There will be no midseason firing of Florida coach Dan Mullen, sources tell CBS Sports. If the Gators ultimately decide to do anything with Mullen, it will not come until the end of the regular season. Mullen will have at least that long to fix what's wrong with a team that came within a touchdown of an SEC title less than a year ago.
That's not to say a firing would fix much. There has been such a glut of coaching changes in recent years that college football is running low on big-name inventory. Among schools that could be considered among the top 20 jobs in the country, eight have made changes in the last seven years. USC, Texas and LSU have done it twice. Florida would become the fourth such top 20 job to change hands twice since 2016 if it makes a change.
When this coaching carousel stops spinning, there will be at least 11 changes at top 20 programs over the last two years. Increasingly, the best coaches either have jobs (in college or the NFL), are recently retired or have another comfortable gig, such as television analyst.
"I think you're going to see a few schools stretching a bit on who they hire," said Kyle Bowlsby, founder of Bowlsby Sports Advisors, a coaching search and consulting firm based in Dallas.
That includes a rapidly spinning carousel. To date, there have been 12 openings ahead of the 2022 season. While that's presently the fewest in at least the last seven years, there's still two weeks left in the regular season. That list features six Power Five jobs, including two of those top 20 jobs, LSU and USC.
There is no clear frontrunner for either job.
USC is waiting for an answer from Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell. There is pressure to a hire a big name, and there is no clear indication where USC would turn next. One of the hottest young coaches is in the Trojans' backyard, Fresno State's Kalen DeBoer. Baylor's Dave Aranda, a native Californian, might have inserted himself into the search even before Saturday's upset of Oklahoma.
CBS Sports previously reported Michigan State coach Mel Tucker would be interested in LSU. Athletic director Scott Woodward continues to search for a monster hire. His presumed No. 1 target, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, reiterated his intention to stay with the Aggies on Monday.
Penn State's James Franklin, whose name has surfaced at both schools, may not be as desirable as the Nittany Lions have fallen to 6-4.
Meanwhile, speculation rages in a season that has seen five coaches canned before completing their third year. Miami athletic director Blake James parted ways with the school on Monday. In some way, that will impact the future employment of coach Manny Diaz.
Arizona State's Herm Edwards, in his fourth season, is in the midst of possibly his best season with the Sun Devils, 7-3. However, the program is being investigated by the NCAA for major recruiting violations.
As for Mullen, also in his fourth season, the problems have been identified. The administration is working with him on how to address defensive shortcomings. The Gators are coming off giving up a team-record 42 points in the first half against FCS Samford. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has already been fired.
Mullen's hot seat reflects a general impatience surrounding the game. The Gators advanced to New Year's Six bowls in his three first seasons, winning the first two. In Week 3, Florida lost to then-No. 1 Alabama by two points. This after nearly defeating the Crimson Tide in the 2020 SEC Championship Game. However, the Gators have lost four of their last six games, surrendering at least 34 points in four of them.
Firing Mullen before the season ends would already impact a staff that is shorthanded. That suggests Mullen will be given a chance to win out while beating rival Florida State.
Regardless, the supply of big-name, established coaches isn't meeting demand. When this season's carousel stops spinning, at least 48 of the 65 Power Five schools (almost 75%) will have changed coaches in the last seven years. Nearly half, 21 of those 48, have changed coaches twice. Virginia Tech was the latest, firing Justin Fuente after six seasons on Tuesday. Baylor has changed three times since 2016.
"[Lately] I think it's all a product of the early signing period and transfer portal," Bowlsby said. "People are trying to salvage rosters and have a team for next year. It gives you a lot of runway to do research, to do a hire."
Whatever happens, super-agent Jimmy Sexton will have a hand in it. He is an expert at getting his clients raises just by being mentioned for openings. It was news recently when Franklin switched agents from Trace Armstrong to Sexton. Sexton clients that may figure prominently in upcoming searches: Mullen, Hugh Freeze, Billy Napier and Lane Kiffin.
"It's always a good year to be Jimmy Sexton," one AD said.
Florida wouldn't be the only program potentially forced to take a chance on an unproven Power Five coach if it makes a change. Since 2019, there have 79 coaching changes among the 130 FBS schools.
Three schools have already filled 2021 openings before Week 12. Last week, Jim Mora Jr. replaced Randy Edsall at UConn. Texas Tech fired Matt Wells and last week hired Baylor associate head coach Joey McGuire. Thirty-seven days passed between Georgia Southern firing Chad Lunsford and hiring former USC coach Clay Helton, who is currently observing and will formally take over after the season. Helton was the second coach to lose his job this season back on Sept. 13.
Meanwhile, the rate of change continues to be dizzying. A generation of hot, can't-miss coaches have either underachieved or been fired. Think of Steve Sarkisian, Tom Herman, Mike Norvell, Justin Fuente, Scott Frost and Will Muschamp. That list encompasses the fortunes of eight programs spanning all Power Five conferences in the last decade.
The failings have had reverberations. Frost basically has a year -- his fifth at Nebraska -- to turn around the Huskers after his contract was restructured and assistants were fired. Herman has to remake himself after getting and losing his dream job at Texas; he was fired despite going 32-18 and winning four straight bowl games. Fuente was in the middle of the program's worst two-year run (10 wins) since 1991-92. Norvell's fortunes are yet to be determined at Florida State, which has become a coaching carousel of another kind. Firing Norvell would make it three coaching changes there since 2017.
Muschamp has found his fastball again as defensive analyst at Georgia. Perhaps Kirby Smart has developed his own rehab clinic for fallen coaches like his old boss Nick Saban. It remains to be seen if Muschamp will get another Power Five shot after going a combined 55-51 at Florida and South Carolina.
On that list, only Muschamp is over 47. Five are between the age 45-47. Norvell is the youngest at 40. These guys were trusted with programs that have won a combined 20 national championships.
Mullen is not part of that group, yet. He is accomplished, having coached a bevy of big-time quarterbacks, winning two national championships as a coordinator, taking Mississippi State to eight bowl games and winning a division title at Florida.
Time for a new generation to give it a try?
TCU seems to be zeroing in on Sonny Dykes and Matt Campbell. Since neither SMU nor Iowa State are bound for conference championship games, an announcement could come as soon as Nov. 29, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Louisiana's Billy Napier would be a fine fit for Arizona State if the Sun Devils moved on from Edwards. Napier was Todd Graham's offensive coordinator in 2017. He could also be a fall-back option for LSU.
Expect Utah State's Blake Anderson to get some looks, especially back in the Southeast where he coached at Middle Tennessee, Louisiana, Southern Miss as an assistant and for seven years as Arkansas State's head coach. The Aggies are 8-2 for only the second time since 2012.
All of it will have to be decided before that early signing day on Dec. 15.