Cristobal was an internal hire after Willie Taggart departed for Florida State following his first and only season as head coach. The former Alabama associate head coach and FIU head coach, Cristobal transformed the Ducks into a winner with a combination of strong recruiting and staff hires. In Cristobal's four years with the program. the Ducks won consecutive Pac-12 titles and just played for a third.
After losing two consecutive coaches to Power Five programs in Florida, Oregon has a decision to make. The Ducks can try to continue the East Coast recruiting pipeline that has taken the program to Pac-12 championships in recent year. The alternative is finding a coach that views Oregon as a destination job, one who will commit to the program long term.
Oregon has not made many hires over the past 40 years, so getting a feel for the priorities of this job is tricky. In fact, hiring Taggart from South Florida is the first external hire in Eugene since Rich Brooks in 1977. Cristobal, Mike Bellotti, Mark Helfrich and Chip Kelly were all internal promotions.
Here are nine candidates from a variety of different backgrounds that Oregon could consider for its next head coaching job. The list ranges from up-and-comers to West Coast retreads and even innovative coordinators that could transform the program.
Justin Wilcox, Cal coach
Wilcox is one of the best defensive coaches in college football and the former Ducks defensive back has extensive experience coaching in the region. The one drawback would be on offense; the Golden Bears have consistently been among the lower-ranked teams in the Pac-12 on that side of the ball. While his 26-28 record at Cal doesn't inspire confidence, Wilcox would have greater resources to recruit and develop offensive players at Oregon. Mixed with a big assistant salary pool to hire a strong offensive staff, Wilcox could be a fantastic buy-low candidate.
Chip Kelly, UCLA coach
Sequels are rarely as good as the originals, but Kelly's first act at Oregon was a legendary era. Three top-five finishes and a national title game berth helped set the table for the Ducks to become one of the hottest brands in college football. However, he is just 18-25 in four seasons at UCLA, though the Bruins jumped to 8-4 in 2021. Nostalgia mixed with a rare second chance could be enough.
Kalani Sitake, BYU coach
Seeing Sitake win in 2020 with first-round quarterback Zach Wilson was impressive. Finishing at No. 13 in the nation against a much more difficult schedule without Wilson in 2021 makes Sitake a rising star. After a middling start at BYU, Sitake is 21-3 over the past two seasons and would bring a tough culture to Eugene. However, Sitake has been happy at his alma mater. With an opportunity to transition the program into the Big 12, the draw of Oregon might not be quite as strong.
Bryan Harsin, Auburn coach
There have been rumblings that Harsin might be looking to get out of Auburn after a 6-6 season, and Oregon would be a strong transition for the former Boise State coach. He led the Broncos to a 69-19 record in seven seasons, including three Mountain West titles. One potential complication? Oregon has a vaccine mandate. Harsin hasn't been forthcoming about his vaccination status as Auburn's vaccine deadline approaches (employees must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18). After seeing Wazzu go through the Nick Rolovich saga, Harsin's lack of transparency may convince the Ducks to avoid the drama.
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Tony Elliott, Clemson OC
While Elliott has coached for his entire career in the state of South Carolina, he was born in California. Elliott would bring a similar type of East Coast recruiting pipeline as Cristobal and his elevation to assistant head coach shows what Dabo Swinney thinks of him. His offense struggled mightily in 2021 for a number of reasons, but Elliott has had enough success across his career to consider it a blip.
Andy Avalos, Boise State coach
Avalos served as defensive coordinator on Cristobal's staff during two Pac-12 title runs before returning to his alma mater as head coach. He had a shaky start to his head coaching career with the Broncos, but they ended 2021 by winning five of their last seven games, including wins over Fresno State and No. 13 BYU. If Oregon wants a young, West Coast head coach with familiarity with the program, Avalos would be an interesting bet.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State coach
Campbell has gotten consideration for virtually every job in America over the past several years, but has opted to stay at Iowa State. Oregon could be the kind of program where he could build his "five-star culture" with time and additional resources. Of course, Campbell might also just be happy at Iowa State.
Dave Aranda, Baylor coach
Aranda has also been rumored for virtually every job in America after leading the Bears to an 11-2 record and Big 12 championship, but he has expressed little interest in leaving after two seasons. For Oregon, though, it's worth making the call. Aranda has held new USC coach Lincoln Riley to three of his four worst offensive performances as a head coach. If Riley is the standard at USC, there are worse options out there than Aranda.
Joe Brady, former Panthers OC
Brady was considered briefly for NFL head coaching jobs a year ago, but his stock has bottomed out after getting fired by the Panthers mid-season. However, Brady is still the architect of perhaps the greatest offense in college football history at LSU in 2019. If the Ducks want to counter USC's new offensive mind with an offensive innovator of their own, Brady is an option. However, Oregon might also be able to land Brady as an offensive coordinator.