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Survey Says: Most Exciting New Hire

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We look at how realistic each potential candidate is in the eyes of the fans and how much excitement there would be for their hire

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Oregon at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Sunday just after the Jimmy Lake news became official we put out a survey for Husky fans to judge how excited they were/how realistic they though certain candidates would be for the Washington head coaching job. The responses for every single coach weren’t required so we received between 143 and 169 votes which seems like a fairly representative sample size. Not super familiar with the candidates? Go back and read the bios for why each coach may or may not be a good fit for Washington.

Realism Score

Let’s first look at which candidates the fans feel are the most realistic. The criteria was not about who is UW most likely to hire but rather an indication of if UW prioritized that target, how likely would they be to accept the job? For instance, Bob Gregory would be a 10/10 because if offered to remove the interim tag he would absolutely say yes (don’t worry, Gregory wasn’t part of the poll). The results were fairly in line with the results from an internal UWDP poll.

1. Justin Wilcox- 8.23

2. Kalen DeBoer- 7.353

3. Jay Norvell- 7.347

There was a clear gap after these 3 potential candidates. Wilcox would be taking what almost everyone would consider a strict upgrade by leaving Cal to come to UW. He stays in the Pac-12 North but gets out of the City of Berkeley which has been the cause of so many COVID issues for the program and would make more money. DeBoer and Norvell are both in the Mountain West so it’s hard to think there’s any chance they pass up a Pac-12 job of UW’s caliber if offered.

4. Tom Herman- 6.31

5. Joe Moorhead- 6.05

6. Jonathan Smith- 5.78

7. Kalani Sitake- 5.29

8. Bronco Mendenhall- 5.22

9. Dave Clawson- 5.03

Next we get another grouping of coaches that I think generally makes sense as an order. Herman and Moorhead are both former P5 coaches that were fired from their most recent job and currently not employed as head coaches. The odds are good that if UW heavily pursued them that they’d be willing to return to the coaching ranks to come to Washington. Between 5 and 6 we have 4 current sitting head coaches that are all at a P5 school or soon to be P5 school in BYU’s case. Smith and Sitake have seen the least amount of success and have the shortest track record but they’re also both coaching at their alma mater. Finally, we have Mendenhall and Clawson who each are coaching in the ACC and don’t have any direct ties to the state of Washington or the PNW.

10. Billy Napier- 4.90

11. Bob Stoops- 4.48

12. Matt Campbell- 4.30

And finally we get to the 3 candidates who have the most cachet with a national audience. Napier is one of the hottest coaching prospects in the country but he has spent his entire career in the Southeast so would he go cross country when he might be the fallback candidate at LSU or a leading contender at a potential opening at Florida? Bob Stoops is the biggest name but he hasn’t coached in college in 5 years and while it seems like he wants to get back in the race we haven’t heard him say he’s actively hunting for a job this cycle. Finally, Matt Campbell similar to Chris Petersen at Boise has turned down a lot of jobs to stay in Ames and it’s unsure what it will take to pry him free.

Excitement Score

1. Bob Stoops- 8.48

2. Matt Campbell- 8.07

Whereas we had a clear bottom 3 for the realism score category it seems there’s a clear top-2 for the excitement score. 65% of fans gave Big Game Bob either a 9 or a 10 for their excitement level for which a 10 represented you’ll be throwing a parade in the streets if hired. It was a clear notch down for Campbell at 52% getting that top box score of a 9 or a 10. There were about equal levels of fans who didn’t approve of each as 7.5% gave Stoops less than a 5 while only 6.6% did similar showing they disapproved of Campbell. Pretty clearly though Husky nation would be happy if either ended up in Seattle.

3. Billy Napier- 6.10

4. Kalen DeBoer- 5.94

5. Tom Herman- 5.75

It’s questionable whether this is truly the cutoff point but I’m going to go ahead and mark this as a 3-man tier. The surprising name to me here is DeBoer given that as of right this second he has been the head coach for 17 total games and has only been involved with a power conference team for 1 season in his entire coaching career. Nonetheless the success of Fresno this year against UCLA and an almost win against Oregon seems to be appealing to the fanbase. As mentioned, Napier has no ties to the West whatsoever but has a sterling head coaching record. Herman was dominant for a few years at Houston but then struggled to take Texas to the next level which hasn’t exactly been a problem unique to Herman.

