The late Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world [of Texas Longhorn football].” He could not have been more right. With the University of Texas about to undergo more change in the next month than the last 15 years combined–a major program (football, baseball, or basketball) hasn’t hired a coach since 1997–the pressure is on Athletic Director Steve Patterson and President Bill Powers to make a well-informed decision in order to get the premier college football program back to where it should be. To assist them with their task, I’ve gone through the trouble of making them a study guide to use (ranked in order of my preference):

Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers): Harbaugh is the consensus #1 choice and for good reason. Harbaugh has always succeeded no matter where he’s coaching. He made Stanford a national power in just three years and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in his first year of NFL coaching. He’d almost certainly change Texas’ reputation of being soft. There’s a chance that, like me, Harbaugh would leave California for the 40 Acres. Harbaugh turned down a contract extension with San Francisco this offseason and is known to have beef with the front office. Plus, Texas could offer him double what he is making in San Francisco ($4.5M). Likelihood: 5%

Jim Harbaugh's intensity is really lacking in Texas' locker room (AP Photo/Gene Puskar)
Jim Harbaugh’s intensity is really lacking in Texas’ locker room (AP Photo/Gene Puskar)

Jon Gruden (ESPN, formerly Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders): Gruden would be a perfect choice for Texas. He has the coaching experience, and he’d be so entertainng on the Longhorn Network that every TV provider in the country would have to pick up LHN. Recruiting would be unrivaled in college football history, because, after all, who wouldn’t want to play for Jon Gruden? He’s  the splashy hire that Texas boosters want, and he’s the only coach under consideration that doesn’t currently have a coaching gig. There’s a report that he’s interested in the job, the only question is: will he get the opportunity? Likelihood: 5%

Jon Gruden is a Super Bowl winning coach. Nobody else on this list can say that. (Credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC)
Jon Gruden is a Super Bowl winning coach. Nobody else on this list can say that. (Credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC)

Gus Malzahn (Auburn): Malzahn and Auburn’s meteoric rise to the National Championship would seemingly make him a leading candidate for the Longhorn job. His offense is always one of the highest ranking in the country no matter where he is coaching, including a high school coaching gig in Arkansas where Malzahn led Shiloh Christian (AR) to back-to-back state championships in 1998 and 1999, in large part due to a national record 66 TD passes. He took Arkansas State to a conference title in his only year of coaching there and has gotten Auburn to a national championship one year after a 2-10 season. How do you argue with those results? My only complaint would be that Malzahn has four qualities of a head coach I can’t stand: creepy glasses, a sweater vest, a turtle neck, and a visor. I can get over all of that if he takes UT to the national championship.  Likelihood: 15%

Sweater vest, turtle neck creepy glasses, AND a visor? (Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Sweater vest, turtle neck creepy glasses, AND a visor? (Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

Chip Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles): Kelly rumors have started to pick up a bit in recent days, and he would definitely be an A+ choice. His offense is the basis for nearly every high school in Texas, and he is a household name. Put the two together and recruiting would be off the charts. Like Harbaugh, Kelly has succeeded everywhere he’s been and would change the culture at Texas just like he did with the Eagles. My only concern is that his Oregon team was sanctioned for recruiting violations that occurred under his leadership. They weren’t major violations, but violations nonetheless. I don’t see Kelly leaving the NFL after only one year, but a kid can dream, right? Likelihood: 1%

Would he really leave the NFL a year after leaving college to prove that he could coach in the NFL?
Would he really leave the NFL a year after leaving college to prove that he could coach in the NFL?

Jimbo Fisher (Florida State): After taking over for Bobby Bowden in 2010, Fisher has recruited like a mad-man, and he’s finally reaping in the rewards. Florida State is the only undefeated team left in the country, and Jimbo could certainly do the same at Texas. Fisher just agreed to an extension with Florida State, so getting him to Austin might be a little difficult. Who wouldn’t listen to a call from Texas, though? Likelihood: 8%

Doesn't Jimbo just sound like the name of a Longhorn coach? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Doesn’t Jimbo just sound like the name of a Longhorn coach? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Urban Meyer (Ohio State): Based solely on big name-edness and wins, Meyer seems like the obvious choice. Look closer though, and there start to be some flaws. Let’s examine Florida, where players have said publicly that they feel that Meyer gave big-name players more leeway in breaking team rules than he gave second teamers. Former Gators were ecstatic on Twitter when Meyer’s Buckeyes lost to Michigan State in the Big 10 title game. As someone who loves seeing former players stick around with our program and is proud of our program’s tradition of integrity, I couldn’t trust Urban Meyer with keeping that integrity intact. Unless he brought Tebow in as an assistant coach. All would be forgiven if Tebow was on our coaching staff. Likelihood: 3%

He's a heck of a coach, but is does he run a tight enough ship for Texas? (Jeremy Branham)
He’s a heck of a coach, but is does he run a tight enough ship for Texas? (Jeremy Branham)

