"The List"

(Update 4: Until the search ends I'll cross out names that are taken out of contention one way or another.)

(Update 3: The bomb dropped today and this list suddenly became relevant. I've added a few names that Nate Mink mentioned specifically in a tweet this morning that I did not already have listed.)

(Update 2: A few more names added based on new information and good suggestions in the comments.)

(Update 1: I've added a couple more names that I probably should have included in the first place)

Yes, I've gone and done it. With uncertainty and angst swirling about the football team I decided to do my part to answer the question,"If not Shafer, than who?" There is still plenty season left, but the results have been depressing, I don't want to stop talking about football anyway, and I like making lists of things. There is clearly some interest in talking about this stuff, so if nothing else let's take our mind off the bad and nerd out about college football coaching! Before I get to the names of possible replacements I want to get a few things on the record:

  1. I sincerely hope karmic justice is brought down on me for this post. I do not want Shafer fired (yet) and I would love it if the end of the season brought a bowl game and this fanpost being a colossal waste of my time.
  2. When looking at these options I assumed that SU would be willing to pay more for a HC than they are paying Shafer now. If SU ultimately is unwilling to pay at least a bit more for a HC then this list can probably be cut down by 2/3 without a second thought.
  3. I am not remotely an expert on this stuff. This is just me looking at ESPN, other blogs/articles, and my own gut feelings on the matter. If you know for sure that someone I've listed makes no sense at all, say so and I'll edit. My NFL assistant knowledge is weak, so chime in if an obvious candidate isn't here. Same goes for SU alums/connections in the coaching world. I don't even know how to search for that sort of thing.

OK, onto the list of potential replacements should the worst come to pass. I'm trying to be relatively concise, so I'm noting an SU connection if any, Northeast experience, Florida experience, Georgia experience, ACC experience, and head coaching experience. If they are noted for their recruiting prowess I italicized their name (if I could quickly get a sense of that; I'm not well-versed in who is and isn't considered a top recruiter).


  • Randy Edsall: SU alum, Northeast experience, ACC experience, HC experience - Coming out of UConn I was interested, but after his Maryland stint I think I'd pass. Still, he's an SU alum with ACC experience looking for a job.
  • Al Golden: Northeast experience, Florida experience, ACC experience, HC experience - His recruiting and overall experience make him worth the look, but his on-field results at Miami leave plenty to be desired. Maybe his second P5 coaching stop will see him fix that?
  • Bo Pelini, Youngstown State HC: While his departure from Nebraska gives pause to whether his demeanor is worth it, the state of the team now that he's gone only further cements that he's a good coach. He would bring defense and a likely recruiting uptick.
  • Greg Schiano: Northeast experience, Florida experience, NFL experience, HC experience - I've never been a Schiano fan, but he will likely get mentioned. He proved he can recruit New Jersey and, FWIW, had more success at Rutgers than we've seen at SU in about two decades (although OOC schedules may have played more than a small part in that).


  • Justin Fuente, Memphis HC: HC experience - Built a joke of a football team into a potential New Year's Day bowl participant with an outside chance at the College Football Playoff itself. Truthfully we might not even have a shot at him as he's one of the hottest names for the various open coaching jobs.
  • Tom Herman, Houston HC: HC experience - Last year's Ohio State offensive juggernaut that took the NC was credited largely to Herman and he's continued his offensive strength in Houston with a so far undefeated season. Similar to Fuente in that bigger schools than SU will likely come calling. He's also only in his first year and might choose to hold off for another year.
  • Matt Rhule, Temple HC: Northeast experience, HC experience - His time at Temple started out rough, but he's improved every year and has the Owls ranked (even with a loss) and still in New Year's Day bowl conversations. Not quite as hot a name as Fuente and Herman, but still very likely to get some P5 interest this offseason.


