LSU fired Les Miles after more than 11 seasons, two SEC titles, a national championship, and endless drama of the good and bad varieties.
This means one of the country's premier jobs is now open. The state of Louisiana produces some of the country's most elite talent, and LSU gets to sit in the middle of it as the state's only Power 5 program. It also has access to Houston and the rest of Texas, plus Florida and the rest of the Southeast. Its next head coach will be able to recruit with a 100,000-seat stadium, a rabid fanbase, and one of the country's best NFL lineages.
Knowing LSU, you can expect a fascinating coaching search, to say the least.
We'll update this tracker as reasonable info emerges. For now, here's the starting point of everything major to know after the first few days or so.
1. The widely reported favorites
Tom Herman, Houston
The country's most highly sought coaching candidate has denied contact.
In a report on what the boosters want, SB Nation's Steven Godfrey writes:
The problem from LSU's vantage is that as Texas goes, so does Herman. If Charlie Strong doesn't survive 2016, LSU boosters are hesitant to lock into a bidding war with the Longhorns for a two-year AAC head coach with no direct ties to Louisiana.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Fisher was reportedly the top target last year as well. Athletic Director Joe 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.
The Times-Picayune reported in November that LSU has contacted Fisher's side.
"I'm not talking about LSU," he said this season.
Tomahawk Nation has the Fisher-specific FAQ.
A former LSU AD:
Bertman on Fisher: "If they can get him to come back, it's worth every penny."— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) September 28, 2016
He was the guy, as we reported, last year at #LSU.
Ed Orgeron, LSU interim
He'll get a couple more games in which to prove himself, and even though a successful interim run at USC didn't land him that job (probably should've, huh?), his ties to Louisiana and LSU are as deep as they can be.
In September, Godfrey wrote: "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" and "'He's learned from USC. [Orgeron] would have never agreed to this if he didn't think he couldn't have a shot,' a source close to LSU told SB Nation."
By November, it was clear O wouldn't necessarily have to beat Alabama in order to land the job, per Godfrey.
2. More candidates, believe it or not
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
The Times-Picayune reported in November that he's being considered.
He's thought about leaving his alma mater, where he's been the head coach since 2005, for the SEC before. This would also mean hiring two straight Oklahoma State head coaches. Not exactly a denial of potential interest:
"The best response to that would be what Mike Leach told me a long time ago. I was talking to him before a game and I think it was maybe his 10th year or something out at Texas Tech. He said. 'You know, if you stay at one place long enough, you're eventually going to get fired in coaching.' I said. 'What do you mean?' He said, "Well, you'll see. You just hang around a place long enough as a coach, they're eventually going to get tired of you and fire you.' I think that's probably the best example of what happened yesterday.'
Jim Mora, UCLA
From Godfrey's list of four non-Orgeron names the boosters are into:
Recent record aside, Mora's shown a willingness to change up offensive schemes, can impress boosters with the fact he's been in the NFL, and has a likely NFL quarterback in injured sophomore Josh Rosen.
That might not translate to the SEC (where he's never coached) or LSU, but boosters frustrated with their perception of Miles' player development find it enticing.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Also from Godfrey:
A faction of LSU boosters in Houston consider him an offensive mind who's never been given elite talent to work with. It also helps that of the coaches in the Mike Leach air raid tree, Holgorsen has embraced the run more than others.
That tree, however, was designed in large part to compensate for a lack of five-star talent in places like Lubbock and Morgantown. But points are points, and for his supporters, Holgorsen's stats feel like an antidote to Miles' offenses.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina
The Times-Picayune reported in November that he's being considered.
Feldman, from September:
Fedora's a Texas native, who I think would love the chance to coach at LSU. He's done a good job at UNC and did very well not far from LSU while he was at Southern Miss.
3. Solid options, but probably not candidates
Lane Kiffin, Alabama offensive coordinator
It's possible, especially if the Tide rolls to another national title. Kiffin has done an outstanding job helping Nick Saban win another national title and seems to get the offense going regardless of having to break in three new QBs the past three seasons. I know Kiffin has learned a lot from his time under Saban and would be a more organized head man than he was at his previous stops.
