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Preview 2012 - Coaches On The Hot Seat
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2012


It's getting hot with the pressure turned up for 12 key coaches in 2012


Preview 2012

Coaches on the Hot Seat


By Richard Cirminiello 

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Win and you're safe for now. Lose and you’ll be looking over your shoulder from the middle of November until the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Such is life for the head coach who has failed to deliver on cue over the past couple of years.

The 2012 season will be a pivotal one for each of the nation’s head men. For a select few, though, it’ll be a fork-in-the-road type campaign that will have a profound impact on their futures in the profession. Most of the perilously vulnerable individuals will survive, and live to cash additional paychecks in 2013 and beyond. All will be treating the season with slightly more urgency, the byproduct of being squarely under the microscope of both the administration and the fan base.

2012 SEASON PREVIEW
All August long, CFN and Scout.com will get you ready for the season with these great features. But that's not all. Check CFN's 2012 preview page for even more coverage.
Aug. 1: Top coaches on the hot seat
Aug. 3: Meet the new coaches
Aug. 6: Teams that might surprise us
Aug. 8: Teams that might disappoint us
Aug. 10: Teams that could ruin your season
Aug. 13: Biggest unanswered questions
Aug. 15: Great programs heading nowhere
Aug. 17: Unknown programs on the rise
Aug. 20: Top Heisman Trophy candidates
Aug. 22: Best games of the regular season
Aug. 24: Toughest stadiums to play in
Aug. 27: Teams most likely to play in BCS
Aug. 29: Title game match-ups we'd love
12. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Whatever goodwill Pasqualoni had when he returned to the Big East in 2011 was quickly squandered. He inherited a team coming off a signature, Big East championship season, and promptly guided it to its first bowl-less campaign since 2006. On paper, the Huskies had enough talent to at least get to .500, but failed to deliver at 5-7. Now, it’s unlikely that the administration would pull the plug after two years unless the bottom completely fell out. However, if Pasqualoni can’t get the program on track, he’ll be playing for his future in 2013.

11. George O’Leary, UCF
O’Leary has been an enigma in Orlando. Over eight seasons, he has undeniably guided the program to a higher level, both on Saturdays and by myriad other measurements. However, he’s also a game below .500 as a Knight, displaying maddening inconsistency from one year to the next. In fact, UCF has had back-to-back winning seasons just once under O’Leary, dipping unexpectedly to 5-7 in 2011. If the school is unable to regroup this fall, the University might have to think long and hard if its current coach is the right man to guide the team into a new era as a member of the Big East in 2013.

10. Danny Hope, Purdue
The upcoming season shapes up as a crucial one for Hope, who’s just 16-21 in three seasons in West Lafayette. The good news is that the Boilermakers did bowl a year ago for the first time since 2007, and will begin this season with as much potential and proven talent as they’ve enjoyed in some time. The concern is that Purdue is 10-17 against the Big Ten and Notre Dame under Hope, raising doubts about the coach’s ability to get this school over the hump. If it doesn’t happen with this group of veterans, there are going to be some loud rumblings about the direction that this program headed.

9. Will Muschamp, Florida
It’s only Year 2 for Muschamp, and he isn’t going anywhere, but this is Gainesville. And in Gainesville, 7-6 seasons are cause for a riot. Heck, even Ron Zook never lost as many as six games in any of his three years in the Swamp. In fact, before last fall, it hadn’t happened in these parts since 1987 when Galen Hall was on the sidelines. In Muschamp’s defense, his first Gators team was extremely young on both sides of the ball. The D survived the lack of experience, but the offense did not. The coach needs to inch back closer to 10 wins, or else the pressure will ratchet even higher in 2013.

8. Mack Brown, Texas
Brown has become an institution in Austin and will go down as one of the all-timers to ever coach on the 40 Acres. Still, he’s hit a rare lull, splitting his last 26 games since falling to Alabama in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game. In the grand scheme of things, Brown ought to be untouchable for the foreseeable future. Texas, though, is one of the nation’s programs that simply will not tolerate mediocrity. The prevailing thought is that the coach will stay on the sidelines for as long as he wishes, and bounce back in 2012. If, on the other hand, the Longhorns implode, Brown will again come under intense scrutiny late in the year.

7. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
Tuberville did a decent job in his debut in Lubbock, going 8-5. Last year’s squad did a nosedive down the stretch, losing seven of its final eight games. This season will be the rubber match for a coach who has quickly played his way on to probation. In order to address his team’s issues on defense, Tubby has hired Art Kaufman, his third defensive coordinator over the last three years. Although the Red Raiders aren’t likely to have a changing of the guard after just three seasons, there’s a growing contingency of fans who miss Mike Leach, and are not at all pleased by Tech’s recent results on the field.

6. Jeff Tedford, California
What a conundrum at Cal. While there’s no denying that architect of an impressive rebirth on Strawberry Canyon, fashioning winning seasons in nine of 10 years, he has also hit a wall. The Bears have gone a middling 36-28 since 2007, failing to crack the Pac-12’s first division or maximize their overall talent. An even bigger indictment of the coach, a noted quarterback guru, is that his passers have been so-so ever since Aaron Rodgers left the school in 2004. Cal isn’t headed to the Rose Bowl this year, but Tedford can succeed in grounding some of the circling vultures by breaking the cycle of five-loss seasons.

5. Mike Riley, Oregon State
Riley is quintessential Corvallis, and is extremely well-liked by the players and the local community. There’s a very good chance that the Beavers won’t do better by looking outside the organization, but how much longer will the administration exercise patience? Oregon State, which routinely shot past forecasts from 2003-09, has fallen on hard times over the past two seasons. The program is just 8-16 since 2010, suffering through its worst season since 1997 last year. If Riley can’t get back to being the coach who transforms talent, and crushes expectations, he could have a tough time returning to the sidelines in 2013.

4. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
This marriage just hasn’t quite gone as planned so far. Kelly, who was hailed by many as a perfect fit with the Irish, has lost five games in each of his first two seasons in South Bend. No, the sky isn’t falling over Indiana, but fans expected to see a more polished product, especially on offense, at this stage of the process. Kelly’s first two squads have made far too many mistakes, authored not enough signature victories and have yet to fully click running the coach’s version of the spread. While he’s recruiting well, and has far more upside potential than the previous two Notre Dame head men, Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham, it all comes down to results. And breaking through in 2012 will require surviving a schedule that could qualify as cruel and unusual punishment for a struggling coach.

3. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Somewhere Ralph Friedgen is doubled over with laughter. It would be hard to imagine a coach delivering a worse debut than what Edsall put forth in 2011. Considering the success he enjoyed at Connecticut, coaching in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, last season’s face-plant was a little hard to see coming. Not only did the coach transform a 9-4 overachiever into a 2-10 disaster, but he alienated a swath of players, two dozen of whom have bolted in the past year. A microcosm for the problems in College Park, 2011 ACC Rookie of the Year, QB Danny O’Brien, regressed under Edsall’s watch … and then transferred to Wisconsin. The situation is so tense in College Park that the coach is already facing a must-win situation.

2. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Spaziani just might be a classic example of a very good coordinator who simply isn’t able to maintain a high standard as the head coach. A key cog on the defensive staff when the Eagles were rolling under Tom O’Brien, Spaz is just 20-19, sans a bowl victory, since taking over in 2009. His teams have been notoriously necrotic on offense, precipitating a revolving door on the offensive staff. The program hit rock bottom by going 4-8 a year ago, the first BC squad to miss the postseason in 13 years. If Spaziani fails to finish above .500 in 2012, it’ll take a minor miracle for him to avoid AD Gene DeFilippo’s hatchet.

1. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Maybe Phil Fulmer wasn’t so bad after all, Vols fans. After just two seasons in Knoxville, Dooley is already in big trouble, starting his Tennessee career with an 11-14 mark. Heck, there were howls for his ouster at the end of last year, a miserable campaign in which UT went 5-7, including 1-7 in SEC play. You want a migraine for a coach? On Dooley’s watch, the Volunteers have finished below .500 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in a century. Although the coach did inherit a difficult situation, he won’t survive on sympathy or moral victories. He needs to begin piloting Tennessee out of the abyss, or else he could be demoted to a Sun Belt or Conference USA program a year from now.