tuesday night, Duke lost to Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, 52-48.

Earlier Cutcliffe updates — Dec. 27: Florida’s hiring of Duke offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper had a couple of implications on the Texas front — it meant Longhorns co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite (a longshot to replace Mack Brown, but still …) would not be leaving for Gainesville, and it meant Cutcliffe is parting ways with one of his top assistants, ending a 17-year coaching relationship. Dec. 23: Cutcliffe, the winner of this year’s Maxwell and Walter Camp coach of the year awards, finished second in the Associated Press coach of the year voting. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn won. Cutcliffe out-pointed Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio by a nearly 6-to-1 margin. The vote was conducted by the AP’s Top 25 voters; our own Kirk Bohls had Cutcliffe No. 1 on his ballot. Dec. 20: Cutcliffe won the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year on Friday, getting the nod over Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. Cutcliffe also won the Walter Camp Coach of the Year award.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: He name was red-hot back in September, especially after the Longhorns started the year 1-2. But Northwestern struggled down the stretch, finished the year 5-7 and now nobody is talking about Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald update, Jan. 1:  We’re calling Fedora out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates.

Earlier Fitzgerald updates — Dec. 18: Fitzgerald was on campus Tuesday — to watch the Longhorns practice, not to interview, he reportedly texted to ESPN. Fitzgerald called it a “standard drop in.” and is scheduled to watch the Chicago Bears on Wednesday and Texas A&M sometime next week. Tuesday night, Fitzgerald tweeted: “Thank you to @CoachSumlin @mizzoufootball @UT_MackBrown & their staffs for hosting NU staff the past two days! Sharing ideas & improving!”

Al Golden, Miami: Won 17 games in his last two seasons at Temple. Let us repeat. Temple.

Golden update, Jan. 1:  We’re calling Golden out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates. … Pennlive.com’s Bob Flounders is reporting that Franklin and Miami’s Al Golden top Penn State’s wish list as the replacement for Bill O’Brien, according to a source close to the Penn State program. The Nittany Lions on Wednesday named defensive line coach Larry Johnson the interim coach. Golden is a former Penn State player under Joe Paterno, and was a captain for the Nittany Lions.

Earlier updates — Dec. 27: In a Russell Athletic Bowl press conference, Golden was asked about his name being linked to other jobs. “We’re at one of the greatest places there is in college football, and we’ve gone through a hard time, but it’s hard to imagine places out there that you can sell, that you can present better than the University of Miami,” Golden said. “… We’re excited about moving the program forward.”

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: Here’s another coach with deep Texas ties. He was born in College Station and coached in Garland, Texas, a Dallas suburb. He was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before jumping to Southern Miss and then to UNC.

Fedora update, Jan. 1:  We’re calling Fedora out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates.

Earlier updates — Dec. 18: Fedora was asked about Texas on Wednesday. “I never talk about speculation and jobs,” he told radio station 620 AM The Buzz. “I’m every excited about this opportunity to be in the Belk Bowl and continue to work with this football team. I want to make sure these seniors go out on a winning note.”

LONGHORN LONGSHOTS

Major Applewhite, Texas co-offensive coordinator: He was once thought to be Mack Brown’s replacement, a sort of head coach-in-waiting but without that official title. But Patterson may want to make a clean break from the Brown era and start something completely his own.

Applewhite’s pros: He’s a Longhorn. Has recruited the state for years. Still popular with segments of the fan base.

Applewhite’s cons: Would he be seen as simply extending the Mack Brown regime and philosophy? Scandal earlier this year has hurt his image. His offense didn’t set the Big 12 on fire. No head coaching experience.

Applewhite update, Jan. 3:  Despite a report Thursday saying a source close to Applewhite’s family said Texas’ co-offensive coordinator had resigned, Applewhite told our own Kirk Bohls that’s not true, and that  he’s simply waiting to see what his options are.

Earlier Applewhite updates: Jan. 1:  We’re calling Applewhite out of the running. Texas wanted a coach with head coaching experience, and all indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates. Dec. 26: Remember the talk that Florida’s offensive coordinator’s position might be between Applewhite and USC’s Clay Helton? Never mind. Florida has hired Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who’ll coach the Blue Devils against Texas A&M in next Tuesday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl and then start his gig in Gainesville, where he’ll be Florida’s third OC in four seasons. Looks like the Major’s not going anywhere. Not yet, anyway. Dec. 22: CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported that Florida’s open offensive coordinator’s position could be between Applewhite and USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton, based on the names he’s hearing the most. Applewhite and Will Muschamp coached together at Texas from 2008-10.

Will Muschamp, Florida: Muschamp was the actual head coach-in-waiting until he got tired of waiting for Brown to resign. Muschamp left UT for Florida after the 2010 season. Now, some Gators fans would gladly give him back.

Muschamp’s pros: Fiery, energetic coach who knows how to motivate players. Defensive coach, with past coordinator gigs at Texas and Auburn. Players at Texas loved him.

Muschamp’s cons: Loyalty’s a question, after bolting Texas for Florida despite his coach-in-waiting tag. Coming off a down year with the Gators.

Muschamp update, Jan. 1:  We’re calling Muschamp out of the running for Texas. All indications are that the Longhorns are looking elsewhere, with Baylor’s Art Briles, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Stanford’s David Shaw topping the list of the most realistic candidates.

