Southern Cal got the jump when Lane Kiffin was given his pink slip over the weekend, but it likely will be facing competition in its coaching search from Texas in the coming months.
Already several names have been rumored to be near the top of USC's list, including Jack Del Rio, Jeff Fisher and Kevin Sumlin. Texas may ponder Charlie Strong, Will Muschamp or Art Briles. But none of those guys figure to be prime tug o' war candidates.
Nor, perhaps surprisingly, does Vanderbilt's James Franklin, who is once again one of the hotter names in college football. He is inevitably going to be mentioned in connection with big vacancies like these, though it seems improbable that he'd ultimately become a serious Texas target.
There are reasons why he's worth vetting if you're the Longhorns -- his academic focus and recruiting efforts chief among them, not to mention the youth he represents. But the latter is also an issue in the sense that Franklin can be an emotional nut at times. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but Texas strikes me as the wrong place for that type of personality, especially given the Longhorn Network's face-time demands. Nick Saban ain't walkin' through that door, but somebody with that sort of demeanor makes more sense.
Boise State's Chris Petersen and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, on the other hand, could conceivably become serious candidates for both jobs.
Who wins a hypothetical bidding war over, say, Petersen, who could decide it's time to hit the eject button -- and I think it is -- at Boise State? When SB Nation's Steven Godfrey asked coaches and administrators which job is better, the unanimous response was Texas (but keep in mind Petersen is a West Coast guy). The recruiting sanctions at USC were a major factor in that.
Fitzgerald might be the more likely guy to end up being chased by both schools, though. His name already is getting a lot of buzz in Texas circles.
Have always felt Texas is the one program that could pry away Fitzgerald. Has recruited the state for a long time. USC not a great fit.— Rittenberg/Bennett (@ESPN_BigTen) September 9, 2013
USC athletics director Pat Haden is apparently a fan of Fitzgerald's, as well.
The trouble would be prying away Fitzgerald, who has deep roots in Chicago and at Northwestern, which makes this a uniquely complicated situation. He can stay at his alma mater, keep winning a lot of games and continue to get paid handsomely. What Texas and USC can offer extends well beyond a raise, though, is the opportunity to compete for national championships rather than Gator Bowl appearances, and perhaps that's enticing enough to uproot Fitzgerald.
Given all the evidence we have at this point, Texas probably beats USC in any situation where the two are going head-to-head for a coach. Still, it would be entertaining, and it'd be full of potentially awkward moments, like Pat Haden and DeLoss Dodds' replacement spotting each other at O'Hare, sharing a little nonchalant small talk and then racing each other to the rental cars. That would never actually happen, but I like to think it could.