Texas coach Mack Brown resigned Saturday after winning 158 games, two Big 12 titles and one national championship during 16 years with the Longhorns. Brown's resignation opens one of the premier jobs in college football to a number of elite coaching candidates.
TEXAS VACANCY: The pros and cons
Texas can offer the sort of resources unmatched on the Football Bowl Subdivision level. The university has enormous financial resources, for one, meaning the coach can expect a hefty pay raise. In terms of supporting its football program, UT's facilities, prestige and recruiting bed could help lead to a very quick turnaround.
MACK BROWN: Coach steps down
COACHING CAROUSEL: Latest changes
In all, this could be the most intriguing coach search to hit the FBS in years. Who could fit the bill as Mack Brown's replacement? Here are five coaches to consider:
1. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State. Gundy is attractive for several reasons. Most of all, he's made Oklahoma State into one of the most consistent – and successful – programs in the Big 12. He's also familiar with the area, is known to the state's high school coaches and has indicated a willingness to listen to other offers, as shown by his discussions with Tennessee following last season.
2. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State. Can't get Saban? Then try for the next-closest thing: Fisher is very much a Saban clone, befitting his time under Saban at LSU, and has followed his blueprint for turning Florida State into the best team in college football. Like Saban, Fisher excels at both identifying recruiting talent and developing players in his system. Few coaches handle the 365-day grind of being a coach – the CEO aspects of the job – quite like Fisher.
3. Gus Malzahn, Auburn. Malzahn would be a coup for Texas. But like Fisher, Malzahn received a hefty contract extension after leading the Tigers to the BCS National Championship Game. (It should be said, however, that when it comes to buyouts and contracts, money is no object to Texas.) Here's what makes Malzahn so appealing: his offense. The idea of teaming the Longhorns' athletes and the type of recruits in Texas with Malzahn's up-tempo system is exciting, to put it lightly.
4. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State. This is a dark horse to consider. (And only in this search would Dantonio be considered a dark horse.) Dantonio has led Michigan State to 11 wins in three of the past four years – and to the Big Ten title in 2013 – with a never-fail, old-as-football-itself system: run the football, protect the football, makes plays downfield, hit the quarterback, jam up receivers, tackle, convert on special teams. If not as big-time as Saban, not as trendy as Fisher, not as local as Gundy or as explosive as Malzahn, Dantonio would put the bread and butter back in Texas football.
5. Charlie Strong, Louisville. Strong is another accomplished coach with a sizable buyout: UT would owe Louisville $5 million if it hired Strong in 2013 – and $4.375 million if the school waited until 2014, in case you were wondering. Beyond the money, Texas would also have to convince Strong to leave a very comfortable and successful position at Louisville, which leaves the American Athletic Conference to join the ACC after this season. But what makes Strong an appealing candidate? He has big-school experience – as at Florida, where he helped win a pair of national titles. He has 11 wins in each of the last two seasons at Louisville, including a Sugar Bowl win against the Gators last January. Strong would have an enormous impact on the Longhorns' defensive production, obviously. UT would want to hear his thoughts on an offensive staff before advancing past a preliminary stage, but Strong is a logical second-tier candidate for the opening.
MACK BROWN'S CAREER AT TEXAS: