So UConn is looking for a new offensive coordinator. With a little elbow grease and internet searching, I put together a short list of possible names.
WARNING: There is no inside information or any source to confirm the validity behind these guesses besides having some connection to Bob Diaco and/or other members of the staff. That being said, coaching is a very fraternal profession, so don't be surprised if it is one of these three people.
UPDATE, 1/21: I'm hearing Mike Groh's name being mentioned through the grapevine, so here's a quick bio/background:
Mike Groh - Wide receivers coach, Chicago Bears
If that last name looks familiar to you, it's because Mike's father, Al, was head coach of the New York Jets for a year before taking over at his alma mater, UVA. The elder Groh added his son to the staff while on the Jets and brought him along to Charlottesville where Mike left after a three-year run as offensive coordinator. Before that he was the quarterbacks coach and before that he worked with the wide receivers.
Mike Groh was a decorated quarterback at New Jersey's Randolph High, graduating in 1990. Bob Diaco is a 1992 graduate from Cedar Grove High about 25 miles away, so he probably has some familiarity with Groh going back to this time.
Beyond that, Diaco spent three seasons as an assistant at UVA coaching linebackers and special teams from 2006-2008, the same years where Groh was the offensive coordinator. Like his father, Mike played at UVA as well, earning the starting quarterback job in the 1994 season which ended with a 9-3 record and an Independence Bowl win over TCU. In 1995, Groh led them to a 9-4 record and a Peach Bowl win over Georgia.
As an offensive coordinator, Groh was relieved of his duties (by his own father, mind you) after the 2008 season and was an offensive assistant at Alabama and Louisville before joining the Bears in 2013. One of those seasons at Alabama was as a graduate assistant and the other two were as wide receivers coach, so he is very familiar with what it takes to win at a big-time program and with the Alabama-style offense Diaco has referenced in interviews.
Groh was also a recruiting coordinator while at UVA-- I would imagine he has very strong ties not just in New Jersey but across the Mid-Atlantic from his time in that role. Hopefully, if hired, he can help improve our recruiting in these talent-rich regions-- especially at quarterback.
Charley Molnar - Wide receivers coach, Idaho
Molnar spent two years at Notre Dame as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2010-2011 as a member of Brian Kelly's staff with Diaco. He left to take the head coaching job at UMass, a wholly unsuccessful stint which lasted only two seasons.
Molnar and Diaco go as far back as Diaco's time at Eastern Michigan, where the two were on Kelly's staff together in 2002. They reunited in 2004 at Western Michigan, only to separate again. Kelly brought the two back together in 2009 at Cincinnati, but alas they separated once more after just one season. Bob Diaco and Charley Molnar have spent a combined five years working together at four different schools-- testament to the transient, uncertain life of an assistant coach.
In 2011, Molnar's offense was ranked 22nd in Football Outsiders F+/- ratings. That unit, led by quarterback Tommy Rees, averaged 424 yards per game. In 2010, the offense was ranked 37th, Rees started the final four games of that season as a freshman after starter Dayne Crist went down.
The UConn job would be a significant pay bump for Molnar, though he has likely seen healthier financial years as a head coach or as ND offensive coordinator. Despite his current salary being at $46,000 according to USA Today's Assistant Coach Salary Database, he is still likely to command a much higher salary given the nature of his experience and the myriad opportunities which are available in a given off-season.
Matt LaFleur - Quarterbacks coach, Notre Dame
The Notre Dame connection here is not as prominent as you might think, as Matt Lafleur has been the Irish quarterbacks coach for just one season-- starting after Diaco's departure. But if Lafleur is impressing in South Bend, Bob's old friends on the staff are likely to let him know. LaFleur coached on Brian Kelly's staff at Central Michigan from 2004-2005, and Diaco was co-defensive coordinator there in 2005 so these two have worked together.
Before Notre Dame, LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach for the Washington Redskins. He is credited with helping Rex Grossman play at a competent level as well as the development of Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III. I'm not sure whether this past NFL season invalidates those last two or if it means that they suffered in LaFleur's absence, which only occurred due to the firing of head coach Mike Shanahan.
I think this would be an incredible choice, and given some comments LaFleur has made about what he looks for in a quarterback, he would appear to be an ideal candidate to work with Tyler Davis and successfully recruit the kind of dual-threat under center which UConn seems to be favoring with its scholarship offers.
Unfortunately, it is very possible that LaFleur is out of our price range. Information for Notre Dame coach salaries is not readily available, but we may need to offer a raise over the $292,000 Mike Cummings made last year to lure a Notre Dame coach with an NFL pedigree to Connecticut.
Jeff Quinn - Former head coach, University at Buffalo
Tip of the hat to SB Nation's UB outlet, Bull Run, for alerting us to the possibility that the recently fired Jeff Quinn may end up at UConn. In addition to having a history with Bob Diaco, at Cincinnati in 2009 and Central Michigan in 2005, Quinn also has ties to Warde Manuel. While Warde was AD at UB, he hired Quinn to replace Turner Gill following Gill's departure for Kansas.
Jeff Quinn made $250,000 as head coach at Buffalo, so the UConn opportunity should be an attractive one. Though his head coaching tenure was not so successful (he was fired midway through the season) he is a proven offensive strategist and would bring valuable leadership experience to the staff. Perhaps he is just one of those coaches best suited to be an offensive coordinator-- nothing wrong with that.
Quinn appeared to be well-liked by the Buffalo fanbase, probably because his 8-4 campaign in 2013 led to the program's second-ever bowl appearance. UConn's current QB coach, Don Patterson, worked on Quinn's staff in that same capacity from 2011-2013.
Assistant coach pay is a key indicator of success in college football. If UConn is truly making a commitment to being successful at football, they need to prove it right here. The ramifications of a hiring a cheap miss are far greater than the incremental cost of bringing in the best possible candidate.
I'm glad Bob Diaco felt confident enough to shake things up after last year's historically bad offensive performance. But, it does also seem like a slightly harsh move after just one season with a depleted roster. This change will need to pay dividends next year in order to prove that it was a better choice than maintaining continuity.
Those gains don't even necessarily need to be on the field, even just a spike in recruiting would be great. In fact, because of the importance of recruiting, Matt LaFleur would be my top choice among these three. I think the RGIII and Kirk Cousins experience will resonate well with recruits, especially the Griffin story with dual-threat quarterbacks. But can UConn lure him away from Notre Dame?
I don't know, but I double-dog dare them to. That said, I wouldn't be disappointed with any of the others.
It's obviously unrealistic to expect UConn to approach the salaries doled out by top-15 programs, but we should be leading our conference and be competitive with low-end "power five" schools.
The highest-paid assistant in the AAC last year was Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs, who made $400,000. The three highest paid assistants in the conference were all defensive coordinators, with Cincinnati offensive coordinator Charlie Gran coming in fourth at $350,000. UConn's assistants are not far behind, as Cummings and co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter are tied for eighth.
Schools on the lower end of assistant pay from the P5 are, unsurprisingly, paying slightly more than the top of the American. If UConn wants to consider itself a power program and get an invitation to the autonomy party then the Athletic Department needs to put its money where its mouth is. They can't expect fans to keep buying tickets and merchandise while openly investing less than the schools we claim to be our peers.
(Editors Note: I'm not a huge fan of putting peoples' salaries on blast like this, but unfortunately the business end is very much a part of this discussion. Remember during the course of these conversations that we are talking about actual human beings, most of whom have families and dogs and favorite TV shows just like you. Be nice.)