SMU’s plan to find a new head coach

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June Jones stepped down as SMU’s head football coach on Sept. 8. A month later, Rick Hart detailed the university’s plan to replace Jones.

Hart wrote a letter to the Mustangs’ fan base, which was published Wednesday on the school’s official website.

Here are the pertinent excerpts to the school’s four-point plan to find a new head coach:

First, we have engaged Todd Turner, President and Founder of Collegiate Sports Associates and former AD at UConn, NC State, Vanderbilt and Washington, to assist us with certain aspects of the search process. … He will make initial contact with targeted coaches, assessing potential interest and fit for the position, as well as helping with background checks and other processes.

Second, the Board of Trustees Athletics Committee will serve a valuable role as the primary advisory group as we prepare to identify and recruit the next head football coach at SMU. The Athletics Committee met on Monday to refine and confirm certain elements of the process, such as our case statement, position description and head coach profile. They also provided feedback regarding our expectations in key areas, such as academics, civility, competitiveness, and recruiting.

Third, we are seeking input from constituents beyond members of the Athletics Committee, such as the Athletics Council, Circle of Champions, Mustang Club Board, Lettermen’s Association (and former football players), Deans, the Texas High School Coaches’ Association, Ticket Holders and Student-Athletes. We want to make sure we are informed as we prepare to identify specific candidates.

Finally, a small search committee has been formed consisting of representatives from the Board of Trustees, Athletics Committee, Athletics Council, Faculty and Athletics Department leadership. This group will work with me to evaluate candidates and determine our top targets in alignment with our agreed-upon profile and standards shaped by our interactions with the various stakeholders and access to data as outlined herein.

Hart also designated this month as the prime opportunity to identify potential candidates and reach out to them if an opportunity presents itself. The athletic director didn’t provide a timetable for when a hire could actually occur.

There shouldn’t be a shortage of candidates, though.

The program reportedly called former Texas head coach Mack Brown, while Brown considers whether or not he wants to return to coaching. Former Ole Miss (and Arkansas and Boise State) head coach Houston Nutt is also interested. Former Texas offensive coordinator and quarterback Major Applewhite already applied for the position. And a new name has been linked to the program:

Morris is a legend in the state of Texas after coaching at the high school level for 16 years with a 169-38 record and back-to-back undefeated state championships.

Morris is now one of college football’s highest paid coordinators, and one of the top assistants primed for a head coaching job. Clemson’s offensive coordinator refrained from taking any other positions in recent years, but a return to his home state could be exactly the type of situation Morris is searching for.

SMU could also be used as a stepping stone for a coach like Morris, who doesn’t have head coaching experience at the major college level but still has goals of leading a top program.

It won’t hurt Hart to call and gauge Morris’ interest. The worst that can happen is the talented offensive coordinator decides he’s not interested.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.