AACFootballLet's Speculate!

Let’s Speculate! Potential Cincinnati head football coach candidates

Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.

Today’s program is Cincinnati, coached for the past six seasons by Luke Fickell (left for Wisconsin job).

  • Jason Candle – Toledo head coach
    • The long-time Toledo head coach has the Rockets bowl-bound yet again this year after a 7-5 regular season. Candle is an Ohio-native who played and coached at D-III Mount Union (OH) before first joining the staff at Toledo in 2009. Picked to succeed Matt Campbell in 2015, Candle has kept the ball rolling for the MAC program and might be a perfect candidate for a bigger job like Cincy.
  • Matt Campbell – Iowa State head coach
    • Speaking of Campbell, the exit of the Iowa State coach for a bigger job never happened and this year the Cyclones regressed. The Cincinnati job might be a golden parachute for Campbell, also an Ohio-native and Mount Union grad, as his options for bigger name programs are dwindling. Cincinnati might not a better job than the one he has now but it’s a chance to start over in his home state.
  • Deion Sanders – Jackson State head coach
    • Sanders has already seen his name mentioned for several openings in this cycle (he might be a serious candidate at Colorado, for example), but Cincinnati should give him a call, too. Now is the time to leave Jackson State, coming off a perfect 11-0 regular season this year (playoffs pending) and a 11-2 (9-0) record last year. Deion has history in Cincinnati, as well, having spent three-plus seasons playing baseball for the Reds.
  • Kerry Coombs – Cincinnati interim head coach
    • Coombs was selected to lead the Bearcats in their bowl game, so he might be the leading internal candidate. He returned to Cincinnati this year after spending eight of the last ten years at Ohio State. He previously worked for four seasons at UC under head coaches Brian Kelly and Butch Jones before joining Urban Meyer’s staff in 2012 alongside Fickell in Columbus. Coombs is from Olerain, OH, played at Dayton, and save for a two-year stint with the Tennessee Titans has coached exclusively in his home state.
  • Jim Leonhard – Wisconsin interim head coach
    • It makes sense that Wisconsin hired Fickell, but there are many in the fanbase that hoped that former Badger and long-time staffer Jim Leonhard would get the permanent gig after going 4-3 as interim head coach this season. It’s possible Fickell tries to keep Leonhard in Madison as DC but he is more than ready to take over his own program and if it’s not Wisconsin then Cincinnati is as good an option as any. We could get the rare head coach swap situation.
  • Alex Grinch – USC defensive coordinator
    • Moving on to coordinators, we have USC DC Alex Grinch first on the list. His name has popped up for a number of openings already and the Ohio-native and Mount Union grad (why are there so many coaches who played there?!) seems poised to make the leap soon after helping with the Trojans’ resurgence this year. Grinch joined Lincoln Riley at OU in 2019 after spending one season as Co-DC at Ohio State, then followed him to LA this offseason and has already improved USC’s defensive production in his short time on campus.
  • Jesse Minter – Michigan defensive coordinator
    • Minter is the son of former Cincinnati head coach Rick Minter (1994-2003) and spent his formative and high school years in the city. The younger Minter played at Mount St. Joseph (OH) and worked as GA at Cincinnati as one of his first coaching jobs. After a few years working under one Harbaugh brother with the Baltimore Ravens, he’s now in his first year as DC at Michigan under the other one. As of this writing, the Wolverines’ D is allowed the second lowest yards per game and third lowest points per game totals in all of FBS.
  • Kevin Wilson – Ohio State offensive coordinator
    • It worked out for Cincinnati the last time they hired a coordinator from Ohio State who had head coaching experience. Wilson has been OC for the Buckeyes since 2017, during which time they have had the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten every single season (currently second in FBS in points and six in yardage). Wilson was the head man at Indiana for six years, building up from a 1-11 record to back-to-back bowl appearances but ended up parting ways with the school.
  • Garrett Riley – TCU offensive coordinator
    • This would be a bit of an outside the box hire, but the success that TCU has had this year has to be attributed in large part to the offense. Riley arrived in Fort Worth this year with new head coach Sonny Dykes after working as his OC at SMU for two seasons, and the pair have turned the Frogs’ middle-of-the-pack offense into the highest gaining and scoring unit in the Big 12. They are also 12-0 and headed to the CFB Playoff if they can take care of Kansas State this weekend in Arlington. So the offensive chops and familiarity with the Big 12 are there (Garrett also coached at Kansas for three years). He’s also the younger brother of one of the buzziest coaches in college football, USC’s Lincoln Riley.
  • Urban Meyer – former Cincinnati player, long shot candidate
    • Look. We really don’t see this happening, as Urban’s off-field baggage has followed him from job to job, culminating in a disastrous and short tenure in Jacksonville. We don’t know what AD John Cunningham is looking for, but Urban is a Cincinnati grad who currently does not have a coaching gig. As long as Urban is working on TV, his name will circulate for every big job opening. He’s on the list, but it seems very unlikely he is a serious candidate at this time.