LSU athletics director Scott Woodward’s football coaching search continues following an eventful Saturday night.
While the Tigers (6-6, 3-5 SEC) celebrated an upset win over No. 14 Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4), the after effects were felt 620 miles away at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley will not be the next LSU coach. He said it himself during postgame interviews following a loss to rival Oklahoma State. Then on Sunday, he bolted to Southern Cal.
Time is running out to find Ed Orgeron's replacement as December early signing period looms on Dec. 15. Michigan State’s Mel Tucker and Penn State’s James Franklin have all received massive contract extensions. Jimbo Fisher, who Woodward hired at Texas A&M, agreed to a new contract in September.
END OF AN ERA: Orgeron will not coach LSU in a bowl game
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier was announced on Sunday as the replacement for Dan Mullen at Florida.
Here’s our latest hot board as Woodward zeroes in on a hire.
Notre Dame coach
Profile: Kelly passed Knute Rockne as Notre Dame’s all-time winningest coach in September. Notre Dame finished 11-1 in 2021, the sixth time Kelly has won 10 or more games in the past seven seasons. Kelly's record at Notre Dame is 92-39 in 12 seasons. The Fighting Irish played for a national title in 2012 and made the College Football Playoff in 2018 and 2020. His overall record is 263-96-2 at Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State.
Would he say yes to LSU? LSU officials reached out to Kelly early in the search and received a lukewarm response. Kelly is in a great situation, but it's fair to wonder if there's a ceiling on Notre Dame's success. The academic standards are rigorous compared to other schools, which helps explain the Fighting Irish's struggles against elite teams. Notre Dame lost playoff games to Clemson and Alabama by a combined score of 61-17.
Profile: The second-winningest coach in Kentucky history, Stoops just three victories away from passing Paul “Bear” Bryant. He has transformed a moribund program into a consistent winner in the SEC. The Wildcats just wrapped up a 9-3 season and will play in a six consecutive bowl game. Prior to Stoops’ arrival in 2013, UK had only played in eight bowl games over the previous 36 years. His record is 58-53 in nine seasons.
Will he say yes to LSU? Stoops told reporters following Saturday’s 52-21 win at Louisville that he planned on being Kentucky’s coach next season. While that qualifies as a denial, it’s not necessarily a strong one. Stoops has done a phenomenal job with the Wildcats, but the ceiling isn’t much higher than its current height. LSU would provide Stoops what UK can’t — a chance to win a national championship and earn one of the highest salaries in the country.
Iowa State coach
Profile: Campbell just finished his fifth consecutive winning season at Iowa State, an unheard of accomplishment for that program. The Cyclones were 7-5 in 2021, one year removed from going 9-3 and beating Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Before Campbell’s hire, Iowa State had won seven or more games six times in the previous 37 years. His overall record is 77-48 in 11 seasons at Iowa State and Toledo
Will he say yes to LSU?While LSU would give him the best chance to win a national championship — the previous three coaches have all won it all — Campbell must decide if this job is the right fit. Baton Rouge is a long way from Ames, Iowa, both in terms of expectations and the fish-bowl environment every LSU football coach operates in.
Profile: In five seasons at Cincinnati, Fickell has build the best Group of Five program in the country. The Bearcats finished the regular season a perfect 12-0, and barring an upset in Saturday’s AAC Championship Game, have a strong chance of making the College Football Playoff. His record at Cincinnati is 47-14. Fickell, an Ohio-native, has never coached below the Mason-Dixon line, but he understands the inner workings of an elite college football program, having apprenticed under Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
Will he say yes to LSU? Fickell has been selective with head-coaching opportunities. He turned down Michigan State in 2019, an opening that went to Mel Tucker, who was also connected to the LSU search. Fickell won’t leave Cincinnati for just any job, but he’s never been offered a high-caliber gig like LSU. While he could be hesitant to leave his roots in the Midwest, it’s hard to see Cincinnati maintaining the momentum of the past three seasons.
Alabama offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Profile: O’Brien has both NFL and college head-coaching experience. He went 15-9 in two seasons at Penn State while guiding the program though NCAA sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. In seven seasons coaching the Houston Texans, O’Brien’s record was 52-48 with four AFC South Division titles and playoff appearances. Houston fired O’Brien following an 0-4 start in 2020. His background as a quarterbacks coach includes Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson and Alabama’s Bryce Young.
Will he say yes to LSU? The question is why would LSU say yes to O’Brien. Despite Young emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Alabama has been inconsistent offensively. The Crimson Tide managed only six yards rushing in a win against LSU and squeaked out a four-overtime victory in the Iron Bowl over Auburn. If O’Brien ends up in Baton Rouge, it means Woodward botched this search pinning for big names.
Adam Hunsucker covers LSU for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @adam_hunsucker. Enjoy Adam’s work? Consider a digital subscription for unlimited access.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Can LSU athletic director Scott Woodward pry Brian Kelly away from Notre Dame?