James Franklin (Vanderibilt): Franklin is definitely Texas’ riskiest candidate. Until last year, Vandy’s last nine-win season was in 1915. Vanderbilt’s football team went 2-10 the year before Franklin was hired, and in Franklin’s first season (2011) the Commodores were 6-7. In 2012, they went 9-4, in addition to a bowl win over North Carolina State. This year, Franklin’s team could have a second consecutive 9-4 win season with a BBVA Compass Bowl. win The resume is impressive, but that’s all there is to it. Before 2011, the 41 year old had never been a head coach, only bouncing around as an assistant for the likes of the Green Bay Packers, Kansas State Wildcats, and the Maryland Terrapins. He wouldn’t be a huge name for the Longhorns, but the success at lowly Vanderbilt makes you wonder what he could do with more resources. Experience is a huge concern, but the potential to join the ranks of Mack Brown and Darrel K. Royal in Texas coaching elite is hard to ignore. Likelihood: 15%

Beware: James Franklin might bite. (
Beware: James Franklin might bite. (

Jim Mora Jr. (UCLA): Mora’s turnaround of UCLA has really been something to watch, as he turned a 6-8 Bruin team to a 9-5 finish last year. He has recruited well and has NFL experience, but UCLA hasn’t been able to pull off any notable wins. Most fans wouldn’t like the hire, because UCLA is not a national powerhouse, but the speed with which he changed the culture in Los Angeles makes me wonder if he isn’t exactly what Texas needs. Likelihood 10%

If Mora can turn around UT's culture as fast as he did with UCLA, then he would be a fantastic choice.
If Mora can turn around UT’s culture as fast as he did with UCLA, then he would be a fantastic choice.

David Shaw (Stanford): If I was putting money on it, I’d bet that David Shaw would be coaching the Longhorns next season. UT administrators are known to have “Stanford envy,” so hiring Stanford’s coach makes sense in that regard. He wins, has a 93% graduation rate, and his teams are very physical, a trait Texas desperatly needs. While there’s a very likely chance it happens, it would be a terrible hire. He didn’t build Stanford to where it is today, he just maintained what Jim Harbaugh built, and he hasn’t done much with it. Shaw’s team beat Oregon the last two years, but they can never seal the deal with an undefeated season. His ground and pound offense would never work at Texas since Texas high schools all run the spread. Shaw would consistently deliver 9-3 and 10-2 seasons with losses against Oklahoma State and Baylor. At Texas, that gets you fired.  Likelihood: 30%

Shaw's ground and pound game would be a recruiting disaster. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Shaw’s ground and pound game would be a recruiting disaster. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Art Briles (Baylor): Briles is Texas football personified. He quarterbacked his Texas high school to a state championship, and then played wide receiver at the University of Houston in the Cotton Bowl. He coached Texas high school for years before taking Texas Tech’s running backs’ coaching gig. In 2003, he became Houston’s head coach and was hired by Baylor in 2007. Baylor’s offense has been one of the country’s best since Briles’ arrival, and the next stop in real-life Eric Taylor’s career would seem to be Austin. Hopefully only as an offensive coordinator and not as a head coach, though. Briles’ teams always have weak defenses, and maybe it’s just the arrogant Texas fan in me, but the Horns can do better than hiring a coach from Baylor who can only coach one side of the ball. Likelihood: 8%               

Briles would make an exceptional offensive coordinator but not a head coach. (Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE)
Briles would make an exceptional offensive coordinator but not a head coach. (Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE)

Les Miles (LSU): Miles’ name has only come up recently, but I highly doubt Texas would hire him considering the recent Sports Illustrated article detailing the recruiting violations committed by Miles when he was at Oklahoma State. Likelihood: 2%

Les Miles eats grass. He cannot be the head coach of the University of Texas' football team.
Les Miles eats grass. He cannot be the head coach of the University of Texas’ football team.

Charlie Strong (Louisville): Strong is Vegas’ favorite to coach the Horns next year, which by all accounts would be an absolute disaster. Louisville went 7-6 in his first 2 years, and 11-2 last season. The turn around from 2011 to 2012 seems like an impressive feat of coaching if only looking at the win totals. But look at the QB play. In 2011 Strong played Teddy Bridgewater as a true freshman, and Bridgewater struggled mightily, thus the 7-6 record. Mack Brown won 9 games with Case McCoy. A Texas-worthy coach should be able to win at least 9 games without an elite QB, and Strong couldn’t do it with one of the country’s most highly touted recruits.  When Bridgewater passed for 3,700 yards in his sophomore season, Louisville finished 11-2. Louisville plays the equivalent of Boise State’s schedule participating in the American Athletic Conference. If a coach can’t run the table against a bunch of nobodies, they don’t deserve the best head-coaching gig in the country. Odds: 10%

Charlie Strong owes his success to Teddy Bridgewater (5), not his coaching abilities.
Charlie Strong owes his success to Teddy Bridgewater (5), not his coaching abilities.

Unfortunately, the choice for Texas’ is not in my hands. It’s up to Steve Patterson, and let’s all pray that he follows Mandela’s advice to be as educated as possible. I hope he not only interviews the candidate, but watches their team’s game film and talks to former players and assistant coaches too. There’s no need to rush the search; it’s the most important hire the state of Texas has seen in a long time. Steve Patterson better do his homework.

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