Steve Sarkisian

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Sunday, Dec. 22

USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who guided the Trojans to a 45-20 victory over Fresno State on Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl, will be retained by new coach Steve Sarkisan, according to the Los Angeles Times.

USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be part of Steve Sarkisian's staff. (Photo: Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times)

USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be part of Steve Sarkisian’s staff. (Photo: Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times)

Sarkisian has hired three former Washington assistants — Johnny Nansen, Keith Heyward and Peter Sirmon — but is still in the process of assembling his Trojans staff.

A source at USC with knowledge of the hiring process told the Times that megarecruiter Tosh Lupoi’s chance of being hired by USC was now “less than zero,” as both USC and Washington are investing whether the ace recruiter violated NCAA rules by paying for private tutoring and online classes for a recruit.

Barring a last minute change of heart, blockbuster names like Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh appear to be off the board for Texas.

Multiple sources tell us that Jimbo Fisher has emerged as the most likely target for the Longhorns. Other coaches like Baylor’s Art Briles and LSU’s Les Miles are also garnering interest according to informed sources.

HookEm247 reports Briles, Charlie Strong of Louisville, Jim Mora of UCLA, Pat Fitzgerald or Northwestern, Al Golden of Miami and James Franklin of Vanderbilt are among the candidates that could emerge as the search progresses.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops expects his coaching staff to remain intact.

Florida has officially announced the departure of linebackers and special teams coach Jeff Choate. A former longtime Boise State assistant, Choate is expected to be heading to Washington to join Chris Petersen’s staff.

Will Muschamp added Coleman Hutzler as special teams coach on Friday.

Hutzler is a former Gators grad assistant that spent the last two years at New Mexico, where the special teams units made immediate improvements.

Sources tell us new Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson was very close to becoming the new offensive coordinator for the Gators.

Where is Muschamp now? It’s anyone’s guess.

Most of the initial names we heard (Anderson, Arizona State’s Mike Norvell, UCLA’s Noel Mazzone) have agreed to new deals. Nebraska’s Tim Beck may or may not still be on the board.

CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler reports that Ohio State co-OC Ed Warinner has interviewed for the Army job. Warinner was an Army assistant and coordinator from 1987-99.

Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken has interviewed, while Jets special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica was scheduled to interview this weekend.

Tampa Bay Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, a former Army player, is also expected to interview for the job.

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers accepted the James Madison head coaching position Friday.

Utah has hired former Wyoming coach Dave Christensen as its offensive coordinator.

Kyle Whittingham used both Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson as co-offensive coordinators in 2013. Both Erickson and Johnson have been demoted to running backs and quarterbacks coach, respectively.

Boise State quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith will join Chris Petersen‘s staff at Washington.

With the departure of offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, two names to watch are current tight ends coach Walt Bell and current Texas co-offensive coordinator Darrell Wyatt.

Wyatt was one of Fedora’s first hires when he first landed the Southern Miss job six seasons ago.

Texas A&M has promoted Jake Spavital to offensive coordinator and will take over play-calling duties.

Clarence McKinney, who served as the offensive coordinator, playcaller and running backs coach this past season for the Aggies, will remain on staff as the running backs coach.

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USC, Washington investigating ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi

USC and Washington are investing whether Huskies assistant and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi violated NCAA rules by paying for private tutoring and online classes for a recruit.

Washington defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi (left) and former Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian. (Photo: Scott Eklund, Red Box Pictures)

Washington defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi (left) and former Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian. (Photo: Scott Eklund, Red Box Pictures)

According to an LA Times report, the allegations surround the recruitment of Andrew Basham, a former defensive lineman at Lynnwood (Wa.) High.

Basham signed a letter of intent with Washington last February but failed to qualify academically.

Mike Davis, a throwing coach who helped Basham win a state shotput title, told The Times that Lupoi, “gave him $3,000 to cover private tutoring for Basham through a test preparation company. Davis said he also received $1,500 from Lupoi to reimburse Basham’s father for online classes Andrew could use to raise his grade-point average.”

