Dooley: In search of … Gators’ next football coach

Central Florida coach Scott Frost smiles as he chats with a game official during the against Austin Peay on Saturday in Orlando. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

First of all, a word of caution.

You are entering a construction zone. Please wear a hard hat and protective goggles. You don’t want to get a reader’s comment in your eye or an unnamed source with knowledge of the situation landing upside your head.

This is a dangerous area we are heading into.

Look, is that (coach’s name here) walking into the Hunter’s Crossing Publix? My pastry chef told me that the wife of (coach’s name here) was looking at houses in Gainesville. Scott Stricklin had dinner with (coach’s name here) at Ballyhoo according to a source/saucier.

Aren’t coaching searches fun?

Stricklin, the UF athletic director, is going to do everything he can to keep this quiet until the big unveiling. Good luck with that unless you plan to communicate only through morse code and leave the agents out of it.

Things will get out and a lot of them will be fairy tales. But there will be morsels of truth that are mighty tasty.

Here’s what we know for sure — Florida will hire a coach and there is no frontrunner. When Stricklin said Sunday night he has “an idea” he was speaking more about who might be in the pool than who he will reach in to pull out.

Let’s hop in and stay in the shallow end for now. In alphabetical order while remembering Will Muschamp wasn’t on any early lists before he was hired at UF after the 2010 season:

Candidate Dino Babers

Fun factor: The Syracuse coach soared to national prominence when his team upset Clemson and took Miami to the wire. And offense (ranked 29th this season) is his specialty.

Party pooper: He’s 56 years old and hasn’t really been on the big stage as a head coach.

Candidate Jeff Brohm

Fun factor: Really good offensive coach who won 30 of 40 at Western Kentucky before getting Purdue job.

Party pooper: Purdue is 3-5 in his first foray into the Power Five and the offense is 82nd in the nation.

Candidate Neal Brown

Fun factor: The 37-year-old Troy coach recently beat LSU and has a working knowledge of the SEC. Plus, he’s one of the brightest coaches out there.

Party pooper: Does hiring the head coach from Troy really move the needle in Gainesville?

Candidate Matt Campbell

Fun factor: The guy has Iowa State — Iowa State! — in the Top 25 and has two huge upset wins already this season.

Party pooper: The buyout is more than $9 million and his recruiting wheelhouse is the Midwest.

Candidate Dave Clawson

Fun factor: He’s winning at Wake Forest, which might get him a statue. He also has won at Richmond and Bowling Green. And he’s a really good dude.

Party pooper: We can’t unsee his one year as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator.

Candidate Scott Frost

Fun factor: Frost took over an 0-12 team and had it undefeated two years later with an offense that leads the nation in scoring. Checks a lot of the personality boxes.

Party pooper: It’s a small sample size as a head coach and Nebraska, his alma mater, is likely to call.

Candidate Justin Fuente

Fun factor: Won big at Memphis after taking over a wreck of a program and is winning big at Virginia Tech.

Party pooper: His buyout is $6 million, $5 million after Dec. 15, and he’s already making SEC money ($3.2 a year).

Candidate Mike Gundy

Fun factor: Oklahoma State is third in the nation in passing offense and has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. He has built a consistent winner.

Party pooper: The buyout is $13.8 million and Florida would have to waive its no-mullet rule (kidding).

Candidate Chip Kelly

Fun factor: Nobody has ever questioned his ability to coach offense and his Oregon teams were never boring to watch.

Party pooper: His NCAA show cause means Florida would have to convince the SEC’s commissioner that hiring him is a good idea. We won’t even get into the personality issues.

Candidate Lane Kiffin

Fun factor: You know what he did at Alabama and he’s killing it offensively at Florida Atlantic at 482.4 yards per game.

Party pooper: Come on.

Candidate Mike Leach

Fun factor: You want fun, the lover of pirates gives great news conferences and knows how to run an offense.

