Oddsmakers have voiced their opinion, and several intriguing candidates from around the country have emerged for the Texas Longhorns job.
Last week, Mack Brown stepped down from the post he held for 14 seasons, and Alabama and Nick Saban agreed to a hefty contract extension worth $7 million a year.
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, who has only been on the job for a little more than a month after leaving Arizona State and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, has a hefty war chest and powerful boosters behind him. But it might not be so easy to pry top coaches from their respective programs.
According to Bovada.lv, Louisville’s Charlie Strong is the heavy favorite (2/1) for the opening, followed by Vanderbilt’s James Franklin (4/1), and Baylor’s Art Briles (9/2).
The two coaches with the worst odds are San Francisco 49er coach Jim Harbaugh and the Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin, each coming in at 25/1. And once again, Chip Kelly is linked to a move at 14/1, but his first-year success with the Philadelphia Eagles should keep him in the NFL.
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Strong has reportedly denied any interest, but his future with the Cardinals could be linked to junior and NFL quarterback prospect Teddy Bridgewater. Starting the season as a Heisman favorite, Bridgewater was seen as a lock for a top five selection in next spring’s NFL draft, but he has yet to make a decision on his status.
After making his name as Florida’s defensive mastermind, Strong quickly turned Louisville around with two conference championships, and nearly earned a second straight BCS bowl berth. Originally from Arkansas, Strong also worked heavily with other SEC schools like Ole Miss and South Carolina, as well as Notre Dame, stints that put him at the forefront of some of the best recruiters in the nation.
Briles best qualities include his offensive game planning and lifelong affiliation with all things Texas football. An all-state high school quarterback, the 58-year-old played his college ball as a receiver for Houston and subsequently coached the Cougars for five years and four bowl game appearances.
In the last three years the Bears have accumulated 25 wins under Briles, the most ever for the school in a three-year span, and in back-to-back seasons they’ve posted the best total offense in the country.
Baylor wrapped Briles up with a contract extension in November that will hopefully keep him in green and gold until 2023. The deal will reportedly pay Briles $4 million next season.
Then there’s Franklin, who was a career assistant before Vandy tabbed him in 2011. Since then he’s totaled a 23-15 record with three bowl appearances. He was tied to the previously vacant USC job earlier this season, and on Monday deflected a question about Texas posed by the Huntsville Times.
"Really excited about the program-development period we are in right now and working with these young guys," Franklin said. "Really excited about playing Houston. We've watched them on film. We think they're really talented. I think it is going to be a challenge for us.
"That's what our focus is. Any of those other things, we don't talk about. They are outside of our control or focus or concern."