Lupoi, who played at Cal from 2000-05, joined new USC coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff at Washington in 2012 after serving as Cal’s defensive line coach for four seasons. He is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top recruiters.

The Times said Lupoi did not return phone calls for interview requests, but did respond to the allegations in a text message that read, “Well that’s certainly false. I deny such allegations of violating NCAA rules w/ the recruitment of Andrew Basham.”

USC officials confirmed that Lupoi is among the coaches that Sarkisian listed as potential candidates to become Trojans assistants, and the school said that all possible names were vetted. Last week, both USC’s compliance office and the Times received a tip from someone who said Davis had been the middleman in a transaction between Lupoi and a recruit.

After speaking with both Davis and also with Sarkisian, USC’s vice president for athletic compliance David Roberts told The Times that he does not believe Sarkisian knew about the alleged activity.

“We don’t have concerns about Steve’s involvement,” Roberts said.

Sarkisian has hired three former Washington assistants — Johnny Nansen, Keith Heyward and Peter Sirmon — but is still in the process of assembling his USC staff.

A source at USC with knowledge of the hiring process told the Times that Lupoi’s chance of being hired by USC was now “less than zero.”

Lupoi is currently part of Washington’s interim staff that is preparing for Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl game against BYU. New Washington coach Chris Petersen has yet to finalize his staff.

Shondell Reed, Washington’s senior associate athletic director for compliance, said Lupoi informed him last Friday that The Times was about to publish an article about allegations regarding Basham’s recruitment. Reed then alerted the Pac-12 Conference office and was told that USC had received a tip and was investigating.

Reed told the Times that that he did not know the specifics of the allegations but that Lupoi “denies any wrongdoing or violations of NCAA rules. He said he doesn’t know why he would be accused of this and vehemently denies doing anything wrong.”

Davis is scheduled to meet with officials from Washington and USC in Seattle on Friday.

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Wednesday, Dec. 11

With Bryan Harsin named head coach at his alma mater Boise State, Arkansas State defensive coordinator John Thompson has been named the Red Wolves’ interim head coach.

Ed OrgeronThompson, who was head coach at East Carolina in 2003-04, will lead ASU in the GoDaddy Bowl vs. Ball State.

ASU’s last three head coaches — Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Auburn’s Gus Malzhan to Auburn, and Harsin — each stayed with the school just one season before moving on to bigger and better things, which should help the school attract some interesting candidates this time around.

A couple of interesting names to keep an eye on include Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, an Arkansas native who was with Malzahn with the Red Wolves, former USC assistant Ed Orgeron and Cincinnati offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.

Ravens assistant offensive line coach Todd Washington has been offered the USC o-line job by new Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian.

As first reported by CBS’ Bruce Feldman, Hawaii has fired defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer and linebackers coach Tony Tuioti.

Maryland defensive line coach Greg Gattuso has hired as head coach at Albany, according to multiple media reports.

Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News reports that Texas A&M’s Board of Regents will hold a special conference call at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The school’s president is seeking permission to execute a new contract with the head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin and athletic director Eric Hyman have an agreement in place for $5 million annually, up from $3.1 million per season.

Details of the contract should become available by open record request soon after details are finalized.

Iowa State offensive line coach Chris Klenakis will interview for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

Ole Miss has announced a one-year extension for Hugh Freeze. His base salary to will increase to $3 million per year. The salary pool for Freeze’s assistants will also increase by $400,000.

The offensive coordinator job at Florida remains in flux. We’re told the leading three candidates are UNC’s Blake Anderson, Arizona State’s Mike Norvell and Nebraska’s Tim Beck.

Sources indicate UCLA’s Noel Mazzone had an early interest, but decided to stay in Westwood.

Ball State offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky will be named head coach at FCS Elon.

Skrosky was an assistant at Elon from 2006-10 under former head coach Pete Lembo.

Photo: Don Ryan, AP

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Tuesday, Dec. 3

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck issued a statement reaffirming his support of head coach Dana Holgorsen.