  • Dino Babers, Bowling Green HC: Northeast experience, HC experience - He's 34-15 as a HC and 15-8 so far with BG, using a high-powered offense. Spent a little bit of time at Pitt and has a really wide-ranging resume in terms of positions and geography.
  • Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky HC: Florida experience, HC experience - After being Petrino's understudy for awhile, Brohm took over as WKU head coach has guided them to a 15-7 record thus far.
  • Matt Campbell, Toledo HC: HC experience - He's 33-14 as Toledo's HC including 7 wins already this year. Toledo's offense is pretty undeniable, but Campbell's coaching experience is confined to Ohio; would Coyle hire someone without varied regional experience?
  • Chad Morris, SMU HC: ACC experience - The former Clemson offensive coordinator has a bad SMU team competitive if not successful in his first year as head coach. His work while at Clemson merits a look by itself.
  • P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan HC: Northeast experience, NFL experience, HC experience - Took a bad WMU team from 1-11 to 8-5 to 6-3 so far this year. He's had the highest-rated MAC recruiting class every year he's coached WMU.
  • Eddie Gran, Cincinnati OC: Florida experience - Considered one of the best South Florida area recruiters for quite some time. His offenses typically boast strong running games and he has a knack for coaching special teams as well. He's been Tuberville's right-hand man for a good while, but it might be time to become a HC himself.
  • Bryan Harsin, Boise State HC: HC experience - At 26-9 overall as a head coach and 19-4 at Boise State, he obviously knows how to win. And with Coyle as our AD, I have to think Harsin gets at least a phone call to gauge interest in coaching at a P5 school.
  • Doc Holliday, Marshall HC: Northeast experience, Florida experience, ACC experience, HC experience - After three years of approximately .500 play (in and out of conference), Holliday has Marshall losing only two games in conference in the following two years plus the current season. His offenses produce and his recruiting is strong. Also, his name is Doc Holliday! Come on!
  • Pete Lembo, Ball State HC: Northeast experience (NY specifically), HC experience - Strong performances at two lower school head coaching jobs landed him the Ball State job. While his record at Ball state isn't as sparkling as some other G5 coaches, Ball State's history should be considered. He was the first HC there to ever win 30 game in their first 4 seasons and he took them to back-to-back bowls for only the second time ever.
  • Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State HC: Florida experience, ACC region experience, HC experience - He has successfully shepherded App State from an FCS to an FBS team with a winning season in their first FBS year and a 7-2 record thus far this year. His spread offenses routinely put up numbers across that rank well across the board.
  • Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati HC: Florida experience, ACC region experience, HC experience - It feels like he's been around forever, but his 153-88 W-L record as a HC points to the fact that he just wins. His Cincinnati teams have been good and if the college football playoff had existed in 2004 he may well have a national championship to his name. Does he want to jump back into the P5 fray?
  • Matt Wellls, Utah State HC: ACC region experience, HC experience - While he probably is likely to stay out west, his impressive resume with Utah St is worth kicking the tires. For a coach that came in with offensive pedigree, he's shown a strong commitment to defense with the Aggies fielding a Top 15 scoring defense in back-to-back seasons to go along with a Top 30 total defense in back-to-back seasons.


  • Don Brown, Boston College DC: Northeast experience, ACC experience, HC experience - Brown's defenses at BC are consistently strong and this year in particular they are beastly. While none of his head coaching experience is high level, he was 95-45 overall; nothing to scoff at.
  • Mario Cristobal, Alabama OL coach: Northeast experience, Florida experience, ACC region experience, HC experience - His time at FIU as head coach did not end well, but many criticized his firing when it happened. Since then he has ACC and SEC experience and his recruiting skills are still lauded. His name popped up when Marrone left and I expect it will again if Shafer is gone.
  • Bud Foster, Virginia Tech DC: ACC experience - Long time defensive coordinator under Frank Beamer who likely won't get the VT job as it seems the program wants to move on altogether now that they can. His defenses are consistently among the best in the nation in a number of categories. It's probably now or never for him in terms of starting a head coaching career.
  • Lane Kiffin, Alabama OC: HC experience, ACC region experience, NFL experience - I don't want this, for the record, but his name is going to come up. It always does. Let's hope it quickly disappears after it comes up if we have a coaching search on our hands.
  • Doug Meacham, TCU co-OC: Florida experience - The more tenured of the two TCU OC's, Meacham has brought high-powered offense to TCU after doing the same at Houston. His name seems to be out there as an under-the-radar guy to make the leap to head coach somewhere.
  • Ed Orgeron, LSU DL coach: SU connection, Northeast experience, Florida experience, ACC region experience, NFL experience, HC experience - While his Ole Miss stint was utterly forgettable, his interim head coach stint several years later at USC led many to call for him to keep the job that ultimately went to Sarkesian. It seems he learned some lessons about being a head coach in between the two stints and he's always been successful with defenses. Plus a jolly Cajun guy talking to the CNY media would be too much fun.
  • Kirby Smart, Alabama DC: Florida experience, Georgia experience, ACC experience, NFL experience - Smart is probably destined for a job superior to SU's, but he should be looked at nonetheless. To say his defenses at Alabama have been successful is an understatement and he has experience in some of the talent-rich areas SU needs to stay on top of.
  • Brent Venables, Clemson DC: ACC experience - It's hard to argue with the success of his defenses and the quality of recruits on that defense. He's another coordinator that's starting to heat up as a potential HC.
  • Dave Warner, Michigan State OC: SU alum, NE experience - The success of Warner's offense at MSU are hard to deny, but they are typically very "Big Ten". Will that offense be ideal in the ACC and in a dome? Working in his favor is his resume pre-MSU where he already had successful stops at multiple schools and can boast diverse regional experience.


