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The Complete(?) list of KU Football Candidates

Who will lead the Jayhawks in 2021? Let’s see who’s out there.

NCAA Football: Virginia Military at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone - and I mean everyone - has their own ideas on who should be the next Kansas Football Coach following the dismissal of Les Miles. There are lots of top-5 and top-10 lists out there. But since I’m a nerd, I kept my list from 2018 - the last time KU hired a football coach. Many of these names are the same. There are a few new ones that have popped up as well, however.

Some names will be familiar. Others maybe not so much.

So anyway, as the title says, I’m just going to throw some names at you here. A lot of names. 47 of them, in fact. (Because 47 is the perfectly random number.) I know 47 is probably too many, so just skip to the bottom if you want to read more commentary as well as my personal top-10.

But first, a disclaimer. I am not reporting ANYTHING. If you’re a reporter looking for a lead, THIS IS NOT IT. Please do NOT ask Jeff Long or the candidate about it. This is my own list, and I will provide links to others as necessary. Thank you for your time.

I’ll drop all these names on you now, give you my 10 favorites below (not including any home-run hires), and perhaps if time allows we’ll look at the rest in greater detail as the week goes on.

On to “The List!” In alphabetical order because that’s who I am:

2021 Coaching Candidates

Name Current Position
Name Current Position
Gary Andersen n/a Unemployed
Major Applewhite South Alabama OC
Tim Beck NC State OC
Brian Bohannon Kennesaw St HC
Craig Bohl Wyoming HC
Brent Brennan San Jose St HC
Troy Calhoun Air Force HC
Jason Candle Toledo HC
Jamey Chadwell Coastal Carolina HC
Bill Clark UAB HC
Chris Creighton Eastern Michigan HC
Brent Dearmon MTSU OC
Mike DeBord KU OC
Dave Doeren NC State HC
Joshua Eargle KU TE
DJ Eliot KU DC
Mike Elko Texas A&M DC
Dan Enos Maryland OC
Hugh Freeze Liberty HC
Willie Fritz Tulane HC
Joseph Gillespie Tulsa DC
Jim Harbaugh Michigan HC
Tom Herman Chicago Bears Analyst
Doc Holliday n/a Unemployed
Tony Hull Hawaii OC
Emmett Jones KU WR
Kevin Kane Illinois AHC/LB
Kevin Kelley High School (AR) HC
Pete Kwiatkowski Texas DC
Dan Lanning Georgia DC
Rhett Lashlee Miami OC
Jeff Lebby Ole Miss OC
Lance Leipold Buffalo HC
Sean Lewis Kent St HC
Phil Longo North Carolina OC
Gus Malzahn UCF HC
Jim McElwain Central Michigan HC
Jeff Monken Army HC
Will Muschamp Georgia Analyst
Billy Napier Louisiana HC
Mike Neu Ball St HC
Ken Niumatalolo Navy HC
Jay Norvell Nevada HC
Kalani Sitake BYU HC
Kevin Sumlin n/a Unemployed
Jeff Tedford Retired Unemployed
Ed Warriner Florida Atlantic OL

Who knows, KU may pull someone from the NFL assistant ranks, as Long (allegedly) interviewed a couple such candidates in 2018.

No, I am not putting Sean Snyder on here. While I’ve seen him mentioned by at least one writer, I promise you I will never, ever, EVER spend another dollar on KU football if they hire Sean Snyder for this position. (And you shouldn’t, either.)

Hugh Freeze is probably not a likely option do to the way he left Ole Miss. Hopefully KU has had enough scandal recently.

Kevin Kelley is also likely not an option due to being a high school coach, but he does have a few things going for him. A) He’s interested in the job, B) He’s got Bill Belichick’s ear, C) He’s won a stupid amount of games and state titles, and D) He never punts. Like, ever. So. Yeah. KSU and MU can make all the jokes they want, but I wouldn’t hate it.

Personally, I’m not sold on guys like Jason Candle, Brent Brennan, Mike Neu, or Lance Leipold, although they’re probably interchangeable with some of the guys toward the bottom of my top-10 list below. I like Willie Fritz, but he’s in his 60s now and may (justifiably) feel burned by previous KU coaching searches.

Excluding the admittedly unlikely “Home Run Hires” of Herman, Muschamp, Malzahn, Harbaugh, and Sumlin, here are my personal Top-10 Candidates, and I’ll even put them in order for you.

Someone forward this to Jeff Long and the search committee:

Dave Doeren, HC, NC State. Perhaps Doeren should be included in the “home run hire” category, but he’s a native son (Shawnee, KS) who coached under Mangino, and I would love to bring him back to Lawrence. If he could replicate the success that he’s had at NC State (55-46), they may name buildings after him.

Chris Creighton, HC, Eastern Michigan. I know, I know, I stumped for Creighton back in 2018 as well. But the turnaround at EMU, by every possible measure a tougher job than KU, continues to be impressive, although admittedly Creighton has yet to top it off by wining 8 or more games in a season with the Eagles. However, EMU is 27-30 over the last five seasons (with 3 bowl games) for a program that, before he arrived, had an historical .266 win percentage (108-290-7) since it became D1 in 1976.

Jamey Chadwell, HC, Coastal Carolina. If you can’t beat ‘em, see if they’ll join you. Chadwell is a great story, the problem is, would he want to leave ACC/SEC country? Also, if he were to come to KU, he’d have to face his former team this year.

Jeff Monken, HC, Army. Already mentioned by Athlon as a possibility, Monken (a Paul Johnson disciple) has a 49-39 record at Army over the past seven seasons, which includes four bowl games.

Brian Bohannon, HC, Kennesaw State. Likely one of the lesser known names on the list, I have yet to see him linked to KU in any way. However, what’s intriguing is he has a 48-15 record in five seasons at a program that just started up in 2015. Like Monken, Bohannon also descends from the Paul Johnson coaching tree.

Jay Norvell, HC, Nevada. Norvell has just a 25-22 record at Nevada in four years, but is coming off of three-straight bowl appearances and by all indications has built a pretty salty squad for the upcoming 2021 campaign. Bonus that he is familiar with the Big 12, having spent time as the OC at Nebraska (2004-06) and Oklahoma (2008-14).

Kevin Kane, AHC/LB, Illinois. Kane just started at Illinois in late January this year, and has Carter Stanley’s endorsement, which is good enough for me. He’s spent the last five season as a DC at Northern Illinois and SMU, and is obviously a KU alum that played under Mark Mangino (2002-05).

Sean Lewis, HC, Kent State. Lewis isn’t the type to shy away from a challenge. Although his head coaching experience is limited, that SI article makes me VERY interested.

Billy Napier, HC, Louisiana. If you’re good enough to get hired twice by Nick Saban, you’re good enough to coach at Kansas. He has also worked under noted offensive gurus Dabo Swinney and Todd Graham. Napier took charge of an average .500-ish program at UL and has gone 21-4 over the last two seasons, including a win in Ames last year.

Joshua Eargle, KU RC/TE. Eargle has experience with turning around moribound college football programs at D3 and FCS. If anyone on the current staff gets promoted, this is who I would want.