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unlv coaching candidates

WWJD #4 – UNLV Coaching Candidates – Fact or Fiction 

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It became official on Monday morning when UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois and Head Coach Tony Sanchez each had press conferences that confirmed that on Friday (November 22nd), coach Sanchez would be relieved of his duties. San Jose State and Nevada-Reno would be his final two games as the Rebels head football coach. In his fifth and final season at the helm of the UNLV football program, coach Sanchez finishes with a career mark of 19-40 overall.

 

Photo Credit: UNLV

No one knows who Desiree Reed-Francois is considering, and if they say they know definitively, they are lying. I also wouldn’t read too much into her basketball hires since historically, they are much different from her football hires (or recommendations). I wouldn’t base too much on the hiring of TJ Otzelberger as the UNLV men’s basketball coach.

What I would consider is the UNLV athletic budget and how involved boosters will be in backing her financially for the new head coaching hire.

Reed-Francois also said at the press conference on Monday afternoon that UNLV would be competitive with the new head football coach’s salary. Here is a list of the top 5 coaches salaries in the Mountain West so you can gauge where we stand:

 

  • Mike Bobo- Colorado St.- $1.8M (expected to be let go by CSU)
  • Brian Harsin- Boise St. – $1.55M 
  • Jeff Tedford- Fresno St.- $1.55M
  • Craig Bohl- Wyoming- $1.4M
  • Rocky Long- San Diego St.- $873.5K

 

I can report that an offer (or a question as to whether he would be interested or not) was extended to Florida Atlantic head football coach Lane Kiffin to become the Rebels’ next head coach. Kiffin declined it respectfully. That would have to make you think that Reed-Francois does have the money from a booster(s) or friends of the program to pay for the right potential program-changing head coach.

I also was told by multiple sources that another potential candidate, Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley, will not be leaving Utah and will be named the coach-in-waiting for the Utes. If UNLV was interested, this is a blow since Scalley is an outstanding coach, recruiter, and knows the area well.

Unapologetic Truth UNLV Football Las Vegas High School Football

So who could be on the list?:

UNLV football fans are throwing their names of potential candidates out there across the message boards and on social media. So let’s play a game of “Fact or Faction” with 22 potential candidates who could be the next UNLV head football coach.

 

Photo Credit- footballscoop.com

Joe Brady, LSU passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach

Joe Brady’s a rising star, no a zenith in the coaching profession. I don’t know if I have ever seen an assistant coach who has had more of an impact on a school, ever.

He is from Florida, where he was a 4-year varsity letterman wide receiver in High School. Brady earned a scholarship to William and Mary, where he played and earned a degree. He is starting his coaching career there as a linebacker coach. He then moved on to Penn St. as a graduate assistant under James Franklin and their former offensive coordinator and current Mississippi St. head coach Joe Moorhead.

He then learned even more offense from New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton when he became an offensive assistant for the Saints before taking the job at LSU as their passing game/wide receivers coach.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron brought in and has credited Brady for helping LSU discover the passing game, turning the Tigers into a more balanced offensive attack the past two seasons after years of not being able to pass the ball. Brady has established himself quickly as an excellent recruiter and has excellent relationships with players, staff, and parents.

Brady signed a three-year contract in 2018 that runs through the 2021 season that pays him $400,000 a year. Late Saturday night reports started to surface that the 30-year-old rising star is about to enter talks with LSU to pay him like an “NFL coordinator.” He is going to be the hottest name on the market (not named Urban Meyer) and will be mentioned for almost any job in college football.

Is Brady the “pie in the sky” coaching candidate to whom UNLV could turn? Possibly, but like every other person mentioned in this portion of WWJD, UNLV needs to pony-up and pay. So the question is, can they and will they?

Unapologetic Truth UNLV Football Las Vegas High School Football

Photo Credit: oudaily.com

Shane Beamer- Assistant Head Coach/Tight End/H-Back Coach- Oklahoma

The first name that I think UNLV fans need to pay attention to is also the first that may have them scratch their heads. Shane Beamer has ties to Reed-Francois, is young, worked with some of the best coaches in college football, and has been paying his dues since 2000 when he became a GA for Georgia Tech. The 42-year-old assistant head coach at Oklahoma, who also coaches tight ends and H-backs for the Sooners, is considered an up-and-comer head coaching candidate.

If Beamer’s name sounds familiar, it is because he is the son of legendary Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, who was still coaching the Hokies when Reed-Francois was working in the athletic department. Beamer also played for his father for Va Tech as a wide receiver and a long snapper when he was a part of the 1999 National Championship team.

