College football’s winningest program has officially begun a search that might bring a Michigan man back to campus.
Rich Rodriguez, whose style on and off the field wasn’t a good fit with the Wolverines, was fired Wednesday and three potential candidates would look right at home in the maize and blue.
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, an ex-Michigan quarterback, and two former Wolverines assistants – LSU coach Les Miles and San Diego State coach Brady Hoke – seem to be at the top of a short list.
Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon is searching for the perfect coach to take over the Wolverines football program that has been wounded for the past three years. And he understands there are thousands of people who want a say in who will be the next coach.
“I’m in possession of the information, I know who the candidate pool is. I’m the one who’s sitting down doing the interviewing and ultimately I’m going to make the best choice for Michigan. And I’m not going to be influenced by polling and all of the wonderful suggestions that I get from people who are really not all that close to the situation,” said Brandon.
It’s not just a football coach who is being sought by the University of Michigan, but a person who will be the face of the school. Brandon says the new coach will be someone who must make Michigan better.
“Michigan is not used to this. Michigan fans expect more than this, so do Michigan athletic directors. And so we need to put ourselves in a position where we get competitive again,” said Brandon, who added that the person has to be able to compete at the highest level and have passion for the job.
As for Rich Rodriguez’s replacements, reportedly Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is being courted by the NFL. Harbaugh has already met with the San Francisco 49ers and is expected to talk to the Miami Dolphins. The Denver Broncos also hope they have a shot at him.
Dave Brandon, whose opinion is that the coveted coach is headed for the NFL, said he has chatted with Harbaugh and will continue to because he’s a Michigan man.
LSU coach Les Miles insisted Wednesday during a Cotton Bowl news conference, “I very much enjoy where I’m at.” Miles added, “I don’t think anybody has any reason to be concerned in any way.”
LSU, though, was concerned enough about Miles bolting for Ann Arbor that it put a specific clause in his contract to make it an expensive move. In the “termination by coach” section of his deal, Michigan is the only other school mentioned. It states that Miles will not seek or accept employment as Michigan’s coach. If Miles leaves the Bayou for the Big House, he must pay LSU $1.25 million.
A San Diego State spokesman said Michigan hadn’t asked for permission to talk to Brady Hoke, who worked on Lloyd Carr’s staff at Michigan.
Brandon, though, could conceivably hire a coach without ties to Michigan just as the school did four-plus decades ago when it hired Bo Schembechler, who was from Ohio and was groomed by Woody Hayes to replace him at Ohio State.
As for when a coach will be named, Brandon says his timetable is “go fast, but do it the right way.”
Michigan will buy out the final three years of Rodriguez’s contract for $2.5 million, bringing its overall cost in hiring and firing him to $12.5 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.