The search for Bill Snyder’s replacement is at a crossroads.
One of the biggest names thought to be involved with Kansas State’s search for a new football coach has dropped out of the race, and a fresh crop of candidates has emerged to take his place.
Seth Littrell decided to remain at North Texas on Friday, which opens the door for North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman as the new potential front runner. It also gives other candidates like Memphis coach Mike Norvell and Troy’s Neal Brown a shot at the job.
It’s unclear what prompted Littrell to stay put after showing serious interest in the K-State opening. A source familiar with the search process said Taylor interviewed Littrell, along with several other coaches earlier this week, but the two sides never got all that close to a deal. K-State didn’t offer him the job.
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As the days went by, Taylor continued to show interest in other candidates and Littrell decided to withdraw his name from consideration. Littrell expects to have his best team returning next season at North Texas and he might be in line for a bigger job down the road. He can be picky.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Littrell told 247sports. “We still have unfinished business here and we still haven’t accomplished our mission of winning our bowl, so we are still growing as a program and we have a lot to accomplish in the future. There are always a lot of rumors out there, and (I want to) make sure the players know what this program means to me and what they mean to me. It would be extremely hard for me to go into a room and tell those guys that I’m leaving.”
Of course, K-State can be picky too, as it is now the lone power-conference school searching for a coach.
What comes next?
For now, all eyes shift north. Industry sources say Klieman’s name has gained significant traction over the past few days. He might have even emerged as the top candidate before Littrell dropped out.
FootballScoop.com, a website that covers the coaching carousel, reported Friday that K-State was “zeroing in on” Klieman.
The longer this search goes on, the more it would certainly seem to benefit Klieman. Taylor and Klieman have shared history at North Dakota State. If none of the initial candidates wowed Taylor, it makes sense that he would at least then consider a coach he knows and respects.
When Taylor was the athletic director at North Dakota State, he promoted Klieman to head coach after Craig Bohl left for Wyoming. Klieman took over a FCS juggernaut and has since guided the Bison to a 66-6 record that includes three national championships. NFL quarterback Carson Wentz is one of his former players.
North Dakota State is the top seed in the FCS playoffs. It is scheduled to play Colgate in the quarterfinal round of the tournament on Saturday in Fargo, N.D.
The biggest question with Klieman: Can he make the jump to the next level? It’s rare for FCS coaches to land a power-conference job without first proving himself with a lower-tier FBS school.
K-State fans seemed unified behind the idea of Littrell or Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, another coach not involved in this process, but few others. Could they rally behind a name like Klieman?
If Klieman isn’t the next coach at K-State, Norvell is another name to monitor. Late Thursday night, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken tweeted that K-State has also shown interest in Norvell.
At Memphis, he has gone 26-12 over three seasons. That’s the most wins of any coach over a three-year span at the school. Norvell, 37, guided Memphis to an 8-5 record this year. He is the highest-paid coach outside of the power conferences with a salary of $2.6 million. His buyout is $500,000.
Brown, the coach at Troy, is also thought to be a potential candidate. A source said K-State has expressed interest him after he led Troy to a 9-3 season. He appears to be one of the rising coaches in the Sun Belt. Throw in recent victories over LSU and Nebraska, and he has a strong resume that has made him a candidate for several openings.