Since it is college football’s off-season, and I’m a college football degenerate, get ready for some speculative stories. Today, here’s the five mid-major coaches who I think will be trading up to bigger and better jobs in the coming years.
- Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State: Granted, Malzah has not coached a game yet at Arkansas State, put his pedigree at Arkansas, Tulsa, and most recently Auburn will get him the dream job sooner rather than later. Malzahn runs the kind of offense that dazzles recruits, wins games, and most importantly to a university administration, sells tickets. He could get the next good job in the SEC.
- Steve Addazio, Temple: Earlier this year, I watched a video interview with Addazio on a Philadelphia news outlet’s website, and was blown away by his presence and ability to sell his program, when asked if Temple should be allowed into the Big East. Addazio has the perfect resume: assistant at a two major programs (Notre Dame and Florida), work and filled in for a top 10 head coach (Urban Meyer), and crushed a recruiting rival from a BCS conference on the road (Maryland). If Addazio goes into State College and beats Penn State next year, Nittany Lion fans may want him to replace Bill O’Brien someday, if he’s still available.
- Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois: the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator stepped in for Jerry Kill and didn’t miss a beat with the Huskies, guiding them to the MAC title in his first year. Kill, Todd Beckman, and Buth Jones all traded up from the MAC to better jobs after three years; it may take less time for Addazio and Doeren to do so, especially if Bill Synder heads back to retirement. (Doeren is a native of the Kansas City area).
- Mario Cristobal, Florida International: while it certainly helps that Cristobal is Cuban American and major colleges are eager to hire minorities, it’s more than his ethnicity that had Pitt calling him. This year, Cristobal nearly doubled attendance from two years prior for the fledgling FIU program, not an easy feat in event driven Miami. Even though his overall record is sub-.500, Cristobal beat Louisville this year and won the Sun Belt last year. Every school in the east needs to recruit Florida.
5. Dave Christensen, Wyoming: While arguably his biggest achievement in coaching was turning around Missouri’s offense to a spread in 2005, he’s done an even better job to turn around one of the country’s most remote programs in Laramie. While his second year was a disaster when he lost his quarterback, Christensen won eight games this year with a freshmen quarterback, and like Malzahn, his offense will make him a popular hire.