Football

Nine Potential Candidates to Replace Dana Holgorsen at Houston

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Illinois

With the firing of Houston coach Dana Holgorsen, we have the first Big 12 head-coaching opening of the 2024 cycle and it should be an intriguing search.

Holgorsen leaves the Cougars with the worst recruiting class, per 247Sports.com, in the Big 12. But, as we know from what Deion Sanders did at Colorado last offseason, there is some freedom for a first-year coach to flip the roster and make the team better.

 

Sanders took the Buffs from one win to five wins in their final Pac-12 seasons. The Cougars won four games under Holgorsen this season.

So, who should Cougars athletic director Chris Pezman hire? Here are nine options.

UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor

Look, Jeff Traylor should already have a Power 5 job (A&M is gonna rue the day they passed him over). UTSA is already paying him $2.8 million per year. Houston was paying Holgorsen $4.5 million. So, yes, more money. But is Houston committed to building a big-time program, beyond their top donor, Tilman Fertitta? That’s my question.

On paper, Traylor is perfect. He’s a Texas-born and bred coach. He has great relationships with high school coaches because of his roots at Gilmer High School, where he won three state titles. He’s won nearly 40 games at UTSA in four seasons, won two conference titles and has been to a bowl game every season. Seriously, what’s not to like?

Kansas State Offensive Coordinator Collin Klein

Houston isn’t luring another sitting Big 12 coach like it did with Holgorsen. But a Big 12 assistant coach? There are plenty of good options. Klein knows the conference like few others and he’s grown as a coach to the point where he interviewed for Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator job last year. He’s only 34, and Houston has a history of hiring young head coaches. His knowledge of the league makes him a promising candidate.

There are other good offensive minds in the league. Iowa State’s Nate Scheelhaase and Kansas’ Andy Kotelnicki spring to mind. But Klein is probably best-positioned for the job.

 

Tulane Head Coach Willie Fritz

Look, all he does is win. He has 208 wins as an NCAA coach. He won two NJCAA championships at Blinn College in Texas. He also coached at Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas, so he knows the turf. Tulane was won 23 games the last two years, a conference title (the Green Wave could win another in this coming weekend) and a Cotton Bowl. He’s 63. If he wants a Power 5 job (are we still calling it that?), this may be his shot.

Texas Special Teams Coach Jeff Banks

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported earlier on Sunday that Banks was a name to watch for this job. Banks’ recruiting acumen is well-respected. His monkey ownership? Not so much. But, we’re hiring a head football coach and not a wildlife coordinator. While he’s never been a full-time head coach, he was the interim head coach at Texas A&M after it fired Kevin Sumlin. He’s worked for Sumlin, Nick Saban and Steve Sarkisian. One would argue he’s learned a lot.

 

James Madison Head Coach Curt Cignetti

This is what happens when a program like JMU has big success — their head coach becomes a target. The Dukes just went 11-1 and are headed for a bowl game. But his resume is exemplary. More than 100 wins as a D-II, FCS and FBS coach, including three playoff berths with JMU at the FCS level. Cignetti was a quarterbacks coach at Rice, so he’s familiar with Houston. At 62, this could be his chance to jump into the big leagues.

Michigan Offensive Coordinator Sherrone Moore

Moore just got a trial-by-fire like no other the last three weeks as Michigan’s interim head coach. After Jim Harbaugh was suspended, Moore guided the Wolverines to wins over Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State. Moore actually outcoached OSU head coach Ryan Day. Moore may not be ready for a head-coaching job quite yet. But teams will kick the tires because of the past three weeks. For reference, Moore is 37, played at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops and has been with Michigan since 2018. He’s never been a head coach.

Gary Patterson, Unemployed

Who wants to freak out the rest of the Big 12? Gary Patterson would be the perfect coach to do it with. No coach on the market has the Big 12 experience he does. But, just to review — he won 181 games, won six conference titles, won the 2010 Rose Bowl, won national coach of the year twice and has a statue in front of TCU’s arena. So it might be worth slipping into his DMs.

 

USC Quarterbacks Coach Kliff Kingsbury

For a guy who is just 44 years old, he’s gotten around. After his firing with the Arizona Cardinals, he landed back at USC (where he was the OC for a hot minute before taking the Arizona job) and was Caleb Williams’ coach this season as quarterbacks coach under Lincoln Riley. Players love his offense and he has Houston ties. His first coaching jobs were with the Cougars from 2008-11 before he followed Sumlin to Texas A&M. Hiring Kliff Kingsbury would be a full-circle moment.

Jimbo Fisher, Unemployed

I mean, Houston could do a lot worse, right? Plus, the Cougars wouldn’t have to pay him nearly as much as A&M did. Jimbo Fisher probably wouldn’t mind double-dipping, either (you might have heard A&M’s on the hook for a significant buyout). If nothing else, it would be fantastic theater.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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