Coaching Search Rumors Ramping Up

Less than 72 hours since Hoke was fired, the Michigan coaching vacancy could be filled very soon. There's a lot of talk going on out there right now. Rumors abound in every corner of the internet as everyone is weighing in on Michigan's coaching search. Colin Cowherd stirred the pot considerably yesterday with this…

Now, say what you will about Cowherd…he's a guy who's been around a long time, he has a microphone and he knows how to use it. This has led to rampant speculation about who Michigan might be considering outside of the obvious Harbaugh camp.

But from everything I have heard, Jim Hackett is in complete control of the search, despite the fact a search committee is being utilized. Hackett is calling all the shots. If (…and that's a big if) Hackett can deliver Jim Harbaugh or another home run hire, he may be asked to stick around Ann Arbor for quite a while.

Let's break 'em down.

Jim Harbaugh
The Harbaugh-to-Michigan hype is alive and well…and that is for two reasons. Number one, Harbaugh won't deny it. Number two, he's obviously the fan favorite, as well as the odds on favorite to take the job. The tricky part for Harbaugh is timing. He's maintained that he's focused on his job in San Francisco and that appears to be true. Although, that said, there are rumors that back channel (and even face-to-face) discussions are happening between Harbaugh's people (and Harbaugh himself) and Michigan.

Again, rumors.

According to Wojo, Harbaugh is well within reach.
I don't pretend to know what (or who) is inside his head, but I'm confident of this: Harbaugh to Michigan is not a pipe dream. And the overriding reason Michigan has a shot (I'm sticking with a 40 percent shot) at luring Harbaugh from San Francisco is because the school actually will take a strong shot this time.

Interim athletic director Jim Hackett knows it can't be cursory, which was the case four years ago. Dave Brandon didn't want to play the wooing game and cede control. But now Michigan football sits at another dangerous juncture, and while Harbaugh isn't the only prime candidate, he's the first and best one, an instant infusion of energy and credibility. And I doubt he'd use his alma mater simply to get a better deal elsewhere. I think he'd tell Michigan if he weren't interested, and he hasn't done that yet.
It is clear that he is not happy in SF and they're not happy with him. Even a trip to the playoffs and maybe even a Super Bowl won't be enough to salvage his job there…which is surprising because Harbaugh's name is popping up for every current and potential NFL vacancy. But from what we hear, he just doesn't get along with the front office and that's not going to change.

I think the chance Harbaugh ends up at Michigan is still a coin toss. It would seem the longer this drags out, the better the chances, and currently…things are trending positively. But I think the reasonable window of opportunity on him will be closing soon though. If Michigan tries to wait until the end of the NFL regular season, it might be too late with so many other NFL offers coming in and the pool of college candidates probably dried up. Right now, it's just Michigan and the Oakland Raiders. It won't stay that way for long.

There's rumors that Harbaugh's wife doesn't want to leave the Bay Area and that will be a factor. Who knows? I have to think they would work it out if this is really what he wants to do.

If you listen to NFL insiders on ESPN like Adam Schefter, you'll hear that Harbaugh is much more likely to end up in the NFL next season than college. That may or may not be true. There are also many sources both inside Ann Arbor and outside that believe Harbaugh wants to return to college. He has Lloyd Carr's vote, if that means anything.
"Everyone has an opinion, and I am no different," Carr said Thursday. "If I had a choice, I would choose Jim Harbaugh. But it will be Jim Hackett's decision, and that is as it should be."
Again, this will stay alive for as long as Jim doesn't deny it. Does he have an agenda or is he simply just keeping his options open? We'll know soon.

Les Miles
I don't see Miles coming to Michigan. Why? I think he's happy in Baton Rouge. He had two chances to come back to Ann Arbor and he didn't. In fact, he got a salary bump the last two times Michigan had a coaching vacancy. Michigan's been very good to Les Miles in recent years.

Les loves Michigan and has nothing but deep respect for his alma mater, but I think it ends there. There was a time Miles was the favorite to come back, but I think those days are passed.

John Harbaugh
The Ravens head coach is likely to stay the Ravens head coach. I'm sure his temperature was taken on the Michigan job, but the lack of hype/rumors seems to point to the fact that he's probably not that interested. I think John is happy in Baltimore.

Butch Jones
There's been some rumblings about the Tennessee coach, but so far that's all there is. But his name is in the mix for now.

Sean Payton
Sean has gained a lot of attention for the Michigan job lately and for good reason. Sean's a Michigan fan. His kids are Michigan fans. He's been to Michigan games recently (Indiana game in 2013). He's been spotted at Michigan basketball games. This has given momentum to a rumor that Payton is interested in the Michigan job. He might be, he might not be? I'm sure someone has picked up a phone to find out.

Dan Mullen
Honestly, I'm surprised he's available. I had him pegged for Florida job. But the Gators were not willing to wait and hired Jim McElwain instead. Mullen's stock has never been higher thanks to his success at Mississippi State. Taking a perennial loser and making them not only competent but actually great has gained him a ton of respect nationally.

He's a bit of a roll of the dice in the same regard that Rich Rodriguez was. He's proven he can win on a smallish stage and that great. But honestly I think Michigan needs a proven winner…a home run hire. Mullen is not that.

Bob Stoops
Here's where things could get interesting. Yahoo's Dan Wetzel threw Stoops' name into the hat well before Hoke was fired way back in early November. Until then, no one even considered the Sooner coach.

But as time goes on, rumors continue to swirl that Stoops could be interested…very interested.

His resume speaks for itself. He's been in Norman since 1999. He has a career record of 168-42. His worst record there was going 7-5 in his first season. He has 8 Big 12 titles, 8 BCS bowl appearances including two national title game appearances…winning in 2000 and losing in 2008. In terms of being a proven winner…you can't get much more so than Bob Stoops.

Again, with all names being mentioned…nothing is solid right now. But some names are more solid than others, and I feel Stoops is one of them.

Lots of other names being mentioned. Greg Schiano, Mike Tomlin, Jim Mora Jr, Gus Malzahn. Not saying these guys don't have a shot, I mean what do I know? But currently, my $ is on other candidates at this point.

Personally, I think it's Harbaugh's job if he wants it. If not, Plan B might already be ready to go. As Cowherd said, we may know as soon as this weekend. There's a ton of smoke right now, but no fire. That may be changing very soon.

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