Kansas AD won't comment on search

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- If Kansas goes looking for a big name at a major program to replace football coach Mark Mangino, Jim Harbaugh at Stanford might be a solid bet.

If recent success in a conference such as the Big East is what athletic director Lew Perkins has in mind, why not Brian Kelly? He's 33-6 in four seasons at Cincinnati.

Or maybe Kevin Sumlin? A former assistant at Oklahoma, he won 18 games in two seasons at Houston, and knows how to recruit in Texas.

The list of possibilities is long and intriguing even though Kansas is not a prime job. It may not be any more than seventh- or eighth-best in the Big 12.

But Perkins has great new facilities to sell and he's packing a checkbook. He's not likely to let himself be outspent by very many schools straining to keep hold of their guy.

"I know people will float a number of names out there," said the 63-year-old Perkins. "But I will not comment on any potential candidates."

He'd come out second-best in a money showdown with Notre Dame over Harbaugh or Kelly or anyone else. But there aren't many coaches whose heads won't be turned by what Kansas is willing to offer.

When Mangino set a school record with 12 wins in 2007, Perkins restructured his contract and gave him $2.2 million a year, one of the top football salaries in the Big 12. Bill Self got a 10-year, $30 million deal after winning the 2008 NCAA basketball championship.

"I think this is a very attractive job and I wouldn't be surprised, now that this is out, that all kinds of people will be interested in this job," Perkins said.

The new coach will realize, of course, that Kansas was, is and probably forever will be a place where basketball comes first. But whoever Perkins signs will inherit a much stronger program than the frail, dog-eared enterprise Mangino pulled out of the depths after arriving in 2002.

As a result of Mangino's 20 wins and two postseason victories in 2007 and '08, interest is much higher than ever.

Plus, there's a solid core of players. And most importantly for the long-term success of whoever steps out of the crowd, the facilities have become first-rate.

When Mangino was hired off Bob Stoops' Oklahoma staff in 2002, Kansas players had to dress in one building and take a bus across campus to the stadium, often waiting 10 minutes or longer for pedestrian traffic to clear. Now, thanks mainly to Mangino's 50 wins and Perkins' fundraising touch and unrelenting campaign to build, build, build, the facilities are finally up to Big 12 standards.

The new coach will have training rooms and practice fields he can use as a recruiting inducement for the highly sought, quality young athletes -- the kind Mangino was unable to get quite enough of to avoid a seven-game losing streak in what turned out to be his final season.

Shortly after Mangino departed Thursday night following a messy two-week investigation into allegations of verbal abuse of players, Perkins said he would be in his office Friday morning getting started on the search.

There are always outstanding head-coaching prospects among the legion of assistant coaches. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Nolan Cromwell, a great wishbone quarterback at Kansas in the mid-'70s, and Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong come to mind.

Still, Perkins' next building project is a row of luxury boxes atop Memorial Stadium, and they'll be a much easier sell if the new face of the program is someone who's already been successful as a head coach.

Also fitting that mode would be Turner Gill, at Buffalo, Larry Fedora at Southern Mississippi and Randy Edsall at Connecticut, Perkins' former school.

A decision could take no more than a week.

"I wish I had someone today," Perkins said.