Here is Beamers coaching career thus far: 2000- Georgia Tech (GA), 2001–2003- Tennessee (GA), 2004–2006- Mississippi State (CB/RC), 2007–2008- South Carolina (CB), 2009–2010- South Carolina (LB/ST), 2011–2015- Virginia Tech (AHC/RB), 2016–2017- Georgia (TE/ST) and 2018–present- Oklahoma (AHC/TE). There is no play calling or head coaching experience, but that won’t matter if Beamer hires experienced coordinators.

With his ties to the schools where he’s worked, as well as being able to tap into his father’s coaching connections, Beamer could be a sneaky good find for UNLV and Reed-Francois. Once again, finances will be considered, and while he currently makes just under $500,000, he could be hired for around $900,000, giving more room for hiring a staff that has some experience.

Is this a “move the needle” hire or one that would have UNLV fans buzzing? Not at first glance, but the more homework you do on Beamer, the more you could see why Reed-Francois would be interested. Learning the explosive offense under Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley as well as being able to coordinate special teams, would be extremely important and enticing for UNLV since each of those sides of the ball struggled in 2019.

 

Photo Credit: Weber St Sports

Jay Hill – Weber State Head Coach

The 44-year old Hill is in his sixth season at Weber State, where he has a 45-29 carer record and won two Big Sky championships. He played with the University of Utah as a cornerback from 1998-1999 and became a GA in 2003. In 2005 he became a full-time coach for the Utes coaching special teams and cornerbacks.

He stayed in Utah until the job at Weber State opened up in 2014. His coaching career started slow, going 2-10 in his first year. But in year two they went 6-5, followed by 7-4. In 2017 he led his team to an 11-3 record followed by a 10-4 record, but both seasons ended in defeat in FCS Quarterfinals. This season the Wildcats are 9-3 (7-1 in  Big Sky conference play). Hill spent four years as a graduate assistant and administrative assistant with the Utes under legendary coaches Ron McBride and Urban Meyer. Hill is known as a tireless and outstanding recruiter, which will only be amplified and helpful with UNLV’s new facilities.

Hill is making $275,000 with a $100,000 buyout. Monetarily he would make sense for UNLV, but like any first time FBS head coach, he would have to assemble a staff that isn’t from the FCS level. He also has no ties to Reed-Francois.

UNLV football Life After Sanchez     UNLV football Life After Sanchez     UNLV football Life After Sanchez

Photo Credit: 24/7 Sports

Jim Mora Jr.- Former UCLA Head Coach

Jim is considered by some to be the front runner for the Rebels head coaching job, but not me. There are multiple ties to Reed-Francois and potential help from outside that would help pay for Mora to get the job. He also toured the UNLV campus last year, and rumors swirled that he was Reed-Francois’ preferred choice to replace Sanchez at that time. After UNLV finished strong, beating SDSU and Reno, it was nearly impossible to remove coach Sanchez, and Reed-Francois had to pass at that time on Mora.

Jim Mora Jr. has a 46-30 record (2-2 in Bowls) at UCLA. He also has a coaching pedigree being the son of former NFL head coach Jim Mora, as well as being a former NFL head coach himself. Mora coached the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-2006. He currently works for ESPN calling games.

Mora helped turn the Bruins around and was able to recruit well. He brought in Myles Jack, Kenny Clark, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Brett Hundley, but never could “run LA” like he said the Bruins would so infamously. What Mora did do well was recruit Southern California as well as the South.

Since being let go by UCLA, Mora has gotten into TV and is still just 57 years old. The question would be, what is he looking for salary-wise and staff-wise? If Mora is looking to become the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West Conference, Desiree is going to have to get support from outside sources. Truthfully, Mora could also be looking to get back into coaching and resurrecting his career with some of the best facilities and the best stadium in the Mountain West Conference.

UNLV football Life After Sanchez

Photo Credit: arizonasports.com

Danny Gonzalez- Arizona St. Defensive Coordinator

Gonzalez is another name that many UNLV fans think would be a solid hire. He was at SDSU as the defensive coordinator until last season when he went to ASU to help Herm Edwards turn around the Sun Devils.

Gonzalez has put together excellent defenses and knows the lay of the land in the Mountain West Conference. He is also making decent money at ASU ($525,000). The question is, would he leave for a slight pay raise to run this program?

