2012 WAC Coaches
The Hot Seat Factor
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Louisiana Tech |
New Mexico State
Texas State |
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
WAC'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?
7. Larry Coker, UTSA
Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Gene Chizik, Steve Spurrier, Mack Brown … and Larry Coker. There are only eight current FBS head coaches with a national title on the résumé, and while Coker might be the least celebrated or respected of the bunch, he’s a pass interference call away from joining Saban and Meyer among the multiple national title winners. He’s trying to take UTSA into the big-time, taking over the gig after a 60-15 record at Miami, but is he going to want to be around long enough to see the process through? Turning 64 this year, he might build things up just in time for someone else to reap the rewards.
Hot Seat Status: A strong head coach who never got enough credit for what he did with a few tremendous Miami teams, UTSA won’t be awful under his tenure. However, will he be able to get in enough talent to make any WAC noise? Remember, Butch Davis loaded up the Hurricanes for Coker’s national title.
6. Robb Akey, Idaho
Akey’s teams always give full effort and he never has a problem motivating his teams. However, as a former top defensive coordinator he hasn’t been able to get a lick of defensive production out of his Vandals. In a shocker, he took Idaho to an 8-5 2009 campaign finishing off with a thrilling bowl win, and followed it up with a decent 6-7 year. However, going 2-10 last year was a big step back making this a make-or-break season. Eventually, he’ll likely be a whale of a defensive coordinator before getting another chance at a head coaching gig. At just 46 when the season starts, his career is still young.
Hot Seat Status: Considering the program was rudely jilted by one-and-doners Dennis Erickson and Nick Holt, Akey’s loyalty and energy have been just enough to provide hope for an eventual turnaround. However, this is his sixth year at the helm and he won’t be able to survive another clunker of a season.
5. Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State
Was 2011 a sign of things to come? San Jose State is tough to win at, with Dick Tomey coming up with one of just two winning seasons since 1992, but he couldn’t sustain the success. In came MacIntyre, a relative unknown candidate with no head coaching experience most of his career spent as a positional coach. After a miserable first campaign, he came up with a solid Year Two, closing out with nice wins over Navy and Fresno State led by a passing game that started to find a groove. But 5-7 isn’t exactly anything to chirp about, and he’s still a bit of an untested unknown.
Hot Seat Status: 5-7 at San Jose State is like 8-4 at most other schools. Call him the WAC’s X factor with the next two years about to show if he can do what Tomey was able to pull off a few years ago. It’s possible to win at San Jose State, but the conditions have to be perfect. MacIntyre is safe for the next few years no matter what happens this season.
4. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
It’s taking a long time to try making NMSU a winner, but the program has had just one winning campaign since 1999 and is still trying to dig out from under the Hal Mumme era. However, Walker needs a good year after taking a positive step forward going 4-9 last season. Again, though, he hasn’t had much to work with and is just now getting the pieces he wants in place. A terrific assistant for well over a decade, he’s a good coach who was put in a bad situation. If this doesn’t work out, he’ll be snapped up in a heartbeat as someone’s defensive coordinator or as a position coach in the NFL.
Hot Seat Status: It would’ve been interesting to see what he could’ve done had he won the UCLA job instead of Rick Neuheisel, but he hasn’t made huge strides yet in Las Cruces. 9-27 isn’t good, especially since none of the nine wins came against a team that finished with a winning record, five wins came against teams that finished with two wins or fewer, and one came against Prairie View A&M. In the new, easier WAC, he might need to come up with six wins to get a fifth year.
3. Dennis Franchione, Texas State
It’s been completely forgotten, but the foundation for all the great things that Gary Patterson is doing at TCU was kicked off by Coach Fran. The 10-1 2000 season was enough to land him the Alabama gig, but he never could find his footing at Texas A&M going a decidedly mediocre 32-28 in five seasons. After three years off, he’s getting one final career stop at Texas State, a decent lower-level program with promise. After taking over a team in needing of rebuilding and going 6-6 in his first season, there’s hope that he can find a little bit of the magic that turned Pittsburg State into a D-II powerhouse and New Mexico into a strong WAC program in the 1990s. At 61, there’s still time left for another run.
Hot Seat Status: None. He’s the high-profile coach who still has the ties in Texas and knows the pipeline. Can his rushing attack take the WAC by storm? In a few years he should make the Bobcats a major conference player. However, don’t judge him by this year; there’s still a lot of work to be done.
2. Gary Andersen, Utah State
In 1996, Utah State went 6-5 and had a nice year in the Big West. That was just one of two winning seasons for the since 1980, and it wasn’t like the prospects were all that bright with Andersen at the helm. After all, his one year as a head coach was a 4-7 season at Southern Utah, and his first two 4-8 seasons at Utah State were the norm for the program. And then everything clicked. The spread rushing attack started to work with big play after big play, and the Aggies came up with a winning season and the team’s first bowl bid since 1997. But can he come up with the unthinkable at Utah State and a second straight winning campaign?
Hot Seat Status: In a state with BYU and Utah, it’s hard for Utah State to create any sort of a buzz. While Andersen has just one winner in his four seasons as a head coach, and there are some huge personnel question marks this year, 2011 bought him at least another few seasons.
1. Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech
Dykes is getting paid like a good midrange head coach – with a deal coming in at around $750,000 per year – and he’s producing up to the paycheck. No, the WAC might not have been the WAC of old when Boise State was ruling the roost and Fresno State and Hawaii were stronger, but Dykes was able to come up with a title last season and a berth in the Poinsettia Bowl. While his offenses haven’t been dominating like many hoped, considering his success as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and Arizona, the needle is pointing way up.
Hot Seat Status: He won’t be in Ruston for too much longer if his Bulldogs roll through the WAC as expected this season. While he has a solid long-term contract, he’s only going to be 43 years old this season and has a bright future ahead of him. If Texas Tech ends up getting rid of Tommy Tuberville, watch for Dykes to be on the short list of replacements.