It looks like an active year for change

Updated: December 1, 2004, 3:49 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

College football seismologists predicted that the coaching volcano would be active this season, because last season, only 14 Division I-A jobs changed hands. Rarely are there two dormant years in a row.

On Tuesday, the volcano erupted without warning. Major-college football is at 12 coaching changes, and more are sure to follow. None, however, will have the impact of what took place Tuesday. Notre Dame fired Tyrone Willingham, the Cleveland Browns and Butch Davis parted ways, and the effects may be felt from the Pacific Northwest to central Florida.

Since the University of Florida fired Ron Zook in late October, Urban Meyer has endured questions concerning his interest in going to Gainesville. No one has to ask the Utah coach if he is interested in Notre Dame, where he spent four seasons as an assistant under Bob Davie. Meyer had a clause inserted in his contract that allows him to leave Salt Lake City for South Bend with no penalty.

One door shuts, another opens. When the University of Washington contacted Willingham two weeks ago, it may have been a long shot to lure a coach away from the Golden Dome. The speculation for the Huskies continues to center around California coach Jeff Tedford, but Washington has established itself on the inside track with Willingham, a coach who won a Pac-10 Conference championship only five seasons ago.

Willingham won at Stanford, but just as new South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier discovered he couldn't go home again to Florida, a member of Willingham's staff played down the notion that Willingham would return to the Farm. Speculation at Stanford centers on Boise State coach Dan Hawkins, whose imaginative offense and Zen-like philosophy may satisfy fan and faculty alike.

Zook was not in Gainesville Tuesday, and may have been meeting with the University of Illinois to fill its vacancy. Zook, who won at Florida but not enough, has been contacted by East Carolina and at least one other school.

The name most linked to Florida is Butch Davis, whose organizational and recruiting skills brought Miami out of probation and to the brink of its 2001 national championship. Davis could return to the state and reconnect his recruiting pipeline. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Davis already has said he would prefer to sit out for a year before returning to coaching.

However, Davis may have to come to grips with the fact that jobs like Florida don't come along every year. His availability, as well as Willingham's, has accelerated the pace and the intensity of coaching searches around the nation.

Although if you think about it, the Florida job does come along every three years. After the 2001 season, Florida, Notre Dame and Stanford all hired a new coach. All three schools are looking again. Florida and Notre Dame are looking after firing a coach with a winning record. Administrations at Brigham Young and Ole Miss are agonizing over whether to keep Gary Crowton and David Cutcliffe, respectively. As jobs are filled, presumably with head coaches, other openings will occur.

As of Tuesday, the volcano is dormant no longer.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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