Ask CFN - Most Impossible Top Coaching Jobs
Posted Oct 19, 2006

Which big-time coaching jobs are the toughest and most impossible? Dennis Franchione's gig at Texas A&M is one, and Pete Fiutak looks at five others. Can Michigan and Ohio State play in a rematch for the national title? Which coaches will likely be gone next season, and more in the Latest Ask CFN.

Pete Fiutak

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What are the chances of Michigan and Ohio State meeting in the BCS Championship game? Say USC and West Virginia lose, and Michigan beats Ohio State on a last second field goal (or vice versa).  Is it possible that the loser stays at number 2 in the BCS and they have a rematch in the Championship Game?  I thought I remember a rule that was put in a few years back that says you have to win your conference to be eligible to play in the National Championship game.  Is that true? – JD

A: Noooooo, no, no, no, nopity, nope, nope, nope. This was the single most asked question of the week, and let me stop this in its tracks right now; no way, no how, no chance the loser of the Michigan/Ohio State game, assuming both are unbeaten before the epic rivalry, will play for the national title. Realize this about the BCS above all else: the human polls, at the end of the day, will mean everything to the final poll. Remember, the Coaches’ and Harris polls count as 2/3rds of this thing, and the humans won’t want to see a rematch between the Buckeyes and Wolverines for the national title no matter how good the showdown in Columbus is. Texas has a better chance of moving up to get another shot at Ohio State, under the belief that the team is better now than it was in early September. Things have changes since the controversies of a few years ago. Whoever’s 1-2 in the human polls at the end of the year will almost assuredly be in the national championship.

Its looking more and more like 11-0 OSU vs. 11-0 Michigan will play off for one of the BCS Championship slots.  Do you see any way that there could be a rematch in the title game?  Would the voters give a 1-loss ND team the nod over a 1-loss Michigan team?  What about a 1-loss Texas team over a 1-loss OSU team?  Would this be the final straw we need to get a playoff system in place? – ML

A: No one thing is going to force the powers-that-be to create a playoff system. It’s going to take a mass revolution by the coaches and a few university presidents who want it to finally happen. Look at the current human polls this week and you’ll see that everyone appears to have a short memory when it comes to what actually happened on the field, so if the voters are putting Auburn ahead of Arkansas and Tennessee ahead of Florida now, why will they whine if Texas gets in over Ohio State or if Notre Dame gets in over Michigan?

If you truly believe Adrian Peterson is the best player in the country, why not vote for him anyway? Come on! Start a campaign to make the Heisman truly be an award for the best player in college football and encourage voters to vote for the best player whether he's an offensive lineman, a punter....or injured!! – SM

A: I’m going to wrestle with this one all year long. Adrian Peterson is the best college football player in America, period. However, I believe that only matters when it comes to the NFL Draft. I’m a firm believer that the Heisman should go to the most outstanding player in that season. That encompasses the idea of being the most outstanding player, the most valuable player, and the signature perfumer. I voted for Reggie Bush last year (and felt buyer’s remorse the second I sent in my ballot) because when the votes were due, he was the player of the 2005 season. Of course, had the Heisman voting been done after the bowls, I’d have picked Vince Young. What happened to Peterson was a shame, but I can’t in good conscience vote for a guy who’s going to miss the entire second half of the season.

I got online today to look at the BCS rankings only to see the nightmare of a ranking that was on my computer monitor!  I was blown away when I saw that Tennessee had been screwed over once again.  My question is how can #10 California can be ranked higher than #11 Tennessee even though Tennessee beat Cal?  What other worthwhile opponent has Cal played besides UT? It blows me away how "Good 'Ole Rocky Top" always gets the Big Orange Screw no matter how well they play?!  No matter what happens, I say and always will say that "It's Great to be a Tennessee Vol!!" – FW

A:  “Screwed over once again?!” I always find it funny that every fan of every team, from Ohio State down to Temple, believes his team is getting hosed somehow. When was Tennessee wronged before? The first BCS rankings, at least when it comes to the computers, means absolutely nothing. The computers look at the entire season. If Tennessee wins out, it’ll get far more credit from the cyber side once everything is thrown into the mix. If both Cal and Tennessee have one loss at the end of the year, and your Orange still is ranked lower than the team it beat, I’ll scream for you.

If Auburn and Arkansas win out, would it be possible for Auburn to get the Rose Bowl invite? – Mark

A: Not good because the Rose Bowl would take the Ohio State/Michigan loser vs. Pac 10 first, with the second option being Notre Dame if USC or Michigan isn’t in Pasadena. If Michigan beats Ohio State, and USC is in the national title game, it’ll be the Buckeyes vs. the Irish. It’s an unfair quirk in the system, but if Arkansas goes 11-1 and loses the SEC title game and Auburn goes 11-1, the Tigers would have the better shot of getting into the BCS. The four at larges will likely go to the Ohio State/Michigan loser, Notre Dame, Boise State, and one mystery team. If Auburn wins is that fourth team, it won’t play the SEC champ in the Sugar Bowl (assuming it doesn’t win the title), and it likely won’t play in the Fiesta with Boise State likely to stay on the west. My guess, in this scenario would be Notre Dame to the Rose and Auburn to the Orange against the ACC champion.

