If Urban Meyer or Jon Gruden aren't listed as candidates for your school's vacant (or soon-to-be vacant) coaching job, then a certain famous pirate probably is. Let's look at the openings that could await Mr. Swing Your Sword this winter.
It's funny. If you are the fan of a program generally considered to be a college football heavyweight, and your coach could be getting ready to either get fired or retire soon, you almost certainly think your school is getting either Urban Meyer or Jon Gruden. If you are a fan of a less than top-tier school in the same situation, meanwhile, you think your school is getting Mike Leach. And with a wider array of options in the non-heavyweight divisions, that makes the Mike Leach Watch a lot more entertaining.
Here are some of the schools to which he either has been tied by random rumor, or probably could soon be. We will use an entirely arbitrary ratings scale to judge Leach's most likely destination.
Is The Job Open? (1-10) Absolutely. 10.
How's The Recruiting Base? (1-10) Quite solid. Including junior college transfers (a pipeline Leach would almost certainly utilize), the state of Arizona produced 10 four-star recruits according to Rivals.com in 2011 (thus far, there are eight more in 2012), and by my count, 32 players signed with BCS conferences. 8.
How Much Of A Fit Is The Current Personnel (i.e. how much do they currently pass)? (1-10) Excellent. Arizona ranks 118th in Adj. Run-Pass Ratio, throwing less than only East Carolina (coached by Leach's former defensive coordinator) and Hawaii (ditto). Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell even coached under Leach as well. I'm not sure how much Leach cares about a smooth transition, but this one would probably be the smoothest. 9. The only thing stopping it from being a 10 is that quarterback Nick Foles is a senior.
How Strong Is The "Good Old Boy" Network? Does The School Have An Athletic Director Who Might Butt Heads With Him? How Strong Is the Fanbase's Zest For Wackiness? (1-10) Arizona athletics director Greg Byrne is the son of Texas A&M A.D. Bill Byrne, which just doesn't feel right at all. But let's just say that Byrne didn't fire Mike Stoops because of his offense. This likely isn't an issue. 7.
Is The Job In A Major Conference? (1-5) Yes. And with USC currently stalling, Arizona is located within a division that is in the market for a new leader. 4.
Does It Make Sense? (1-5) It almost makes too much sense, doesn't it? It seems too easy. Because this is my scale, and I can do what I want, I say that's almost a bit of a negative. 3.
TOTAL ARBITRARY POINTS: 41 out of 50.
Is The Job Open? (1-10) It will be at the end of the season when Howard Schnellenberger has officially retired. 10.
How's The Recruiting Base? (1-10) Florida is one of the nation's best recruiting hotbeds, and Leach could obviously find a nice set of players to recruit to fill his system (and FAU's new stadium). It's still just FAU, a school with no chance of ever finding a BCS conference bid, so the options would be at least a little limited, but he could do some good things here. 6.
How Much Of A Fit Is The Current Personnel (i.e. how much do they currently pass)? (1-10) The Owls currently rank 81st in Adj. Run-Pass Ratio, meaning they wing the ball around a decent amount. Their problem is they aren't any good at it, and they go three-and-out a lot. The way they throw it, however, is interesting: of the five players who have caught at least nine passes this year, two are tight ends and two are running backs. 5.
How Strong Is The "Good Old Boy" Network? Does The School Have An Athletic Director Who Might Butt Heads With Him? How Strong Is the Fanbase's Zest For Wackiness? (1-10) Any school that embraces Howard Schnellenberger would embrace Mike Leach. 10.
Is The Job In A Major Conference? (1-5) Not even close. 1.
Does It Make Sense? (1-5) Strangely, it does. Leach has made no bones about the fact that he loves life in Key West, and of any upcoming opening, FAU is very much the closest, fewer than 200 miles from the Keys. 5.
TOTAL ARBITRARY POINTS: 37 out of 50.
California Or UCLA
Are The Jobs Open? (1-10) No, but a) Jeff Tedford has made his way onto the hot seat with what we will call diminishing returns, and b) Rick Neuheisel's seat is one of the hotter in the country. Cal is just 8-11 in their last 19 games after winning at least eight games in six of seven seasons; Tedford has been incredibly successful compared to his recent predecessors, but his days could be numbered. Meanwhile, UCLA almost certainly has to go to a bowl game to give Neuheisel a chance to keep his job. They avoided what would have been a disastrous loss to Washington State last weekend, but they are far from guaranteed to reach 6-6, and it is uncertain whether that would save Neuheisel anyway. 6 (Cal)/8 (UCLA).
