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College football coaching vacancies: Who’s in, who’s out

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher takes the field with his team before a football game against Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Arlington, Texas.  (Tribune News Service)
By Matt Bonesteel Washington Post

As the college football season winds down, the coaching carousel is gaining speed. This week, four schools – Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Boise State and San Diego State – announced they are moving on from their current coaches. Here’s a look at the programs that will have new faces on the sideline next season.

1. Texas A&M

Out: Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher on Sunday before the end of his sixth season in College Station, deciding instead to pay a record $76 million buyout to make him go away. Fisher went 45-25 at Texas A&M after a successful tenure at Florida State, but he was only 27-21 in SEC play and just 19-15 after signing a contract extension in 2021.

Possible replacements: After seeing his name mentioned as a top Texas A&M target, Oregon coach Dan Lanning said Monday that there is “zero chance” he leaves the Ducks, who at 9-1 have a shot at the College Football Playoff. Duke coach Mike Elko (a former Aggies defensive coordinator), Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin, Florida State coach Mike Norvell, Texas San Antonio coach Jeff Traylor, former Arizona Cardinals and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and Georgia co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann have been mentioned as possible replacements.

2. Mississippi State

Zach Arnett lasted only 11 games at Mississippi State, which fired him Monday. Arnett, formerly the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator, took over the program after the death of coach Mike Leach in 2022 and was in the first year of a four-year contract that paid him $3 million annually. The Bulldogs are 4-6 but have just one SEC victory; their offensive output is one of the worst in the conference.

Possible replacements: Traylor, Troy coach Jon Sumrall, Tulane coach Willie Fritz, Kansas coach Lance Leipold, Liberty coach Jamey Chadwell, SMU coach Rhett Lashlee, New England Patriots assistant head coach Joe Judge, Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen have been mentioned as possible replacements.

3. San Diego State

Out: San Diego State announced Monday that coach Brady Hoke will retire at the end of the season. The Aztecs are 3-7 and will not be eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2009. Hoke, 65, is 39-31 over two stints at San Diego State and led the Aztecs to a program-record 12 wins in 2021, but they’ve gone just 10-13 since.

Possible replacements: Arnett could find himself back on his feet at San Diego State, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. Arnett was an assistant with the Aztecs from 2011 to 2019. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman also lists Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, Missouri offensive coordinator Kirby Moore, former Boise State and Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach Tee Martin, Arizona offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll and quarterbacks coach Jimmie Dougherty, UNLV offensive coordinator Brennan Marion, Texas special teams coordinator Jeff Banks, Nebraska defensive coordinator Tony White and Oklahoma analyst Matt Wells as potential candidates.

4. Boise State

Out: The school fired coach Andy Avalos on Sunday even though Boise State (5-5) remains alive for a berth in the Mountain West championship game. Avalos finished his tenure with a 22-14 record over two-plus seasons as Broncos coach. He won 10 games in 2022, but the prospect of the first losing season since 1997 apparently was too much for school administrators to bear.

Possible replacements: Harsin, a former Boise State quarterback who led the Broncos to a 69-19 record as Boise State’s coach from 2014 to 2020 before leaving for a disastrous tenure at Auburn, is seen as a candidate to return. Grubb, Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore (also a former Broncos quarterback), Kirby Moore (Kellen’s brother and a former Broncos wide receiver), Texas co-defensive coordinator Jeff Choate, Montana State coach Brent Vigen, Toronto Argonauts coach Ryan Dinwiddie, Pittsburgh Steelers assistant defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander and Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis are the names being pitched by the Athletic’s Chris Vannini. Almost all of them have at least some tie to the school.

5. Michigan State

Out: Michigan State fired Mel Tucker for cause in September after USA Today revealed the school was investigating a sexual harassment claim made against him. Tucker went 20-14 in three-plus seasons.

Possible replacements: Elko, Leipold, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, Washington State coach Jake Dickert and Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith reportedly are on Michigan State’s shortlist.

6. Northwestern

Out: Northwestern fired Pat Fitzgerald in July amid hazing allegations made against the program by former players. Fitzgerald, a former Wildcats player, had been Northwestern’s coach since 2006, compiling a 110-101 record.

Possible replacements: Interim coach David Braun has led the Wildcats to a somewhat surprising 5-5 record, and there’s a growing movement to remove the interim tag from his title. He’s the first Northwestern coach to win at least five games in his first season since Walter McCornack in 1903. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that former Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst – currently an offensive analyst and special assistant at Texas – is among the replacements Northwestern is considering.