PASADENA, Calif. — A Texas-sized cloud of uncertainty looms over college football’s biggest game of the season.
As No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn prepare in Southern California to meet Monday in the last BCS championship game, the University of Texas is still looking for a new football coach. And until the Longhorns make a hire, just about every successful coach can be considered a candidate — including Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.
“I’ve been amazed about how quiet this thing has been,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said earlier this week. “Because of that it leads me to speculate and believe that somebody still involved in coaching, whether it’s the NFL or college, must be one of their primary candidates.”
“I think the longer this goes on I think it’s very, very clear that it’s somebody who’s still coaching. Who that might be, I have no idea.”
Some leaks have sprung in the last couple of days, and it appears front-runners are emerging.
Published reports out of Texas stated the Longhorns were interested in Fisher, Baylor’s Art Briles, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Louisville’s Charlie Strong. Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio has also been mentioned as a coach Texas athletic director Steve Patterson is looking at. Patterson said he wants the search complete by Jan. 15.
“Texas, they’re going to be calling on everybody they possibly can because they’re going to try to get the best coach they possibly can,” Florida State AD Stan Wilcox said. “Meanwhile, everybody’s trying to keep their coaches because they all feel that the people that Texas is looking at are the best coaches out there.”
Florida State hopes it has put all the speculation about Fisher’s future to rest. The fourth-year head coach and Nick Saban disciple finally got around on Tuesday to signing a new contract that runs through the 2018 season and pays him about $4.1 million annually.
Auburn agreed to a new deal with Malzahn the day before the Southeastern Conference championship game last month. The six-year contract is worth $3.85 million annually to the first-year Tigers coach.
Briles got a 10-year deal in November from Baylor. Michigan State is working on a new deal for Dantonio that could double his $1.9 million salary.
The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesmen reported Patterson has met with Strong and that Briles, now that Baylor’s season ended Tuesday night with a 52-42 loss to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl, could be next to interview.
And, of course, Saban, the object of so many Longhorns desires, agreed to a new multiyear deal with Alabama that will pay him $7 million a year after months of stories and speculation connecting the four-time national championship winning coach and Texas.
“A contract is written to be broken,” said Kansas State athletic director John Currie, who doesn’t have to worry about his football coach, 74-year-old Bill Snyder, going anywhere.
The trend in college sports, especially college football, is for schools to quickly lock up successful coaches and hand out raises.