People I spoke to in the ASU program have told me that they do not expect Gonzalez to leave for a Group of 5 head coaching position and that he is holding out for a Power-5 head man job. They also said that Gonzalez is pleased in Tempe working with Edwards as his defensive coordinator until the right job comes along.  

Unapologetic Truth UNLV Football Las Vegas High School Football

Photo Credit: SB Nation

Steve Sarkisian- Alabama- Offensive Coordinator

The former USC and Washington head coach has some baggage. He has battled alcohol addiction, which cost him his job at USC. He’s since turned his life around after stints in Atlanta with the Falcons as their offensive coordinator and at Alabama (twice) in the same role. Sark is leading a Tide offense that ranks 7th overall in college football. He’s known as a great recruiter on the West Coast as well as in the South.

The embattled coach has worked hard to get his life back on track and is looking to become a head coach again. He knows that he won’t be looked at for Power-5 head coaching jobs at the moment, and he has to re-prove himself and regain trust with potential employers.

In 2001 Sarkisian joined his former college coach, Norm Chow, at USC. Chow was hired as USC’s offensive coordinator by the Trojans’ new head coach at the time, Pete Carroll. Sarkisian worked as an offensive assistant in 2001 and was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, Sarkisian moved to the professional ranks as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. Oakland compiled more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams in passing yardage. Sarkisian returned to USC for the 2005 season with the title of assistant head coach added to his duties as quarterbacks coach.

During his head coaching tenures at Washington and USC, Sarkisian compiled a career mark of 46-35 that includes two Holiday Bowl wins. The only season that Sark had a losing record as a head coach was his first season in 2009 when the Huskies finished 5-7. Sarkisian is also known as an excellent recruiter.

While in Washington, he recruited future NFL players such as Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, Bishop Sankey, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and James Sample. As USC’s head coach, he recruited future NFL players JuJu Smith-Schuster, Adoree Jackson, Damien Mama, Ajene Harris, Uchenna Nwosu, Ronald Jones II, Iman Marshall, Rasheem Green, and Chuma Edoga.

Sarkisian does bring name value and flair to Las Vegas. He also knows how to work a room to help get donations, something he was great at while at USC. Sark also is very familiar with the Mountain West Conference from his days as BYU’s quarterback. He is currently making $1.6 million as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator, but if UNLV can put him in a position to make something close to that, he could be an option. SInce Reed-Francois stated that UNLV would be competitive within the Mountain West Conference coaching salaries, and Sarkisian’s desire to become a head coach once again, I could see him taking a deal somewhere in the $1.4-$1.7 million range to run this program.     

UNLV football Life After Sanchez     UNLV football Life After Sanchez

Butch Jones- Former Head Coach- Tennesee

Photo Credit: Footballscoop.com

Butch Jones has an overall career record of 84–54 with a 4-2 Bowl record. Jones has had coaching stops at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Tennessee. He became an offensive assistant at Alabama, and this year became the associate head coach and tight ends coach at Maryland for his former Alabama colleague Mike Locksley.

Butch was at Central Michigan for three years and had a 27-13 record winning the GMAC Bowl before he took the job at Cincinnati. Jones was the Bearcats’ head coach for three seasons, winning the Liberty Bowl and finishing with a 23-14 record. He left to take the Tennessee job before he could coach his team in the Belk Bowl. While the Vols head coach for six years, he finished with an 84-54 record and winning all three of his Bowl games.

He took over at Tennessee when then-head coach Lane Kiffin left for USC. The Associate Athletic Director, Desiree Reed-Francois, helped lead the search for Kiffin’s successor. The Vols fans soured on Jones even with his team’s past success before Tennessee fired him during a season when the team was 4-6. They never considered him “one of their own” and former Vols head coach, and now Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer wasn’t on board with Jones from the beginning. This didn’t help his chances or approval rating.

 

Photo Credit: Fresno St

Pat Hill- Former Head Coach- Fresno St.

The former Fresno State head coach has been looking to get back into coaching and was nearly the San Jose St. head coach a couple of years ago. Now he is the color commentator for ESPN Fresno after spending the 2012 and 2013 seasons in Atlanta with the Falcons as their offensive line coach. Hill has ties to UNLV, where he was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator in 1981 and 1982.

Hill has won 112 career wins to 80 losses. He showed the blueprint to build a program at the G-5 level to compete with Power-5 teams. His Bulldog teams went into opposing stadiums taking the “any time, any team, anywhere” attitude and gave them all they could handle. If there is one knock against Hill and his Bulldog teams, it is his Bowl record (4-7).