Why bother to play any good teams? You risk defeat, lack of style points and greatly increase your risk of injury when you play the big boys. I think that you know this leads to the big east. According to the BCS SOS, West Virginia has played the #101 ranked schedule. Pitt is #104, Louisville is #69 and Rutgers is all the way up to #54. Boise State is at #67 and while not in the BE that is not worthy of the BCS games even if they are undefeated. USC #2, Ohio St #4 and Michigan #5 have earn the right to be in the discussion as have Auburn and Florida even with a loss. Why travel to Arkansas when you can bring in Temple and get the same results? - David B

A: First of all, you risk injury against everyone. Second, I’m with you, and that’s why strength of schedule needs to be a big part of the formula and the computers need more influence. The BCS should be about who deserves to be in, not who we think should be in. Opinions need to be left out of the equation as much as possible, and being undefeated, like West Virginia and Louisville are, blinds the humans.  

Aside from Coker at Miami and maybe Mason at Minnesota, which coaches are likely not coming back next season? - Mike in SF

A: Mason’s back and will be given another few years after spending this year with a very, very young team. However, if the Gophers aren’t rolling by the time the new stadium is ready for action, there might be a change down the line. There aren’t that many on the hot-seat at the moment, but that can change in a hurry. Outside of Coker, the guys who won’t be back with their teams next year at this time are John Bunting at North Carolina and John L. Smith at Michigan State. Dirk Koetter is in trouble at Arizona State if the second half of the year isn’t better, and Sylvester Croom will soon be on double secret probation at Mississippi State. Tommy West should survive a rough Memphis season, but it could be close. If Kentucky doesn’t get to a bowl, Rich Brooks might not be around next year. And then there are the guys in the impossible situations like Jack Bicknell at Louisiana Tech, Jeff Genyk at Eastern Michigan, and Brent Guy at Utah State who’ll survive this year, but will need to have big 2007s.

Do you think Michigan State can be considered one of if not the toughest coaching jobs in the country?  Setting aside the Indiana's of the world the coaching job at MSU seems to be basically impossible.  I know Notre Dame may have more pressure but anyone can recruit there and recruit nationally. Michigan State has to recruit directly against Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame, three of the most successful programs in college football history.  There might not be the pressure to win like these other programs but the pressure is there, just ask John L. Smith.  How does he or any coach become a consistent winner at MSU? – SF

A: How does someone succeed at Michigan State? Change the "waiting for the sky to fall" attitude. Michigan State has the fan base, the resources, the talent and the athletic department that can field a winner tomorrow. Everyone has to recruit against Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame, especially in the Midwest, but MSU gets its share of athletes. Wisconsin has to deal with recruiting against the superpowers, so does Penn State, and so does Iowa, but they always field winners (and Wisconsin has cranked out as many drafted players over the last few years as anyone). You’re wrong about the pressure at MSU; it’s there just like it is at any other top program, but there isn’t the recent history of success to fall back on. I know what you’re getting at, but I don’t think MSU is the most impossible situation out there for a big-time program. Here are my Most Impossible Coaching Jobs broken down by BCS conference limited to the big schools with high expectations (as compared to a place like Duke, Northwestern or Baylor).
ACC – North Carolina
Mack Brown screwed that whole thing up expectation-wise by succeeding at a basketball school. Talk about recruiting nightmares, that’s a crowded area to get talent from.
Big East – Syracuse
Getting snubbed by the ACC killed the program’s mojo.
Big Ten – Minnesota
The Gopher football team falls behind the Vikings, Twins, and Gopher hockey in the overall pecking order, but the pro town fans expect a winner even though there’s little to no recruiting base to work with. The big city campus doesn’t have the same feel of a place like Iowa or Wisconsin.
Big 12 – Texas A&M
No program in America has the perfect storm combination when it comes to having problems producing a consistent powerhouse. There's sky-high expectations, a perfect college football setting to give the sense that this should be one of the elite of the elite programs, and number three program status in its own division. A&M can win a title or two here and there, but Texas and Oklahoma will always be bigger. This might be the biggest name program that hasn’t consistently won anything, and it gets my vote as the toughest big-time, high-profile coaching gig to build a consistent superpower.
Pac 10 – Arizona State
ASU has roughly the same problem as Minnesota, only it has California to draw on for recruiting. ASU is in a pro town that expects results and winners no matter what. UCLA might be the Pac 10 choice, but I believe it has the potential to grow into a monster with just a few USC-type stars to get the ball rolling.
SEC – South Carolina
Three words: Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.