West Virginia AD Oliver Luck (AP Photo)

West Virginia A,D. Oliver Luck says he believes in Dana Holgorsen. (Photo: AP)

In the statement, Luck said, “I strongly believe in our coaching staff, including the work that our strength and conditioning staff is doing. In my opinion, continuity is the key ingredient that will bring our football program back to the high level that Mountaineer fans expect.”

In reality, there are 11.3 million reasons that Holgorsen’s job is safe — as in the amount it would cost the school to buy out his contract. Holgorsen should get his agent a nice Christmas present this year.

Miami (Ohio) has hired Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin as head coach.

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien has fired longtime linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and second-year quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher, multiple sources confirmed to Lions247.

GatorBait.net reports that while former USC coach Lane Kiffin had a strong interest in the Florida offensive coordinator job at, but says that the Gators are unlikely to hire him. Mike Mularkey, Clay Helton and Blake Anderson are among the names we continue to hear. Arizona State’s Mike Norvell and UCLA’s Noel Mazzone are other names being mentioned.

According to AP writer Mark Long, Muschamp plans to scrap the pro-style system and switch to up-tempo an offense in 2014.

Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe has resigned.

Sources tell us Ball State’s Pete Lembo, Rice’s David Bailiff, Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason and Tulane’s Curtis Johnson could be candidates for the job.

Multiple sources feel it’s likely June Jones will either leave SMU on his own accord or be fired. The national media is starting to report some chatter as well.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz are expected to be among the candidates to fill the job should it open.

Sources tell us that Hawaii head coach Norm Chow is weary of the job already and that the school might be happy for him to move along. There are strong rumors June Jones could return.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson “has worked with the Tulane Board to reconfigure football coach Curtis Johnson’s contract, as well as those of his assistants.”

Auburn’s Jay Jacobs plans a raise for Gus Malzahn.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon says that Brady Hoke will lead the program “well into the future.” We assume that means he’s in no danger of losing his job (not that we ever thought he was).

Hoke says he has no plans to make any staff changes, even though many think he should.

According to the Tampa Tribune’s Joey Johnston, “USF coach Willie Taggart says he doesn’t anticipate any changes to his coaching staff.”

RealDawg reports that Washington athletic director Scott Woodward was “blindsided” by Steve Sarkisian’s move to USC and that defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, once thought to be next in line, is now unlikely to land the job.

Jim Mora would have been a candidate if he had wanted to be, but he reports indicate that he has agreed to a six year extension to stay at UCLA. Mizzou’s Gary Pinkel and Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier are also rumored to be strong candidates, along with Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Vandy’s James Franklin.

The Seattle Times reports that Sarkisian’s buyout of $1.5 million is due within 30 days. the Times also reports that Wilcox would owe “$1 million, according to his contract. That penalty is triggered only if Wilcox leaves early ‘to take a position at another Pac 12 school, with the exception of Head Coach.’”

Huskies defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi would owe $410,000 if he were to leave.

Sports Radio KJR reports that Wilcox is headed to USC with Sarkisian.

Sources tell us that a loss to South Florida this weekend could mean the end of Kyle Flood’s tenure at Rutgers.

Western Kentucky’s Bobby Petrino says he won’t “deal with speculation” when asked if he was a candidate for other jobs.

Air Force’s Troy Calhoun is keeping quiet on possible staff changes.

We continue to hear that Florida International’s Ron Turner could go back to the NFL.

UNLV has given Bobby Hauck an extension.

At USC, Ed Orgeron has resigned and offensive coordinator Clay Helton will coach the Trojans bowl game.

Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage has again voiced his support for his embattled head football coach.

“I firmly believe that Mike London is going to be successful here at the University of Virginia,” Littlepage said.

In other words, London and his big buyout are safe for another year.

Sources tell us that Nebraska’s Bo Pelini still might not be 100% safe.

An ugly bowl performance could make things dicey. In other words, nothing is certain. He probably makes it, but this is still one to watch.

