Big Picture: Top 11 candidates to replace fired Miami coach Al Golden

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Head coach Al Golden of the Miami Hurricanes runs onto the field with the team prior to the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on September 19, 2015 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Miami defeated Nebraska 36-33 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Head coach Al Golden of the Miami Hurricanes runs onto the field with the team prior to the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on September 19, 2015 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Miami defeated Nebraska 36-33 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Al Golden era in Coral Gables is over.

Joel Auerbach Getty Images North America

After overseeing the worst loss in Miami history, a 58-0 destruction at the hands of Clemson, 'Canes head coach Al Golden was fired Sunday. In Golden's last 26 games at Miami, his team was 12-14 with 11 of those losses by double digits. He had plenty of talent that had gone on to the NFL. He had a gifted sophomore QB, some speed at the skill positions, but things just fizzled in Coral Gables.

As I've said numerous times, Golden at Miami was just a really bad fit. A few weeks ago, I was told by sources close to the program that the 'Canes brass respects Golden a great deal and didn't want to can him in-season, but knew deep down a change would have to be made going forward into 2016. After the way the 'Canes looked on Saturday, I suppose that changed some folks' minds. AD Blake James said after the game he wasn't about to make any sudden moves, but Golden was removed as the 'Canes coach just over 24 hours after his team was dismantled by the Tigers, falling to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the ACC.

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Now, Miami is looking for its next head coach. Where might the 'Canes turn and exactly who could they land? Let's take a closer look at who I think their most viable options might be, but first keep this in mind: There are already quite a few Power 5-conference jobs open.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to college head coaching jobs. Different things appeal to different folks. USC is open and it is a better job than Miami. South Carolina is open, too, and I suspect several guys on my list would view it as a better job than Miami.

Here's a quick breakdown of how these two programs stack up: Miami has the much better recruiting base (it's the best in the country) and it has the better history. UM has won five national titles and played for a few more in the past 32 years. South Carolina has won one conference title in its history. Back in 1969 when they were 7-4 and won the ACC. Miami's brand -- The U -- still has a big NFL presence and lots of credibility with kids.

On Sunday I'd asked Luther Campbell, the godfather of youth football, if the 'Canes pull is still strong with kids there. He said it was. "Everyone of them come up and want to play for Miami," he said, adding that Amari Cooper and Devonta Freeman, two of the best players to come out of South Florida really wanted to play for the 'Canes, but the program dragged its feet in showing interest. "All these kids down here, their parents are 'Canes. Everyone around them are 'Canes."

South Carolina can pay a lot more than UM, perhaps as much as $2 million a year more. South Carolina, according to industry sources, also has much more realistic (or manageable) expectations. The facilities -- most notably the stadium-- is a much, much better situation than what Miami is dealing with. Of all of Miami's issues, its stadium issue is the worst.

The Gamecocks also have stronger fan support. South Carolina plays in the SEC, which is the best conference in college football, and yet Carolina is in the easier side of it as a member of the East division. Then again, the Gamecocks are still only the fourth-best football job in that side behind Georgia, Florida and Tennessee; and if you include the West (behind 'Bama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and maybe Arkansas), it's probably only the ninth-best job in the league.

People can point to shots of empty seats and knock the facilities, but the truth is Miami had those issues when it won national titles.

So without further ado, here are my Top 10 candidates for Miami's next head football coach:

1. Mario Cristobal, Alabama offensive line coach, 45: He's spent the past three seasons working under Nick Saban and was named the National Recruiter of the Year this winter after helping the Tide reel in, among others, Calvin Ridley, Daron Payne and Minkah Fitzpatrick, three of the nation's top freshmen. No one is any more plugged into South Florida in college coaching than Cristobal, a Miami native and former standout O-lineman at UM. Cristobal has head coaching experience having spent six seasons transforming FIU from by far the worst program in Division I into one that went to two bowl games. He also has a good eye for coaching talent, having hired Scott Satterfield, Geoff Collins and Todd Orlando -- three of the more respected up-and-comers in the college game -- and played a key role in helping Greg Schiano flip Rutgers from laughing stock status.

Cristobal's teams were fast and physical. They beat eventual Co-BIG EAST Champion Louisville and then C-USA power UCF, two programs with much greater resources than FIU. At FIU, things went bad in a hurry in his final season but a lot of that stemmed from the dysfunctional administration. Some may knock that Cristobal doesn't have coordinator experience on his resume. Of course, neither did Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer or Art Briles, and things have worked out fine with those guys.

My two cents: UM desperately needs someone with deep South Florida ties and who understands UM. Cristobal does. Maybe he could even bring a Mel Tucker along with him as his DC. His time working under Saban and learning that organizational structure is a plus.

2. Rob Chudzinski, Indianapolis Colts associate head coach, 47: A former star tight end at Miami and longtime 'Canes assistant and OC, Chud has been in the NFL the past decade, including one dismal season as the Browns head coach. He did help put together some of the most explosive offenses in UM history and helped groom some all-time greats. He is very, very well-regarded by many inside UM, and his name comes up more than any other when you talk to 'Canes NFL types.

"I think he's the safest option the 'Canes have at this point," a Miami source said over the weekend. "He's very smart. Everyone likes him and respects him."

3. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia head coach, 44: One of the sharpest offensive minds in all of football, Holgorsen comes from the Air Raid coaching tree but has shown he's more than willing to branch out and draw up what he thinks will work, even it means running the Power I with two fullbacks as he's done this season. The former Iowa Wesleyan receiver has shown quite a knack for finding and developing receivers and it'd be interesting to see what he could conjure up with the talent he could get at Miami.

