Candidates Looking for College Football Coaching: What We’re Hearing in Auburn, Nebraska, Arizona State and Beyond

Sunday has all the indications that it is free coaching for all. There are currently eight vacancies, the first of which has been filled by Charlotte, who has hired Michigan assistant Biff Poggi, but more changes are afoot.

Although pink slips have been limited in recent weeks, teams looking to make changes will likely wait until the end of the regular season. That means there’s likely a handful of layoffs coming this Sunday — and some programs might even be willing to make hires after their top nominees head into the postseason.

Our latest hot seat ranking update Earlier this month, many of the jobs that may still open in this cycle were covered. So it’s time to take one last look at some of these programs before wondering who might fill the positions that are already vacant.

Possible future openings

  • West Virginia: In Year 4, Neal Brown is heading for his worst season with the Mountaineers – 4-8 when they lose to Oklahoma State. Is the administration even waiting to hire a new sports director?
  • Marine: After 16 seasons, it will apparently be Ken Niumatalolo. The Midshipmen have not had a successful campaign since 2019.
  • New Mexico: Danny Gonzales is in the midst of his worst season with the Lobos (2-9, 7-23 overall).
  • State of Texas: Jake Spavital, Johnny Manziel’s former offensive coordinator, is 13-34 in fourth grade.
  • Texas A&M: No, not Jimbo Fisher. But he will most likely be persuaded to hire an offensive coordinator with play-calling.

Last year there were a record-breaking 31 job changes. It won’t be anywhere near like this carousel. Maybe ADs are becoming more patient. Maybe there aren’t that many vacancies. At the start of this season, there have been 72 job changes over the past three years.

what we hear


Lane Kiffin is paid by either Auburn as a No. 1 target or by Ole Miss on a retention play. Kiffin has won 18 games and counts in two seasons, two shy of the school record (20). Given his agent (Jimmy Sexton) and the current market, Kiffin might as well be looking for a total package in the high eight figures over 10 seasons. At $7.25 million a year, he is the 11th highest paid coach. Sexton will pit Ole Miss and Auburn against each other to ensure Kiffin gets paid, and reports that Kiffin has already been shot down only help with that.

That’s similar to 2017, when Gus Malzahn received the exact same offer from Auburn and Arkansas (six years, $42 million). He chose Auburn and lasted four more seasons. If Kiffin joins the Tigers, he should make it a condition of his employment that the invaders don’t interfere. Why is it a better job than Ole Miss? No matter what, Auburn seems to be battling for a national championship about every five years. That could be the deciding factor. As always, Kiffin is incredibly confident. “Maybe after you’ve seen the first one [half of a 15-point loss to Arkansas]I wouldn’t be number 1 anymore,” he told reporters on Saturday night.

If Kiffin stays, Hugh Freeze will get a long look from Liberty.


Did Matt Rhule turn down the Cornhuskers this weekend? That was the word from multiple sources. Rhule had been the No. 1 candidate to replace Scott Frost. If Rhule did in fact disregard his name, that’s not necessarily a statement of the quality of the work. It’s still a huge blow to anyone taking Nebraska, but for Rhule it could be another indicator he intends to sit out 2023 to rest and retire. Rhule has come to a point in his career where he can choose his jobs and not have to settle down. His first two college jobs were at the bottom of the catwalk, bottom spots (Temple, Baylor), but he made a name for himself with the worst success stories.

If Rhule is no longer available, will Nebraska turn its attention to Kansas’ Lance Leipold? The 58-year-old coach has deep Nebraska roots as a former Nebraska-Omaha analyst and an assistant to Frank Solich with the Huskers. But has the shine faded? The Jayhawks started 5-0 and were ranked but will finish 6-6 if they lose to Kansas State this week. Another name to watch in Nebraska: Washington first-year coach Kalen DeBoer.


According to a report Saturday night, interim coach Jim Leonhard is in line to get the permanent appearance. Leonhard had been the Badgers’ defensive coordinator since 2017 before stepping into the big chair. He is extremely popular with Wisconsin believers and has long been awaited as an eventual head coaching candidate for the Badgers. Wisconsin is 4-2 since replacing Paul Chryst on Oct. 2.

State of Arizona

Watch Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham for a good look. ASU could become one of the best new hires of the cycle. The talented Dillingham seems to be the leader in the clubhouse but you never know with a government that got rid of Herm Edwards and then kept the AD that hired him (Ray Anderson). Dillingham, 32, is a tried and tested asset despite his relative youth. His quarterback Bo Nix could get a Heisman Trophy invite. Dillingham would be given every resource possible to reverse the Sun Devils. Why can’t ASU compete for a playoff spot every year in the new Pac-12 (excluding USC and UCLA)?

Los Angeles Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown is said to be interested. Jackson State’s Deion Sanders has already retired his name and said he would never go “West.”

georgia tech

Interim coach Brent Key may have made a big move after upsetting North Carolina. GT can even come to a bowl game. That would mean beating Georgia this week. If not, keep an eye out for Bulldogs running backs coach Del McGee, Tulane coach Willie Fritz, and former Houston/Texas A&M/Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin. Sanders also needs to be considered given the Atlanta connection.


Northwest defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is largely considered a favorite. Walters served as a safety for the Buffaloes from 2004 to 2008. If somehow he doesn’t get the job, there’s a long line of worthy contenders. The late Auburn coach Bryan Harsin is interested, as is former Texas coach Tom Herman, former Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall and Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor. Texas analyst and former TCU coach Gary Patterson is also interested in getting back somewhere.

South Florida

AD Mike Kelly is said to be open to a number of different directions he could take in the wake of the Jeff Scott disaster. Don’t be surprised if the name of at least one NFL assistant comes up. Here’s a suggestion: Three years after leaving Missouri, Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom is ready to be head coach again. Sanders is another name that might be of interest here as Kelly casts a wide net.


Former coach Bill Clark healed well from behind, prompting him to resign ahead of the season. However, don’t expect him to return to the program he created from scratch. We hear former Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente, or veterans like Sumlin, Brown (if West Virginia moves), Skip Holtz and Larry Fedora.