6/23 Roundtable - The Coach On The Hot Seat
Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez
Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez
Posted Jun 22, 2009

6/23 Roundtable - And the coach on the biggest hot seat is ... ? It's the Tuesday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 23

The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 19 The most underrated team will be ... ?
June 18 The most overrated team will be ... ?
June 17 The sleeper national title teams
June 16 Do 40 Times Really Matter?
June 15 Does college football need a Rooney Rule?
June 12 Should Alabama vacate wins?
June 11 Should college football players be paid?
June 10 Is the recruiting hype too much?
June 9 If you were starting an NFL team ...
June 8 Where would you take over as head coach?
June 5 Who does the least with the most?
June 4 Who does the most with the least?
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18 No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?

I always kind of look at the coaching hot seat question a little differently. Once a coach is being given the win-or-else ultimatum, it's usually over, it's not working,  and it's time to move on. Tommy Bowden was the prime example of this, while Kentucky's Rich Brooks was one of the more recent exceptions to the rule. This year, it's simple for Charlie Weis, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, and Colorado's Dan Hawkins (despite rumors to the contrary): win, or it's probably time to find gainful employment elsewhere.

No, I'm more interested in the guy who's two steps removed from critical condition. He's safe for next year, but he has to produce or there might be grumblings that start to get the Fire Him! snowball rolling.

My other way of looking at the Coach On The Hot Seat is to examine what coach is safe, can't be fired, won't be fired, but has to prove to the world that he can produce at the level the fan base is looking for. Last year I argued that Georgia's Mark Richt was on my version of a hot seat because he had the nation's No. 1 team going into the season and he had to show he could finally finish the drill, as he would say. No, of course Richt wasn't going to be on any sort of a firing hot seat, but pretty soon, after being so long in Athens, Bulldog fans are going to want national title appearances like Florida and LSU. 

So with that in mind, here's my version of the hockey assist. The pass that leads to the pass that leads to the goal. Here  are my five Hot Seat coaches who likely won't be fired after this year no matter what, but they had better come up with a big step forward this year or they'll be on the Red Hot Flame Seat in the near future.

5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State - Put this in the Mark Richt category from last year. He's a man, he's 40 (actually, he's probably 42), and he has a loaded team that should be this year's Texas Tech. No one's stopping this offense, and the defense should be better, but if his Cowboys don't come up with a ten-win season, if might be a little while before it gets a chance to be so nasty again. More than anything else, the team has to beat someone. Winning at Missouri was strong, but that was it last year.

4. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee - (And I don't use this salutation lightly. I can't stand calling anyone Dude, or Buddy, or Pal, or what I'm about to use, and I bring it out only for emphasis. Kids, please don't try this at home.) Bro, if you're going to be this much of a raging, bull's-eye-on-the-chest asshat, you had better bring it out of the gate. He's got the assistants, and he has the talent coming in, but he'll have to answer for a 49-3 beatdown from an angry Urban Meyer and Florida and will have to show better diplomacy if his team isn't far better than Phil Fulmer's 2008 squad was.

3. Bill Stewart, West Virginia - He has the best team in the Big East, and it's not really even close (with a possible exception of Pitt). He was great at stepping in and leading the Mountaineers to the Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma a few years back, and while it's way too much to ask for a national title appearance, he needs to show everyone he can get his program back to the BCS to truly prove the transition from the Rich Rod era was a smooth one.

2. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA - He'll get a lot more leeway than just the next few years after a good recruiting class brought in, but for being an offensive guru, and with the best in the business, Norm Chow running the attack, everyone will start to get a little testy going into 2010 is the offense doesn't improve after finishing 111th in the nation in total offense, 116th in rushing, and 109th in passing efficiency.

1. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan - Anyone with a brain should've known that last year's disaster was no big deal. After all, do Michigan fans really care if their team goes to the Alamo Bowl? No, RichRod was brought in to make Michigan a national title contender, and the Big House had to be torn down to be built back up again. He's going to need at least another year to rebuild from this year's solid recruiting class, but the team can't be so embarrassing again. This year, yes, an Alamo Bowl would be a big step forward, and if this is another losing season with the team looking so inept, he'll get a year three, but he won't get a four unless his 2010 team rocks.

