Let the Tom Herman Derby begin

LSU fired Les Miles as its football coach on Sunday.

Houston is coached by Tom Herman.

Houston is a front runner to be included in Big 12 expansion, if the conference votes to expand.

The Big 12 might not make any expansion moves.

And whether it is resolved favorably or not for the Cougars depends largely on the Big 12.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Where to begin to explain this maze of intrigue triggered by LSU's not-stunning decision to fire Miles, who has had the term "embattled'' as part of his profile for the past several years.

Miles says he wants to coach again. Don't be surprised if he is coaching at a Power 5 conference school next season. Places such as Penn State or Kentucky could be likely landing places, provided changes are made at those schools.

Let's start with Herman, who, when you get past Alabama coach Nick Saban, Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, is probably the biggest rock star among Power 5 coaches.

Herman is in his second season coaching the Cougars, who were 13-1 last season, including a solid victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Houston is 4-0 this season, including an opening win over Oklahoma. The Cougars are ranked No. 6 in the country and have a great chance to climb all the way into the Final Four, which will be a major accomplishment for a non Power 5 conference school (Houston is currently in the American Athletic Conference).

Houston's success under Herman is one of the reasons why the Cougars are one of the favorites to be added to the Big 12 if that conference makes the decision to expand. Understanding the value of its coach, Houston officials have an offer to increase Herman's salary from $3 million a year to $5 million a year IF the Cougars are invited to the Big 12.

Such a deal MIGHT make Herman consider staying in Houston, rather than accept an offer from LSU which will be more than $5 million a year. You might ask where is all this money coming from since LSU is paying Miles $4.3 million per season and it will cost the Tigers more than $11 million in buyouts to pay off Miles. But in the multi-million dollar world of SEC football, money is never the issue.

Herman is maintaining that he has not been officially contacted by LSU, but those are semantics. Herman knows that LSU has him on the top of their wish list. In a perfect world (in LSU's view) Herman will be ready to take over the Tigers' program in mid-December.

There has also been chatter that FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who was the offensive coordinator at LSU from 20000-2006 before moving to FSU and even former Baylor coach Art Briles, could be coaches of interest to LSU. But Herman is the clear cut leader in the club house.

You also might wonder about the ethics in all of this. Houston, after all is very much in contention for a national championship season. Having its coach in the middle of a debate about his future during the season could cause some distractions.

Ethics and college football are often mutually exclusive of each other. There is a story floating in Big 12 circles about a consulting firm hired by the Big 12 to help in its vetting of possible expansion candidates, also representing one of the schools seeking to get into the conference, an obvious conflict of interest.

When asked about this, one former college television executive, familiar with the process and the participants, paused and laughed and then went into his best Claude Rains, Captain Renault character in Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that there there is gambling going on here,'' said Renault, as he picked up his winnings from the evening.''

Conflict of interest? Not a problem when the stakes are high.

So anything goes at this level, with big time money on the table and Houston and Herman are now in the middle of it.

Adding to the intrigue, is the issue of Houston and the Big 12, which should come to some resolution by the middle of next month when the Big 12 Presidents meet and ostensibly decide on what direction they will head.

No one is sure what will happen. Add two teams, add four teams, add 0 teams. Houston has become popular because it has become good under Herman. Houston is unpopular in some Big 12 quarters for the same reason.

If Houston is chosen, the Cougars will have a problem in convincing Herman to stay even with the boost in salary. LSU can and will outbid them.

If Houston is not chosen or the Big 12 does not expand, the Cougars will have a bigger problem in not only keeping its head coach, but in paying for the cost of shattering their budget in their attempt to become Big 12 worthy.

Miles dismissal was only the start of what could be another season of head-scratching coaching moves which will shift the landscape of Power 5 conference football.

Notre Dame is 1-3 and head coach Brian Kelly fired his defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder after Saturday's 38-35 loss to Duke. Further losses could precipitate more changes. Schools such as Oregon and Oklahoma, who are off to slower starts than expected, also are feeling a sense of urgency. There are even rumblings at USC, where first year coach Clay Helton has watched the Trojans slip to a 1-3 start, despite a schedule which has NFL toughness.

For now, LSU is the only Power 5 conference school opening. Whether Herman is the next coach and whether the Cougars get an invitation to the Big 12 and what happens after that will determine if Houston indeed has a problem.[/membership]

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