One thing should be abundantly clear after Nebraska's 54-21 thrashing at the hands of Minnesota.
The Mike Riley era at Nebraska is, very likely, over. The only real question that lingers is when the official word comes down.
On Monday, Nebraska AD Bill Moos told ESPN's Mitch Sherman "Mike Riley deserves to finish the 2017 season. That's how I operate."
So we can safely assume there won't be any change made until post-Iowa at the earliest.
When it all shakes out, here's a list (heck, call it "THE LIST") of names that Nebraska will, could, should, or might be considering for it's head football coach in 2018.
It's worth noting - NOBODY had Mike Riley down as a potential candidate when he was hired.
The list is broken down by tiers, for various reasons, which I'll try to explain.
TIER 1 - Known candidates (at some level)
Scott Frost- UCF head coach, and Nebraska's most recent favorite son.
The sole reason Frost occupies Tier 1 all by himself is simply because he's the only name we have at least reasonable evidence to suggest he will in fact be a candidate. This isn't intended to be an endorsement.
Per ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, Nebraska has, at some level, reached out to either Frost or UCF to let it be known they're interested in his services. It's important to underscore, that's all we know right now.
Anything beyond that is pure, unfounded speculation. Despite what your uncle, cousin, or the guy who used to live next door to Frost's best friends' roommate may have told you: I can assure you, Frost has not been "offered the job" at Nebraska. He hasn't agreed to a deal. No contract has been signed. And he most likely hasn't made any set in stone demands (number of years, money, etc.)
Even though he's virtually assured to be a candidate, there are plenty of questions surrounding Frost. Is he ready for a Power 5 job like Nebraska? Would his system translate to the Big Ten? Could he recruit the kind of players he needs to be successful at NU? If offered, would he even accept the job (no slam dunk, despite what many people will say)?
Frost is sure to be a candidate at Florida, and potentially Tennessee and/or Florida State if Jimbo Fisher makes a move. Maybe he surprises everyone, and decides to stay at UCF. Omaha World Herald columnist Dirk Chatelin explored that possibility today. There are a lot of scenarios to consider.
For those wondering, Frost reportedly has a $3 million buyout. Not a prohibitive number.
TIER 2 - Most likely to be actual candidates
Bret Bielema, soon-to-be former Arkansas head coach
You know that team in Madison that's had their way with Nebraska since the Huskers joined the Big Ten? Bielema was one of the architects of that formula, which Wisconsin still runs today. He's also likely to be available.
Despite his best efforts, he could never get his blueprint to take off in the SEC West against a different kind of animal. Don't think for a second that it wouldn't work again in the Big Ten West - there's a high probability it would. The type of program Wisconsin runs would fall right into the Huskers' wheelhouse if given enough time.
Of course, the optics of hiring a recently fired head coach would be complicated. Especially one with an Iowa Hawkeye tattoo on his leg.
It's also worth noting Bielema was a candidate at Nebraska (at some level) when Mike Riley was hired in 2014.
TIER 3 - Longer shots, but make sense
Matt Campbell - Iowa State head coach
I was close to putting Campbell in Tier 2, because he would be an excellent fit at Nebraska. He's a coach that preaches buying into a system, discipline, and flawless execution. The kind of thing that would be a dream fit for the Huskers.
Plus, Campbell has proven he can win at Iowa State in short order, one of the more difficult places to do so in college football. The Cyclones have a shot to tie the most wins in school history this season (9), and have already defeated two consensus top ten teams.
What's holding me back is after talking the folks that cover the Cyclones, there's some real skepticism as to whether Campbell would leave Ames for a job like Nebraska. The sense is that being an Ohio guy, jobs like Notre Dame, Michigan, or Ohio State would be more appealing down the road, and he may hold out for those types of opportunities. He also has a $9 million+ buyout to navigate.
I doubt he stays at Iowa State for life, but Nebraska doesn't seem like a move he's likely to make right now.
David Shaw - Stanford head coach
The true dream fit for Nebraska. A proven winner that runs the perfect kind of system.
The only problem? He's not leaving Stanford. Certainly not for Nebraska.