Party pooper: Florida is looking for a certain type of personality and while Leach has personality, a guy who once talked about his players and their “fat little girlfriends” is not a great fit.

Candidate Chad Morris

Fun factor: The SMU coach knows offense and his smashmouth spread has turned things around for the Mustangs.

Party pooper: His recruiting chops are in the state of Texas and he’s an A&M grad, which makes Kevin Sumlin nervous.

Candidate Dan Mullen

Fun factor: He knows Florida, knows how to develop quarterbacks and can take three-stars and make them play like five-stars.

Party pooper: Mullen’s bedside manner is not the best and Stricklin has an intimate knowledge of how difficult he can be to work with. His cause wasn’t helped when his wife, Megan, said publicly this summer that she was afraid to go grocery shopping in Gainesville if the Gators didn’t score in the 40s.

Candidate Mike Norvell

Fun factor: Has won 15 games in two years at Memphis and his offense is ranked 11th in the nation.

Party pooper: He’s another hot coach at a Group of Five school who hasn’t done it under the brightest spotlights.

Candidate Gary Patterson

Fun factor: The TCU coach is one of the best in the country and has turned the Horned Frogs into a contender. Plus, Steve Spurrier likes him.

Party pooper: There is no indication he wants to leave and he has a hefty buyout of $7.1 million.

Candidate Mark Stoops

Fun factor: He’s made Kentucky into a bowl team by building up the recruiting base. Hey, Bob Stoops isn’t getting back into coaching, but at least he’d come to some of the games.

Party pooper: Receivers left uncovered against Florida. Twice. That’s all you need to know.

Candidate Charlie Strong

Fun factor: Strong knows the culture, would fit right in and recruit the heck out of the state of Florida

Party pooper: His time at Texas is a big red flag whether it is fair or not.

Candidate Willie Taggart

Fun factor: A great offensive mind, the Oregon coach pulled USF out of a tailspin and he’s from Florida so he knows how to recruit here.

Party pooper: Taggart’s overall record as a head coach is 45-49.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

Pat Dooley :

View Comments (90)

  • I said greatest AD of all time I met MOST OVER RATED AD of all time, and that would be Jeremy Foley. He is the sole reason Gator football is in the mess we are in. Coaching carousel, (ran Spur out of town, Zook, Muschamp, McElwain) below par facilities, all goes back to Jeremy Foley.

    • The athletic department is not just football. We had consistent success in several sports while he was here (plus 2 basketball and 3 football championships). Saying he's overrated is laughable.

    • Jeremy Foley worked his way up from the ticket office. No real experience. Spurrier was going to coach Fl regardless of Foley and Meyer came because of the President not Foley. I give him credit for Donovan. But Zook, Muschamp and Mac were his experiments. Adminstration's fault for having him.

  • REMEMBER: Nobody gives fits to Nick Saban like CHIP KELLY gives fits to Nick Saban. ONLY Chip Kelly has made Saban hysterical about a competing offense. Saban wanted to outlaw it when it seemed inevitable Bama would face Oregon in a major bowl. Saban knows the limitations of his own system better than anyone but CHIP KELLY.

    NOBODY WILL CARE ABOUT PERSONALITY WHEN HE STARTS WINNING. For that reason, Mullen should be the second choice. And Frost would be my THIRD. Why? Age. We need a coach who will retire right here. Frost is a decade too young and will leave for the NFL sooner than SOS did once he experiences success at this level. Kelly remains the obvious choice. His NCAA infraction was minor, has expired, and there's no way the SEC will close the door on the prospect of having Saban-Kelly shootouts decide the conference championship.

    • CHIP KELLY is a great coach who has a Charley Pell problem. Oregon was put on NCAA sanctions as a result of some of the things Kelly did. Weve been down that road before in the mid 1980s. Dont want to travel down that road again. Other coaches available.

