Memphis football was supposed to return to obscurity last year following the departures of Justin Fuente and Paxton Lynch. Mike Norvell didn't get the memo.
Eleven years ago, Norvell was an unknown graduate assistant at Central Arkansas, his alma mater. Now he's headlining Power 5 coaching lists after only one full season on the Tigers' sideline and could soon have his pick of the litter.
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There is nothing to suggest he will leave after this season — or next season for that matter. He has repeatedly said how much he loves Memphis, his job and his staff, and hasn't given any whiff of non-Memphis plans.
Still, his rising star status is undeniable and he will be fielding Power 5 offers soon — if he isn't already. Here are five potential jobs Norvell could land after this season, listed in order of most likely to least likely.
Arizona State's VP for Athletics Ray Anderson probably has a list in his head of potential candidates to replace Todd Graham if he's not pleased with their 2017 results. If that list does exist, bet the farm that Mike Norvell is on it.
Norvell's work at Graham's offensive coordinator from 2012-15 earned him the Memphis job. His unit routinely ranked among the nation's best in most categories, including the top 20 in points per game his first three seasons.
These are always difficult and unpredictable situations. There's no telling what a program — or prospective coaching candidates — might do during their search of a replacement for a coach dismissed for non-performance reasons.
A short move (85 miles from Memphis to Oxford) may be appealing, as would the chance to put his stamp on a program that should give him plenty of time to win.
The biggest question: Would Norvell want to risk his head coaching shot on a tough situation?
Aside from his four-year stint two hours north at Arizona State, Norvell has no notable connections to Arizona, though there is one small item.
Arizona's first-year athletics director Dave Heeke spent the last 18 seasons at Oregon, where in 2015 he watched Norvell's offense gash the Ducks for 55 points in 2015. It's loose but Heeke definitely remembers that game and might be interested in snagging Norvell before the Sun Devils.
Notre Dame's last seven coaches have been an average age of 49 when they took the job and the Irish haven't hired a coach younger than 42 since Ara Parseghian (40) in 1964.
Mike Norvell turns 36 in October.
Despite the program's up-and-down status over the last two decades, the lure of South Bend is strong and it remains a premier job that will attract one of the top up-and-coming coaches in America.
Norvell is the top up-and-coming coach in America.
Texas A&M isn't last because of a lack of fit or Norvell's likeliness to accept a potential offer. They're last because it's more likely the Aggies try to write a blank check to a big-time name with a championship pedigree before considering other options.
"Coach [Sumlin] knows he has to win," athletics director Scott Woodward said in May. "And he has to win this year. And we have to do better than we've done in the past."
Blowing a 34-point lead to UCLA and narrowly beating Nicholls is not better than what they've done in the past. In fact, it's much worse.
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