Sounds like some NFL teams are targeting Stanford's David Shaw. People close to the school aren't worried at all. They think Shaw stays put pic.twitter.com/XLAsk1SitT— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) November 14, 2017
Still, if I were Bill Moos, I'd make Shaw tell me "no" before I went any further.
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy head coach
If you want to see Nebraska get back to the good old days of running the option, Niumatalolo is your guy. He's been doing it at Navy, quite successfully, for nearly a decade. He's also one of the most respected men in college football.
Under Niumatalolo's leadership, Navy has only had one season (2011) of fewer than eight wins. Since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2015, Navy has won their division twice, and could be on their way to yet another eight win campaign this year.
The Midshipmen lead the NCAA in rushing this year at 369.8 yards per game, with an average of 5.86 yards per carry.
Would Nebraska want to go back to something like this? And would Niumatalolo be a big enough name to satisfy Husker fans? He should be - he's a heck of a coach.
TIER 4 - Much longer shots, or coaches that fans may want or have mentioned that don't make sense
Mike Riley, Nebraska head coach
Yes, there's still a chance Riley could be retained as Nebraska's head coach, but it doesn't seem likely at this point.
Going back to "the optics" of the situation, it would be a terribly difficult sell to the fans if Riley were to return. Yet, if he lays out some sort of spectacular plan to Bill Moos, there's at least some small chance he's retained. I think one of Riley's biggest downfalls since he's arrived in Lincoln is he's been too hands-off with his program, and allowed too many outside influences to play into the fold. It's not as uncommon of a problem in college football as what you might think.
It's a long shot, but one that's worth mentioning.
Mike Leach - Washington State head coach
The Nebraska press corps isn't this lucky.
Some school is going to pay Leach a heck of a lot of money to be their head coach in 2018. Maybe it ends up being Washington State. Maybe it's someone else. But it probably won't be Nebraska, despite the obvious tie to Bill Moos.
Leach would have a hard time finding the right kind of personnel to run his "air raid" offense in the Midwest, and frankly, I'm not sure it's something Nebraska really needs right now. To the Coug's credit, their defense is vastly improved over previous Leach operations.
Leach is a better coach than what many give him credit for, but I can't see a scenario where Nebraska goes this way.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State head coach
There's little doubt that Mullen is once again a rising star in the industry, and will have his chance to leave Starkville for a bigger job, if he so chooses.
He's likely a better fit other places, like Florida or Tennessee, than he is at Nebraska.
Craig Bohl, Wyoming head coach
We've had a handful of fans wondering why Bohl wouldn't be considered.
I counter with this - if you remove the Nebraska connection, how excited would you be about Bohl being Nebraska's next head coach? Given the resume, most people would likely say, "not very," which means they're overvaluing the Husker connection.
Les Miles, former LSU head coach
Yes, Miles is a big name. Yes, his son plays for the Huskers.
The problem? Miles is 64-years old. How many years is he (reasonably) going to want to continue to coach? Also, his offenses at LSU were atrocious the last few seasons, which ultimately led to his downfall.
He's made it known nobody has asked him about the Nebraska job. Can't say I'm surprised. As much as I loved the Mad Hatter during his best years at LSU, this one just doesn't make enough sense.
Jim McElwain, former Florida head coach
Another name that was floated by ESPN's Adam Rittenberg on Monday. Given his struggles at Florida, this is another one where the optics of the hire would be tough.
McElwain did a solid job at Colorado State as the head man prior to leading the Gators, but couldn't quite get it right in the spotlight.
Jon Gruden, former Tampa Bay Bucs head coach
Yeah...this isn't going to happen. Enough said.
Frank Solich, Ohio head coach
I actually laughed out load when a caller suggested this on our show. BRING BACK FRANK!
Bo Pelini, Youngstown State head coach
Another radio show caller suggestion. At least we'd all get Faux Pelini back in our lives, front and center.
Bob Stoops, former Oklahoma head coach
A late addition to the list, and another fan favorite.
So, you mean to tell me, Bob Stoops decided to walk away from a national title contender at Oklahoma, where he was under zero pressure, to less than a year later accept the head coaching position at Nebraska, where he has no ties whatsoever?
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