With Michigan suffering through three September losses for the first time in the program's history, there's talk that Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh would be a potential candidate for the head-coaching job at the school if Brady Hoke is fired.
We're not here to engage in any speculation about what the future holds for those two coaches, but I'm certain of this -- it's not hard to see why a position like the Michigan job would appeal to a coach like Harbaugh.
Harbaugh has plenty of personal connections to the school -- he graduated high school in the area while his father was an assistant on Bo Schembechler's Wolverines staff and brother Jim starred at quarterback for Michigan. But let's put those ties to the side, because a job like Michigan's would be attractive to an NFL head coach without them.
First, there's not nearly the discrepancy in salary between college and pro head coaches. The highest-paid college head coach, Alabama's Nick Saban, has a salary pushing $7 million per year. Harbaugh signed a contract extension before last season that pays him nearly $7 million per year. Big-time programs have also increased the pool of money for assistant coaches because in order to have a great program, you need a great staff.
Also, coaches that have left the pro ranks for college football, like UCLA's Jim Mora, have been pleasantly surprised by how much they've enjoyed interacting with young athletes. Coaches at the college level get a sense that they can make a true impact on these kids' lives. They might not be trying to completely shape everyone's moral character, but at the same time, coaches are often a father figure to a lot of kids. They get to see them grow up, and I think there's something gratifying about that for coaches.
Now, there's a pro and con to everything. College coaches have to recruit, and a lot of them tire of it. That's when the NFL beckons. But, it's been said many times that college is a coach's game and the NFL is a player's game. It's a different dynamic for coaches in college, and one that could be a lot more appealing to NFL head coaches than you might think.
Candidates Kansas, SMU should consider
While the Michigan job is still Hoke's, two college jobs are currently vacant following Kansas' firing of Charlie Weis and June Jones' resignation at SMU. There's already been talk that SMU is intrigued by former Texas coach Mack Brown. Kicking the tires to see if Brown is interested in the job would be the best thing SMU could do, but I would be very surprised if Brown took that job.
That said, here are 10 guys that I think both schools should take a hard look at as they consider candidates to fill the vacancies. This list is not all-encompassing -- there are plenty of good candidates out there -- but these are some of the coaches that intrigue me:
Beau Baldwin, Eastern Washington head coach: If people don't start beating a path to Eastern Washington to find out what Baldwin is doing there, they're missing the boat. Eastern Washington is one of the top FCS programs.
Scott Frost, Oregon offensive coordinator: Frost quarterbacked Nebraska to a national title in 1997 and leads one of the most explosive offenses in college football for the Ducks, but he has experience coaching and playing on both sides of the ball.
Justin Fuente, Memphis head coach: Memphis has shown tremendous improvement under Fuente, and some top programs have taken notice this year, including UCLA. Memphis gave the Bruins a scare at home in the second weekend of the season, and the Tigers played Ole Miss tough last weekend.
Tom Herman, Ohio State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Herman is one of the brightest minds in the game -- in fact, he's a member of Mensa.
Josh Heupel, Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: He one of the young stars in the coaching ranks and has helped Trevor Knight develop into one of the top quarterbacks in college football.
Pete Lembo, Ball State head coach: Lembo is one of the coaches on the rise in college football. He was a top candidate for the Wake Forest job after last season.
Tee Martin, USC wide receivers coach/passing-game coordinator: A monster recruiter and really good coach who won a national title as Tennessee's quarterback before going on to an NFL career.
Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina head coach: Moglia has a fascinating story -- he's also the Chairman of the Board for TD Ameritrade -- and led Coastal Carolina to a No. 7 finish in the FCS rankings last season.
Chad Morris, Clemson offensive coordinator: Morris has helped build Clemson into a powerhouse offense and might be ready to make the jump to the head-coaching ranks.
Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State defensive coordinator: Regarded as one of the top assistants in the game. He'll likely be a popular target.