It's official--we can now turn our attention from the Turner Gill death watch to the question of "who will Kansas get to coach after Gill is fired?" Gill's Kansas team turned in another uninspired effort today against Texas A&M causing Kansas fans to compare, via social media, the current state of Kansas football to that of the Bob Valesente era--long considered the absolutest darkest period of Jayhawk gridiron history. (Lighten up, KU fans--the end of the Valesente reign was so bad, nobody cared. At least now there is legitimate interest in Kansas' football program.)
The usual suspect names will come up but let's look at a list of legitimate possibilities, focusing on who Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger might have on his speed dial list:
- Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois. Doeren was hired by Zenger at Northern Illinois and is 19-6 thus far in his two seasons there. Doeren was an assistant at KU under Mark Mangino and a former head coach at Shawnee Mission Northwest.
- Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston. Sumlin was rumored to be in the mix when Gill got the Kansas job. Two years later, Gill is about to be fired and Sumlin has the Cougars at 11-0. You may ask why Sumlin would now leave Houston--isn't there allure to bringing his skills to the Big 12?
- Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma. Venables' name is on the list whenever a Big 12 opening occurs. It'll show up again when Gill gets fired but I doubt that he leaves for Lawrence.
- Jim Leavitt, former head coach, South Florida. Ironically, Leavitt was fired the same year as Mangino was let go at Kansas, paving the way for Gill. Leavitt is a disciple of Bill Snyder and Zenger served on Snyder's staff. Is Lawrence a destination for Leavitt to redeem himself after the messy divorce from South Florida?
- John Latina, assistant head coach, Notre Dame. Latina is another former KSU assistant (are you noticing a trend here) who was on the same staff as Zenger in Manhattan.
- Dennis Franchione, head coach, Texas State. Franchione is a Kansas native and served as head coach at Texas A&M, but resigned under controversy. He's in year one at Texas State.
And, if you truly want to think outside the box, consider the name "Terry Donahue." Donahue, now doing college football broadcasting, is the former UCLA coach who has the most wins in Pac-10 history. Donahue served seven seasons as a Kansas assistant and his wife has Kansas roots. Donahue is 67 but might be lured back to Lawrence by the possibility of revitalizing a program which proved, in 2007-2008, that success could be had on Mt. Oread.