How's The Recruiting Base? (1-10) Outstanding. There are high academic standards involved here, but that won't scare away Leach. 9/9.
How Much Of A Fit Is The Current Personnel (i.e. how much do they currently pass)? (1-10) Cal wings the ball around quite a bit (95th in Adj. Run-Pass) despite the fact that quarterback Zach Maynard is only somewhat good at it (51-percent completion rate, 7.2 yards per pass). It is certainly fun to think about what numbers sophomore receiver Keenan Allen could put up in two years under Leach, however. UCLA, meanwhile, is incredibly run-heavy (19th in Adj. Run-Pass) and suffering what can only be called a quarterbacks jinx at the moment. If you sign with UCLA, you are guaranteed to either get hurt 17 times, underachieve, or both. 7/5.
How Strong Is The "Good Old Boy"Network? Does The School Have An Athletic Director Who Might Butt Heads With Him? How Strong Is the Fanbase's Zest For Wackiness? (1-10) Hard to say. I doubt there would be too many issues with either fanbase. Both fanbases love a good quarterback (Gary Beban, Troy Aikman, Aaron Rodgers), and both fanbases will get behind a winner. But it's hard to think of how Leach would (or wouldn't) get along with either Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour or UCLA's Dan Guerrero. Leach is an interesting guy -- he stresses academics as well as any coach in the country, but he is seemingly built to clash with A.D.'s at good academic schools. Plus, it is worth noting that the two football coaches Guerrero has hired at UCLA have both been UCLA alums. 6/6.
Is The Job In A Major Conference? (1-5) Yep. At Cal, Leach would have to face off versus Oregon, Stanford and Washington every year. At UCLA, however, he would, in theory, face less resistance at the top of the division. 4/5.
Does It Make Sense? (1-5) As a bit of a Leach fan, I would love to see him on the west coast, facing off against a high-octane (but completely different) offense like Oregon's on a year-to-year basis. His first coaching job was in California, and he could quite possibly thrive at either school. I'm not sure that means they think he makes sense, however. 4/4.
TOTAL ARBITRARY POINTS, CAL: 36 out of 50.
TOTAL ARBITRARY POINTS, UCLA: 37 out of 50.
Is The Job Open? (1-10) No, and Joker Phillips is only in his second year there, so it is far from certain that this job will be open just yet. That said, the Wildcats are 2-4, they look truly dreadful on offense, and their defense has begun to collapse. They currently rank 95th in the F/+ rankings, barely ahead of New Mexico State and Middle Tennessee. Their schedule might bail Phillips out here -- their next three games are against Jacksonville State, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, all at home; but if the Wildcats only go about 1-2 in these next three games, then there could very well be a move made here. Odds aren't great, and I almost always hate dumping a guy after two years, but it is at least a possibility. 4.
How's The Recruiting Base? (1-10) Solid, if only average from an SEC perspective. The state of Kentucky produced just two four-star recruits last year and two this year. Still, there are still plenty of inroads to be made into Florida and other high-caliber recruiting areas. If I gave FAU a 6 here, I have to give Kentucky at least a 7.
How Much Of A Fit Is The Current Personnel (i.e. how much do they currently pass)? (1-10) In general, Kentucky's offensive personnel is not much of a fit with any sort of quality football. Only one Kentucky receiver has a) caught more than four passes and b) averaged more than nine yards per catch: junior La'Rod King. There are almost no seniors who matter, and Leach might be able to do something with freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith, but this is only a decent fit. 6.
How Strong Is The "Good Old Boy" Network? Does The School Have An Athletic Director Who Might Butt Heads With Him? How Strong Is the Fanbase's Zest For Wackiness? (1-10) Well, they hired Hal Mumme (Leach's mentor) and Guy Morriss. Neither had a wonderful time at UK -- Mumme was dumped one year after securing back-to-back bowls for the first time in 15 years, and the fact that Morriss fled for Baylor is a red flag -- but the fact is they were willing to hire both of these people means they would probably be willing to hire a successful version of both of these people. 8.
Is The Job In A Major Conference? (1-5) Yes. And at the moment, the SEC East is a better place to be than the SEC West. 5.