Hill recruited and produced NFL players David and Derek Carr, DeVante Adams, Bernard Berrian, Logan Mankins, Ryan Matthews, Michael Pittman, Vernon Fox, Orlando Huff, Dwayne Wright, Richard Marshall, Tyrone Culver, and Derrick Ward. This shows that Hill can recruit, even with the (lack of) resources Fresno St. had at the time. His impact was felt even after the Bulldogs let him go. Fresno St. won at least a share of the Mountain West Conference in the first three years following Hill under Tim DeRuyter, who was let go in 2017 for Jeff Tedford.

Hill would be the oldest person on the list, so you would have to wonder if that would play any role in his consideration. But another thing he can do, besides coach and recruit, build and maintain relationships with boosters and alumni, and help fundraise for the football program. He did that for Fresno St. and the program took off under him. Could he do the same for UNLV?

 

Photo Credit: OxfordEagle.com

Houston Nutt- Former Head Coach- Arkansas and Ole Miss

What some UNLV fans may or may not know is that Nutt was the runner-up to Tony Sanchez for the Rebels head coaching job five years ago. Former UNLV Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphey chose Sanchez over Nutt for his local ties and squeaky clean image compared to Nutt, who was coming off some scrutiny leaving Ole Miss.

Nutt was fired in 2011 by the University of Mississippi after the NCAA notified both Nutt and the school of 13 compliance violations alleged to have occurred under both Nutt and then-head coach Hugh Freeze

Nutt was alleged to have cheated by allowing ineligible students to play in Ole Miss games in 2011 and 2012. However, Nutt filed a lawsuit against Ole Miss, which was later settled with the university. Nutt was also the center of a major recruiting controversy in February 2010. After recruiting 37 players, the SEC was forced to enact “the Houston Nutt Rule.” Beginning on August 1, 2010, SEC teams are now limited to signing 28 football recruits, with the usual maximum of 25 allowed to enroll in the fall.

The former Boise St., Arkansas, and Ole Miss head coach has a career record of 129-96 with a Bowl record of 4-5. He has also been mentioned for the open Arkansas head coaching position and has tried for various head coaching openings in the past few years.

 

Photo Credit: FootballScoop.com

Clay Helton- Head Coach- USC

If USC does decide to fire (or buyout) Helton, I think he would become the instant front runner for the UNLV head coaching position. Helton checks off all the boxes Reed-Francois spoke about at her press conference announcing that she had let coach Sanchez go. He stabilized USC’s football program during a time when they needed it the most. Helton replaced the very popular Ed Orgeron, who wanted the job and was the interim head coach when the school fired Steve Sarkisian.

Helton is a tireless recruiter and a coach who has coached in one of the highest pressured jobs in all of college football, if not collegiate sports, with some of the most demanding boosters and alumni. The expectation is for USC to always compete for not just a Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl, but a National Championship. So far, Helton hasn’t been able to lead the Trojans to the promised land that they dominated in the early 2000s under Pete Carroll.

It remains to be seen if USC will let Helton go. The buyout for the USC head coach is $7.8 million, which is his $2.6 million base annual salary multiplied by the years left on his current contract. USC’s Board of Trustees have given their new Athletic Director Mike Bohn, a blank check to replace Helton and hire who he wants. There is probably offset language in the buyout that has Helton getting the remainder of what his salary would be at USC if he is hired by a new school. This makes him very affordable for UNLV in the short term and the splash hire Reed-Francois could want.

Helton holds a career head coaching record of 40-21 with a 2-2 Bowl record. He would bring strong national recruiting ties and is as classy a person as a head coach could be while being great with alumni and boosters.

 

Photo Credit: IndyStar.com

Kalen DeBoer- Offensive Coordinator- Indiana

DeBoer is the current offensive coordinator at Indiana and was the offensive coordinator at Fresno St. in 2017 and 2018. He held the same position at Eastern Michigan (2014-2016) and Southern Illinois (2010-2013). Before that, DeBoer was the head football coach at the University of Sioux Falls from 2005 to 2009, compiling a record of 67–3, which included three NAIA National Championships in 2006, 2008, and 2009. His team was also the runners-up in 2007. 

Like Jay Hill and Shane Beamer, this would be the type of hire that would have some UNLV fans scratching their heads, but fans who follow college football closely would be excited. DeBoer was a head coach and went back to being a coordinator at a higher level for an opportunity like this. He gambled on himself by leaving a head coaching position at the NAIA level to become an offensive coordinator and coach his way into a potential division 1 head coaching job.

