Kansas State's search for a new football coach took an unexpected twist Friday morning when North Texas' Seth Littrell reportedly withdrew his name from consideration.
Brett McMurphy, college football writer for WatchStadium.com, reported the news on Littrell, who was widely believed to be the front-runner to succeed hall of fame coach Bill Snyder.
Now Gene Taylor, K-State's athletic director, will turn his attention to another group of potential candidates, reportedly headed by Memphis coach Mike Norvell, North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman and possibly Troy's Neal Brown.
Reports have suggested that negotiations between K-State and Littrell broke down over retention of assistant coaches, though terms of a buyout clause is a more likely sticking point. There is concern that Littrell, an Oklahoma native who played fullback at Oklahoma, has his eye on the OU job should current Sooner coach Lincoln Riley depart for the NFL.
Littrell, 40, has led North Texas to a three-year record of 23-16 in his first head coaching position. The Mean Green are 9-3 this season and will face Utah State on Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl.
Though he had no direct K-State ties, Littrell played for former K-State assistant Bob Stoops on OU's 2000 national championship team and is considered a rising star in the coaching profession.
Norvell, 37, began to surface as a strong candidate Thursday when it appeared the Littrell option was fading. He has a three-year record of 26-13 at Memphis, including an 8-5 mark this season.
The Tigers, who have won two American Athletic Conference West titles under Norvell, will face Wake Forest in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 22.
Norvell has no K-State or Big 12 connections, though he was born in Irving, Texas, and spent four years (2007-10) as an offensive assistant at Tulsa. Texas and Oklahoma typically have been fertile recruiting ground for the Wildcats.
After leaving Tulsa, Norvell spent one season as co-offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh and the next four as offensive coordinator at Arizona State before taking over at Memphis in 2016. At Memphis, he has led the Tigers to two straight American Conference West titles.
Klieman, 51, has remained at or near the top of the list both for his success at Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse North Dakota State and his ties to Taylor. Taylor, then AD at North Dakota State, promoted Klieman from defensive coordinator to head coach when Craig Bohl left for Wyoming at the end of the 2013 season.
In five seasons at North Dakota State, Klieman is 66-6, including national championships in 2014, '15 and '17. The No. 1-ranked Bison are 12-0 this year heading into Saturday's FCS quarterfinal game against Colgate.
The knock against Klieman is that he has no Football Bowl Subdivision coaching experience.
Brown, 38, has carried on Troy's tradition as a giant-killer in his four years as head coach, compiling a 34-16 record. The Trojans are 9-3 this season and will face Buffalo on Dec. 22 in the Dollar General Bowl.
Brown has no K-State connection, but did spend three seasons (2010-12) as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech. Before taking over at Troy, he was offensive coordinator at Kentucky from 2013-14.
Two other names that have yet to disappear from the possible coaching list, primarily because of their ties to K-State and Snyder, are Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and South Carolina offensive line coach Eric Wolford.
Leavitt, 62, coached under Snyder at K-State from 1990-95, before starting the South Florida program from scratch. He had a 95-57 record at South Florida.
Wolford, 47, is a former K-State offensive lineman for Snyder (1990-93) who went 31-26 in five seasons as head coach at Youngstown State. He has been an offensive coach at several FBS schools, and for two years with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, but never a coordinator.