With the inevitable announcement that Kansas is firing David Beaty, here are the top candidates to replace him.
The most important thing to know about Kansas is that this job has atrophied to become one of the most difficult in all of college football. The program has nosedived to the netherworld, and it will take patience and an experienced hand to get it back. The industry consensus is that new athletic director Jeff Long will be seeking someone with head-coaching experience. Beaty came as a receivers coach and was clearly overmatched. The Jayhawks almost certainly can’t hire an assistant, as this program needs experience to navigate it out of the wilderness.
Here’s a look at the top candidates for the job.
1. Seth Littrell, North Texas – He’s the best regional fit for recruiting and schematic fit for the league, and he would bring the energy and experience necessary for the job. He’s led North Texas to three straight bowl games, and blowouts of Arkansas and SMU opened some eyes this season.
2. Neal Brown, Troy – He fits the archetype of a young, offensive-minded coach and he captured the nation’s attention with the Nebraska upset. The Sun Belt doesn’t have the best track record of promoting coaches without a prior tie to the school, so Brown would need to give Kansas a long look.
3. Matt Wells, Utah State – This will be the fifth bowl game in six seasons for Wells, and the No. 14 ranking in the AP poll marks the school’s highest ranking since it finished the 1961 season at No. 10. Wells has both the charisma and local experience to handle this job, as he’s from Oklahoma and has worked at Navy, Tulsa and New Mexico as an assistant.
4. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy – This would be a non-traditional hire that would bring an identity – and inevitably success – to the Kansas program. Niumatalolo is one of the classiest and most respected coaches in the country, and his 86-55 record at Navy speaks for itself.
5. Les Miles – He may be the type of coach that could bring some stability and interest to a program that’s had little. Miles is interested in getting back into coaching, and this job would intrigue him. Long knows Miles well from their time in the SEC West together.
6. Willie Fritz, Tulane – He has more than 200 career wins as a head coach, with a career path – from high school to JUCO to varying levels of college – that cuts through the heart of Kansas’ recruiting country. Fritz is just 13-20 at Tulane without a bowl appearance in three years, which would mean this would require a deeper dive by Kansas to see the fit.
7. Dave Doeren, North Carolina State – This would be a distinct step down from where he is at N.C. State, but that job has uncertainty with athletic director Debbie Yow retiring at the end of this school year. Doeren has top 25 recruiting class coming in, which could help keep him around. The lure for Doeren would be home, as he grew up outside Kansas City and started his career there as a high school coach.
8. Jason Candle, Toledo – Candle won the MAC last season, which has been a tested path to a bigger job recently for coaches like P.J. Fleck, Dino Babers and Dave Clawson. He’s a former offensive coordinator for current Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, which would be an attractive prototype for KU to follow.
9. Jeff Monken, Army – He’s transformed Army with three straight bowl appearances and raised eyebrows around the Big 12 by nearly knocking off Oklahoma this season. Does Long have the guts for an unconventional hire?
10. Chris Klieman, North Dakota State – He’s a top name for the Kansas State job whenever Bill Snyder steps down or gets forced out. It would be a cold-blooded move by Long to swoop in and nab him. He’s won three FCS national titles in four years.
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