Joel Maturi returned to Minneapolis from San Diego on Tuesday, but before you ask: No, he didn't get you anything. Not yet, anyway.
"It was nice," Minnesota's athletic director said of his cross- country trip, but there ends the travelogue. Maturi offered no details of his journey, his business in California or even whether it was related to the Gophers' coaching search.
But San Diego is the current home of Brady Hoke, head coach of the San Diego State Aztecs and widely reported to be among Maturi's candidates for the vacant Gophers job. The former Ball State coach and Michigan assistant, 11-10 at the Mountain West school, is among the most desirable commodities this year for schools looking for a change at the top of their football programs.
Or he would be -- if there were many universities planning to make a change.
"I don't think there will be a Bloody Monday this year like we've had in the past," said Grant Teaff, longtime Baylor coach and now executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "It seems like there's not as much hopping out there as there usually is."
Bloody Monday is the ghoulish nickname for the first workday after the end of the college football season, when athletic directors unhappy with their football programs clean house and start searching for new coaches. It's coming up next Monday, and by all indications the number of FBS job openings around the country should fall well below the 23 of last year or 22 after the 2008 season.
Quiet sooner or later
Not since 2006 have there been fewer than 11 coaching changes at the 66 BCS conference schools, but few changes are rumored this year. That heavy recent turnover is part of the reason, Teaff said.
"You've got a lot of coaches in the second or third years of their contracts, and even today, schools aren't generally that quick to change," the College Football Hall of Fame coach said. "Simple math tells you that you have to have a quiet year sooner or later."
Does a quiet year give Maturi an advantage in his search for Tim Brewster's successor, since there is less competition than usual for the most highly regarded coaching prospects?
"I don't look at it that way," Maturi said. "We're going to find a coach who wants to be at the University of Minnesota, who we think can win here. Obviously those factors may enter into it for somebody else, but I can't worry about that."
Besides, Teaff pointed out, the dearth of vacancies might have the opposite effect: Coaches, particularly those with a strong nucleus returning, might decide to wait a year to make a move, gambling that they'll be even more attractive (or there might be more attractive openings) a year from now.
"It's really a strange dance that we go through at this time of year," Teaff said. "Coaches have a lot to evaluate, because the stakes are pretty high. It's their career. ... And also, certain folks dream their whole life of one opening, and they'll wait. If the opening is there, heck or high water won't hold them back."
Are there any "dream" openings -- a Notre Dame, Florida, USC -- this year? With the possible exception of Michigan, it doesn't appear likely, which might make the Gophers' job more appealing.
Minnesota, Colorado and North Texas are the only universities to fire their coaches before the end of this season, and Ball State, whose 4-8 season ended Saturday, added Hoke's successor, Stan Parrish, to the list on Tuesday. Speculation about Rich Rodriguez's status at Michigan has intensified heading into the Wolverines' finale at Ohio State, and Indiana players this week publicly urged Hoosiers athletic director Fred Glass to spare Bill Lynch in the wake of a 4-7 season that ends at Purdue.
But lots of potential openings have seemingly dried up. Joe Paterno announced this week that he'll be back, at age 84, for a 46th season at Penn State in 2011. Dennis Erickson, headed for a third consecutive sub-.500 record at Arizona State, also will return, according to the Sun Devils' athletic director. Butch Davis, whose North Carolina program has been rocked by suspensions and dismissals for academic fraud and illegal benefits, received a vote of confidence from the state university chancellor. Ron Zook at Illinois and Ralph Friedgen at Maryland appear to have saved themselves by qualifying for a bowl.
"It doesn't appear too busy," Teaff said of the turnover possibilities. "And that's probably a good thing."