With Mack Brown's 16-year tenure at Texas nearing its end, who could the Longhorns have in mind for his replacement?
Here is how I see the school's wish list shaping up, starting with the best head coach in the country.
Nick Saban: I still maintain that Alabama is Saban’s last stop on the college front and that his agent, Jimmy Sexton, is doing his best to drive up his price for the best possible extension in Tuscaloosa. But there are plenty of people in the college football coaching community and across various college fronts that believe Saban would indeed take the job in Austin. There is mutual interest between both parties, and it is a virtual 50-50 split on this whenever I discuss the Saban-to-Texas topic with anyone. Saban is not going to coach forever, but every coach embraces a new challenge. Still, I think he stays with the Tide.
Jimbo Fisher: I consider Fisher “Saban Lite.” If the 'Horns can't get the Crimson Tide head coach, they could look to the Florida State boss who is a Saban protege and who has elevated the Seminoles' program to the top of the college football world. He would be very good for the Longhorn Network and the boosters would love him. His track record speaks for itself, and he is turning FSU into an Alabama-like program. He could be option No. 2.
Art Briles: He is leading, with the exception of Texas A&M, the “it” program in Texas and definitely the “it” program in the Big 12. Briles loves Waco, as he is considered sort of the Chris Petersen of the Southwest. But even Petersen left Boise State. I don't see Briles moving onto the NFL despite recent reports of interest from the next level. The only question is whether the 'Horns would want to go a bit younger (Saban is, of course, the exception).
Jim Harbaugh/David Shaw: I grouped these two together not just because of the Stanford connection, but because of the NFL influence as well. Harbaugh is obviously worth a phone call, as he will always be a “college guy” despite his success with the San Francisco 49ers. He would just have to decide if the recruiting is worth it — although he will always be able to fall back on the comfort/money of the NFL. In terms of Shaw, I believe he is trending toward an NFL gig. So I wonder how interested he would be in the Texas job if the 'Horns want to talk.
James Franklin: Vanderbilt is a comfortable job because what Franklin has done in Nashville ensures that he will essentially never get fired. But he has never been and never will be a hotter commodity. The time is right to leave the Commodores while his value is at an all-time high. He would eat up being on the Longhorn Network, and the boosters would love him. But would he succeed in such a high-profile environment?
Dabo Swinney: Swinney would be a guy Texas “settles for” — and that likely won’t be the case. But he is a Southern charmer who would be great on the Longhorn Network, and the boosters would fall in love with him. While he has not had that standout win outside of the opener against Georgia this season, he should be able to deliver more signature victories with better resources than at Clemson.
Note: I did not include Louisville's Charlie Strong on this list because he would detest the cameras of the Longhorn Network. But he would deliver big-time results in Austin if given the chance.
Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.