CU Buffs coaching search ongoing

Steve Sarkisian reportedly staying at Alabama; search could go into next week

USC's head coach Steve Sarkisian in the second half at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. UCLA beat USC for the third time 38 to 20 on November 22, 2014. (Photo by MICHAEL GOULDING, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/SCNG)
USC’s head coach Steve Sarkisian in the second half at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. UCLA beat USC for the third time 38 to 20 on November 22, 2014. (Photo by MICHAEL GOULDING, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/SCNG)

Going into Thursday, it appeared that Colorado’s search for a head football coach was nearing its end.

By Thursday evening, sources told Buffzone that there’s a feeling the search could continue into next week as CU tries to replace Mel Tucker, who bolted Feb. 12 after just one year on the job, to take the head coaching position at Michigan State.

Steve Sarkisian, a fan favorite to take the job with the Buffaloes, is apparently no longer in the running. Chris Low of ESPN reported Thursday that Sarkisian has elected to keep his job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. He is expected to get a raise that will make him one of the highest paid assistants in college football, according to Low.

Buffzone sources and several reports said that Sarkisian interviewed with Colorado on Wednesday and it was believed he was one of CU’s top targets. A former head coach at Washington and USC, Sarkisian just finished his first season as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

With Sarkisian apparently out of the running, focus remains on others, including Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and CU interim head coach Darrin Chiaverini. Former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema could also in the running.

CU athletic director Rick George and associate athletic director Lance Carl are conducting the search and not providing information.

According to Buffzone sources, Calhoun interviewed with CU this week. He is 98-69 in 13 seasons with the Falcons. Last season, he took the Falcons to an 11-2 record – including a 30-23 overtime win against CU – and a No. 22 final season ranking in the Associated Press poll, AFA’s first postseason ranking since 1998.

Last month, Air Force announced that it was working on a contract extension with Calhoun through the 2025 season, but that deal is apparently not completed. Air Force is currently going through spring practices and Calhoun coached the Falcons on Thursday evening.

Brent Briggeman of the Colorado Springs Gazette tweeted that Calhoun was asked “many times” about the CU job after Thursday’s practice. “Calhoun deflected the questions; refusing to confirm, deny or acknowledge anything about the situation,” Briggeman wrote.

Bieniemy, the Buffs’ all-time leading rusher, has been rumored as a candidate from the start. There have been mixed reports about whether Bieniemy is still in the mix. He has been with the Chiefs the past seven seasons and he’s interviewed for seven NFL head coaching jobs in the last two winters.

Earlier this month, Bieniemy helped the Chiefs to a win in Super Bowl LIV and there’s a belief that he could be a top candidate for NFL head coaching jobs next winter. It’s unclear if Bieniemy has interest in returning to college football for the first time since 2011-12, when he was CU’s offensive coordinator.

Chiaverini, a former CU player who has been on the coaching staff the past four years, interviewed for the job earlier this week. Named one of the nation’s top 25 recruiters by the past three years, he’s a fan favorite, but, like Bieniemy, has no prior head coaching experience.

Chiaverini was named interim head coach after Tucker’s departure.

Bielema interviewed this week, as well, according to a report from Ian Rapoport of the The NFL Network. Hired last month as outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants, Beliema is 97-58 with 10 bowl appearances in 12 seasons as a head coach. He was 68-24 in seven seasons at Wisconsin and 29-34 in five seasons at Arkansas.

CU conducted seven interviews this week, according to Buffzone sources. With the search ongoing, however, reported that there could be more interviews coming.

The longer the search goes, the door could open for other candidates, such as former UCLA head coach Jim Mora. Fired with one game left in the 2017 season, Mora has been in broadcasting since, but has expressed interest in the job, according to sources. He also had interest in the job when Tucker was hired in December of 2018.

Mora spent part of his childhood living in Boulder when his father was an assistant coach at CU. A former head coach for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, Mora went 46-30 in six seasons at UCLA, taking the Bruins to four bowl games.