Does It Make Sense? (1-5) A bit, yeah. The major sticking point is simply that I don't think the job will be open just yet. If Phillips gets dumped, then Kentucky possibly heads to the top of this completely arbitrary list. 4.
TOTAL ARBITRARY POINTS: 34 out of 50.
Is The Job Open? (1-10) No, but it's hard to imagine Houston Nutt surviving a second straight lifeless, losing season. 8.
How's The Recruiting Base? (1-10) Strong. Despite its general lack of size and people, the State of Mississippi produced nine players rated four stars or better by Rivals (including junior college transfers) and has another seven lined up for this year. The junior college pipeline is productive, and Leach should be able to find plenty of interesting players recruiting out of Oxford. 8.
How Much Of A Fit Is The Current Personnel (i.e. how much do they currently pass)? (1-10) Probably not much of one. Ole Miss ranks 24th in Adj. Run-Pass, and honestly, it should be higher than that because they're a lot better at running. Leach would have to work some serious magic to get what he needs out of either Randall Mackey or Zack Stoudt, both of whom would be seniors in 2012. That said, the skill position talent is intriguing. Running back Jeff Scott is a sophomore, and the only two receivers who have shown some solid value in 2012 are a sophomore (Ja-Mes Logan) and freshman (Donte Moncrief). But he would most likely have to bring in his own quarterback. 6.
How Strong Is The "Good Old Boy" Network? Does The School Have An Athletic Director Who Might Butt Heads With Him? How Strong Is the Fanbase's Zest For Wackiness? (1-10) It's hard to know what to make of the Ole Miss fanbase. At first glance, the "dress up and go to games primarily so you can hang out in The Grove" factor wouldn't seem to be a problem. But the last guy who brought in a pass-happy system (David Cutcliffe) had five consecutive winning seasons and got dumped after one bad one. It's hard for me to move past that. 5.
Is The Job In A Major Conference? (1-5) Yes. A very, very major conference. Almost too major. 4.
Does It Make Sense? (1-5) To me, it really doesn't. I am basing this on the smallest of samples, but I don't feel he would be totally embraced by either the traditionalist fans or the athletic department. (The same goes for North Carolina, which has also dealt with a few random Leach rumblings. I could be very, very incorrect, obviously.) If he's going to the SEC, he's going to Kentucky. 2.
TOTAL ARBITRARY POINTS: 33 out of 50.
Is The Job Open? (1-10) No, but it could be soon. Boston College is floundering in Frank Spaziani's third season, staring a 1-5 record in the face and looking like they will almost certainly be ending their 12-year bowl streak. However, Spaziani got a contract extension just last year, and he is under contract through 2015. For an athletic department that is both loyal and seemingly resistant to the concerns of a smallish fanbase, this could mean that Spaziani survives this year's disaster. 4.
How's The Recruiting Base? (1-10) Obviously the recruiting base would extend beyond this area, but out of curiosity I ran a Rivals search for 2011 recruits from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Connecticut. Those five states produced three four-star recruits (a defensive back, a tight end and a linebacker) and 11 three-star recruits. Only two of those 14 players were wide receivers, and they went to Iowa (Marcus Grant) and Nebraska (Taariq Allen). B.C. has a unique recruiting draw with its Catholic base, but you picture hard-nosed linebackers and big running backs when you picture Boston College. 4.
How Much Of A Fit Is The Current Personnel (i.e. how much do they currently pass)? (1-10) Boston College actually passes it more than you think they do (they're 71st in Adj. Run-Pass Ratio), but they aren't any good at it. They are 75th in Passing S&P+, and that feels about 25 spots too high. 4.
How Strong Is The "Good Old Boy" Network? Does The School Have An Athletic Director Who Might Butt Heads With Him? How Strong Is the Fanbase's Zest For Wackiness? (1-10) Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo fired Jeff Jagodzinski because he interviewed for a job with the Jets. He is fiercely rigid and demands completely loyalty. If Leach didn't receive the resources he felt he needed and decided to raise a bit of a stink about it, this relationship would probably become toxic in about four seconds. 2. And that's being generous.
Is The Job In A Major Conference? (1-5) That it is. 5.
Does It Make Sense? (1-5) I have a high sense of morbid curiosity, and I would love to see Leach take a job like this. But no. It's just not going to happen. 1.
TOTAL ARBITRARY POINTS: 20 out of 50. Really, I just put them on this list to see how low a score they would get.
Key West High School
Come on, you know it's at least a possibility.