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You should know these guys, and so should Auburn

I distinctly remember writing a column about this time two years ago that addressed the University of Alabama’s search for a new head football coach.

I also remember the hate mail from Crimson Tide fans around the country. I basically told the world why Alabama couldn’t or wouldn’t get a handful of coaches school administrators were considering.

It’s too bad my old computer crashed. Otherwise, I would share some of the choice words people e-mailed my way.

One of the coaches was Rich Rodriguez, who was two seconds away from taking the job. I don’t know a single Alabama fan that isn’t relieved the deal fell through. Rodriguez took the Michigan before this season and passed out more Band-Aids than game balls after the Wolverines went 3-9.

Then there was Greg “Not Quite Ready for Primetime” Schiano, who is still at Rutgers. Jeff Tedford stayed put at California, as did Jim Grobe, who has made it clear it will take an act of God to uproot him at Wake Forest.

Paul Johnson was ready to bolt out of Annapolis, but not before waiting a year and signing at Georgia Tech.

And who in the Alabama offices thought to call Barry Alvarez or Steve Spurrier two years ago?

So now, the wheels of change have turned their gears and shifted focus from Tuscaloosa and squarely on Auburn.

First and foremost, let’s rid our minds of the notion that promoting any school’s assistant coach to a premier head job in the Southeastern Conference is a good idea. That’s like substituting the bridesmaid for the bride when the groom looks away to get the ring.

Sorry, Patrick Nix and Rodney Garner. I’m sure you’re both good men. But if I were an Auburn fan, I would hope the suits at the university patted you on your heads, thanked you for a good interview and snickered as you left the room.

And why, for the love of everything that smells like football, is Bobby Petrino still a top five candidate for ANY job? Because he’s got charisma, that’s why.

Now how about the guys that should have realistic chances of coaching Auburn next year? I’m so glad you asked.

5. Tyrone Willingham. The ink on the presses didn’t run. I am endorsing the former hard-luck coach of Washington and Notre Dame. Are we forgetting he was the first football coach in Notre Dame history to win 10 games in his first season? As far as style, temperament and character go, he isn’t much different from Tommy Tuberville. And I don’t care what you think about Tubs, winning 85 and losing 40 in 10 years is flat out getting it done.

4. Tommy Bowden. If you can compete against the second-winningest coach in college football history, who happens to be your daddy, you can compete in the SEC. Bowden can recruit, he can motivate and he apparently can assemble a good staff. You’re welcome, Dabo Swinney.

3. Mike Gundy. It takes a real man to coach in the SEC, and as proved by the YouTube and commercial clips, Oklahoma State’s coach is truly a man. He leads one of the youngest teams in the country and has won two straight bowls, including a win in the 2006 Independence Bowl against (cough!) Alabama.

2. Turner Gill. Of all the valid reasons to doubt someone’s coaching abilities, I see recruiting as the most critical. However, Gill has convinced good players to play for Buffalo, a team I didn’t realize was a Football Bowl Subdivision school until two years ago. If Auburn is at all serious about considering a black coach, this is the guy.

1. Mike Leach. Note to skeptical SEC fans: The spread offense can work in this league. To think a conference will hold to a singular style forever is just plain baloney. Leach (and Tony Franklin, for that matter) needs two things — an offensive line and commitment from the players. Auburn’s players didn’t buy in, so they didn’t cash in. Teams in the SEC are setting themselves up to get blindsided by an efficient spread attack from one of their own. Leach is the guy that can do it.