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Top candidates for Arizona State head coaching job

Herm Edwards is out, and with a new-look Pac-12 on the horizon, this could be one of the better Power Five jobs on the market.

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Arizona State Sun Devils fans make noise during a timeout at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Alex Gould / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Arizona State Sun Devils became the second college football program to make an in-season coaching move with the firing of Herm Edwards on Sunday. This ends the tenure of the former NFL head coach in Tempe, AZ, who posted a 26-20 record in just over four seasons with the program.

The final straw for the ASU brass was a 30-21 home loss to Eastern Michigan on Saturday but the internal problems at the program were much deeper than that. The program is currently under NCAA investigation for allegedly hosting recruits during the COVID-19 dead period and in the fallout from that, several Sun Devil assistant coaches either “resigned” or were fired in the offseason. These moves that were interpreted in the coaching world as Edwards throwing everyone else under the bus to save his own job, casting a negative light for his regime. Along with the assistants, several key players like quarterback Jayden Daniels transferred out, further exemplifying a program in disarray.

With Edwards’ ouster, the question now becomes where the program will turn to next. Arizona State is a program that is operating in a state with a rapidly recruiting footprint, although neither them or rival Arizona has the cache to keep the top recruits at home. Between the looming results of the NCAA investigation and the uncertainty surrounding the Pac-12 with USC and UCLA leaving, the Sun Devils find themselves in a peculiar position.

Here’s a list of potential candidates Arizona State could target over the next few months.

Note: We really don’t like this list. There’s not a lot of natural fits for this job, and we think with a looming NCAA investigation hiring a a rising assistant might be a nightmare. But we’re throwing some names out there until we find some we like.

Urban Meyer

This is a coaching search in 2022, and despite the airport terminal levels of baggage Meyer would bring, his name has to be added by law. Nebraska certainly seems a better cultural fit, and there are plenty of university presidents and boards that will (rightly) tell one of the most successful college football coaches in history to go away. But if he was wanted by AD Ray Anderson or the administration, his term at Utah proved he can win out west.

Kenny Dillingham

The only assistant coach on this list is 32 years old, but his pedigree (currently OC at Oregon, formerly at Florida State, Auburn, Memphis) fits the profile of someone much older, and he’s an Arizona State alum that coached high school football in the area while getting his undergrad degree.

Certainly a riser in the profession, he might be better off waiting for another opportunity as that is certainly coming. But the opportunity to come home might be too much to overcome.

Matt Campbell

The Iowa State head coach had his pick of jobs across America just two years ago. But now with the Cyclones having reached their realistic ceiling, and with his two biggest annual rivals in Oklahoma and Texas off to the Big 12, maybe the seventh-year man decides to find some warmer weather and easier access to talent.

Campbell is considered one of the best coaches in the country, but he has no ties to the west coast and won’t come cheap. However Tempe is certainly an upgrade in lifestyle and institutional potential even with UCLA and USC off to the Big 12, though it’s possible he might want an even better job as his next step.

Bryan Harsin

The guy that we’ll most likely be writing about next is Bryan Harsin, whose ouster at Auburn seems imminent. His tenure on the Plains hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been a marked man by the warring booster class from the moment he walked through the door of the SEC power.

Harsin is a Boise State guy through and through, having played quarterback there and coached them to success prior to his doomed stint at Auburn. While Arizona State isn’t Boise, he’d be back on the west coast and would be able to tap into familiar recruiting territory. ASU would give him the leeway to operate and build for a few years without having to constantly look over his shoulder for someone trying to fire him.

Marcus Arroyo

The UNLV head coach still has plenty of work to do digging out one of the most moribund programs in the country. But from 0-6 in 2020, to 2-10 in 2021, and now 2-1 in 2022 and looking much more like a competent football program, it’s a reach but it’s not insane. A six-point loss to Cal is the only blemish this season, and a win over Notre Dame on October 22nd in Vegas might add to this case. The Rebs could be in contention for the Mountain West title game this year thanks to Boise State not being on the schedule or in the division.

Dan Mullen

The Florida Gators former coach needs a job (he’s sitting out this season), and he’s shown he can do more with less in an extended tenure at Mississippi State. Will he be able to adjust his style to be a fit for The Valley? Two years at Utah as the quarterbacks coach might not hurt here either.

Kliff Kingsbury

The NFL team in town is about to be 0-2, and it’s cheaper to replace a coach than a very wealthy quarterback. We’re somewhat kidding here, but maybe the Bidwill family and the Sun Devils can work out some kind of trade? The pro team did use to play in the on-campus stadium there as you might recall.