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The Firing Season - 5 Coaching Changes
Posted Nov 26, 2012

Five BCS programs canned their coaches. What's next?

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

What Happened?
Auburn dismisses head coach Gene Chizik.

Why Did This Happen?
There's no way to sugarcoat it: the Tigers stunk. No one expected the offense to play at the level that it did in 2010, but it wasn’t supposed to fall off the face of the Earth, either. Auburn simply couldn't score points under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's scheme, causing the Tigers to suffer through one of their worst seasons in school history.

How did things go so horribly wrong this season? Auburn lost nine games, which was its worst showing since it finished 0-10 in 1950, and went winless in SEC play for the first time 1980.

However, the Tigers' last two games placed the final nail in Chizik's coffin. Auburn had absolutely no answers against archrivals Georgia and Alabama, who destroyed them by a margin of 87-0. National championship or not, it's tough for any coach to survive such a disastrous showing against its most heated rivals.

What's Next?
While it's probably a couple of recruiting classes away from contending with the likes of Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M, there's no reason why the next head coach can't get the Tigers to a bowl game right away. Charlie Strong and Gus Malzahn are the two most commonly mentioned names as Chizik's successor. Bobby Petrino is likely out of the picture, but stranger things have happened.

What Happened?
NC State fires Tom O'Brien after six seasons in Raleigh.

Why Did This Happen?
Contrary to popular opinion, this decision had nothing to do with how O'Brien handled the Russell Wilson situation. Debbie Yow ultimately made this choice because the Wolfpack had failed to meet expectations, and had been one of the most inconsistent teams in the ACC.

Make no mistake about it: NC State expected big things to happen with a veteran, talented team returning. Tennessee demolished the Wolfpack in the opener, which set the tone for the rest of the inconsistent season that didn’t work out nearly as well as planned. More than anything else, though, the program just didn’t seem to be taking any big steps forward. Sure, the 'Pack rebounded to upset Florida State, but they also suffered an embarrassing blowout loss to last-place Virginia later.

Despite pulling some notable upsets under O’Brien’s watch, NC State finished with an underwhelming 22-26 record, with only one winning season in conference play. While that might not seem so bad, it's worth noting that Wolfpack finished eight games under .500 against the Atlantic Division, including a 1-14 record on the road.

What's next?
Of the coaches on the list, O'Brien's dismissal was probably the least expected (although Colorado’s Jon Embree's is a close second). However, it's clear that Yow believes that the pieces are in place to win now, so look for her to bring in someone who’s ready to start from Day One without any sort of a honeymoon period.

What Happened?
Boston College gives Frank Spaziani the boot after four seasons in Chestnut Hill.

Why Did This Happen?
It's simple: Everyone liked him, and the players wanted him around, but Spaziani didn't win enough games.

Unlike many of the coaches getting the axe, Spaziani walked into a near perfect situation. Sure, he had the unenviable task of replacing future NFL star Matt Ryan, but the Eagles had plenty of talent remaining from a squad that had won the past two Atlantic titles.

Unfortunately, BC's proud program took a step back during his tenure. After qualifying for a bowl in each of his first two seasons, the Eagles tailed off considerably, finishing 4-8 in 2011, before limping to a 2-10 record this season. If not for a win against an injury-riddled Maryland team, BC would not have defeated an FBS opponent this season.

What's Next?
Boston College will need to hire somebody with a proven track record of rebuilding a program. Al Golden, who coached LB's at BC during the late 1990's, would be an ideal candidate, as would Kent State's Darrell Hazell.

What Happened?
Purdue parted ways with Danny Hope after four seasons in West Lafayette.

Why Did It Happen?
This one is a bit curious considering the way the team rallied after the schedule lightened up. Hope led the Boilermakers to bowls in each of the last two seasons, and had a relatively respectable 22-27 record, including a 13-19 mark in conference play. However, AD Morgan Burke has made it clear today that he's not just satisfied with qualifying for a "do drop in"-type of bowl game -- he wants a Rose Bowl.

Despite the nice finish, it was easy to see the writing on the wall. After limping to an 0-4 start in conference play, Burke issued the following statement on October 30:

"Our student-athletes, alumni, fans, coaching staff and administration all expect to see the program move forward and take a step up the postseason ladder. Currently, our performance has kept us from reaching our goals. But we have a third of the season left to play, and our focus is to achieve that consistency over the remaining four games. We need to press forward, converting potential into results and having fun playing Boilermaker football."

In the first game after that not-so-subtle rebuke of Hope, Penn State demolished Purdue 34-9, essentially sealing his fate.

Even if the Boilermakers had won that game, it was obvious that Hope's days were numbered. Rightly or wrongly, the Purdue brass expected to compete for the suspension-riddled Leaders crown this season. Instead of competing, the Boilers dropped their first five league contests, including a loss to perennial bottom-feeder Minnesota.

What's Next?
Burke wants an offensive-minded coach to lead the team next season. The top candidates are Butch Jones, Sonny Dykes, Mark Helfrich and Dave Doeren.

What Happened?
Colorado dismissed Jon Embree after just two seasons in Boulder.

Why Did It Happen?
Is two years really enough time to evaluate a program? If the Buffaloes had been the slightest bit competitive, Embree probably would’ve been given another shot. He had the support – Colorado legend Bill McCartney gave Embree his endorsement earlier in the year – but the results were just too awful.

The numbers make a strong case for Embree's dismissal. In his two seasons, Colorado finished with a 4-21 record, including a paltry 3-15 mark in Pac-12 play. This season, things took a turn for the worse as the Buffs limped to a 1-8 conference record, being outscored by a margin of 431 to 155.

What's Next?
Given the talent differential that exists between the Buffs and the rest of the Pac 12, Colorado will have to hire someone who's used to doing more with less. The ideal candidate would be San Jose State's Mike MacIntyre or Air Force's Troy Calhoun.