These guys might not have fully proven they deserve a P5 head coaching job, but the potential might make them worth the risk for a school like SU.

  • Lance Anderson, Stanford DC: Northeast experience, Florida recruiting - Anderson's work with the Stanford defense the past two seasons is fairly impeccable, but his reputation as a recruiter to go along with that coaching is what makes him stand out. While California will always be tops at Stanford, Anderson has made big inroads into the Florida/Georgia region; a region where SU needs to be present.
  • Major Applewhite: SU connection - Aside from his stop in Syracuse with He Who Shall Not Be Named, Applewhite has spent all of his time in Texas. Still, he has a good deal of coaching experience now and a connection to SU. More likely is that he fills a G5 head-coaching spot in the Southwest, but again, he may be in the mix for open HC spots in general and that's enough to get a spot on this list.
  • Chris Ash, Ohio State co-DC: There is a Mark Coyle connection here through their playing days at Drake. Ash was on staff for OSU's NC last year and turned the secondary into a competitive enough unit so as not to be a liability. While OSU's defenses during his tenure have been decent, they haven't been dominant. Coaching experience is largely Mid-Western and seems to be a strong recruiter.
  • Kendal Briles, Baylor OC: Apparently he's made his interest in the North Texas job known and I've seen ISU blogs mention his name. Obviously the offense at Baylor is a force to be reckoned with but how much of it is really him versus his dad? And with all his coaching experience confined to Baylor he's probably more likely for Texas or Big 12 job. Still, maybe he takes up a spot that would compete with SU otherwise?
  • Sonny Cumbie, TCU co-OC: Learning the ins-and-outs of the Air Raid offense under both Leach and Kingsbury seems to have paid dividends as Cumbie's co-OC stint has proven very effective for TCU so far. His next job should probably be full OC for a couple years at least, but maybe someone like SU decides to take a chance on his offensive coaching potential now ala Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury.
  • Tony Elliott, Clemson co-OC: ACC experience - Running backs have had some very good success during his time at Clemson and as OC this year Clemson has not only not lost a step, they have leaped forward in terms of production. But the biggest reason to consider Elliott might be his recruiting. He's considered one of the best in the ACC and the nation.
  • Scott Frost, Oregon OC: In his playing career he learned football under Tom Osborne, Bill Parcels, and Bill Belichick; good coaches all if you hadn't heard. As a coach he cut his teeth in the Midwest then joined Chip Kelly's staff in Oregon. After Kelly left he became the OC and the Ducks really haven't missed a beat on offense. He's probably more in line for a Pac-12 or Midwest job when his time comes, but he's yet another name in a big mix.
  • Mike Norvell, Arizona State OC: Northeast experience, ACC region experience - Norvell has moved around college football with Todd Graham, overseeing successful receivers and offenses along the way. He got a big pay raise over the summer, so ASU is serious about Norvell. He's young, but his name seems to popping up more and more in head coaching job discussion.
  • Jeremy Pruitt, Georgia DC: Florida experience, ACC experience - Apparently Pruitt is the cause of quite a bit of friction in UGA-land right now as he came with new-fangled ideas from his Bama days and tried to implement them to the dismay of the old-guard. Despite that, his half of the football team is the half generally holding up their end of the bargain during a rough year for Georgia. If he finds himself without a DC position soon, perhaps he's worth HC consideration. His pedigree is probably worth a phone call alone.
  • Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma OC: ACC region experience - Another young coordinator seemingly making a beeline straight for a head coaching job. As of this writing it seems he has interviewed for head coaching job at North Texas, in fact. He spent time at Texas Tech, brought those offensive principles to East Carolina and parlayed success there into the offensive coordinator job at Oklahoma. Oklahoma, except for the misstep against Texas, is firing on all cylinders this season.
  • Mike Sanford Jr, Notre Dame OC: After his offensive coordinator stint at Boise State set him up to pick his job as a P5 coordinator, Sanford Jr landed at Notre Dame this past offseason. Given what Notre Dame has done on offense I think it's safe to say it's been a success. Oh, and he's the QB coach too and ND's QB play is markedly improved this season. His time at Boise lines up with Coyle's time there, so young as he is I would be surprised if he wasn't a candidate.
  • Jeff Scott, Clemson co-OC: ACC experience - Like his other offensive coordinator half, Scott is known for his recruiting. He has spent basically all of his coaching career at Clemson, so while that bodes well in terms of ACC experience, it's not a diverse resume. He also coaches wide receivers at Clemson and it's safe to say he's been pretty successful in that role.
  • Justin Wilcox, USC DC: While USC's defense has come under fire this year for underperforming, but over his career Wilcox has proven a fast-riser as defensive coach and there is a Boise State connection here to keep in mind.
  • Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State OC: Northeast experience - Based on Oklahoma State's slow (but still winning) start to the season, there was some heat under Yurcich's seat as far as some OSU fans were concerned. But the former Shippensburg offensive coordinator has the offense clicking now and he might be a great under-the-radar choice to bring the Air Raid offense inside the Carrier Dome if offense is what Coyle decides to look for in a head coach.