      • Not the same thing. Kelly's show cause was a borderline case. They hired an out of state consultant that did sketchy things. Kelly was scarcely implicated. The worst thing that came out about Kelly is that he prefers to outsource recruiting, which is not a particularly good thing. That said, it ain't paying players. If they want Kelly, his Show Cause will be ignored. Nothing else he did during his years there smells of misconduct at all.

  • I LIKE THE SPURRIER MODEL
    Meaning, I want a head coach who has worn the Orange and Blue, and played, sweated and bleed on Florida Field. I want our next head coach to show passion, not because a player made a mistake but he is upset that his "team" isnt playing well. I want a head coach who cares more about his team because its his school's team, rather than just looking at it as a job. The University of Florida has plenty of former players who are in the coaching profession. Time for us to bring one home. Why not HC Mike Malarkey at Tennessee Titans or Kerwin Bell, HC for Valdosta State University. And certainly there is a bevy of former players who are assistant coaches around the country or retired NFL players - Emmitt Smith, Dwayne Dixion , James Bates, etc... who could fill in the needed player positions on the new coach's staff.

  • Florida needs to hire a coach that has experience going up against big name teams. No offense to memphis but they don't play Georgia every year, or LSU, or FSU, or Tennessee, or even Alabama. We need a coach that has heart and can get fired up. That's what Florida lacks is passion. Sure the talent is there, but the players and coaches hardly ever seemed pumped up for a game. When Tim Tebow was at UF he pushed everyone and we dominated. Now the team isn't pushed. However we also need a coach that can go big. I suggest Les Miles because he has SEC experience, however most likely he won't come to Gainesville. I also read somewhere that John Gruden (who is the only coach to ever lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a super bowl win) was considering about going to Tennessee if Butch Jones is fired at the end of the year. Why not have him come to Gainesville? There are many options that Florida can lay out on the table but they need to pick a guy that can go big or go home.

  • I'm for Mullen. Proven coach. Proven great offensive schemer. Proven developer of talent. Knows how demanding the fan base is. Knows how bright the light on him will be. Let's quit gambling on these supposed up and comers. We need experienced and proven leadership after the last two hoodlums stole our souls.

  • All you Gator's that are touting Dan Mullen just remember back when Gator fan's booed him a lot when he was the Off Cord here. By all mean's Bull Gator's get Chip Kelly if we can, and if not get Scoot Frost, and if not get Brian Schottenheimer, and if not, ?????????????

  • Given that UF will be paying three head football coaches when we hire whomever we hire this time around, money is going to play an even bigger role in AD Strickland's decision making than it might otherwise. Several of the people on Pat's list are just going to be too expensive I fear. Patterson's $7.1 million buyout will rule him out I think, even if he were interested in the job. Justin Fuente at $5 mil, Mike Gundy at $13.8 mil and Matt Campbell at $9 mil are, unfortunately, all likely no goes too. Dan Mullen has never had a buyout clause in any of his MSU contracts, but he does have a high salary. With no buyout, he would probably be affordable though, if Stricklin wants to work with him again. Obviously, Chip Kelly has no buyout. His NCAA show cause, which has now expired, is less off- putting to me than Pat I think. He was gigged by the NCAA for paying street agents who are only allowed to provide scouting info to schools and not the inside information about a recruit's school likes and dislikes, his parents' likes and dislikes etc. And they aren't supposed to steer the recruit. Willie Lyles did all these forbidden things, but the reality is lots of schools used him and Baron Flournoy to do this before the NCAA made an example out of Oregon for doing it. The list of players that Lyles steered to various schools includes most of the SEC west and at least a dozen other schools that have never been penalized for doing exactly the same thing Oregon was doing. So I would be OK with Kelly. My only concern with him would be his dislike for schmoozing boosters. He hates it, and that is part of a head coach's job. Frost and Norvell have buyouts, but they are not prohibitive, $3 mil and $1.5 mil respectively. If we can't get Kelly, I would like to get either of them.