Honorable Mention, according to my criteria: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Dennis Erickson, Arizona State; Mike Sherman, Texas A&M; Ron Zook, Illinois

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?

This is a trick question, right?

No matter how you spin it or what angle you’re looking from, no one in the country has warmer buttocks than Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis as the 2009 approaches.

Now, obviously he won’t be alone under the microscope. Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez comes to mind as someone, who will undergo intense scrutiny in Ann Arbor if his Wolverines don’t start showing immediate signs of life. However, it won’t compare to what Weis will endure if he doesn’t ramp up the Irish in a hurry.

Listen, when you sign on to be the head coach at Notre Dame, you’re basically on the hot seat from that first introductory press conference. That’s just the way it is in South Bend. When you’ve gone 10-15 over the past two seasons, nearly get canned last December, and have just a Hawaii Bowl victory on the postseason resume, you can pretty much guess which direction the mercury is headed.

Preseason expectations have risen to their highest level in a few years for Notre Dame. The offense is loaded with talent and the schedule is not. That can mean just one thing for Weis: If he can’t deliver marked improvement from the last two years—and possibly a BCS bowl berth—he’ll again be clinging to his job at the end of the regular season. And this time around, he may not be so fortunate.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?

Have Rich Rodriguez and Charlie Weis flip a coin. No one else is even remotely close.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?

A: The sweatiest seat cushion belongs to Bret Bielema.  Michigan has a high profile head man who is at least brining attention to the program.  Ron Zook has more BCS appearances at Illinois.  Mark D’Antonio has Michigan State on the right track.  Ohio State has probably already booked a trip to a major bowl.  And Joe Paterno has defied all odds and laws of nature by continuing to compete for the conference title.  Somehow, despite employing one of the youngest coaches in the country, Wisconsin has been left in the past.

I have no allegiance to Bucky, but badgers were my favorite animal as a kid, and call me nostalgic but I like seeing them do well.  And for a while, I got my wish.  But now the future doesn’t look so bright.

Bielema came in and led Wisconsin to a terrific 12-1 season and a horrible BCS snub, but at least a nice Capital One Bowl win.  Then, in year two, the Badgers slipped despite lofty preseason expectations and finished 4-4 down the stretch after a 5-0 start.  And most recently we saw the Badgers cap off a 7-6 year with a vicious beating at the hands of Florida State.

Now I know that injuries have hobbled the team, and Bielema isn’t to blame for all of the last second losses… entirely.  But he’s the head coach, and when a program gets used to competing with the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State it’s hard to warm up to the idea of perennial battles with Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl. 

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?

There are some names that come to mind from the Big Ten. I think that that Bill Lynch of Indiana is in trouble. Kellen Lewis put him in a trick bag last year and whatever sort of experiments they tried at quarterback didn't work. They return like 18 starters this year, but I don't think it's going to matter much and I think he is in trouble. I would also throw Rich Rodriquez in the mix from Michigan. If they have another year anything like last year, things could get ugly. But, to make a change from Rich Rod's style, in the middle of the transition to it, would set the program back too far, so he is probably on decent footing. Bret Bielema at Wisconsin saw the dark side of Badger Nation last year and cannot afford another year like the one they had in 2008, where they needed Cal Poly to miss an extra point in overtime in order to get to seven wins in the regular season.

In the Pac 10, Mike Stoops won a bowl game, but I think they want to see the program take that next step and get to a better bowl game. I wonder if just doing what they did last year is going to be good enough, especially with the turmoil in basketball. Lute Olsen's program was pretty good job security for the football coach; just get us through October as a nice diversion. That's no longer the case. Also, I don't care about coaches that got contract extensions, because we all know those are not worth a whole lot on the job security front...just as Phil Fulmer, about one year ago. In the Big 12, I believe that Dan Hawkins needs a breakout eight-win or more season. Another 6-6, 7-5 campaign might not cut it, and I think Coach Hawkins knows that.