Wanted: Miracle worker who thrives in an ungrateful lifeless environment minus the unconditional love of administrators or consumers.
Oh, and must be willing to accept considerably less pay compared to your peers.
Want the job? If so, apply at the University of New Mexico football office, located in not far from a huge parking lot in mint condition after years of abandonment.
It stands to reason that UNM will hire a new coach for its withered football program in the next week or two. The longer the school waits, the smaller the talent pool there is to draw from.
Without further ado, here’s a list of names drawn largely from reckless speculation – and word of mouth from a few people with knowledge of such things.
The intriguing names
Art Briles. Yes, the same Briles who serves as the patron saint of evil according to ESPN radio host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner. The same Briles who nuked his own red-hot coaching career when an internal investigation at Baylor (which he coached from 2008-15) revealed a rampant disregard for sexual abuse and misconduct by his players.
He’s considered largely radioactive and even had one school, UT-San Antonio, announce Monday that it won’t even consider him as a candidate for its vacancy.
Briles’ name was tossed about last year as a potential replacement for Bob Davie, who somehow survived the guillotine and coached the Lobos to a miserable 2-10 record. It’s said Briles was seeking a five-year deal in which he’d coach the first three years at a fraction of the price (about $350,000 per) with the understanding that he’d make $750,000 for the last two.
That never happened. Davie stayed. Briles now coaches high school ball in Texas. He’s one of the most controversial names in the business and he’d be a huge public relations risk for the Lobos, but at this point you have to wonder if that even matters. UNM needs to make a splash and this guy is a living, breathing tsunami.
Rich Rodriguez. This guy’s name pops up in every single coaching search in the country, including last year when Davie was in danger at UNM. The former head coach at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona, he’s now the lame-duck offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, which just fired Matt Luke as its head coach.
Chances are Rodriguez will wind up anywhere but here, but his name is high-profile enough to get people talking about Lobo football for reasons that don’t involve home games drawing fewer than 2,000 fans.
Danny Gonzales. Yeah, yeah. This is the low-hanging fruit, the can we’ve been kicking down the road for a long, long time. He’s an Albuquerque guy, a UNM grad and a former Lobo assistant under Rocky Long. Now he’s the associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Arizona State, a place that is already shaking things up after the dismissal of its offensive coordinator and two other assistants on Monday.
Gonzales is the favorite for the job but, really, it might be a smart move for him to stay at ASU and wait for a better opportunity. His profile is on the rise as the Sun Devils are getting plenty of national attention under head coach Herm Edwards.
Willie Fritz. The Tulane head coach is a grizzled vet of 23 years and, at 59, would be older than Davie was when he came to UNM. He’s had moderate success at the FBS level, leading Georgia Southern and Tulane to bowl games in recent years. Before that he was wildly successful at Sam Houston State.
He runs a variation of the triple option, the offense Davie used to build a winner before scrapping it three years ago. If history shows anything, it’s that rebuilding an offense is faster by running a ball-control scheme like the option, which minimizes mistakes and takes the emphasis off finding high-profile skill players.
Billy Napier. The Louisiana head coach is one of the rising stars in college football, so he may already be too expensive for UNM’s shallow pockets. What a hire he’d be, though.
He cut his teeth as an assistant at Clemson under Dabo Swinney and Alabama with Nick Saban. He was also on the same staff as Gonzales two years ago at ASU before taking over the Ragin’ Cajuns this year. He even spent one year in the Mountain West at Colorado State and has 10-win Louisiana in this week’s Sun Belt championship game.
The laughable maybes
Tony Sanchez. The recently fired UNLV coach wouldn’t exactly be an inspiring hire for the Lobos, but since when does that matter? Nothing the program does seems to inspire anyone anyway.
Frank Wilson. Fired by UTSA, he actually lost to Davie’s Lobos in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl before letting all the momentum from that season slip away. Sounds familiar, right?
Todd Orlando. Fired over the weekend as the Texas defensive coordinator, he’s probably too qualified to take over a struggling mid-major like UNM. Plus, he’s reportedly owed more than $1.5 million by the burnt orange. He doesn’t really need a gig right now.
Any and all assistants in the SEC. That probably includes recently disposed head coaches Matt Luke (Ole Miss), Chad Morris (Arkansas) and Barry Odom (Missouri), all three of whom would take it as an insult to go from the SEC head coaching fraternity to the head job at New Mexico.
Any and all assistants from the ACC. It’s speculated that Nuñez is getting interest from familiar friends in that league, although it’s a safer bet that his deep ties to the SEC means the future UNM coach will have some connection to that league.
Will Webber’s commentary piece appears regularly in this section. He has covered college and high school sports in New Mexico for nearly a quarter century. To contact him, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.