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TCU’s Next Head Coach: The Short List

Who replaces a legend?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 UTSA at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The departure of Gary Patterson at the helm of TCU football has left us all feeling a lot of feelings. It’s going to take some time to process all of them, but the world continues to spin as we do.

This is the first time TCU fans have had to go through a national search for a new head football coach, so bear with us. Anyone with more recent advice (literally everyone except Iowa), let us know your best practices as a fan.

The reality is, TCU is a fantastic job. Located in the 5th largest media market in the country, in a Big 12 that soon becomes easier to win with the departure of Oklahoma, in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the nation, TCU has plenty to offer its new head coach.

The question is, what is Jeremiah Donati looking for? Experience? Recruiting prowess? Youthful exuberance and creativity? We’ll know more in the coming days, but here are nine names (some more realistic than others) to keep an eye on as TCU begins their search.

Leaders in the Clubhouse

Sonny Dykes, Head Coach, SMU

Multiple people, including Drew Davison and Shehan Jeyarajah, are reporting that Dykes is the frontrunner to take over as the head coach at TCU. Dykes holds a 29-15 record at SMU since taking over in 2018, has two consecutive wins over the Horned Frogs, and seems to have the Mustangs firing on all cylinders in the right direction.

Dykes has the experience that a lot of TCU fans probably want in the next head coach, having been the top guy at Louisiana Tech and Cal prior to his one season as an offensive analyst with TCU in 2017.

Billy Napier, Head Coach, Louisiana

Napier seems destined to be a head coach in the SEC one day, but making that leap from Louisiana seems like a big one, especially considering the Ragin Cajuns are his first pit stop as the head guy. A 35-12 record at Louisiana is impressive, considering they were 26-39 the eight years prior to his arrival.

Napier also recruits Louisiana incredibly well, which TCU has done consistently under Patterson.

Jeff Traylor, Head Coach, UTSA

Traylor has UTSA sitting at 8-0, No. 16 in the AP Poll, and holding an invitation to the American Athletic Conference. Not bad for just his second season on the job. UTSA would agree, as they’ve just signed Traylor to a 10-year, $28-million deal, with a $7.5 million year-one buyout (that scales down over time).

If one thing is clear, Traylor seems destined for bigger things sooner rather than later, but now his hiring comes with a price tag that many universities can’t justify. Is TCU one of those schools that could write a big check? It wouldn’t be beyond belief, considering the Frogs built two new stadiums completely through fundraising and major gifts.

Jamey Chadwell, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina

Chadwell went 5-7 in his first season as the head coach at Coastal Carolina, but since then he’s 18-2, and has put the Chanticleers on the map as one of the powerhouses of Conference USA.

The Other Phone Calls

Justin Fuente, Head Coach, Virginia Tech

Fuente is on this list because he’s the biggest branch on Patterson’s coaching tree, having left his offensive coordinator position with TCU shortly after the Rose Bowl win to take over the head coaching job at Memphis.

He resurrected one of the worst programs in college football in just four years, taking the Tigers from cellar dwellers all the way to their first 10-win season since 1938. His time at Virginia Tech hasn’t been as clean. After 19 wins in his first two seasons, Fuente has managed just one winning season in the past four.

I’m not sure a transition to TCU would serve either party well. It’s tough enough to follow a legend, as Fuente knows.

Pete Golding, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

Nick Saban’s coaching tree has branches that extend all over the country, and it appears as though Golding is next in line. Is he ready to be a head coach after three years leading Alabama’s defense? A phone call could start to answer that question.

Dan Lanning, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia

Lanning has Georgia’s defense clicking at record levels in 2021. The Bulldogs are grinding opponents into a fine powder, allowing a measly five touchdowns in 32 quarters of football this season. At 35, Lanning is the second youngest guy on this list (look below for the youngest), but he’s already been on shortlists to become a head coach, most recently during Kansas’ search, which resulted in the hiring of Lance Leipold.

The Pipe Dream

Kellen Moore, Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

Moore is in line to be an NFL head coach sooner rather than later (hello, Chicago Bears?), but making him one of the highest paid coaches in college football and installing his offensive system would be...well...a guy can dream, can’t he??