2012 Big 12 Coaches
The Hot Seat Factor, Part 1
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12 Coaching Analysis & Hot Seat Status, Part 2
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 12'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?
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
After all the controversy with the transition from the Bill Stewart era, and after the rocky start, Holgorsen did exactly what West Virginia fans hoped he would with a Big East title, or at least part of one, and a dominant blowout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Even more importantly, last year appeared to be a jumping off point with the big move to the Big 12 coming. The offense worked, the pieces are coming into place, and Holgorsen appears to be the right man to get back to the level of the Rich Rodriguez heyday.
There are few better offensive minds in college football, and he appears to be just getting started. His attack cranked out 460 yards and 35 points per game, but it wasn't game-in-and-game-out consistent. Even so, it put up big numbers on LSU, bombed away when it had to, and, of course, there was the Orange Bowl explosion. Now Holgorsen and West Virginia are red hot.
Hot Seat Status: Considering the fallout with Stewart and some of the fighting that went on, the potential might be there for a Rich Rodriguez-like disaster of a breakup somewhere down the road. For now, though, Holgorsen has everything on the right track and he appears to be just the right coach for the high-octane Big 12 world.
4. Art Briles, Baylor
What would he be able to do at a school that could actually bring in recruits? Many scoffed – present company included – at the idea of leaving Houston for Baylor instead of holding out for a better gig, but Briles said from the start that he could bring a winner to Waco. Yeah, yeah, yeah, every new coach says that, but Baylor was in a battle with Duke for the honor of being the least productive BCS program with no positive production in the Big 12 and no apparent hope. But a funny thing started to happen – the Briles offense worked.
Briles was able to bring in a track star with nice quarterback skills named Robert Griffin III, he got a couple of nice receivers, and then everything blew up. His program still doesn't have any defense, but the offense is able to keep up with anyone in the Big 12. All of a sudden, Baylor is a cool football school.
Hot Seat Status: Baylor was 0-14 in the Big 12 when it came to winning seasons, and then Briles and RGIII managed to make a huge step forward in 2010 before putting it all together in 2011. After doing the impossible, now Briles is firmly entrenched as a legend at the school and can afford a few clunker seasons. With his offense and with the program being built up, though, don't expect a slide back into consistent mediocrity.
3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Is Gundy on the verge of superstardom? Les Miles did a nice job of building up the Cowboy program, but Gundy has taken things to another level. No longer just known for being man and being 40, Gundy is turning 45 this summer and has matured along with his program. It wasn't just the near-miss at going to the BCS championship last year, he has won 41 games over the last four seasons and is coming off a breakthrough Big 12 title campaign.
He lost offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia, and the team kept on rolling. He keeps losing talented offensive players, and there are more on the way. The right fit for the program, he has made good enough now that it might be a destination; there aren't too many bigger jobs to leave for.
Thanks to the deep pockets up uber-booster T. Boone Pickens, the program has whatever it needs and Gundy is getting paid like a top-shelf head coach. Able to go toe-to-toe with Oklahoma and Texas in recruiting and on the field over the last several seasons, Gundy is proving to be worth the investment.
Hot Seat Status: Gundy is from Oklahoma, he was a great quarterback at Oklahoma State, and he even looks a bit orange when he gets tan. He is Oklahoma State football at this point, and barring another Bobby Reid-like incident, he appears to be set as the leader of the program for a long, long time. If he wants it, there's a chance he can grow into one of the greats with a few more years like the last four.
2. Gary Patterson, TCU
On any list of the best coaches who do the most at the non-BCS schools, there's Boise State's Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson. Always on the short list for the biggest job openings, he has shown little interest time and time again, choosing to be the main man at TCU and building it into a power of its own. With the Horned Frogs going off to the Big 12, and this is no longer the Little Engine That Could program of try-hards. With dominant year after dominant year, and cemented with the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, TCU really is one of the big boys now whether it acts like it or not.
How good and how consistent have Patterson's teams been? The 8-5 2007 season was considered a disaster. It was also one of just two non-double digit win campaigns in the last ten, going 47-5 since then with three straight unbeaten Mountain West runs. Now, the recruits are starting to notice with the talent level starting to get stronger and stronger with each class. TCU won't bring in a haul that'll scare Texas or Oklahoma, but as Patterson has proven, he doesn't need the superstar high-school prospects to come up with a winner.
Hot Seat Status: The major drug scandal and controversy at the school this offseason would be enough to kick most coaches to the curb, but instead, Patterson handled the situation as well as could possibly be asked for. Even with all the problems and concerns, there was no real talk about dumping him. One of the top head coaches in college football, if he ever wanted to leave TCU he could have his pick of any job opening he wants. It would take at least two losing seasons in the Big 12 before he'd be on any hot seat.
1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
It's been 11 seasons since Stoops burst onto the scene and won the national title in just his second year at Oklahoma, and while the Big Game Bob aura might be gone, and even with a few epic clunkers, he is still on the short list of the best head coaches in college football. Turning 52 at the start of the season, he's still just getting started even with the great résumé already established, and there aren't any signs that things are slipping.
He hasn't had a losing season in his 13-year run, with the 7-5 inaugural campaign the worst of the bunch. There have been just three seasons on his watch without double-digit wins, and they all turned out to be rebuilding years with the 2000 team winning the national title after 1999, the 2006 team winning the Big 12 title after the 8-4 2005, and the 2010 team bringing home Stoops' seventh conference championship after going 8-5 in 2009.
Texas might be seen as the anchor of the Big 12, and it might have its own network, but Stoops has proven over and over again that OU has been the star for more than a decade. There have been rumors about other job openings and possibly jumping ship – most notably to Notre Dame after Charlie Weis was canned – but Stoops appears to be fully entrenched in Norman. Oklahoma is one of the premier programs in college football because Stoops has restored the glory. While he'll never be the legend Bud Wilkinson is, and he needs a few more national titles to push past what Barry Switzer accomplished, he has carved out a nice niche for himself. At his age, he could just be getting started.
Hot Seat Status: While controversies always seem to come out of the blue, Stoops appears to have a better handle on his program than most coaches at major-league programs. That might be the only thing that can derail the Stoops era. It would take a few mediocre seasons, and several years without a Big 12 title, to put him on a hot seat. He's becoming an institution.
12 Coaching Analysis & Hot Seat Status, Part 2