Several SEC teams have tried to beat Saban by hiring Saban assistants. Kiffin would be a similar approach, but without the same you-hired-a-bootleg-Saban vibe. One huge question would be exactly how much he's matured since his previous head coaching jobs.
A former LSU AD:
Would Bertman hire Lane Kiffin as head coach right now at #LSU: "No. I don't like him."— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) September 28, 2016
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
He's appeared on a couple internet lists. Great coach, and it's easy to think, "What could he do with a five-star roster for a change," but I'm not sure what about his preferred style over the years would make anyone think he's all that different from Miles. His 2016 season has also gone poorly.
Gary Patterson, TCU
"I think it's not fair to the university and the players and the program," Patterson said. "If they were going to do that, they should have done it a year ago. To do it in the middle of the season, I think it's not fair to anybody. It's not my place. I've got my own problems. So you go about your own business. But I think the guy is a good football coach. He's won a lot of games. I think he's been good for LSU. I wish him well. And I wish LSU well."
Bobby Petrino, Louisville
We've gone full circle. Any SEC West job opening must once again include the former Louisville and Arkansas coach, former Auburn candidate, and current Louisville coach's name. He said this about LSU:
"I'm not interested in going anywhere," Petrino said during a new conference to advance Saturday's huge game at Clemson. "I'm very fortunate to be the head coach here at the University of Louisville, very happy about that, very glad I have the support of our athletic director Tom Jurich. [...] This is the job I want. This is where I'm going to be."
Heard that before, for what it's worth.
Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky
In case you want to hire a version of Petrino without all the baggage. CBSSports.com proposed him as a candidate.
Willie Taggart, USF
He's a good coach who'll almost certainly have a Power 5 job soon. He's included here so that I can show you this evidence that he's a cultural fit (though he was also No. 4 on Bovada's betting odds, behind Herman, Fisher, and Fedora):
4. Not gonna happen
Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers
This sounds bonkers, but NOLA.com reported, "One of Kelly's former players and an assistant coach during his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles said Kelly remains enamored with the possibility of coaching a major SEC program."
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Bookmaker.eu listed him at No. 3 on its odds board, behind Fisher and Herman. LSU fans would like a coach who can produce passing yards, but you'd have a tough time talking them into a coach who's never fielded a good defense.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Also on a few internet lists.
LSU's a better job than any of the ones he's reportedly interviewed for over the last few years. He's done an amazing job at MSU, but it'd be hard to get excited about hiring a coach who'd just lost to South Alabama and a loss to the guy you just fired.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Football Scoop's Scott Roussel, who knows Baton Rouge and knows coaches, wrote this before the Irish's season cratered:
Although under contract, I wonder if Notre Dame's administration would allow Kelly to speak with LSU...a potential win-win situation. LSU fans, donors and administration would love to beat their chest that they were able to hire away Notre Dame's coach. Kelly's offense puts up points.
It would seem to me that if LSU wanted to hire a coach from a major power with no national titles since 2007, it should just hire Les Miles.
David Shaw, Stanford
He's long made it clear it's gonna be really hard to get him to leave (and he's similar to Miles in some ways, plus has said some stuff about academics that'd be tricky to explain in the Southeast), but it had to be asked.
"Are you serious? The answer is no," was the reply.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
His on-field record makes him a candidate, and the chance to swipe from a rival is always nice. He's also still waiting on NCAA sanctions at the moment. The Rebels' 2016 season has also been unimpressive, albeit with a tough schedule.
Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
The former Penn State head coach has appeared on a few candidate lists. He has an offensive background, which you have to think LSU will prize, but hasn't produced much memorable quarterbacking since leaving Tom Brady.
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Nick Saban, Alabama
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Football Scoop reports these three are among the coaches whose interest LSU plans to gauge via "representatives." Meyer and Saban ain't happening, and Stoops would be viewed by most LSU fans as an extremely Miles-esque hire, in terms of meeting high annual expectations.
Art Briles, formerly at Baylor