Monday we shared thoughts on LSU's path forward. Highlighted in there, was information from a source with knowledge of LSU's thinking including, "Their sights are on national championship caliber, proven head coaches."
Later that afternoon, in an exclusive interview with Scott Rabalais of The Advocate, LSU AD Joe Alleva used nearly those exact same words in describing who they will be seeking in their new head coach.
As we wrote, don't assume Ed Orgeron won't work his way into the job; but should that not happen, sources told FootballScoop at the time that LSU "during the initial, exploratory phase, through representatives, planned to gauge the interest of some of the top coaches in college football, including Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman." Today, sources tell us those initial checks, through representatives, have already occurred (for at least four of the five).
Neither Saban (who publicly expressed his disappointment with how LSU's administration handled this situation with Les) nor Meyer have any interest in leaving their current situations for LSU and their representatives have ensured that is known we are told.
Jimbo Fisher offered, "I love this university (FSU) and plan to be here a long time." Last year, sources told FootballScoop that Jimbo was awfully close to being ready to say yes had Alleva pulled the plug on Les in 2015. The feel we get from speaking with folks in the profession is that Jimbo might not feel the same way now; but this door doesn't seem fully closed and LSU officials certainly don't believe it is.
Tom Herman, as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State, hung 42 points or more in each of their final 5 games in the 2014 season, culminating with wins over Alabama in the semi-final and over Oregon in the National Championship. Since taking over at Houston, he is 17-1 as a head coach, moving from the "hottest coordinator in the land" to the "hottest head coach in the land". Just a four hour drive to the West of Baton Rouge, one would think that Herman would be adept at recruiting players from Louisiana; but although his staff has LA connections, that has not been their focus thus far. In fact, I reached out to two of the most well known high school coaches at what are considered powerhouses in Louisiana to ask about their interactions with Herman and neither had met him. Just a data point; but perhaps not an insignificant one. Every indication I've heard thus far is that although LSU believes Tom Herman should be a strong candidate, it does not necessarily appear that the feeling is reciprocal at this time. As with Fisher, I'm not saying the door is closed, people always listen; but the feeling I get from speaking with those connected is that Herman might continue to consider other options (including remaining at Houston) before jumping to LSU. Sources connected with the University of Houston tell FootballScoop the Fertitta family, along with other donors, have pledged to both the university and to Herman that they will step up to the plate as needed to keep him happy at Houston. Oh, and that new conference affiliation $5 million bonus is out there too. Point being, economics aren't likely to drive Tom Herman's next move in his career. He's as hot as they come right now at Houston, if economics are about the same, does it make sense to jump into a bit of an unknown, with a far more challenging schedule at LSU? No, no it doesn't.
So, from the original set of names mentioned in the "National Championship caliber" list, that leaves Bob Stoops. Stoops agreed to a new contract earlier this year and is clearly comfortable at OU. There have been times in the past few years where Stoops has listened to similar calls, both in college and in the NFL. Would he listen to LSU's call? I presume so. Is now the time for Bob Stoops to make a move? I don't know. I know Bob Stoops was willing to change when things weren't thriving. He brought Lincoln Riley in (early 2015) to revitalize the Sooners' offense and is a great blend of a "CEO" type of coach who also thrives when working on Xs & Os (very similar to Saban; but less controlling over the minutiae). The feeling I get from speaking with those in the profession is that this is a long shot; but there aren't many better than Bob Stoops. If I were an LSU fan, I'd be disappointed if our leadership didn't at the very least inquire.
Now, allow me to insert my own name into the list. Unlike the others above, he hasn't won an FBS National Championship; but his team has played for one, missed another opportunity by one second, and he has won two National Championships at the division D-II level. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly would check every box LSU is looking for. A fiery, offensive minded head coach with the highest profile experience who runs his program as the CEO (but again loves to scheme). Following an undefeated regular season in 2012, Kelly's team was soundly defeated by Alabama in the Natty. Since that game, his teams have lost 4, 5, 3 and now 3 games already in the 2016 season. Kelly, like Stoops, signed a new contract early this year; but his situation is different. Kelly acknowledged just this week that he and his staff are all coaching for their jobs. In October both Stanford and Miami come to South Bend. A loss to either (or to any of the other, perhaps less formidable foes) could be a breaking point. 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. If LSU were to pair that with Dave Aranda's defense, look out. For Kelly, it takes him off the brutal national recruiting footprint which wears on you, allowing him to focus more time on coaching and developing talent. Think about it Joe.
Dream big Tigers.
More on other potential candidates coming in the next few days....