Five Candidates to Replace Danny Gonzales at New Mexico

    Danny Gonzales if officially out at New Mexico. Who are five intriguing names who could replace him? One includes a past Mountain West head coach.

    Danny Gonzales, a New Mexico alum who was hired to breathe new life into the struggling Lobos football program, has been fired. Unfortunately for Gonzales, a recent 25-17 upset of Fresno State wasn’t enough to save him.

    Gonzales was let go following the Lobos’ shootout loss to Utah State 44-41 in double-overtime on Friday. Gonzales’ last UNM team ended their season at 4-8.

    Who Can Replace Gonzales at New Mexico? Five Candidates to Watch

    New Mexico isn’t considered the most glamorous of openings compared to Texas A&M, Oregon State, and the recently-filled Michigan State opening.

    For starters, Gonzales earned $700,000 and became the second-most underpaid coach in the conference. While that kind of salary will turn away most folks, there are aspects of the UNM job that could appeal to others.

    The Lobos are close to some notable recruiting hotbeds outside of their backyard. Scottsdale, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and the West Texas region are considered places UNM can pluck from. The opportunity to resuscitate a floundering FBS program could also attract someone interested in taking on the initiative. It has happened in the MWC before — with programs like San Jose State and UNLV having several down years before becoming conference title contenders.

    So, who are suitable names that look appealing to New Mexico? Here are five names to watch.

    Brennan Marion, UNLV Offensive Coordinator

    Brennan Marion’s name has already surfaced as a possibility for San Diego State, as he interviewed for that opening. With the Rebels suddenly in the mix for the MWC title, Marion’s name has ascended as an FBS head coach in waiting.

    His UNLV offense averaged a conference-best 35.5 points per game this season.

    Furthermore, every offense Marion has had his imprint on — from Howard to William & Mary and even Texas — improved the first season he arrived. He also once coached future first-rounder Jordan Addison into an All-American season and oversaw Xavier Worthy’s best season while at Texas.

    And at 36, Marion will bring youthful energy if he’s given the head coaching reins elsewhere.

    Brent Vigen, Montana State Head Coach

    We’ve seen Football Championship Subdivision head coaches make the jump to FBS. Troy Taylor did it recently by going from Sacramento State to Stanford. Craig Bohl has created consistent bowl teams at Wyoming after a dominating run at North Dakota State.

    Brent Vigen has positioned himself to be the next one elevated from the FCS potentially.

    The Bobcats have emerged as an annual contender for the league’s playoffs and national title game with his 32-8 overall record. He does know the MWC very well as a past Bohl assistant from 2017 to 2020 in Laramie. After watching Bohl help build WYO back up, Vigen could appeal with a similar blueprint if given the keys to UNM.

    Ryan Grubb, Washington Offensive Coordinator

    Like Marion, Ryan Grubb is an offensive whiz who’s rising as a potential rookie head coach in 2024.

    Except for Grubb, he’s familiar with producing explosive offenses in the MWC. His 2021 Fresno State offense ranked first in the conference with Jake Haener at the controls. Now, he’s joined Kalen DeBoer in turning Michael Penix into a Heisman Trophy candidate at UW.

    While Grubb is an established Power Five contender, he has experience in helping build up programs. He was DeBoer’s right-hand man at Sioux Falls University when DeBoer went an astonishing 67-3 there. Grubb’s offensive pedigree makes him alluring here at UNM.

    Derrick Odum, San Jose State Defensive Coordinator

    If it’s a defensive mind UNM seeks, “D.O.” is the closest and most intriguing option.

    Derrick Odum’s Spartans defense has flipped a far different switch during their late run. After allowing more than 33 points per game during the 1-5 start, SJSU has surrendered an average of 17.8 points per contest since then.

    And the Spartans have become takeaway machines in this spurt to 7-5. They snatched two interceptions in the romp of Fresno State, then two more versus San Diego State. Odum’s unit also pounced on one fumble in the 37-31 win over UNLV on Saturday.

    Nick Rolovich, Former Head Coach of Hawaii and Washington State

    Here’s a surprise name. But Nick Rolovich makes sense for several reasons.

    For starters, he was successful in his last run at the MWC. While on the island, he went 28-27 including going 10-5 in his final season at Hawaii. Unfortunately, his first season in Pullman was controversial due to failing to comply with the State of Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. His only Cougars team went 5-6 for the truncated 2020 season.

    Rolovich is still young at 44. He was last seen running the offense for the XFL’s Seattle Sea Dragons. But if he wants another try as a CFB head coach, Albuquerque could be the prime spot.

    Recap of Danny Gonzales Era at New Mexico

    “After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that our football program needs new leadership,” said UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez in a news release. “I want to thank Danny for his service to the University of New Mexico. Danny helped bring stability to our football program during a difficult time and played a big role in fostering a positive culture throughout our Department of Athletics.”

    Gonzales, 41, was given a homecoming when he was lured into the post back in 2020. He came to the campus as a native of Albuquerque and as a former Lobos player.

    Unfortunately, none of his UNM teams finished above .500. He ends up compiling an 11-32 mark in his four seasons at his alma mater.

    “While I’m disappointed, I will always appreciate and be grateful for the opportunity to return to The University of New Mexico and lead the football program as head coach,” Gonzales said in the release. “I’m proud of the program we built and will always cheer on my alma mater in the future.”

    For Gonzales, the 2023 campaign marks his best season yet — but with four wins. He never won more than two games in Mountain West Conference play.

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