The Buffalo Bulls fired fifth-year head coach Jeff Quinn on Monday. Offensive coordinator Alex Wood was named interim head coach, but the Bulls are expected to pursue an outside option as Quinn's permanent replacement.
Athletic director Danny White has pushed hard to improve Buffalo's status in New York by building new facilities and making big-name hires. He brought in former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley as his new basketball coach in 2013, and could be looking for a similar candidate for football. Here are five coaches who could want the job.
Current job: Defensive coordinator, Duke
Knowles checks all the boxes: He is a graduate of Cornell and spent six years as the Big Red's head coach in the 2000s. He has experience in the MAC, having served six years on the staff at Western Michigan. He works at defending ACC Coastal champion Duke, where White's father serves as athletic director. Knowles even worked briefly at Ole Miss, where White was formerly associate athletic director.
The problem, though, is that Knowles was not particularly successful as a head coach. In six seasons at Cornell, he posted just one winning record, and while he improved program fundraising and fan involvement, that would not be enough for Buffalo. Knowles will likely get a look, but his Cornell record could be his undoing.
Current job: Head coach, Towson
Ambrose has spent all but one season of a 21-year coaching career at two institutions: Towson, his alma mater, and Connecticut, where he was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for Randy Edsall.
After seven seasons in Storrs, Ambrose took over a moribund Towson program and turned it around in just three years. He guided the Tigers to two Colonial Athletic Association championships, and a win over UConn and FCS championship game appearance last year. He's due for a step up, and Buffalo could be just the place.
Current job: Running backs coach, Buffalo Bills
For name recognition, there would not be much better. Wheatley is a former Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and New York Giants first round draft pick. He served as running backs coach at Eastern Michigan and Syracuse before following Doug Marrone to the Bills in 2013. While at Syracuse, Wheatley was one of Marrone's best recruiters, focusing on Michigan and the upper Midwest. He would provide Buffalo with immediate ties to New York City.
White seems to have felt that name recognition was enough to justify the risk in basketball. He could overlook the risk of a first-time head coach here, as well. Also in Wheatley's favor: UB Bull Run notes White's hires in other sports have all been coaches who were previously elite-level athletes in their playing days.
There is one other potential factor: Wheatley's son, who is a four-star tight end recruit being chased by the nation's best programs.
Current job: Head coach, Stony Brook
Priore has spent the last 15 years as a head coach in the New York area, first at Trinity (Conn.) College and most recently with the Sea Wolves on Long Island. His stops as an assistant — Albany, Union (N.Y.) College, and Penn — did not stray far. He went 39-9 in six seasons at Trinity, posting a 31-1 mark in his last four campaigns. He followed that by leading Stony Brook to four consecutive Big South championships and the second round of the FCS championship tournament in 2011 and 2012 before moving to the Colonial Conference last year.
While Priore's record is impressive and his connections regional, he is in his mid-50s and has not coached at the FBS level. That could be a deal-breaker.
Steve Spurrier, Jr.
Current job: Co-offensive coordinator, South Carolina
UB's next fb coach? Instantly recognizable name to any sports fan in America, from great coaching family, with minimal experience. #hoops— Keith McShea (@KeithMcSheaBN) October 14, 2014
First try at next fb coach of University at Brandbuilding: Steve Spurrier Jr., Joe Lombardi (both from @ScottWilsonBUF), Tyrone Wheatley.— Keith McShea (@KeithMcSheaBN) October 14, 2014
Buffalo media might be having fun with how similar Spurrier's resume is to Hurley's, but it could actually be worth a look.
Spurrier, Jr. has spent a decade with his father on the Gamecocks' coaching staff, but it may be time for him to spread his wings and fly solo. South Carolina is struggling this year, relative to Spurrier's other efforts, but the offense is still averaging 34.2 points per game, including 38 against a very strong Georgia defense.
The younger Spurrier has been a part of two national championship staffs (1996 Florida and 2000 Oklahoma), has helped guide a number of NFL players, and has learned under one of the greatest coaches working today.
Spurrier, Jr. has no direct ties to Buffalo or the area, but he played his college ball at Duke, albeit long before White's father took over that athletic department.
BONUS! Houston Nutt
Current job: Not applicable
Well, he is available, and he has shown interest in the vacancy at SMU. Yes, Buffalo would be a long way from his Dallas home. Yes, Nutt has coached primarily in Texas and states that border it. But Nutt has also gone to places like Murray State and Boise State in the past. Frank Solich has shown that the MAC can resurrect a career, and Nutt's idea of offense is sufficiently crazy for a conference full of insane offenses.