2011 Spring Preview - No. 13
Ranking the WAC Coaches
Here's the drill. You have to hire a head coach
right now to lead your program for the next several
years; whom would you
choose? Forget about what happened in the past and
forget about legendary status - you wouldn't hire
Joe Paterno to build the franchise - you want a guy
who can be the head man for a long, long time.
Age is a factor, recruiting talent helps and the
ability to do big things with mediocre talent
doesn't hurt. So with that in mind, this isn't a
ranking of the best coaches in the ACC; this
is a ranking of the coaches you'd want to take lead
the program for the next five years or more.
1. Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech
Career Record: 5-7
The sky’s the limit for the young offensive guru who came from Texas Tech and is working to change around the Louisiana Tech attack. He’s getting the right people in place to run his offense the right way, and very soon the yards should fly. Very young and very accomplished during his time as the Red Raider offensive coordinator, if he can make the Bulldogs into a dangerous offensive juggernaut he’ll be one of the hot young coaching prospects for one of the bigger gigs.
Hot Seat Status: A little bit. He might have a good name and plenty of promise, but starting out 5-7 isn’t a plus. Another losing season will get fans grumbling.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Within five years. He’ll turn 42 during the season, and if this works the way it’s supposed to, he’ll take the Derek Dooley path and will jump ship to a big-time program the moment he gets the shot.
2. Pat Hill, Fresno State
Career Record: 108-71
For all the bluster and for all the big things he has done over the years, the inability to pull off wins over Boise State and the inability to win the little games, while spending too much time worrying about the games against the BCSers, the bloom is off the rose. There was a time not all that long ago when he was one of the hottest head coaches in college football, but his mediocre 4-7 record in bowl games isn’t great and the lone WAC title came over a decade ago.
Hot Seat Status: Warm. It’s not that he isn’t doing a poor job in any way, but the program has become a bit stale. If he can’t pull off a WAC title this year in the weakened league – thanks to Boise State bolting early – and with a move to the Mountain West coming, it might be time for a change.
The Coaching Change Will Come … In three years. He’s been phenomenal for the program and he succeeded in making it nationally relevant, but he’s about to turn 60 and the program might be ready to try something different when it makes the big move to the Mountain West in 2012.
3. Robb Akey, Idaho
Career Record: 17-33
While his Vandal defenses have yet to come up with a stop, which is particularly galling considering his background is as a defensive coordinator, his teams always, always bring the maximum effort. Taking the program to a bowl win two years ago was special, and now he has to make more magic. Again, his teams try and it’s not like things fell off the map despite an ugly second half stretch that killed any hopes of a winning campaign, and the future is bright with all the league’s good teams leaving next year for the Mountain West.
Hot Seat Status: Little. Considering the way former coaches Nick Holt and Dennis Erickson bolted, Akey can stick around for a while without any concerns.
The Coaching Change Will Come … In more than ten years. He’s only 44 and Idaho is on the verge of being a WAC power when Louisiana Tech becomes the league’s other decent program in 2013.
4. Gary Andersen, Utah State
Career Record: 12-23
He hasn’t won much of anything with just a 12-23 career record, but he cut his teeth as the Utah defensive coordinator for four years and proved that he has the talent to crank out strong defenses. Now he has to do it at Utah State. His running game has been impressive, and he’s doing what he can with little talent to work with, but he’s in a tough situation and his teams are competitive. It would be interesting to see what he could do at a midrange program.
Hot Seat Status: He’s fine for a little while, but at some point in the next few years he has to come up with at least one shockingly good winning season to buy more time.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2015. He’ll either have a little bit of success and will move on, or he won’t come up with the winning seasons needed and the program will try someone else.
5. Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State
Career Record: 1-12
The one-win first season as a head coach wasn’t exactly inspiring, but he has NOTHING to work with after taking over from Dick Tomey. He did what he could making his team competitive with five losses in the last nine games by seven points or fewer, while giving Wisconsin a fight in a 27-14 loss. Known as a top defensive mind, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with a little more time to work. It would be more interesting to see what he could do with better players.
Hot Seat Status: Little. It’s only been one year and there aren’t any expectations. He’ll get a few years to try to come up with wins in an unwinnable situation, but the potential is there to be a star in 2012 when all the good WAC teams bolt to the Mountain West.
The Coaching Change Will Come … In several years. MacIntyre is a good coaching prospect and he’ll get a few chances to show what he can do, and in 2012 the stars in the WAC will be Louisiana Tech and Idaho. San Jose State’s window might finally be opening.
6. Chris Ault, Nevada
Career Record: 219-97-1
The Hall of Famer is picking a great time to do his best coaching job. His Pistol attack ripped up the stat sheet over the last few years producing some of the greatest rushing careers in the history of college football. He’d be one of the hottest coaches around if he was a bit younger, but at 64 and after spending his whole career in Reno, he’s going to finish out things out with the Wolf Pack. After building the program to this point, he wouldn’t have much immediate success starting from scratch somewhere else.
Hot Seat Status: Zero. Buildings and streets will be named after him when he’s done.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Longer than it might seem. He’ll turn 65 during the season, but he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. He’ll be around for a few years with the program stepping up to the Mountain West in 2012.
7. Greg McMackin, Hawaii
Career Record: 23-17
He took over from June Jones and kept the success going. No, Hawaii isn’t knocking on the door of any BCS games, but the offense is still running and shooting and the defense, while always deficient of top talent, is always aggressive. The problem is McMackin’s age, and at 66 going into the season, he’s not going anywhere else and his last job, if and when he’s done with Hawaii, will be as someone’s defensive coordinator.
Hot Seat Status: Little. The only reason he might be gone and the only reason the pressure is on is because of the move. With Hawaii going to the Mountain West in 2012, the pressure will be on soon to beat the better teams on a more consistent basis.
The Coaching Change Will Come … By 2014. It’s all about age. McMackin might be feisty and he’s doing a good job, but he’ll be pushing 70 by the time the program is trying to make a splash in the new league.
8. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
Career Record: 5-21
It’s almost impossible to win at NMSU and he had to start from below scratch after the Hal Mumme era. A great motivator and a one-time hot prospect, he was in the hunt for bigger jobs before going to Las Cruces. He hasn’t helped himself with a rough start, and he’ll end up being someone’s great defensive coordinator again before getting another shot at a head gig … maybe. Turning 51 this year, there isn’t a whole bunch of time to go through the cycle.
Hot Seat Status: Blazing. He has to win more than three games to have any shot of sticking around for 2012. It’s Year Three and now the program and the problems are his.
The Coaching Change Will Come … December of 2011. The team doesn’t look like it’s going to make a big splash and could go winless.