“Hokeamania” has officially come to an end at Michigan after the Wolverines first losing season since 2009. The atmosphere right now in Ann Arbor is a lot less maize and much more blue as the program struggles to find the successor to Brady Hoke after firing the head coach after just four years. Michigan has largely struggled since Lloyd Carr retired after the 2007 season; he compiled a career record 122-40 and won the 1997 National Championship.
The Wolverines have fallen behind rivals Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin in terms of success in recent years. The right head coach will go a long way to fixing these problems. Michigan is a prestigious program, which could be ripe for a quick turnaround under the right circumstances. Here are the top five candidates who could replace Brady Hoke as Michigan’s head coach.
1. Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh has been the coach most closely linked with the job for the last year. Footballscoop.com has already reported that Harbaugh has told Michigan that he will not be a candidate for the vacancy. Harbaugh still has 2014 to coach, but the situation won’t completely reveal itself until after the regular season ends.
Harbaugh is undoubtedly the most qualified. He is a former Michigan quarterback, finished 3rd in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1986. Harbaugh’s career collegiate coaching record is 58-27 between San Diego State and Stanford. He revived Stanford as a perennial powerhouse. Although there is tension with the 49ers organization, he has a 43-16-1 overall record there and his players love his fire. He has won everywhere he’s been.
2. Les Miles
Miles is another former Michigan Wolverines player; he was an offensive lineman from 1974-75 under Bo Schembeckler. Nicknamed “The Mad Hatter,” Miles is known for his crazy coaching style and antics, routinely calling trick plays, making risky coaching decisions, and generally being a fun person be around.
He’s 61, but coaches like he’s 31. In 13 years between Oklahoma State and LSU, Miles has compiled a 131-49 record, winning the 2007 BCS National Championship.
3. Dan Mullen
Mullen has been Mississippi State’s head coach since 2009. During his tenure, he has a 46-30 record, including a 3-1 record in bowl games – including a 52-14 blowout victory against Michigan in 2011 in the Gator Bowl, which ended up being the last game Rich Rodriguez (Hoke’s predecessor) coached at the program.
He had his best season with the Bulldogs this year with a 10-2 record, but with key losses to Alabama and Ole miss, fell just short of the SEC Championship Game. He has also coached up Dak Prescott into a perennial Heisman Trophy candidate. His offense works, and with a bigger-profile program at Michigan to lure in more high-profile college recruits, the grass may be greener on the other side.
4. David Shaw
Shaw, Harbaugh’s successor at Stanford, has continued to have success since Harbaugh’s 2011 departure. Shaw’s record at Stanford is 41-12, and this has come in the post-Andrew Luck era.
Shaw spent eight years in the NFL (1997-2005) as an offensive assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens before joining the college ranks. He’s a disciplinarian, and has the right profile that would entice Michigan should they lose out on the other big name candidates.
5. Lane Kiffin
In all fairness, Lane Kiffin’s tenure as head coach of the Raiders from 2007-08 was an unmitigated disaster. In all fairness, the Raiders have been a disaster for 11 years. After Oakland, Kiffin took a job at Tennessee that he parlayed into a job at USC, which he was subsequently fired from. His record through both stints was 35-20.
He is currently the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and is still only 39-years-old. The biggest knock against Kiffin is probably his maturity as a leader, but coaching under Saban may have done more than enough to help Kiffin this season. He is a great offensive mind, and usually gets the most out of his offensive talent. He is the longest shot, but he will get a head coaching job at least one more time in his career. It’s a huge risk, but with the right recruiting, may pay off.