Texas athletic director Steve Patterson is interested in interviewing Baylor coach Art Briles this week - possibly as early as Thursday, two sources close to the situation told Orangebloods.com.
A Baylor source said Wednesday night Texas had not yet reached out for permission. That source also said Briles expressed to Baylor officials "you have nothing to worry about" regarding Texas after an upset loss to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl Wednesday night.
A source close to the Texas search said Briles presents an intriguing option because it's believed Briles would take the Texas job; has established relationships with Texas high school coaches; has evaluated talent and developed it well in turning Baylor around; and received an endorsement from UT lettermen who met with Patterson before the Alamo Bowl.
The source also said hiring Briles would, of course, weaken Baylor - an emerging power in the Big 12. The Bears, who defeated Texas for the Big 12 title on Dec. 7 and for the third time in four years, were beaten by 17-point underdog Central Florida, 52-42, Wednesday night in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor was flagged 17 times for 135 yards.
Patterson has already interviewed Louisville's Charlie Strong and Vanderbilt's James Franklin according to a high-level source close to the situation. OB reported the Strong interview on Tuesday, and the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday that Patterson had talked to Strong.
A source close to the situation on Tuesday told Orangebloods Patterson has also expressed an interest in Michigan State's Mark Dantonio because Dantonio has a reputation for strong character (suspending star linebacker Max Bullough for Wednesday's Rose Bowl victory over Stanford only added to that), and his teams are tough.
Dantonio, a Nick Saban disciple whose defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi could become a head-coaching candidate, made only $1.96 million this season - ninth in the Big Ten. But reports Wednesday indicated Dantonio had agreed to a new deal that will make him one of the three highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten.
Briles, 58, is older than the other candidates who have surfaced since speculation centered on Alabama's Nick Saban, 62, in December.
Mark Dantonio is 57. Charlie Strong is 53. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher is 48, and Vanderbilt's James Franklin is 41.
But Briles is a relentless coach who has a burning desire/chip on his shoulder to succeed and has privately coveted the Texas job his entire coaching life, according to multiple sources close to Briles.
Briles has a $4 million buyout, which UT sources have indicated is a consideration. If Briles left Baylor, he'd be leaving a 10-year contract that starts at $4.5 million and graduates to $5.5 million and is largely guaranteed by Baylor - to the tune of $50 million, OB has learned.
If Briles left Baylor, which is opening a new stadium next season and just announced plans for a new athletic dining hall, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, a former coach at Lake Travis High School, could emerge as a candidate.
Louisville's Strong came highly recommended to Texas by the recruiting firm Korn/Ferry, which is assisting in UT's coaching search.
Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, also a former Saban assistant, has long been considered a leading candidate for the Texas job and appears to have some key, big-money support. But the question is if Patterson may be cooling on the idea of pursuing Fisher, who will coach his Seminoles in the BCS national title game on Jan. 6?
There may be some concern by Patterson that by waiting until after Jan. 6 to talk to Fisher that if Fisher opts to stay at Florida State, Texas will give the appearance it is selecting a runner-up candidate when Patterson may already have his man.
One thing is becoming clear, however, this is Patterson's show up to this point. And if he pulls the trigger on a new coach in the next couple days, it will be an indicator that he barely involved the 8-member advisory committee that Texas put together to help hire Patterson.
That committee hasn't even met yet.
Things are definitely heating up.