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Hot Seat Coaches Update - Who Needs A Win?
Who are the coaches in the biggest need of a huge win?
Oct. 25 Coaches in Need of a Vote of Confidence
By Richard Cirminiello
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Jobless claims may be slightly down nationally, but within the volatile world of college football coaching, the numbers are about to spike, as they do each year in the late fall.
Robb Akey was let go by Idaho last week, the first drop in a downpour of firings and hirings that’ll make splashy headlines between now and some point in January. There’ll be some surprises along the way; there always are at this level. The following coaches, though, are in a particularly precarious position, as unfulfilled expectations continue to cloud their futures on the sidelines.
12. Doug Marrone, Syracuse (3-4)
While there’s no denying that the Orange is in a better place than it was after Greg Robinson was canned, Marrone has failed to seize the momentum he built in 2010.
Syracuse lost its last five games of 2011, and is now in danger of missing the postseason for a second straight year. Okay, so that’s not a rarity in Upstate New York, but even the coach has been critical of the job he’s done this fall. With the program headed to a much tougher ACC in 2013, AD Daryl Gross might consider kicking off the new era with a new man on the sidelines if the program collapses down the stretch.
11. Skip Holtz, South Florida (2-5)
It wasn’t long ago that Holtz appeared to be iron-clad, one of the rising young coaches in the ranks. My, has the climate in Tampa changed in a hurry.
The Bulls peaked with a Meineke Car Care Bowl upset of Clemson to close out 2010. But since then, they’ve gone 7-12, showing a nagging inability to pull out close games. The current team has dropped five in a row, including to Ball State and Temple, and are in danger of missing the postseason for a second straight year. The program, which has very high expectations for itself, is missing the spark that existed when architect Jim Leavitt was on the sidelines. AD Doug Woolard will evaluate Holtz—and his $2.5 million buyout—once the season ends.
10. Danny Hope, Purdue (3-4)
Hope began the season with what appeared to be his best team in four seasons in West Lafayette. His Boilermakers have responded with three consecutive losses, two of which were routs at Ross-Ade Stadium.
They should still qualify for a postseason game, but will that be enough to save the job of a coach who’s now 19-25 with the school? Everything lined up for Purdue to nab the Big Ten Leaders Division, from the ineligibility of Ohio State and Penn State to Wisconsin’s down year. The fact that Hope has failed to take advantage could be the final straw for the administration.
9. Jon Embree, Colorado (1-6)
Yeah, the situation has gotten this bad in Boulder.
Embree and his staff are only in their second year, but it’s become painfully obvious that they’re in over their heads trying to rebuild Colorado. AD Mike Bohn gets the blame for this mess, hiring a man who lacked the requisite experience to turn around a flailing program that was entering a new league. Embree is 4-16, losing to Colorado State and Sacramento State to become the laughingstock of the Pac-12. Predecessor Dan Hawkins got five years. Embree won’t get nearly that long to build the Buffs into a winner.
8. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut (3-5)
This is a case of a poor decision that’s just gotten worse over time.
Hiring Pasqualoni to replace Randy Edsall made absolutely no sense a year ago, and it makes even less sense today. The Huskies went for a veteran, but ended up getting a coach who was past his prime. From Edsall, Pasqualoni inherited a successful program just removed from a Big East championship and a Fiesta Bowl appearance. The successor has taken those gifts and parlayed them into an 8-12 mark and what appears to be a second straight bowl-less December. Two weeks ago, Connecticut was routed, 40-10, on national TV by Syracuse, Pasqualoni’s former employer.
Is two years too soon to pull the plug? Plenty of fans and influential boosters don’t think so.
7. Mack Brown, Texas (5-2)
It’s doubtful Brown gets the boot at Texas. But when a coach is underachieving at a program of this heft, his situation needs to be discussed.
The ‘Horns are one of the crown jewels of college football, which means even slight deviations from Big 12 and national title contention are going to be treated like catastrophes. Since playing in—and losing—the 2009 BCS National Championship Game, Texas has gone 8-13 in conference play, including three straight losses to rival Oklahoma; the last two were hideous. Under no circumstances will that be acceptable in Austin, nor should it at a school with such incredible resources.