These are all long shots in that they will not leave their current jobs for SU unless there is something at play besides simply a new job offer.

  • Sonny Dykes, California HC: Dykes cut his teeth in the Texas Tech offense under Leach, took it with him on a successful time as the Louisiana Tech head coach and turned that into the head job at Cal. His first year was a rough 1-11, but he improved to 5-7 last year and is now 5-3 this year. Apparently Dykes and the AD at Cal do not see eye-to-eye. If Cal does not extend his contract, he may walk after this season. If that's the case and SU is looking for a coach, there is no reason not to put him on the short-list.
  • Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech HC: There is little chance KK isn't at Tech next year, but there is some minor rumbling in some corners of the internet for him to go if Tech doesn't clean up the rest of the season. In the unlikely event that happens, might as well call him up.
  • Les Miles, LSU HC: NFL experience: Why is he here? Well apparently there may be tension between him and the AD at LSU and that tension means that winning out the rest of this season is paramount to him staying on as head coach. His style is far from flashy, but he brings tough defense and a strong commitment to running the football, two things Syracuse has been and should be known for. SU is almost certainly not an option for him, but if he's bought out he's yet another option for whoever has an opening (I could see him going to Missouri, personally).
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State HC: SU connection, Northeast experience, Florida experience - If Mullen leaves Miss State it's probably for somewhere like Georgia, USC, or Miami; however, perhaps MSU doesn't end the season well and the biggest boys don't come calling. Would Mullen leave an SEC job with a low-ceiling for an ACC job with a slightly higher ceiling (and an admittedly lower floor) at a place where he once served as a grad assistant? Consider: for Mullen to make the playoffs at MSU he needs to go through LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, and A&M at least once. And in years when Arkansas, Missouri and Auburn don't suck that is an absolute monster of a schedule. It's possible that last season is as good as possible at MSU. At SU he would have FSU and Clemson plus whatever stupid hard OOC game we've scheduled, but the rest of the schedule wouldn't be nearly as daunting. One great season here and he's in the playoffs most likely. After that, he's probably off to a much bigger and better job because I don't see him sticking it out at SU because we won't be able to pay up, but still. (This all supposes that SU really ups their salary offerings, btw, so....)
  • Mark Richt. Georgia HC: ACC experience - The tea-leaves seem to indicate Richt is not long for UGA. He's undeniably had success there, but it's always been just one step below the success that everyone in Athens wants and expects. He has coaching experience in the Carolinas and at Florida State. Might he return to the ACC? He'll probably be more sought after than SU can handle, but I'd love to see us try.
  • Rich Rodriguez, Arizona HC: Northeast experience, ACC experience - Arizona is doing just fine right now, but there are rumors all over the place that Rich Rod is considered some of the job openings in college football right now. SU probably can't afford him or attract him, but I've always thought he was a worthy coach and his offense would be a lot of fun inside the Carrier Dome. If he has the desire to come back east, maybe Coyle makes a play for him.
  • Charlie Strong, Texas HC: Florida experience, ACC region experience - If Charlie Strong gets fired it would be stupid of Texas. But it might happen and if it does, I would like to see SU pursue him. UT is a messy job and might come with more baggage than Michigan in terms of schmoozing and politicking. I'm not at all convinced that Strong isn't still a very good coach.


  • Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina HC: NE experience, ACC region experience - A northeastern guy with plenty of success at the FCS level. At 66 years old it's probably now or never for a jump into FBS football. With very little FBS experience, a P5 AD would need to have all the ducks in a row to make the sell, but at least the on-field results speak for themselves.
  • Joe Moorhead, Fordham HC: NE experience - Before taking over Fordham Moorhead coached at Akron and UConn, so at least he has FBS experience to point to. His on-field success since taking over at Fordham is hard to deny, taking them from a one-win team to consistent playoff contenders within two years.


  • Hue Jackson, Bengals OC: The Bengals offense under Jackson has flourished and Andy Dalton (playoffs aside) has looked way better than anyone expected. Jackson spent a lot of time in college before he started moving through the NFL ranks, so it's entirely possible he'd go back to college for his first crack at a head coaching gig. He'd probably only stay at any college job long enough to get an enticing NFL head coaching job, but we need to get over that as being a bad thing.
  • Doug Marrone, Jaguars OL coach: I don't need to tell you about him, but it's not completely out of the realm of possibility. If he left things sour with Cantor and Gross, well....they are both gone. He's still an alum, he stilled put the best teams on the field we've had since Coach P could still coach and he probably needs to audition for another NFL head coaching job. At least we would know the deal going in this time.
  • Bill O'Brien, Texans HC: It's entirely possible that Bob McNair cleans house after the season and if he does, would BOB get NFL head coaching offers? He did a fine job in a tough spot at Penn State, knows the region and could sell a lot of NFL experience to recruits.
  • Matt Patricia, Patriots DC: SU connection, Northeast experience - With few heralded players Patricia has guided the Patriots defense to solid results and been part of two Super Bowl winning teams (as well as two other Super Bowl appearances and an 18-1 season). He was a grad assistant at SU for several years and may well take a college head coaching job if the right one is offered.


  • Jim Tressel, Youngstown State President: Look, this is crazy because he would have to sit out the first 5 games of next season and could not coach in a bowl should the team make it. But what if he still has "it"? He was a really good coach and would certainly make waves if hired. Dealing with the show cause might be worth it just to get his staff on board and recruiting under way. He's said he's retired from coaching, but Michael Caine "retired" from acting for about two years in the 2000's and we see how permanent that was. I'll believe Tressel when he hasn't taken a coaching job for 10 more years. This totally isn't happening, but I think there is a better than 0% chance it could if SU makes a change this year.


  • Chip Kelly, Eagles HC: There is, however, 0% chance this happens. Kelly isn't going back to college unless he's fired or at the very least stripped of all personnel duties. He has complete power in Philly and won't give that up to go back to dealing with recruiting and boosters (neither of which he likes). And furthermore, if Kelly does decide to go back to college coaching in 2016, unlike Tressel, his show cause from the Oregon punishments is done. There is no penalty for hiring Kelly, so SU will be out of the running before it ever begins.

So there you have it. My lightly researched, yet pretty exhaustive list. Sound off!