ESPN reports that Pelini will have to pay for his latest rant:

“The Big Ten Conference on Monday issued a public reprimand of the Cornhuskers’ head coach and fined the university $10,000 for Pelini’s comments about the officiating in a loss to Iowa last week. University spokeswoman Chris Anderson said the money will come out of Pelini’s compensation.”

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Monday, Dec. 2

Boise State coach Chris Petersen was in play at USC, but has reportedly withdrawn his name from the search.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen has withdrawn his name from the USC job. (Photo: AP)ESPN’s Joe Schad reports that Petersen withdrew his name “after mutual interest.”

FightOn247 reported on Sunday that Ed Orgeron or Vanderbilt’s James Franklin would likely next in line should Petersen decline, while ESPN reported that the Trojans were down to Petersen and Franklin.

According to ESPN L.A.’s Arash Markazi, Franklin and Petersen have been on Pat Haden’s short list for awhile with Franklin in the lead. Markazi also reports that USC is prepared to make Orgeron the highest paid assistant and an associate head coach.

ESPN L.A. also reported that Washington coach Steve Sarkisian interviewed with Haden over the weekend, but Sarkisian says that no interview took place.

Wyoming has fired head coach Dave Christensen. Sources tell us that Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz is considered a serious candidate to replace him.

Oakland Raiders assistant and Wyoming alum Ted Gilmore is also rumored to be a candidate.

Should Fritz head to Wyoming, look for Texas co-OC Darrell Wyatt to get serious consideration to replace Fritz.

Texas A&M and head coach Kevin Sumlin have agreed to a six year deal worth $5 million per year. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Sumlin has agreed to not pursue any NFL jobs as part of his new contract.

We continue to hear Kyle Flood is in serious jeopardy at Rutgers. Flood says he’s not at all concerned with his future.

If Flood is fired between now and Feb. 1, he is owed an $850,000 buyout.

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads announced that offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Courtney Messingham and running backs coach Kenith Pope have been let go.

We continue to hear that the situation at Texas remains very fluid. A win at Baylor and the Longhorns gain at least a share of the Big 12.

Would Texas force Mack Brown out after a 9-3 campaign and a Big 12 Championship? Most of our sources don’t think so. However, a bad loss to Baylor and it could be time to turn the page.

At TCU, multiple sources tell us to expect major changes on the offensive side of the ball.

Florida Head coach Will Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis.

We’ve heard all sorts of names over the past few days. Possibilities at offensive coordinator include Mike Mularkey, Lane Kiffin, Clay Helton and James Coley, among others.

Offensive line candidates are rumored to range from Neil Callaway to Stacy Searles to Joe Wickline.

New Mexico State fired defensive coordinator David Elson.

Another Ohio State assistant is rumored to be a candidate for the FAU job.

It was reported a couple of weeks ago that Buckeyes defensive coordinator Luke Fickell had interviewed for the job. At the time, Urban Meyer said he didn’t, but Fickell’s name has been hot ever since.

Now, sources indicate Buckeyes assistant head coach and running backs coach Stan Drayton could be a candidate.

FAU athletic director Pat Chun has told associates he wants to hire someone who can recruit Florida (a smart move), and Drayton has had recruiting success wherever he’s been.

Chun spent almost his entire career at Ohio State and apparently that’s all he knows. He has even enlisted  Meyer and A.D. Gene Smith to assist in his search.

So, Drayton fills two requirements: He works at Ohio State and he was a Florida with Meyer. Two boxes checked. Could he be the guy?

Luke Stampini of 247Sports reported Monday morning that Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm could interview for the the FAU position.

Georgia’s Mark Richt has confirmed that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will be back next season.

Charlie Weis‘ job at Kansas is safe. Athletic director Sheahon Zenger is confident that Weis has the program moving in the right direction.

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas tells WCIA Channel 3 TV that Tim Beckman will return next season.

UCLA has fired running backs coach Steve Broussard. Sources indicate that USC running backs coach Tommie Robinson could be on UCLA’s radar.

