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COACHWATCH: Bill O'Brien could jolt the coaching carousel

B.O'B. is interviewing in Houston, nothing is leaking at Texas, UMass is a mess, and option coaches are eyeing their options at Georgia Southern. But if Penn State joins the Longhorns in needing to pluck a coach, get ready for a very busy January.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to COACHWATCH, the weekly roundup of news from the college football coaching carousel. It's usually all about Texas these days.

Penn State

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Texas update with a non-Texas item. After hiring one football coach in 61 years, Penn State might be hiring its second coach in two.

Current coach Bill O'Brien will interview with the Houston Texans, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. The report comes only days after ESPN's Adam Scheffter reported that O'Brien's representatives tried to further reduce the second-year coach's buyout should he leave for the NFL, beyond the reduced buyout revealed over the summer. Half the NFC North is also reportedly interested.

O'Brien, who came to Penn State after five seasons as an offensive assistant with the New England Patriots, has been high on the list of potential coaches throughout the league since his breakthrough first year in Happy Valley. Both Cleveland and Philadelphia targeted O'Brien last season, but the coach opted to stay at Penn State after interviews with the Browns and Eagles.

Penn State fans are naturally oscillating between denial and resignation:

Whether O'Brien would leave is anyone's guess. Whether the usual suspects would be interested in a program still suffering the effects of crippling sanctions, even if those sanctions were both reduced and shown by O'Brien to be manageable, is an even more difficult question to answer.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported Thursday that Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano would be in play. Miami's Al Golden (a former Penn State tight end) would again be floated as a possibility, though it remains to be seen whether Golden, who just dodged sanctions at Miami this season, would want to go through it all again at Penn State. As is the case for every Upper Midwestern coaching search, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald would be mentioned.

Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman were among the most widely reported potential Nittany Lions candidates last time around ... at least among those who haven't either been locked up since then (like Chris Petersen) or fallen off the map (like Mike London).

All of that is dependent on O'Brien's decision, though. The next couple of weeks are going to get interesting. Buckle up.


We are now nearly two weeks into the Texas search, and the rumors are still centering around coaches who aren't taking this job. Media stories on the search are more centered on the search firm and unwieldy search committee than the potential hire. This search is a long way from completion, and no news is leaking yet.

With all eyes remaining fixed on Texas and nothing left to write about, the media has resumed its focus on the last days of Brown. Yahoo!'s Pat Forde reported this week that Brown's ouster was caused by university president Bill Powers, who withdrew his support for Brown as a way of saving his own job. Powers was apparently safe after receiving a vote of confidence from the Texas regents earlier in the week, but watched that support erode in the hours after Brown announced he was returning:

The answer was the same from both president and athletic director: Stay on the job. We will support you.

Powers, according to the source, then suggested Brown announce that he was staying on that night at the Texas football banquet. Brown balked, hesitant to take the spotlight off his team and turn the night into a story about his employment.

At the end of a banquet without any news, the source said that Powers told Brown: "I'm so glad you're staying."

Less than 24 hours later, Powers was forcing out Brown via proxy.

So what changed? The source speculated, "Some of the Regents called and said, 'If you don't change coaches, we're changing our votes on you.' "

For his part, Brown is attempting to negotiate a larger buyout of his contract with the help of a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Everything really is bigger in Texas.

Whenever Texas does make its move, however, somebody else will likely be looking for a new head coach.


UMass fired head coach Charley Molnar on Thursday. Molnar was 2-22 in two seasons in Amherst, and he was under fire since a controversial practice video surfaced in September. The video showed players boxing and wrestling during winter drills, prompting a petition from program supporters to eliminate the activities.

The firing, which oddly came three weeks after the Minutemen had finished their season and Molnar had begun making staff changes, was apparently prompted by an investigation by the school.

Quarterback Mike Wegzyn, who had previously announced his intent to transfer from the school, is now apparently reconsidering. The reports are varied and secondhand, but they also paint the picture of a program in need of a change. Of course, the move could have other effects on the program, particularly in a recently scheduled series with Notre Dame, where Molnar worked as an assistant coach.

As for who could take the job, former coach Mark Whipple has reportedly indicated interestA number of other Northeastern coaches could also be in play.


The Black Knights timed the press release of their new football hire for maximum impact, naming Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken as their new coach on Christmas Eve. Monken emerged as the frontrunner for the job late last week, but he needed a few days to work out contract details.

Georgia Southern

Georgia Southern is now tasked with finding a coach to take the Eagles into the FBS. As UMass can attest, that's a tough hire to make. Given the program's pedigree -- the Eagles have been running an option-based offense more or less since the program was resurrected in 1982 -- an option-based coach is a virtual certainty.

Most of the style-driven names who were in play for Army could also be in the mix for Georgia Southern, particularly Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper. Georgia Tech offensive coordinator John Bond could also be under consideration, though his option bona fides aren't as strong as the service academy candidates. Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon, who left Georgia Tech to build KSU's program from scratch, could be a name.

Arkansas State

The Red Wolves announced North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson as the program's new coach late last week. Andersen's contract is engineered to prevent him from becoming the third fourth straight A-State coach to jump ship after one season. Despite Anderson's modest $700,000 salary, it would cost the coach $3 million to leave Arkansas State during the first two years of his contract and $2 million during years three and four.

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