Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said Monday night that he expects to have a new coach in place before the end of the recruiting dead period on Jan. 15.
"We have to be back open for business in the middle of the month once the dead period ends," Patterson told reporters before Texas lost to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl in Mack Brown's final game. "Oh, I think we've got to be done by then. The coach has to put together a staff and get up and running, keep the recruits we got and fill up any spots we've got open."
Patterson was making his first public comments about a new coach since the news conference announcing Brown's retirement.
Patterson would not comment about the coaches being considered or how the process is working.
"It's a great job; there's a lot of interest," he said, later adding, "The guys we're talking to aren't filling out applications."
There have been public reports that there currently are four strong candidates for the job: Baylor's Art Briles, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Vanderbilt's James Franklin and Louisville's Charlie Strong. Other names could surface for a job that is, at the least, one of the top three in the nation and probably is the best. The athletic department prints money, the facilities are top-notch and the recruiting base is tremendous.
Some media outlets reported Tuesday morning that Fisher has signed a contract extension, and he now will make about $4.1 million annually. But there has been no public mention of a buyout figure, and that salary still is about $1 million less than Brown earned with the Longhorns. Briles also signed an extension earlier this month, but money is no object for Texas.
Strong is the only coach among that quartet whose season is over; Louisville beat Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl to finish 12-1. Baylor plays UCF in Wednesday's Fiesta Bowl, Vanderbilt meets Houston in Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl and FSU plays Auburn for the national title on Jan. 6.
There is not a surprising name among that quartet; those are four of the hottest coaches in the nation. While none of them are as folksy as Brown -- frankly, few coaches are -- each of the four would be able to handle the rigors of the job and would be considered at least a "good" hire.
Briles' Texas roots and his high-powered offense would be huge in recruiting; another advantage would be his built-in knowledge of the Big 12. Fisher has an offensive background and has a staff known for its recruiting acumen; plus, he took over a program that had grown extremely stale and now has it ready to play for the national championship. Strong has a strong resume -- he has coached for Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer -- and has rebuilt Louisville into a nationally relevant program in a short time; Strong also is known as a good recruiter, and he is the only one among the four that has a defensive background. And while he has the least head-coaching experience of the quartet, Franklin has performed a mini-miracle of sorts at Vandy by making the Commodores a relevant program in the SEC despite being hampered by the toughest academic standards in the league. What could he do at a school with an actual football tradition, a school that actually picks and chooses its recruits rather than one that has to go out to find a certain kind of student-athlete? Franklin also would be a huge hit with the media and would be a natural for all the TV engagements that a Texas coach must handle with the Longhorn Network.