It's hard to imagine who USC would get to replace the megawatt presence that Pete Carroll became in his nine seasons as coach of the Trojans.
Then again, it was hard to imagine Carroll ever becoming as successful as he did when he succeeded Paul Hackett in 2000 after a middling stint in the NFL.
After Carroll's farewell press conference at Heritage Hall Monday, that question is no longer a hypothetical one, but the most pressing issue on athletic director Mike Garrett's agenda.
The early frontrunner, Oregon State's Mike Riley, pulled out of the race Sunday night by agreeing to a three-year extension to stay in Corvallis, Ore.
On Monday Garrett zeroed in on Jaguars head coach and former USC All-American Jack Del Rio while several influential boosters and alumni pushed him to consider Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, according to university sources.
Reached on his cell phone late Monday night, Sarkisian said that no one from USC had contacted him and reiterated that he was happy at Washington.
"There's nothing to talk about," Sarkisian said. "I haven't talked to anybody."
A prominent USC source said Monday that the school hopes to move quickly in this search and have something accomplished by the end of the week.
Who else is on Garrett's list? Here are some of the names you are likely to hear a lot of in the next few days.
Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars
By far the hottest name in USC circles on Monday. The former All-American linebacker at USC (1981-84) is interested in the job, but is in a bit of hot water in his current job after the Jaguars went 7-9 after going 5-11 the season before that. Del Rio reportedly has a meeting scheduled with Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver on Tuesday in which his future with the team could be decided. Jacksonville would owe him $15 million if it fires him, which is a lot of money for a team struggling to fill its stadium. That figure could be lessened if Del Rio leaves to take the USC job.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington
The former wunderkind offensive coordinator for the Trojans went 5-7 in his first season with the Huskies. One of those five wins was a huge upset of USC on Sept. 19. He recruited a lot of the current team, is a charismatic leader and could step right in for Carroll without much disruption. The question is whether he would leave Seattle after just one year. In radio interviews Friday, Sarkisian said he already had his dream job, at the University of Washington. Still, his name keeps coming up in USC circles as alumni and boosters think fondly of the West Torrance High graduate.
Herm Edwards, former Chiefs/Jets coach
Personable and charismatic Edwards reminds a lot of people of Carroll both in style and substance: an enthusiastic ex-NFL coach who would instantly make a great recruiter but has little experience at the college level.
Edwards' name picked up a lot of steam among prominent USC boosters and alumni this weekend. Although his background is in the NFL, he did begin his career as an assistant at San Jose State from 1987 to '89.
His primary recruiting area was Los Angeles. If hired, he would be USC's first African-American head football coach.
Jim Harbaugh, Stanford
The fiery Stanford coach has been one of the hottest coaching commodities this offseason, drawing interest from Notre Dame and Kansas before signing a three-year extension to stay at Stanford. USC officials are known to think highly of the brash former NFL quarterback even though he makes controversial statements at times. When reached on his cell phone by ESPNLosAngeles.com on Monday afternoon, Harbaugh declined to comment on whether he would be interested, saying simply, "I don't usually talk about any other job but my own."
Norm Chow, UCLA offensive coordinator
The offensive guru has never been a head coach, so why should the Trojans take a chance on him to replace Carroll? For starters, Chow's image is spotless, his reputation around USC is favorable, and the administration and fan base have a level of familiarity with him from his successful stint as offensive coordinator from 2001 to '04. After the uncertainty and possible mess that Carroll is leaving behind at Troy, a clean reputation could count for a lot.
DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
A source close to the New Mexico State coach said he definitely would be interested in the USC job. Although Walker is well-regarded by USC officials, he also is relatively green in terms of experience. This season was his first as a head coach, and the Aggies went just 3-10. Still, USC loves his passion and personality. He already has proved himself as a recruiter at both USC and UCLA and as a defensive coordinator. If hired, he would be USC's first African-American head football coach.
Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans
Vince Young is finally looking like an NFL quarterback; Chris Johnson rushed for 2,000 yards; and the Titans ended the season as one of the hottest teams in the league. So why would Fisher even entertain this job? He probably won't. Despite the allure of returning to his alma mater, the timing isn't right for the former USC cornerback (1977-80).
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.