Well, somebody has to coach the Zips. It's been two grueling weeks of the sidebar having a VACANT status. An estimated 5 million people got all their Christmas shopping done in the time Rob Ianello has been relieved of duties as head football coach. 15 days later, at least viable candidates are starting to materialize. (Still giggling over that whole Jim Tressel pipe dream.)
Right now the most discussed names are:
• Mike Johnson, UCLA interim head coach. He coordinated the San Francisco 49ers offense last season and coached at UCLA this year. Right now he's the interim guy for the Bruins and has more interest in taking that job, but Johnson is a former UA quarterback and if everything else falls apart he might return to his alma mater.
• Paul Winters, Wayne State head coach. Winters was an Akron coach for several years and also a star running back. He's in his mid-50s so it'd be a bit of an older pick but he built the Wayne State program from practically nothing as he's led them to unprecedented levels. WSU plays Pittsburg State in the Division II Football Championship next weekend. If Tom Wistrcill wants to bring this guy back to Akron — and who the heck knows what he's thinking as he's talking to zero people — he'll certainly have to wait at least a week.
• Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State defensive coordinator. MSU assistants are always trendy picks. It's where CMU got Dan Enos and where Miami plucked Don Treadwell. He has no Akron ties but was a Miami grad assistant and also coached at NIU for a bit. He was also a finalist for the Cincinnati job before CMU's Brian Kelly got the job. He seems like a man who's going to get his chance somewhere, so why not here?
• Matt Campbell, Toledo interim head coach. With Tim Beckman out of the picture, Campbell is very much a candidate for that one. He's all about Ohio, having played for championship D-III Mount Union and doing assistant work at BG and Toledo, most recently being the offensive coordinator and coach of one of the most experienced and accomplished offensive lines in school history.
• Others? These are the obvious ones, but while homecomings are heartwarming stories, they can sometimes turn out to be horror flicks. Truly anyone will do, whether or not they once graced the sidelines in Akron. These are bad examples, but somebody like Turner Gill or Randy Shannon, an AQ conference retread who's seeking a second chance in the Frank Solich mold.
There's low pressure to win at Akron and the facilities are excellent. As long as you win more than two games in two years, any coach who takes this job ought not feel an impetus to win the MAC immediately.