Photo: Otto Kitsinger, AP

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Report: Lovie Smith interviews for USC opening

Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has interviewed for the USC job, according to a report from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.

Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is reportedly a candidate for the USC job. (Photo: Duane Burleson, AP)

Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is reportedly a candidate for the USC job.

As we’ve mentioned previously, USC’s early targets are expected to be “big splash” type guys and/or those with NFL ties, and Smith fits that bill. He was let go by the Bears last season following a 10-6 season, and will likely be in the mix for NFL openings as the year goes on.

Smith’s son, who serves as his agent, denied a report last month that an interview with USC had taken place, but La Canfora cites a league source as stating that Trojans A.D. Pat Haden has spoken with Smith. USC is not commenting on the process.

As we’ve mentioned previously, former Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has been linked to the USC opening, as has Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter to a lesser extent.

There is lot of chatter that this could finally be the year that Jon Gruden returns to coaching, and Gruden would be Haden’s No. 1 choice. But La Canfora reports that won’t be happening, and that if Gruden does decide to return, it will be in the NFL. (As we mentioned on Thursday, we hear it could be with the Raiders.)

La Canfora also mentions Washington coach Steve Sarkisian’s name as one to watch for USC, but we consider that highly unlikely. Sarkisian has enough to worry about at UDub.

Photo: Duane Burleson, AP

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Tuesday, Oct. 22

It’s not exactly a secret that Bo Pelini is in trouble at Nebraska.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini (Photo: Doug McSchooler, AP)

Things look shaky for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

The situation isn’t wholly about wins and losses. He has won a lot of games, but has yet to win anything of real significance. His personality has also rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and that combination is not a good one.

Even though it was a “no brainer” in the eyes of most fans, the general consensus among the coaching fraternity is that it was hard to justify Lane Kiffin’s firing. Kiffin won 8, 10, 7 and was fired after a 3-2 start — all while on NCAA probation.

The way they see it, Kiffin’s team had 55 scholarships vs. everyone else’s 85, and USC athletics director Pat Haden loved him in August.

Haden was appealing the NCAA sanctions and complaining about the hardships the scholarship reductions have caused the same week he fires Kiffin for not winning enough games. Amongst coaches, that generated a collective “Huh?” and will likely cause at least some potential replacements to think a little longer before taking the job.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12… We’re not sure how many games Washington has to win for Steve Sarkisian to keep his job, but one thing is clear: he’s in trouble. The Huskies are 4-3 and the opening win over Boise doesn’t look so impressive anymore.

Three consecutive losses — the last two by 21 and 29 — do not bode well. Upcoming games vs. Cal and Colorado look like wins, but UCLA, Oregon State and Washington State will tell the tale, and he needs a strong finish. Seven (or fewer) regular seasons wins could get him fired.

Dana Holgorsen is in jeopardy at West Virginia. It certainly looks like he’s going to win fewer games each consecutive season. After winning 10 in 2011, the Mountaineers won seven last season and are 3-3 with a tough schedule ahead this year. Add in off-the-field and personal issues that plagued his early time in Morgantown and things don’t look good.

You can also add Mississippi State to the watch list. Though one source said earlier this week that Dan Mullen was safe, multiple others see it differently. Apparently, Mullen has rubbed some folks the wrong way and made his share of enemies in Starkville.

If that wasn’t enough, the natives are plenty restless about his team’s performance on the field. At 3-3 with road games against South Carolina and Texas A&M plus home games vs. Alabama and arch-rival Ole Miss still on the docket, there will be plenty of sleepless nights ahead for Mullen.

What’s perhaps even worse for Mullen, State fans love Mark Hudspeth, who served as the Bulldogs wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator under Mullen in 2009-10 and is currently head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Hudspeth’s Ragin’ Cajuns went 9-4 each of the past two seasons and currently sit at 4-2 with a slew of probable wins on the schedule. Chances are, he’ll look like an even more enticing candidate come December.

Also keep an eye on Minnesota. Jerry Kill has done a great job, but his health may force a change there.

Photo credit: Doug McSchooler, AP

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