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COACHWATCH: All eyes on Texas, as always

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The USC hire set off the first round of dominoes. Texas is poised to knock down a few more. But when Gruden rumors rear their heads, just know we still have a long way to go.

Erich Schlegel

Welcome to COACHWATCH, a weekly review of the coaching carousel.


We know it won't be Mack Brown. We know it won't be Nick Saban. So who will coach the Longhorns in 2014?

As of Wednesday, athletic director Steve Patterson has assembled a search committee and hired an executive-recruiting firm to help him make that determination. Both the committee and search firm are virtually the same ones used by Texas to choose Patterson. While both will help to identify candidates, make no mistake: this is president Bill Powers' decision, and Powers has made it Patterson's decision. Patterson will not make it quickly.

Of course, that will not stop the speculation. Saban's contract extension with Alabama effectively ended his candidacy. Urban Meyer has denied interest in the jobDavid Shaw looks content at StanfordCharlie Strong doesn't want the jobPat Fitzgerald was in Austin, but was not shopping for real estate. Art Briles likely will not abandon Baylor as it opens The House that Art Built next season.

Florida State's Jimbo Fisher didn't necessarily deny interest, but with a team playing for a national championship in 18 days, the calendar does not work in his favor. If Texas has not named a coach by early January, speculation about Fisher's candidacy will reach such a fever pitch that he will have no choice but to respond.

With the big names either out of the running or refusing to discuss the job, we're left with the usual coaching search suspects. We all know what that means. has learned through a high-level source that former Super Bowl champion head coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden is open to hearing from the Texas athletic department about its football head coaching vacancy.

Gruden has been named in every coaching search for half a decade, and has never publicly gotten past media flirtation. There is no reason to believe that this is any different.

Texas is eventually going to get to realistic names such as James Franklin and Mike Gundy, but the Longhorns will also leave no potential big-name hire on the board before they get to that spot. With the committee barely formed and the vetting only beginning, Texas is likely still many days away from a hire. When you're with Gruden, you're nowhere.

Texas fans onJames Franklin Mike Gundy

Arkansas State

We have almost reached the end of yet another Arkansas State search. North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Andersen was reportedly set to become head coach at Arkansas State on Wednesday night. Except that, no, it could be Clemson coordinator Chad Morris instead. In either case, it's a fourth offensive-oriented head coach at Arkansas State in four seasons. Maybe Anderson or Morris could even stay to coach a bowl game.


The Black Knights finally fired Rich Ellerson after five seasons with no sign of hope, but who would want to take over a service academy with two winning seasons in the last 20 years?

As it turns out, plenty of coaches are considering a stay at West Point. Jim Grobe, recently of Wake Forest, has shown interest in the job. Triple option expert Jeff Monken, current head coach of Georgia Southern, is reportedly in the mix, as is former Army assistant and current Central Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe. NFL assistants Mike Sullivan and Ben Kotwica could get the job, as well.

The most controversial potential Army coach: longtime Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper. If hired, Jasper would become the first former Navy coach to ever take the top job at West Point. Switching sides in arguably the most legendary rivalry in the history of the sport would certainly make some waves.

Bowling Green

As if we didn't have enough MACtion, BGSU hired Eastern Illinois coach Dino Babers Wednesday. Babers replaces Dave Clawson, who previously left to take the opening at Wake Forest. Babers spent 24 seasons bouncing around as an offensive assistant, primarily on the West Coast, before joining Art Briles at Baylor in 2008 and adopting his offensive system.

He brought that system to Eastern Illinois in 2012 as the replacement for longtime head coach Bob Spoo, and took a team that had gone 2-9 in Spoo's final year to a conference title and playoff berth in his first season. Last year, his Panthers went 12-2 and advanced to the FCS playoff quarterfinals.

Florida Atlantic

In a coaching search dominated by south Florida-based assistants and former Ohio State guys, athletic director Pat Chun opted for neither and took Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge. The hire makes a lot of sense. Partridge is a native of Plantation, Fla. but, like Chun, has ties into Big Ten country. He has plenty of experience, having spent the last five years at Bret Bielema's side. Most importantly for FAU, he handled much of Bielema's recruiting in Florida, a connection that has been the lifeblood of Bielema's coaching career. In theory, FAU should be able to recruit local talent and develop it into on-field success. Partridge already knows how to do both.

Partridge's contract is unusual. According to the Sun-Sentinel's Dieter Kurtenbach, Partridge will earn $500,000 a year over the course of a five-year contract. Partridge would owe $1 million to FAU if he terminates the contract prior to January 2015, with that amount reducing over the course of the agreement.

Here's where things get weird, because FAU has also opted for the infamous Chuck Long-San Diego State Buyout Clause. The Owls can give Partridge written notice of termination with an absurd 36 months advanced notice. They would then be obligated to pay Partridge his base salary until the end of that 36 months or the term of the contract, and have the right to reassign him to any position for which he is qualified. If Partridge quits during that period, FAU would be on the hook for just 20 weeks of salary. In other words, If Partridge was fired after three seasons, he would theoretically remain employed as the world's highest-paid chemistry teacher for the final two years of his contract, but if he got bored and found a new coaching job, the $1 million he is owed for those final two years is reduced to $192,000.

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