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You Can Bet on Who the Next Longhorns Football Coach Is Going to Be

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The odds of the University of Texas making a marquee hire to replace Mack Brown aren’t great. That’s not speculation about the possible desirablity of the Texas job or about the likely intentions of the high-profile candidates like former Stanford coach and current San Francisco 49ers boss Jim Harbaugh, or Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, or the Philadelphia Eagles’ Chip Kelly, who jumped to the NFL from Oregon earlier this year. It’s just the odds—as in betting odds. 

For the inveterate gamblers out there who are also holding out hope that someone like Tomlin will be coming to take over the Longhorns, it’s a splash of cold water in the face: At online bookie Sportsbook.ag, Tomlin currently sits at 50:1. Those are the same odds that the site will give you on the Super Bowl matchup being the Dallas Cowboys against the Denver Broncos, which is most likely to occur if all of the other NFC teams are struck by a meteor. The reason a sportsbook will offer odds as long as 50:1 is to take free money from gamblers who bet with their hearts, rather than their heads. 

Tomlin is the only candidate whose odds are as long as 50:1, but a number of the other desirable names aren’t much further off: LSU’s Les Miles sits at 30:1, while OSU’s Mike Gundy, the the University of Florida’s Will Muschamp (who as the one-time Longhorns’ “coach in waiting” would presumably already have the job at Texas if he hadn’t left in 2010 to take the job in Gainesville), and the San Francisco 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh currently stare dow 25:1 odds. 

None of that makes it impossible for Harbaugh, Tomlin, Miles, Gundy, or Muschamp to come to Texas, of course. But the smart money isn’t on it happening. 

Where the smart money does reside, meanwhile, is with University of Louisville coach Charlie Strong—despite the fact that Strong told reporters that he “doesn’t even think about” the Texas job. Of course, courting that sort of speculation is frowned upon among NCAA coaches, who know that a delicate recruiting class could fall apart if the coach admits to having a foot out the door for a job that, ultimately, will only go to one person. With odds at +140 for Strong (meaning that every dollar gambled can return $1.40), it’s looking good for him. 

But not out of the running is one name that should presumably have Longhorns fans excited—and folks in Waco pretty nervous. Former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer insisted that Baylor coach Art Briles would make Texas “like an Alabama,” referring to the perennial college football powerhouse, back in November. While Briles signed a ten-year exension with Baylor in November, and is also a rumored candidate for the expected-to-open NFL job in Washington that would reunite him with former Bears star Robert Griffin III, offshore bookmakers thinks Briles is a realistic candidate, to the tune of 3½:1 odds. 

Other candidates that the bookies think are realistic include Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, who comes in at 5:1, and—surprisingly—Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who is both rumored for NFL jobs and whose current contract includes a whopping $11.5 million buyout if he leaves Happy Valley for another NCAA program. O’Brien’s odds run 8:1, which is right on the edge between being a viable longshot and a sucker’s bet. 

Closer and closer to “sucker’s bet” territory, meanwhile, come a collection of big names who you can lay 10:1 odds on: chief among them Philadelphia Eagles boss and former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly, whose Eagles have been reinvigorated in the NFL in the latter half of the season, doesn’t seem like a likely candidate to leave the team at all, especially given that he currently faces NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations at Oregon. Still, there are doubts that Kelly’s offensive system is viable in the long-term at the NFL level, which could be part of why he’s at 10:1 instead of further afield with the Harbaughs and the Tomlins of the world. 

Also on the list at 10:1 is a name that’s come up after nearly every coaching vacancy at every level since he left the sidelines after the 2008 NFL season: ESPN commentator Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2002, and who has five NFL postseason appearances to his name. Gruden’s given virtual Sherman statements about most head coaching opportunities that he’s been linked to, but Orangebloods.com today reported that Gruden is receptive to overtures from Texas. Given Orangebloods’ track record on reporting Mack Brown’s departure, gamblers looking for some possible value in a long-odds bet might want to give Gruden a little action.

In any case, all of this is still speculation—but speculation backed by money, and coming from professional gambling sources whose job is not to lose is a bit more reliable than the guy at the bar next to you. 

(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

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