"He really knows how to use talent," said one Miami source. "It'd be like turning the light switch on."

Holgorsen showed folks in South Florida what he can do when his Mountaineers hung 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl four years ago. His record since then isn't great -- he's 31-26 overall and 3-3 this season. He has a good job at WVU, but it's a job that has become much more of an uphill battle since WVU got into the Big 12. Aside from Iowa State and the Kansas schools, his is the toughest job in the Big 12 to get talent. At Miami, he would be able to take a much bigger stick into his conference fights. He also has a couple of guys on his staff with strong South Florida connections.

4. Greg Schiano, TV analyst, 49: He spent two seasons as the 'Canes DC under Butch Davis before going home to New Jersey where he took an awful Rutgers program and made it a perennial bowl team. Schiano does have a rep as a micromanager but he also consistently produced some of the highest academic-achieving programs in college football. He proved to be a shrewd evaluator and developer of talent at Rutgers, where many of his players have turned into excellent NFL players. He always worked hard to maintain and build a strong presence in the state of Florida. In 2006, Schiano won national coach of the year honors. His career record in bowls is 5-1.

Schiano, who once passed on the Michigan head coach job before Rich Rodriguez took it, later left New Jersey for the NFL, where he struggled in two season leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an 11-21 record.

5. Doc Holliday, Marshall head coach, 58: For three decades, the ex WVU, NC State and Florida assistant, proved to be one of the best recruiters in college football. A lot of that was due to his relationships around South Florida. Holliday has relied on those ties and his coaching savvy to turn the Thundering Herd back into one of the best programs outside of Power 5 football. Marshall is 30-6 since 2013 and 18-2 in league play.

Will Holliday's age deter some inside UM? Not sure. He also has never been part of the Miami program, which may be a negative, too.

6. Winston Moss, Green Bay Packers assistant head coach/linebackers coach, 49: Another former 'Canes standout, Moss' name comes up a lot with old UM players as a guy Miami needs to consider. After a decade playing in the NFL, Moss -- a Miami native -- has been a coach in the league since 1998. He's never been a college coach but he is very well regarded by the Packers organization.

7. Butch Davis, TV analyst, 63: The most polarizing of any name on this list. I think he'd even be the most polarizing among UM people even if I'd included Lane Kiffin on here. Davis is an old Jimmy Johnson protégé. He took Miami and led it back from devastating sanctions and built the most talented team in college football history. Of course, he wasn't around to coach that group in 2001 because he'd left to coach the Cleveland Browns. That didn't go very well. Then he got the UNC job. He stockpiled the place with more first-round talent, but the school had all sorts of issues and his program imploded. His assistant John Blake was in the middle of a lot of it. Davis was cleared by the NCAA, but would a program that has been in NCAA hot water a few times hire him?

I'm hearing that's a big stretch. "I just don't think people trust Butch down here," said one UM source Sunday morning. He'll also turn 64 next month, which doesn't help.

8. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona head coach, 52: He's won two Big East Coach of the Year honors and won the Pac-12's Coach of the Year last season. Rich Rod had a rough three-year stint as Michigan's head coach before revitalizing 'Zona and leading the Cats to the Pac-12 South title last year. He's also done well with Florida kids. Arizona has limited resources, but the school has tried to do its best to ramp up support. Rodriguez, who did very well once as Clemson's OC, could be an intriguing option for South Carolina this winter. He also figures to be in play if Frank Beamer decides this is his last season at Va. Tech, which could happen.

9. Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky head coach, 44: The former Louisville QB spent most of the 90s bouncing around the NFL as a quarterback and spent the 2009 season as an assistant at FAU under 'Canes godfather Howard Schnellenberger. He's 14-7 in two seasons at WKU and has impressed a lot of people in the football world along the way. His team is 6-2 in 2015 and has the nation's No. 7 offense in yards per play and No. 9 in scoring.

10. (tie) Tom Herman, Houston head coach, 40: He'd be higher on this list but I'm not sure Miami's the kind of situation he'd make his jump from Houston for. The hottest name in college football coaching now, Herman has led UH to a 7-0 start after helping Ohio State win a national title despite being forced to play its third-string QB. Herman grew up in California and has spent the bulk of his coaching career in the state of Texas. He's going to have some very good options. He's at a program on the upswing led by a talented junior QB, Greg Ward. Recruiting's going very well. But Herman hasn't been thrilled that, despite the Top 25 ranking, the fan base still hasn't really been turning out.

Miami is a better job than Houston, but the 'Canes probably can't pay Herman that much more than he's making right now. South Carolina certainly can. And South Carolina won't have the attendance issues that have chaffed Herman some of late (Miami, no matter how much the 'Canes win, almost definitely will.) Who knows, if Herman keeps rolling -- and UH can crack the Top 10 -- he might become a factor in the USC search.

10. (tie) Justin Fuente, Memphis head coach, 39: Much like Herman, I am not sold Fuente would see Miami as the kind of situation he should jump for. Fuente's certainly done enough to earn a long look from anyone in college football though. The Tigers were a complete mess before he took over and now they're rolling. They have a good win over Ole Miss and are undefeated this season. He was 4-8 in his first year and he's 17-3 in his last 20 games. My hunch here is that South Carolina would seem a more intriguing option, and with more than 30 coaching jobs likely to turn over this winter, I'm skeptical that he would see Miami as the one he'd want.

Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for and FS1. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. His new book, "The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks," came out in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.