Reed-Francois would be adding a head coach who’s teams have put up excellent offensive numbers and a coach who knows the Mountain West landscape. With ties throughout the country, one would think that DeBoer could recruit well since he did so at Fresno St. What makes it a more intriguing potential hire is his work with quarterbacks. UNLV needs a coach that can get the most out of their quarterbacks.

DeBoer is currently making $800,000, so one would imagine that a salary for him would be around $1 million, which again puts him in the “competitive coaching range” in the Mountain West.

 

Photo Credit: RaidersBeat

Jay Gruden- Former Head Coach- Cincinnati Bengals

Rumors have been swirling behind the scenes that Jon Gruden’s brother wants the UNLV job. What remains to be seen is if UNLV would pay the price he is asking. He was making $2.5 million a year as the Redskins head coach, but how much would he want to coach UNLV? From what I was told by sources, it was around $2 million a season, which would be the highest in the Mountain West. I don’t think Desiree Reed-Francois would pay that.

If there were some “friend of the program” or “booster/alumni” money dedicated solely to the head football coach, and his salary demands were to come down, I could see this happening. The thing is, Gruden doesn’t have any college head coaching experience. Actually, Gruden hasn’t coached at the collegiate level at all. While the name-value would bring substantial interest from recruits, the type of staff he would put together would be significant. He would need a mixture of NFL and college guys with heavy recruiting on the west coast.

If Jay Gruden an option? Yes, and I’ve been told that UNLV has spoken to him, but at this time, I don’t think it is likely he is hired.

 

Photo Credit- mavinsports

Marcus Arroyo- Offensive Coordinator- University of Oregon

The 39-year-old Arroyo is currently the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and tight ends coach at the University of Oregon. He was the former quarterback’s coach and interim play-caller during Jeff Tedford’s absence for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 under then-head coach Lovie Smith.

Arroyo has had coaching stints at Prarie View A&M, San Jose St., Wyoming, Cal, Southern Mississippi, and Oklahoma St. He also played quarterback at San Jose State University from 1998 to 2001, so he is familiar with the Mountain West Conference.

With no head coaching experience, and making more money at Oregon as the offensive coordinator ($750,000) than he would as head coach at UNLV, would Arroyo leave Eugene to come to Las Vegas to take over the Rebels? I doubt Arroyo ends up at UNLV since he feels he is just about ready for a Power-5 head coaching job according to sources I have in the Oregon football program. That has been the constant I get when I speak to people about Arroyo, that his personality will rub a lot of people the wrong way and he comes across as a bit arrogant

Other potential candidates that could be options are:

Todd Graham Former Head Coach- Arizona St. (not likely) 

Rich Rodriguez Former Head Coach- Arizona & Michigan (not likely)

Hue Jackson – Former Head Coach- Raiders and Browns (not likely)

Jim McElwain- Head Coach- Central Michigan

Bryant Vincent- Offensive Coordinator- UAB

Tim DeRuyter-  Defensive Coordinator- Cal (not likely)

Nick Rolovich- Head Coach- Hawaii 

Larry Fedora- Former Head Coach- North Carolina (not likely)

Luke Getsy- Quarterback Coach- Green Bay Packers

Barry Odom- Forner Head Coach- Missouri 

UNLV football Life After Sanchez    UNLV football Life After Sanchez     UNLV football Life After Sanchez

 

So, WWJD?

Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Out of this list, If I wanted to go with a younger coach than I  would go hard after Brady, Beamer, or DeBoer. Their resumes are impressive and what they have done in their careers thus far would play well at UNLV. They check all the boxes. They would bring instant juice and buzz to the program from a national level, as well as with recruits. That would change if Clay Helton became available and he would jump to the front of the list immediately. If a head coach with experience is wanted, then I could see Pat Hill, Butch Jones, and Steve Sarkisian being guys that get a phone call.

Who knows what Desiree Reed-Francois will do? No one knows for sure, but I believe that UNLV will name its next head football coach within the next two weeks.

One thing is for sure; this hire is the most important one in Desiree Reed-Francois’s career. She has to hire the right head coach and leader of the program that will take UNLV football to a place it hasn’t been before. If she gets it wrong, it could be one of the last hires she has as UNLV’s AD. If she gets it right and hits a home run, she can punch her ticket to a Power-5 conference athletic director’s job in a couple of years, should she want one.

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