In firing head football coach Karl Dorrell on Sunday, Colorado athletic director Rick George bought himself some time.
After a bye this week, CU has seven games remaining and George isn’t expected to announce the Buffs’ next full-time head coach until after the Nov. 26 finale against Utah.
It’s quite a change from the 10-day process George went through to find Dorrell in February of 2020. George has time and intends to take advantage of it to find a new leader for the program.
“I promise you that I will work hard, as hard as it possibly takes, to return our football program to glory,” he said. “I’m more confident than ever in Colorado football and we will find a leader that will get us back to prominence. I’m energized about going out to find that individual.
“The next leader of our football program will be someone who is an incredible motivator, someone who has a passion for winning and molding young men into leaders both on and off the field.”
George said he doesn’t have a specific profile for what he’s looking for, other than finding someone with “high energy” and strong motivational and leadership skills.
Surely, he has a list of candidates he wants to pursue. That list may or may not include some of the names being thrown around publicly. But, here’s BuffZone’s initial list of candidates to keep an eye on as the Buffs go through their hiring process.
Blake Anderson, Utah State head coach: Aggies are off to a rough start (1-4), but Anderson led them to the Mountain West title last year, his first in Logan, Utah. He also won two Sun Belt titles during his time at Arkansas State. In eight-plus seasons as a head coach, he has a 63-44 record with three bowl appearances. Also has extensive experience as an offensive coordinator.
Marcus Arroyo, UNLV head coach: After going 2-18 in his first two years at UNLV, Arroyo is 4-1 with the Rebels this year (including a win over Anderson’s Aggies). Has more to prove as a head coach, but built a great reputation as an assistant, most recently as the offensive coordinator at Oregon from 2017-19. A California native and former San Jose State quarterback, he has deep roots in the Pac-12 footprint.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force head coach: Whenever CU needs a coach, his name has come up, in part because he has shown some level of interest. After CU fired Dan Hawkins in 2010, Calhoun was in the running for the job. He interviewed for the job in 2020. Would he leave Air Force for Boulder this time? He is 115-76 with 11 bowls in 16 seasons with the Falcons.
Matt Entz, North Dakota State head coach: The previous two NDSU head coaches, Craig Bohl and Chris Klieman, are now enjoying successful runs at Wyoming and Kansas State, respectively. Now in his fourth season at NDSU, Entz has won two FCS national titles and has a 41-5 record. Prior to being a head coach, he was a defensive coach for 20 years.
Jeff Grimes, Baylor offensive coordinator: Has never been a head coach, but he’s had very prolific offenses as a coordinator, both at Baylor the last two seasons and at BYU (2018-20). A long-time offensive line coach, he knows Boulder. He was the Buffs’ line coach/assistant head coach from 2007-08. Has spent the past 22 seasons coaching at either BYU or Power 5 schools.
Alex Grinch, USC defensive coordinator: Another highly respected assistant who has yet to be a head coach. He transformed the Washington State defense as the Cougars’ coordinator from 2015-17. After spending 2018 at Ohio State, he was hired as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 2019. This year, he followed head coach Lincoln Riley from Norman to Los Angeles.
Bryan Harsin, Auburn head coach: It’s only a matter of time before Auburn pulls the plug on Harsin, who is only in his second year with the Tigers. He’s never been a great fit and has a 9-9 record there. Prior to that, however, he went 69-19 with three Mountain West titles in seven seasons at Boise State. Won the Sun Belt title in his only year at Arkansas State (2013). Overall, he’s 85-33 and his teams have always been bowl eligible.
Tom Herman, CBS Sports: He was fired by Texas on Jan. 2, 2021, four days after his depleted roster routed CU, 55-23, in the Alamo Bowl. He went 32-18 with four bowl wins and three consecutive top-25 finishes in four seasons at Texas, but that wasn’t good enough for Texas. It’s more than good enough in Boulder. Herman also went 22-4 in two seasons as Houston’s head coach (2015-16). Prior to being a head coach, he spent 10 years as an offensive coordinator at four stops (Texas State, Rice, Iowa State, Ohio State).
Jay Hill, Weber State head coach: A Utah lifer, he may not have interest in CU – and he’s clearly a lower profile name than most on the list – but it’s worth a look. The Wildcats are 4-0 this year (including beating Utah State) and Hill is 62-36 with four Big Sky titles and five FCS playoff appearances in nine years. Prior to that, the Lehi, Utah, native and former Utah cornerback was a long-time assistant with the Utes (2001-13).
Bronco Mendenhall, unemployed: He resigned from his head coach position at Virginia in December because he wanted time off. CU could offer him a shot to get back into coaching – and close to his native Utah. He has a career record of 135-81 at BYU (2005-15) and Virginia (2016-21), with 14 bowl appearances. His first year at Virginia was his only losing season.
Dan Mullen, ESPN: Like Herman, he was fired from his last job because he couldn’t live up to the high expectations. But, he still had a successful run at Florida from 2018-21, going 34-15, with three bowls and three top-13 finishes. Prior to that, he was 69-46 with eight consecutive bowls at Mississippi State (2009-17). Only history out west was as Utah’s QB coach from 2003-04.
Gary Patterson, Texas special assistant: His incredibly successful run at TCU came to an end after he and the school parted ways midway through the 2021 season, after the Horned Frogs started 3-5. From 2001-20, though, he went 178-73 with 17 bowls and seven top-10 finishes. The defensive-minded coach is in his first season with Texas. Hiring Patterson would make for an intriguing 2023 opener, as the Buffs visit TCU.
Bobby Petrino, Missouri State head coach: There is plenty of baggage from Petrino’s past and it would be a hard sell to CU administration because of that. But, Petrino is a winner. He’s 15-11 at Missouri State, but 134-65 overall as a head coach, with stops at Louisville (twice), Arkansas and Western Kentucky. Took teams to 11 bowls in 14 seasons at the FBS level. The Montana native also has several years experience as an offensive coordinator.
Mike Sanford, Colorado interim head coach: He would need to win a few games down the stretch this season to get serious consideration. In his previous head coaching opportunity, he went 9-16 in two seasons (2017-18) at Western Kentucky. An offensive coordinator at several stops, Sanford has to figure out how to get CU’s offense rolling the rest of this season.
Troy Taylor, Sacramento State head coach: The engineer of high-powered offenses, Taylor finally got a head coaching opportunity in 2019 at Sac State. In his two full seasons (the 2020 season was canceled), he led the Hornets to two conference titles and he was Big Sky coach of the year both times. This year, his team is 4-0 (for the first time since 1982) and ranked No. 5 in the FCS. He was Utah’s offensive coordinator from 2017-18 and spent one year (1995) as a graduate assistant at CU.
Jeff Traylor, UTSA head coach: Now in his third season at UTSA, Traylor is the reigning Conference USA coach of the year. He led the Roadrunners to a 12-2 record and C-USA title last year. He is 22-9 overall (3-2 this year). The Texas native has previously worked as an assistant at Texas, SMU and Arkansas.
Ryan Walters, Illinois defensive coordinator: A rising star in the coaching profession, Walters is a former Buff, playing safety at CU from 2004-08. He spent the 2009 season as a student assistant at CU. Last year, his first at Illinois, the defense allowed just 21.9 points per game – a 13-point improvement from the previous year and the lowest for an Illini defense since 2011. This year, Illinois is 4-1 and leading the country in scoring defense (8.4 points per game allowed). Walters was the defensive coordinator at Missouri from 2016-20.