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Lead candidates emerging at Michigan?


The Brady Hoke era officially came to a close on Tuesday December 2nd. As we come to the close of the 2nd week of the search for his successor, and as recruiting goes "dead", I reached out to some sources in Michigan and within the profession to attempt to update coaches as to where this search stands and is headed. Based on those discussions, this is where Michigan appears headed...

Most of the senior leadership within Michigan athletics and on their board of regents now understand that Jim Harbaugh is unlikely to come to Michigan and I am told Hackett has been told it will be acceptable to hire a "college coach" before the end of the NFL season if he finds the one he is willing to stand behind.

Per sources, Hackett and his staff have discussed both Jim Mora and Dan Mullen with the Regents. Sources in Michigan that I have spoken with believe that if either Mora or Mullen were willing to come, then Hackett would support those hires.

Last year Jim Mora was offered the head coaching position at Texas and turned it down despite the fact that the offer was significantly more than $4 million per year. When that happened, I spoke with two sources very close to the situation and wrote about that. Mora turned down that opportunity because this simply wasn't the right time for he and his family to leave California. Jim has four children, one who had just begun college out there, two in high school and one in junior high (at the time). They have just built a house, etc...the timing wasn't right then to leave for another college job, and quite honestly, I don't see that changing for this opportunity at Michigan. With that said, it would seem to be a substantial waste of resources for Michigan to pursue someone who they have no shot at, so clearly Michigan feels he is willing to consider the opportunity. Sources in Michigan told me, UM officials believe that Mora is frustrated with not being able to get UCLA to the top and think he might be willing to make a move to Michigan. The L.A. Times reports that Mora is making $3.25 million this season.

I spoke with sources in the past few days who are close and very familiar with Dan Mullen. Both sources said to me that with Dan, it's not about being the highest paid coach in his state / conference/ whatever (which is more important to some coaches than many people understand), what drives Dan is his desire to win a national championship. Both sources explained to me how they felt Michigan would provide a potentially easier route to the college football playoffs; and hence the opportunity to win a national championship. Said one, "This might have been Dan's most talented team ever, and in a year when LSU, A&M and Arkansas were down, he still didn't even win his division." Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin stated quite a while back that they were hopeful to be able to reach an extension with Mullen; but that extension hasn't been signed yet... When I asked sources familiar with Michigan's search if they would characterize Mullen as a lead candidate, the response was "I don't know that Hackett felt that way last week; but it certainly seems like he considers him a very viable candidate now." Mullen's current salary is approximately $3 million under his current deal; it is unknown what Mississippi State's new offer to Mullen is at this time in the proposed extension. Note that Hugh Freeze just signed an extension bringing his base salary up to $4.3 million for the upcoming season.

Sources in Michigan reminded me several times that these aren't the only candidates that Michigan plans in person visits with this week (I was told earlier in the week they planned to meet with 10+ candidates); but they say Hackett seemed most excited / animated with speaking about Mora and Mullen.

Based on everything I've heard, I don't think you can completely eliminate the possibility that Michigan will wait on an NFL coach; but it appears based on what they have heard back from coaches and their search advisors that Michigan is allotting their time in the coming week on successful college head coaches.

One name that I truly haven't heard from sources in Michigan; but I continue to hear from coaches is Joe Moglia at Coastal Carolina. A number of coaches I have spoken with feel Moglia might just be the perfect coach to invest in Michigan football. What he has done in his short time at Coastal has been awfully impressive. Will be interesting to see if the search firm suggests the same to Hackett.

As always, we'll keep you posted as things become more clear on The Scoop.