Might Brown retire? Last week’s vent about the Longhorn Network might indicate that his patience is thinning, but like any big-time coach, you just know he doesn’t want to go out this way.
6. Gene Chizik, Auburn (1-6)
Has a coach ever been fired less than two years after winning a national championship? Chizik is forcing observers to scour record books for answers.
With Cam Newton as his quarterback, Chizik is 14-0 as a head coach. Without No. 2, he’s 17-16, a fact that hasn’t been lost on his detractors. The coach did well last season just to get the rebuilding Tigers to eight wins. But this season has been a historical disaster that has changed the dynamic for the entire coaching staff. In a season that Auburn was expected to contend for a spot at the tail end of the Top 25, it’s instead gotten kicked in the tail by the likes of Ole Miss and Vandy. At 1-6, the Tigers are off to their worst start since 1952, and a 3-9 finish, with no SEC wins, looks probable.
The momentum is building for Chizik to join Phil Fulmer as unemployed SEC coaches with a national championship on the resume.
5. Jeff Tedford, Cal (3-5)
Even the reign of a savior has to end someday.
Tedford has done a marvelous job in Berkeley, but like Mike Price at UTEP, his best work was a long time ago. Too long, in fact, to cite as a reason to earn a 12th year on the job. Cal has been flat-lining since 2007, unable to get over the hump in the Pac-10/12, and getting passed in the pecking order by rival Stanford. Not since Aaron Rodgers has Tedford coached an elite quarterback, which is supposed to be one of his calling cards.
The 2012 squad needs to win three of the final four games just to become bowl eligible, but some second-rate postseason game might not be enough to save Tedford. It will be costly to can him, which is always a factor in these personnel decisions.
4. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (1-7)
It’s never easy for a football coach to win at a basketball school, especially in the SEC, but a 12-21 career mark isn’t likely to cut it for Phillips.
While injuries have hurt at a place where depth is scarce, the Wildcats regression has created a climate short on hope for the future. The rise of Louisville under Charlie Strong has only cast a brighter light on what’s taking place in Lexington. Phillips is living on borrowed time, especially as higher-profile names start getting tossed around as his possible successor. Kentucky has the coiffures to make a splash, which is what it’s likely to attempt to do once the regular season ends in a month.
3. Derek Dooley, Tennessee (3-4)
Dooley walked into a very difficult spot three years ago. In Knoxville, a deaf ear is being turned to excuses.
In order to survive at Tennessee, you have to win at a high level. Period. In three seasons, Dooley is 14-18. Drilling down even further reveals that he’s 0-14 versus ranked opponents and 4-16 against SEC foes. A Vanderbilt coach can’t survive with those kinds of numbers, let alone one from Tennessee. It’s doubtful that anything that happens over the final five games will dictate Dooley’s future, especially since the schedule is weak after Saturday’s trip to South Carolina.
An overhaul of the staff will come with a hefty price tag, but wallowing near the SEC East basement might be costlier in the long-term.
2. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (1-6)
It’s over. And everybody knows it.
Spaziani won’t survive these past two woeful seasons, nor should he. He broke the one cardinal sin on the Heights, missing the postseason … last year and undoubtedly this year as well. While the bar isn’t set too high in Chestnut Hill, mid-level bowl games had become a foregone conclusion under Tom O’Brien. However, since 2010 the Eagles are just 12-20, and have not beaten an FBS team in 2012. Now that AD Gene DeFilippo, a supporter of Spaziani, has retired, the path has been cleared for Brad Bates to bring in his own guy for 2013.
1. John L. Smith, Arkansas (3-4)
Had he had the luxury of hindsight, Smith would’ve just remained at Weber State.
Smith was a transition guy in the aftermath of the Bobby Petrino mess. He knew the program, he’d been a head coach for many years and he was the safest choice to lead a school that had SEC championship aspirations and more in 2012. Smith rolled the dice in the twilight of his career … and lost. It took just two games for he and his Razorbacks to get exposed in an inexcusable loss to Louisiana-Monroe. They followed that clunker up by unraveling in three consecutive defeats. The Hogs have rallied since, but it’s too little, too late for AD Jeff Long, who’ll be interviewing candidates shortly.