Al Skinner enters the Northwestern fold

Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal reported on Wednesday that Al Skinner has spoken to reps at Northwestern about the head coaching vacancy.

Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal tweeted on Monday afternoon that former Boston College coach Al Skinner has spoken with Northwestern reps of "the highest order."

This news from McNamara marks the most significant lead of the NU coaching search since Wednesday, when a source confirmed with Purple Wildcats that Chris Collins had been contacted about the opening. Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune reported that Collins planned to interview for the position.

Skinner — who is currently out of coaching — had not been mentioned until now. In 2010, he was fired by Boston College after 13 seasons and seven NCAA Tournament appearances.

BC made the switch due to an underwhelming three-year stretch in which the Eagles missed the tournament twice. Skinner lost trusted guard Tyrese Rice to graduation in 2009, and the program struggled to recover the following season. Athletic director Gene DeFilippo moved to hire former Cornell coach Steve Donahue, the textbook example for why mid-major coaches should be patient before accepting major-conference jobs.

Skinner did, in fact, recruit strong classes to BC. In 2007, his five-man class included four-star prospects Rakim Sanders and Josh Southern. He also signed under-recruited guard Tyrese Rice — one of the best players during his tenure.

And of course, for some time he led an ACC program that found on-court success. He earned National Coach of the Year honors in 2001.

But this news might fail to inspire NU fans, many of whom are hoping for a flashy, youthful candidate. The new coach needs to sell this program and establish stronger appeal on campus. On that front, Skinner might struggle.

While Collins and Dave Paulsen appear to lead the current list, it's still interesting to watch as this widespread search unfolds.

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