Earlier Muschamp updates — Dec. 20: Housecleaning in Gainesville has begun. On Friday, Muschamp hired a special teams coordinator. He also still has to hire a new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

MACK MADNESS

The nameless, faceless masses of the Internet have spoken: They think Baylor’s Art Briles should be hired to replace Mack Brown.

Briles got past San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in online voting for Sports Illustrated’s 32-man coaching bracket. Briles got 55 percent of the vote, to Harbaugh’s 45 percent.

Earlier Mack Madness updates …

Baylor’s Art Briles or San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh? That’s who it comes down to in Sports Illustrated’s interactive 32-man coaching bracket project that lets fans decide who Texas should  hire.

In the Final Four semifinals, Briles, a No. 2 seed, beat Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher (who was a 3-seed) in online voting, 56 percent to 44 percent. Harbaugh, also a No. 2, upset Stanford’s David Shaw — a No. 1 seed — by a close margin of 51-49 percent.

Voting on SI’s site ends Friday at 11 a.m. Central. As of Thursday afternoon, Briles was leading Harbaugh, 55-45 percent.

Earlier Mack Madness updates …

Dec. 24: SI’s  32-man online coaching bracket, an interactive way for fans to choose who they think should be hired to replace Mack Brown, move into its Elite Eight round. The third-round matchups, or regional finals, to borrow March Madness’ format:

PAWWWWWL DIVISION: (5) James Franklin vs. (3) Jimbo Fisher.

AIN’T PLAYED NOBODY DIVISION: (1) Charlie Strong vs. (2) Art Briles.

BEVO OVER EVERYTHING DIVISION: (1) Jon Gruden vs. (2) Jim Harbaugh.

WEST IS BEST EXCEPT FOR TEXAS DIVISION: (1) David Shaw vs. (3) Mike Gundy.

In the Sweet 16:

(5) Franklin upset (1) Nick Saban, 57 percent to 43 percent.

(3) Fisher, in a matchup of BCS title game coaches, beat (2) Gus Malzahn, 53-47.

(1) Strong beat (4) Bill O’Brien, 59-41.

(2) Briles beat (3) Kevin Sumlin, 65-35.

(1) Gruden beat (4) Chip Kelly, 60-40.

(2) Harbaugh beat (3) Mike Tomlin, 69-31.

(1) Shaw beat (5) Pat Fitzgerald, 67-33.

(3) Gundy beat (2) Jim Mora, 53-47.

That means there’s three No. 1 seeds, two No. 2’s, two No. 3’s and one No. 5.

Earlier Mack Madness updates —

Dec. 23:

Sports Illustrated’s 32-man coaching bracket to let fans select Texas’ next coach has reached the Sweet 16.

It’s a pretty strong Sweet 16 field.

PAWWWWWL DIVISION: (1) Nick Saban vs. (5) James Franklin, (3) Jimbo Fisher vs. (2) Gus Malzahn.

AIN’T PLAYED NOBODY DIVISION: (1) Charlie Strong vs. (4) Bill O’Brien, (3) Kevin Sumlin vs. (2) Art Biles.

BEVO OVER EVERYTHING DIVISION: (1) Jon Gruden vs. (4) Chip Kelly, (3) Mike Tomlin vs. (2) Jim Harbaugh.

WEST IS BEST EXCEPT FOR TEXAS DIVISION: (1) David Shaw vs. (5) Pat Fitzgerald, (3) Mike Gundy vs. (2) Jim Mora.

First-round results:

In the PAWWWWWL: (1) Saban beat (8) Kirby Smart, 54 percent to 46 percent; (5) James Franklin beat (4) Will Muschamp, 71-29; (3) Jimbo Fisher beat (6) Les Miles, 63-37; and (2) Gus Malzahn beat (7) Steve Spurrier, 74-26.

In the Ain’t Played Nobody: (1) Charlie Strong beat (8) Mack Brown, 77-23; (4) Bill O’Brien beat (5) Dabo Swinney, 56-44; (3) Kevin Sumlin beat (6) Al Golden, 62-38; and (2) Art Briles beat (7) Greg Robinson, 84-16.

In the Bevo Over Everything: (1) Jon Gruden beat (8) Greg Schiano, 81-19; (4) Chip Kelly beat (5) Pete Carroll, 58-42; (3) Mike Tomlin beat (6) Gary Kubiak, 65-35; and (2) Jim Harbaugh beat (7) Mike McCarthy, 81-19.

In the West Is Best Except for Texas: (1) David Shaw beat (8) Lane Kiffin, 80-20; (5) Pat Fitzgerald beat (4) Todd Graham, 54-46; (3) Mike Gundy beat (6) Chris Petersen, 68-32; and (2) Jim Mora beat (7) Ed Orgeron, 64-36.

Sweet 16 voting is being handled online and ends at 11 a.m. Central on Monday. Voting results so far, as of early Sunday afternoon — Franklin’s ahead of Saban, 57 percent to 43 percent; Fisher leads Malzahn, 53-47; Strong’s leading O’Brien, 59-41; Briles leads Sumlin, 64-36; Gruden leads Kelly, 60-40; Harbaugh leads Tomlin, 68-32; Shaw leads Fitzgerald, 66-34; and Gundy leads Mora, 53-47.

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