2012 Big East Coaches
The Hot Seat Factor
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Picture this. You’re a beleaguered athletic director with an opening at the top of the football organizational chart. Your checkbook is open, and your fan base is glaring at you with unwavering anticipation. Which of the
Big East's current head coaches would you put in charge of the program for the next five or so years? Knowing that your own job hangs in the balance, to which man would you entrust your future?
This is NOT necessarily a ranking of how good the head coaches are. This is a ranking based on who would be best to take over a program and build it up, so age is a major factor. A coach might be legendary, but he might not have another five years of greatness left. So with that in mind, who are the top candidates to run your program?
8. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Pasqualoni to Storrs looked like an odd fit when it happened a year ago. Today, it doesn’t look any better. The coach inherited a team that won the Big East, and returned enough to at least bowl, but instead went 5-7. Not only will he be 63 once the upcoming season begins, but his last winning season came 11 years ago while at Syracuse. Although he certainly crafted a solid run in Upstate New York, that period feels like a long time ago because it was a long time ago. Now, he might reverse course with the Huskies and get the team back into postseason contention, but Pasqualoni has very limited appeal outside of his home state of Connecticut.
Hot Seat Status: The Huskies strung together four straight eight-win seasons before Pasqualoni came on to the scene in 2011 so expectations are high in Storrs. If the coach remains stuck in neutral, he’ll put himself in a do-or-die situation entering 2013.
7. Kyle Flood, Rutgers
As is often the case when an assistant gets promoted from within, no one really knows what to expect from Flood now that he’s a head coach for the first time. Just 41 years old, his resume is somewhat limited, with the bulk of his experience coming as an offensive line coach. Oddly enough, this is an area where the Scarlet Knights have struggled in recent years. That said, there’s no denying that he’s been instrumental in the unprecedented success of the program—on and off the field—since arriving seven years ago. Flood is from the New York metropolitan area, and has a great relationship with the tri-state’s high school coaches. He’s a natural fit to succeed Schiano, but he wouldn’t translate well at this point outside of Rutgers.
Hot Seat Status: The Knights were looking for the most seamless transition from Schiano, and got him in Flood. While the administration will be flexible with their grace period, 6-6 is no longer the bar in Piscataway. Flood is uniquely positioned to jumpstart his career, and make a name for himself.
6. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
Marrone will begin the 2012 season in coaching purgatory. Yeah, he’s the guy who led the Orange to a 2010 bowl game, its first in six years, but has also gone 1-6 in Big East play in his other two seasons on the job. Last year was a particularly big disappointment, with the program slipping beneath the .500 mark just when it looked as if it was going to turn the corner. Marrone is a no-nonsense type leader who demands responsibility and accountability from his players. When hired in 2008, he was exactly what Syracuse needed to begin purging the Greg Robinson era from its system. He is never, however, going to be the most charismatic guy in the room, which could be having a negative impact on his ability to recruit.
Hot Seat Status: While Marrone isn’t on the hot seat yet, he’s capable of getting there in a hurry with a third losing season in the past four years. He was not hired to reenact Greg Robinson’s miserable tenure at the school.
5. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
After spending the past few seasons as one of the nation’s hottest assistant coaches, Chryst gets his first opportunity to showcase what the fuss was all about. He’s coming off a stellar stint as the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, crafting a balanced, physical attack that would translate nicely to plenty of campus across the country. Still just 46 years old, he’s in his coaching prime, with a chance to quickly evolve into something special. While he won’t be outworked in the film room or on the practice field, he’s not the kind of head coach who’s going to captivate a local community with his colorful stories or entertaining press conferences. He’s a football coach, period, which is fine for most schools, but not ideal for those requiring their face of the program to be a glad-hander or crowd-worker.
Hot Seat Status: The head coaching mess at Pitt over the past 15 months will actually work in Chryst’s favor. No one in the administration is eager to interview candidates anytime soon. The new staff will get a minimum of three years to install their systems and restore the Panthers pride.
4. Steve Addazio, Temple
So far, so good for Addazio who took what Al Golden built at Temple and bumped it up a notch with last year’s 9-4 campaign. Only time will tell how he’ll manage once Golden’s recruits and fingerprints can no longer be found on campus. Addazio is an energetic, fiery leader who brings passion and boundless energy to a program. He’s the type of individual kids want to play for—and play harder for—which is why he was such an exceptional recruiter while at Florida. Although he won’t enjoy the same hook he did in the Swamp, the coach is going to energize a locker room and a fan base no matter where he winds up. Addazio is still just 52, and has a proven track record in various regions of the country.
Hot Seat Status: Addazio is the guy Temple wants leading it into the Big East Conference in 2012. With the debut he enjoyed last fall, it would take multiple poor seasons for the bloom to come off his rose.
3. Butch Jones, Cincinnati
It has yet to be determined just how high the ceiling is for Jones, though he has done a nice job on the sidelines so far. In five seasons as a head coach, three at Central Michigan and two with the Bearcats, he’s 41-24 with a couple of Top 25 finishes. The lone stumble occurred in his 4-8 debut with Cincinnati, but that season was quickly offset with a 10-3 rebound and a tie atop the Big East Conference. Even better, he and his staff have excelled at preparing for league games, winning 27 of 37 since 2007. Jones’ offense is innovative, fast-paced and appealing to young recruits for its penchant to spread the field and increase the tempo. If he thrives in the Big East after succeeding in the MAC, the next rung on the ladder could be a promotion into the ACC or Big Ten.
Hot Seat Status: Because of the success of Brian Kelly at Cincinnati, Jones’ margin for error is smaller than it was for former coaches, such as Rick Minter. He earned some goodwill in 2011, but needs to keep the momentum going this fall.
2. Skip Holtz, South Florida
Given time, Holtz will produce a winner. He’s spent more than a decade creating a trail of success down the Eastern Seaboard. From Connecticut in the 1990s to East Carolina for five seasons, he’s built a reputation for leaving programs in better shape than when he arrived. In his final season in Storrs, the Huskies won 10 games. In his last two years in Greenville, his Pirates won the Conference USA championship. His newest challenge in Tampa has brought mixed results, eight wins in 2010 followed by a 5-7 collapse a year ago. Last season being an exception, Holtz’s teams have traditionally performed well on the road and in the underdog role. He’s just a rock, on and off the field, to have in the position of chief executive.
Hot Seat Status: While the program was certainly bummed by last year’s results, Holtz won’t be looking over his shoulder this fall or probably anytime soon. Of course, he can make his life a whole lot more uncomfortable by leading the Bulls to their first back-to-back losing seasons in program history.
1. Charlie Strong, Louisville
There are a lot of current and former athletic directors who passed on an opportunity to hire Strong as their head coach—and are sorry they did so. While it’s early in his tenure with the Cardinals, it’s evident he’s a budding superstar in the profession. Forget the consecutive 7-6 seasons since arriving from Florida. The record only tells a fraction of the story of what he’s accomplished. In two short years, he’s completely changed the diseased culture within a program that needed a round of vaccinations when Steve Kragthorpe was in charge. Strong is the same feisty defensive tactician who earned his stripes in the SEC. Plus, he’s still only 51, and doing a fantastic job of upgrading the overall talent level at Louisville. He’s out of the gates quickly, with the best still ahead.
Hot Seat Status: Athletic director Tom Jurich has more heat on him these days than Strong. He’s the guy who has to make sure the coach doesn’t flee for more money and a bigger gig when the inevitable offers come in each December. Strong is in the early stages of building something special in Louisville.