Clock ticking for LSU to hire a football coach. Scott Woodward needs to act quickly | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to The Town Talk

By this time next week, LSU may have introduced a new football coach.

Of course, by this time next week, LSU still may be searching for a new football coach, along with several other high-profile schools.

Each season, there is plenty of turnover in the coaching ranks, but 2021 has been more unusual than normal.

For most of the season, the openings at USC and LSU were the marquee jobs to be filled, but in the past two weeks the narrative has changed, and in the days to come it may further be complicated.

Florida is now searching for a new coach, a situation few would’ve predicted when Ed Orgeron’s dismissal in Baton Rouge was made public following the Tigers’ 49-42 victory over Dan Mullen’s Gators on Oct. 16. Since losing to Coach O, Mullen lost three of four, including last week in overtime at Missouri. That loss was the last straw.

Worse, that one victory, over FCS member Samford, made headlines for the wrong reasons as the Gators trailed the Bulldogs, 42-28, late in the second quarter. In the Gators’ last 11 games against Power 5 opponents, they are 2-9.

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Add in a few public relations disasters following some of those losses, and Mullen is now looking for work.

First-year Texas coach Steve Sarkisian may be looking for work soon as well thanks to the Longhorns’ implosion that began with a second-half collapse to Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown.

Since blowing a 28-7 halftime lead in falling to the Sooners, 55-48, Texas has lost six straight games, including a 57-56 overtime decision to visiting Kansas for the Jayhawks’ first win at Texas. It also snapped Kansas' 56-game road losing streak.

Sarkisian was a curious choice to begin with after pedestrian and trouble-filled tenures at Washington and USC, and he has done little to change that narrative.

Everyone expects Miami to be searching for a new coach after firing athletic director Blake James on Nov. 15. Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz is just 20-15 in three years and 6-5 this season. James’ firing came days after he backed Diaz, whose team then went out and blew a late lead at rival Florida State.

Should the Texas and Miami jobs come open, joining USC, LSU and Florida, it would be unprecedented. Those are arguably five of the nation’s 10 top football coaching jobs.

And, it could change the direction of LSU AD Scott Woodward’s search. Woodward is known for his splashy hires. He hired Boise State’s Chris Peterson to run Washington despite Peterson rejecting numerous offers, including USC’s, through the years to remain at Boise. Woodward then hired Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher to be Texas A&M’s coach, a year after LSU’s Joe Alleva and F. King Alexander couldn’t finish the deal to hire Fisher and fire former LSU coach Les Miles.

Since coming to LSU in April 2019, Woodward has hired three-time women’s basketball national championship coach Kim Mulkey and rising star Jay Johnson, away from Arizona baseball.

Fisher may have said he would be “dumbest human being on God's earth to recruit all these guys to A&M so I can go across over there (to LSU) and go play against them,” but he also didn’t say “NO” to LSU. None of those recruits have signed binding letters to attend Texas A&M, so yes, Fisher could take the LSU job and re-recruit those A&M commits to Baton Rouge.

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Fisher, Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Penn State’s James Franklin, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Ole Miss’s Lane Kiffin also have been mentioned for the LSU job. However, it appears Franklin will stay at Penn State.

Some of those names have been mentioned with the USC opening, and you can bet Kiffin’s name will come up for the Miami opening. Kiffin helped rebuild his image by leaving Alabama as offensive coordinator for the Florida Atlantic job in Boca Raton, Florida.

Adding to the urgency in filling these jobs is the December early signing period. These schools would prefer not to miss out on a recruiting cycle. Worse, should their next coach have his current team in the College Football Playoff, they would be looking at an even more truncated February signing period.

The clock is ticking for Woodward, and the longer it ticks, the more the pressure mounts on him.

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.