Teams & Conferences

Minnesota’s 5 Top Head Coach Options To Replace Tracy Claeys

Minnesota’s 5 Top Head Coach Options To Replace Tracy Clayes


In the wake of the Minnesota football scandal and the hope for a culture change, head coach Tracy Claeys was fired on Monday. And the five top options to replace him are …


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Just how strong is the Minnesota football head coaching job?

If Purdue could get a Jeff Brohm from Western Kentucky, can’t it be in the hunt for one of the bigger-named coaches? After all, it’s one of the only available gigs out there.

Yeah, Minnesota is cold, but so is Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska. East Lansing and Ann Arbor aren’t exactly Miami Beach, either.

There’s absolutely no recruiting base – but there isn’t one for the Badgers, Hawkeyes or Huskers, either – and it’s not the typical college town atmosphere, but there are plenty of perks.

The big city would appeal to plenty of head coaches. The facilities are solid, and the support would be there. More than that, there’s an opportunity to mold the program and become a Barry Alvarez/Kirk Ferentz type who can take the thing over.

So with that in mind, here are five names sure to be in the discussion as Gopher AD Mark Coyle looks to get something done in a hurry.

The most interesting coach in the world: Lane Kiffin

And I’m only 68% joking.

If Minnesota wants to be a thing right away, it drops the $2.5 million buyout clause it would take to pry him away from Florida Atlantic, you pay Kiffin $2 million a year – a bump from the $950,000ish he’d have been making from FAU, and a commitment after paying Claeys $1.3 million a year – and you tell him to make the program great again.

There would be drama. There would be issues. But Kiffin is local – he went to Bloomington Jefferson High School – and would instantly turn the program into a player on the recruiting circuit.

You want the baggage? He’d be worth it.

The It-Ain’t-Happening-But … option: Chip Kelly

You’re not getting Chip Kelly, Minnesota. And for right now, you probably don’t want him.

He’s going to cost way too much. He’s going to want to move on to a bigger gig as soon as possible. He’s going to be a major-league headache. But he’s got the system that could instantly turn the program into a Big Ten title contender, and he’s got the style that can work no matter what the current talent-base is.

He’s more likely destined for whatever massive job is open next, and considering Minnesota is trying to change the culture, getting the guy who came close to putting Oregon into serious hot water with the Willie Lyles NCAA scouting issues a few years ago, it’s not going to happen. But at the very least, Coyle has to place a call.

The Needs-Change-Of-Scenery option: Bret Bielema

It’s just not working at Arkansas.

Oh sure, he’s been okay, but 25-26 in four years isn’t getting it done, and now he’s going to be on a win-or-else hot seat in 2017.

Why not do Arkansas a favor?

The Hogs might still like their guy, but if you’re going to be looking elsewhere in 2018 anyway, why not come up with a mutually beneficial deal that gets him to a place that’s better suited for his coaching talents?

He went to Iowa, was good enough at Wisconsin to lead the way to three straight Rose Bowls, and he’s got the power-running style that hasn’t really kicked in at Fayetteville, but has all the pieces in place in Minneapolis.

You want to beat Wisconsin and become the main player in the Big Ten West, Minnesota? Boom.

The very, very Minnesota move: Craig Bohl

The Wyoming head man and former superstar FCS coach at North Dakota State fits the profile of a Minnesota head coach.

He went to Nebraska, was an assistant at Wisconsin as well as for the Huskers, and he certainly knows the area with what he accomplished at NDSU. He’s just the sort of next-step-up coachy coach – sort of like Jerry Kill – who can step in and command instant respect from the rest of the conference. It’s a safe move, and it’s a solid move. But he’s not the shot for the stars like the guy who Minnesota will likely make the main target …

The next head coach for your University of Minnesota Golden Gophers: P.J. Fleck

Yeah, it’s the right guy, right time, right gig.

Fleck could’ve had Temple, South Florida, or Cincinnati, but he was apparently holding out for a Power Five job.

Purdue might not have been the right step up, and he wasn’t quite there for the Oregon opening, but Minnesota is the exact next-step-up program for the blazing hot 36-year-old coach.

He’ll eventually be the head coach at a superpower national title program, but for now, the Illinois native has the exact mix of youth, fire, and pizzazz to be the one to turn Minnesota into a national story.

And it doesn’t hurt that his overmanned Western Michigan team just went toe-to-toe with Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl and made it a game.

He’s the shot-in-the-arm the program needs to start fresh.

Row The Boat.