No matter how clear a favorite there may be in any job search, there are always going to be other worthy candidates. That holds true as Cincinnati goes forward with its search for a new head football coach. Sure, P.J. Fleck may be the favorite (particularly among the fans) and for good reason, even if he doesn’t appear interested in UC.
Because of that last part, UC really can’t afford to go Fleck or die. UC must do its due diligence and make sure to bring in a few potential hires before making a decision. One of those prospects should be Neal Brown. Currently the head coach at Troy, Brown has a number of attributes that would make him a good hire.
Young With Ties to the Region
It may be a bit of stretch to say Brown has any ties to the actual city of Cincinnati but as a son of Danville, Kentucky, he at least has some understanding of the Ohio/Kentucky region. That could prove useful on the recruiting trail.
However, just a tangential association with UC’s location is far from a reason to hire Brown. His age is, however, as the Bearcats should be going in a completely different direction than they did when they hired Tommy Tuberville. Even though Tuberville was an established name in the college football world, he struggled to raise the standing of UC after years on the front lines. Brown would bring a fresh perspective to UC and would be hungry to prove himself at a program that is undoubtedly better than Troy.
No Stranger to Quick Turnarounds
Even if Brown is taking on quite a task in resurrecting the decaying stump of 2016 UC football, that shouldn’t be all that big a task for him. After all, UC is just two years removed from a nine-win season and just last year went bowling. When Brown stepped in at Troy in 2015 the Trojans were coming off a 3-9 campaign. In addition, they had not been to a bowl since 2010 and had failed to win more than six games in any of the years since. In two short years Brown has molded Troy into a low mid-major power, leading the Trojans to a 9-3 record this season and a brief moment in the AP Top 25, the first time the program had ever earned that accolade.
This past season, Troy may have failed to burn up the Sun Belt, losing to Arkansas State at home by quite a margin (35-3), but that same team put a scare into Clemson, a squad headed to the College Football Playoff, when it came within a score of upsetting the Tigers back in September. With nine wins to their credit, the Trojans are headed to the Dollar General Bowl while UC will be watching from home.
If Brown could make Troy nationally relevant in two years, you have to think he can do the same with UC in a similar time frame.
Troy, a team from the Sun Belt, is understandably near the bottom of the country in terms of its 2017 recruiting class, ranking No. 91 according to 247Sports. Even without the same benefits (facilities, recognition, previous success) as Tuberville had at his disposal, Brown still came very near to matching UC’s 2017 class, which is currently ranked No. 85 in the country. Given the improved tools that UC offers in terms of recruiting, Brown should be able to get UC trending up again.
How likely is it that Brown will be hired?
I’d say Brown is the safest choice on the table right now. UC may want to make a strong push for Fleck but that might not even be possible. The Bearcats will also take a look at some bigger name guys like Charlie Strong, but Brown provides a strong, if not flashy, option. If Fleck continues to ignore their calls and others go for the other gigs left, then Brown looms as the safe bet to be brought in by the Bearcats.