Tommy Tuberville is out at Texas Tech, booking his flight to Cincinnati and the Big East after three seasons in Lubbock. Who will replace him? Here are the possibilities.
(Two guys you won't see on this list: West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who spent nearly a decade under Mike Leach in Lubbock, and Cal coach Sonny Dykes, the son of legendary Tech coach Spike Dykes, who won more games at Texas Tech than everyone but Leach. Texas Tech sideline reporter Chris Level reported on Sunday that neither would be coming to Lubbock.)
Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt will be conducting the search himself, rather than using a search firm.
Kliff Kingsbury, OC, Texas A&M: Kingsbury is certainly on the top of Texas Tech fans' list, but will he be atop Hocutt's list, too? Kingsbury's biggest plus came this season. He coached Johnny Manziel to a Heisman Trophy and Texas A&M was one of the nation's biggest surprises. He's one of the hottest names in the field, but the 33-year-old has also only been an assistant for five years. Is that enough experience to be handed an entire program?
Chad Morris, OC, Clemson: Michael Brewer is all but locked in as the Red Raiders' starting quarterback for the next three seasons. Morris was Brewer's high school coach at Lake Travis in Austin, Texas. He's helped Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins headline the nation's No. 9 offense and knows the Texas recruiting landscape well. He's only been a college assistant for three seasons, but he's already parlayed it into a seven-figure contract as a coordinator at Clemson, something very few others in college football can boast. He'd almost surely take the job if Tech offered it.
Neal Brown, OC, Texas Tech: Brown spent the weekend interviewing for a pair of other gigs, and could be in play for the head coaching jobs at Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. At times this season, Tech fans weren't his biggest supporters, but Tuberville made him one of the youngest coordinators in the country in 2010, bringing him on board from Troy. The promotion might get Brown to stay, and he has a great shot to be successful, but could Hocutt sell the hire to fans?
Todd Monken, OC, Oklahoma State: Monken stepped in for Holgorsen at Oklahoma State and the Pokes' offense hasn't missed a beat. Monken helped Oklahoma State win a Big 12 title in 2011, and despite losing a pair of first-round picks from last year's team and dealing with injuries to his top two quarterbacks, had OSU at No. 5 nationally in total offense. His college experience is limited, and you'd have to question whether he could run an entire program, but he's been outstanding at his latest stop, and fits the carefree mold Tech fostered under Mike Leach.
Brent Venables, DC, Clemson: Venables' name comes up for jobs a lot, but he's still waiting on his first head coaching gig. He and Hocutt played together at Kansas State and have maintained a relationship. Perhaps nobody knows Big 12 offenses like Venables, though he had a rough time stopping them late in his tenure at Oklahoma. He seems overdue for his first head gig, but does Tech need to have an offensive mind running its program?
Ruffin McNeil, head coach, East Carolina: McNeil was the defensive coordinator under Leach and won the approval of the team through his efforts. He's built ECU since taking over in 2010 and went 8-4 this season, winning a share of the division title in Conference USA. He's carried a spread offense to ECU, but would return to Lubbock after spending a decade as a defensive assistant under Leach.
Art Briles, head coach, Baylor: I don't buy any realistic possibility that Briles would leave Baylor, but there were multiple reports over the weekend that Texas Tech would pursue him. Briles already turned down Texas Tech when it eventually hired Tuberville, and after signing a new contract extension last week and the Bears' breaking ground on a new stadium set to open in 2014, Briles leaving seems like a near impossibility, even though he has a degree from Texas Tech.
Will Texas Tech's new coach be one of these seven candidates? Or will Hocutt go off the grid for an unexpected hire, like Bret Bielema at Arkansas?