Who's next at Central Michigan after firing of coach John Bonamego?

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Former Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego

Central Michigan athletic director Michael Alford wasted little time in making a change in leadership on the heels of the worst football season in the program's long and rather-successful history.

John Bonamego was fired Friday night, after a blowout loss to Toledo marked the end of a disastrous 1-11 season where the only victory was against a Football Championship Subdivision program.

Bonamego had completed his fourth season, having gone to bowls in the first three. His buyout on the new five-year contract he signed just last December calls for a payout in excess of $1 million.

Alford, in an email to players that was sent out moments before the university confirmed Bonamego's Friday-night firing, said he would meet with officials Monday morning to start discussing where the program goes from here.

Here's a look at a handful of candidates who could be under consideration to succeed Bonamego and become Central's eighth head coach since 2003, including interims:

Ferris State football coach Tony Annese.

Tony Annese

Any preliminary list has to start right here, with the Ferris State coach who perennially has the Bulldogs in national-championship contention in Division II — including this season, as Ferris State is ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Many folks expected Annese to be the pick four years ago, but surprisingly, really didn't get much thought from then-athletic director Dave Heeke.

Annese took over Ferris State in December 2011, and has gone 72-14 (entering Saturday's playoff game against Northwest Missouri State), following successful stints at Grand Rapids Community College and as a high-school head coach in Muskegon. He certainly knows the terrain, key for recruiting.

Annese also could solve the Chippewas' quarterback problem, and bring former Detroit Cass Tech star Jayru Campbell with him to Mount Pleasant. Campbell is considered a front-runner for the Harlon Hill Trophy, Division II's Heisman.

The last time Central Michigan tapped a Division II rising star to be its head coach was then-Grand Valley State coach Brian Kelly, though he was a head coach on the rise and the Chippewas knew his time in Mount Pleasant would be short. And it was, at just three years. He then went to Cincinnati, and eventually Notre Dame.

Annese is older than Kelly was, and would be considered a more stable choice.

Butch Jones

Butch Jones

This was a name that immediately started popping up on Twitter late Friday night.

Jones, of course, is no stranger to Central Michigan, having been on staff in a variety of roles from 1998-2004, before becoming head coach in 2007. He was 27-13 with two Mid-American Conference West Division titles and three bowl games in three seasons.

He also left for Cincinnati, and later for Tennessee. He was fired as Volunteers coach last season, and spent this season as a low-paid adviser to Nick Saban at Alabama.

Jones left Central, by all accounts, on good terms, unlike his predecessor Dan Enos, who stunned the Chippewas by leaving in January 2015 to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas. So a reunion could be in the cards.

That said, Jones could have other options, given the plethora of expected openings across Division I. One possibility could be Purdue, if Jeff Brohm leaves for Louisville.

Tyrone Wheatley

Tyrone Wheatley

His name comes up a lot these days, particularly when there are local openings.

The former Dearborn Heights Robichaud and University of Michigan running back has had college-coaching stops at Eastern Michigan, Syracuse and Michigan since 2009, and thought he would be in the mix to become Eastern's head coach before Chris Creighton got the job following Ron English's firing in 2013.

Wheatley also interviewed for Western Michigan's head-coaching opening after P.J. Fleck left for Minnesota two years ago, and before Tim Lester got the job.

Mark Staten

Mark Staten

Michigan State's longtime offensive-line coach under Mark Dantonio, his name occasionally comes up for small or mid-major head-coaching jobs. He was in the mix for Division II Northern Michigan a couple years ago, before withdrawing from consideration.

He would be appealing on a number of fronts, including his offense background, and his recruiting chops (he is Michigan State's recruiting coordinator, as well as assistant head coach, after a summer 2017 promotion.)

Harlon Barnett

Harlon Barnett

Probably a stretch, given he just left his longtime post at Michigan State to become defensive coordinator at Florida State — and makes bank. That could make him out of reach for Central Michigan, which was committing less than $700,000 a year to Bonamego under his new contract.

But he's been coaching for 20 years and hasn't been a head coach. If not now, when?

Brady Hoke

Brady Hoke

This would be interesting, if not likely.

The former Michigan head coach, who's now defensive-line coach for the NFL's Carolina Panthers, has a history with the MAC. He is a Ball State alum, and was head coach at Ball State for six seasons (two bowls) before heading to San Diego State for two years, and then Michigan for four.

It's not clear if he wants to try to rehabilitate his head-coaching image.

As a player at Akron, Luke Getsy participated in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit in 2005.

Luke Getsy

Probably the one name on this list you haven't heard of, but it'd be an intriguing hire, not unlike when Western tapped an unknown and young Fleck back in 2013.

Getsy is just 34, but is considered an offensive guru, as the current offensive coordinator at Mississippi State, after four seasons on staff with the Green Bay Packers. Before that, he was at Western for a year (under Fleck), and is a MAC alum, having played at Akron

Cale Gundy

Cale Gundy

Alford came to Central Michigan from Oklahoma, so it's only natural he'd look back there for a possible candidate. And Gundy fits the ball, having been an assistant coach for the Sooners since 1999, in a variety of roles on offense to boot.

The former Oklahoma quarterback, who is 46, is the brother of Mike Gundy, the head coach at Oklahoma State.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984