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The 4 biggest names to know in LSU’s coaching search

By parting with Les Miles, the Tigers sort of joined the early-firing trend, and sort of didn’t. Here’s what we know now about what happens next.

NCAA Football: Texas Kickoff-Oklahoma vs Houston
Tom Herman
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers have a head coaching vacancy as of Sept. 25, earlier than Oct. 13 of last season, when Steve Spurrier retired from South Carolina and USC fired Steve Sarkisian. Three years ago today, new LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron took the same position at USC when Lane Kiffin was let go.

Major jobs are opening earlier, and that’s a trend, but the circumstances around each can be wildly different. On Sunday, SB Nation spoke about Les Miles’ dismissal with multiple agents who have coaching clients.

“Miles is unique because of how public the situation was at the end of last season,” one agent said. “If the guy is the not the right fit, or you know you are going to move on and the season is already gone, why not? It gives you a chance to go get the guy you want.”

The theatrics of last Thanksgiving’s failed coup may have also pressed the hand of athletic director Joe Alleva because the unhappy contingent of boosters in 2015 didn’t calm down through the offseason.

That’s an extremely different environment than C-USA doormat FIU, which fired Ron Turner on Sunday after a 0-4 start.

“FIU may have moved early, in part, to get their ducks in a row. Schools like LSU don't have to get a jump on anyone. This was likely done to pacify boosters,” an agent said.

Two weeks ago, SB Nation spoke to Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock, who praised former head coach Frank Beamer for announcing his retirement during the season, allowing Tech a level of public operation in seeking a new coach.

That’s a scenario that’s growing in attractiveness for ADs. Rather than cloak-and-dagger early contact with agents and coaches while your lame duck is still operating, having an interim and/or announced change can free up your communication.

1. Ed Orgeron’s popularity is a risk LSU boosters seem willing to take.

As Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman noted, those around LSU were concerned Miles would actually coach better in the near future, possibly salvaging the Tigers’ 2-2 start into a season respectable enough for him to hang on and repeat the 2015 situation.

Enter interim head coach Orgeron, who went 6-2 as USC’s interim boss and became a player favorite. The native Louisianan, ace recruiter, and former Ole Miss head coach was briefly an LSU player and grew up a Tiger. This is his dream job, and you can expect him to treat the next two months as an audition.

According to one source close to LSU, “making a coaching change on an interim Ed Orgeron would always be easier than making one on Miles.”

One report:

2. The name of Houston’s Tom Herman will be in every discussion for every top college football job opening, for obvious reasons.

The Peach Bowl champion, former national championship offensive coordinator, and coach of the current AP No. 6 team makes $3 million at Houston, less than every current coach in the SEC West.

He has spent 13 years of his coaching career in the state of Texas.

“There’s certainly been no contact,” Herman told local media Sunday night regarding reports of LSU contacting his agent. “I can firmly deny that.”

3. Former LSU offensive coordinator and current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will also be frequently mentioned.

Feldman, Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, and others have described Fisher and Herman as the two favored names.

Fisher was reportedly the top target last year as well. Alleva admitted to “inquiries” into potential hires, but denied reporting that LSU was already negotiating with the FSU coach despite having not yet fired Miles.

4. You can expect to read and hear the name Art Briles a lot for most major openings. Be careful how much you read into it.

Briles is a very different situation than Herman.

“There’s going to be a concerted effort by Briles and his team to attach his name to open positions in this hiring cycle,” a source told SB Nation. “But the idea that a school the caliber of LSU is immediately reaching out to Briles minutes after dismissing Miles is incredibly hard to believe.”

“It’s not impossible for Briles to work again,” another agent said. “But the amount of due diligence and deliberation involved would take a considerable amount of time. Universities would have to vet potential liabilities, and the unknown, because of the Pepper Hamilton report.”

The report, which accused Briles’ coaching staff of interfering in Baylor’s sexual assault scandal, is short on specifics about Briles. The coach said in June that he “hoped to share” details of his role in the Baylor story; in September, he apologized for “mistakes.”