6. Dave Clawson- 5.25

7. Kalani Sitake- 5.05

8. Joe Moorhead- 4.93

9. Jonathan Smith- 4.67

Next we get the middle grouping of coaches who would seemingly elicit a “meh” response from most of the fans. Only 7.9% of fans gave these coaches a 9 or a 10 to indicate that they would be extremely excited to see them in charge of Washington. In contrast, 13.8% of the votes gave an excitement score of 1 indicating that they would be disgusted if they ended up being the coach.

10. Bronco Mendenhall- 4.27

11. Jay Norvell- 4.13

12. Justin Wilcox- 3.74

This appears to be the bottom tier for the fanbase. Only 0.7% of votes gave these 3 candidates a 9 or a 10 in their excitement score versus 17.3% giving out a score of exactly a 1. Mendenhall and Norvell both had their share of fans who were seemingly fairly ambivalent as the most common response for each of them was a 5 out of 10. Wilcox’s most common score was a 1 and it wasn’t exactly close.

Putting It Together

Adding both the realism and excitement scores together isn’t guaranteed to put together the list of candidates who are most likely to wind up getting hired. What it does tell you though is which coaches would be most likely to result in getting bang for your buck.

A coach who is just as easy to hire but who would hold a higher excitement score for the fanbase is going to wind up higher here and be a better investment by the administration. As long as that cash savings goes into a better assistant’s pool instead of getting pocketed then it might be a better long-term move. Meanwhile, a coach who might be harder to get but also doesn’t really do anything for the fanbase seems like a pretty good bet to a non-starter.

1. Kalen DeBoer- 13.29

2. Bob Stoops- 12.97

3. Matt Campbell- 12.37

4. Tom Herman- 12.06

5. Justin Wilcox- 11.98

6. Jay Norvell- 11.48

7. Billy Napier- 11.00

8. Joe Moorhead- 10.99

9. Jonathan Smith- 10.45

10. Kalani Sitake- 10.35

11. Dave Clawson- 10.27

12. Bronco Mendenhall- 9.48

The higher than expected (by me) excitement score by DeBoer catapults him into the top spot. He’s a guy that would almost certainly say yes if offered the job and looks to have quite a high approval rating among the fanbase. That combination tells me that if UW strikes out after their first few swings then DeBoer should likely be the fallback option among the next tier of targets. That isn’t enough to make me think that DeBoer is the surefire most likely option to become the next head coach but it certainly provides some separation over fellow Mountain West coach Jay Norvell.

Right on DeBoer’s heels is Bob Stoops who fans think is both slightly more attainable than Matt Campbell and also slightly more desired. This basically says that if Washington wrote a blank check to get Stoops to Seattle that there wouldn’t be many in the fanbase critical of the decision. Campbell and Herman both finished in the top-5 in excitement score and round out the list of hires that the majority of the fanbase would be happy to see hired.

The next grouping is the combo of Wilcox and Norvell who become likely hires on the basis that both would almost certainly say yes but who the fanbase would be extremely critical of if hired. After that jump we have Napier and Moorhead with almost identical scores. Napier is viewed as less attainable and more desirable but by nearly equal margins.

There’s another drop to the trio of Smith, Sitake, and Clawson who all had both realism and excitement scores between 4.75 and 5.75. That suggests most fans were pretty ambivalent to them as candidates in general and weren’t quite sure what to make of their candidacy. Finally, we have poor Bronco Mendenhall bringing up the rear. This was probably my biggest surprise and the UWDP internal votes thought much more highly of Bronco than the fanbase at large does. However, it looks like there’s a large portion of the fanbase who weren’t fans of the antics from his BYU teams and have a hard time looking past that aspect.

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There have been a few people throwing out names that weren’t on this initial list (Todd Monken and Dave Aranda) who would also be reasonable candidates if UW ended up going in that direction. We will probably need at least a few days if not a week or more to start getting a real sense for who is in the running and will put out an updated target list once that happens.