6764...
TGS SPECIAL REPORT...LOOK AHEAD TO 2016 COLLEGE FB HOT SEAT 

                                 by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

This week's Alabama-Clemson CFP title game marks the end of the college football season. But, before we at TGS put the 2015 campaign to bed, and as we usually do at the conclusion of each college season, a quick look-ahead to the coaching "hot seat" for the upcoming campaign is in order.

Thus, following is our early look at that list for 2016 as we sign off on the 2015 season. The next time we'll be talking about college football on the pages of TGS will be in late June, when we begin our annual conference previews for the upcoming campaign. Projected hot-seat coaches are listed by school alphabetical order.

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona...Rich-Rod's not-so-subtle recent pursuit of other job openings (reportedly including Virginia Tech and Miami-Florida) has left more than a few uncomfortable with the immediate future of the program in Tucson. Consistent winning has been hard to maintain at Arizona since Dick Tomey was dismissed in 2003, and Rich-Rod's curiosity suggests he might be the one to prompt a change with the Wildcats. But after slipping from 10 wins a year ago to 7 in 2015, a dip under .500 would likely get the rumor mill whirring regardless in the desert. We can already see the end of the Rodriguez regime not too far down the road in Tucson, though the coach might eventually beat any gathering posse out of town.

Todd Graham, Arizona State...Graham's history of job-jumping, having left previous assignments at Rice and Pitt after just one season, suggests he, like Rodriguez, is apt to have his eyes on openings elsewhere. Pac-12 sources believe that someday Graham would like to return to his native Texas, where a couple of jobs could be opening in the near future. In the meantime, however, Graham has to worry about keeping the Sun Devils afloat, as his career in Tempe is taking on many of the characteristics of predecessor Dennis Erickson, who was feted early in his regime before things went sour. For Graham, the just-completed 6-7 campaign represents his worst record with the Sun Devils, who will be breaking in another new starting QB next season after the graduation of Mike Bercovici. ASU support is notoriously impatient, and another slip below .500 puts Graham in serious trouble. Though, like counterpart Rich-Rod at Tucson, Graham likely takes an escape route out of town if the walls appear to be closing in around him.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn...Regional sources report that Malzahn is on a short leash at Auburn after a couple of disappointing seasons in a row. Remember, the Tigers dismissed Malzahn predecessor Gene Chizik just two years after he won the national title in 2010. Malzahn reportedly was eyeing some of the recent openings at Miami and even South Carolina, and has the advantage of being a client of super-agent Jimmy Sexton. But sources say competing with the Nick Saban machine at Alabama has begun to wear on Malzahn, which means a double-barreled assault, as Tiger alums and boosters are notoriously impatient. Another underachieving 2016 greases Malzahn's skid out of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Remember, this is the SEC, where memories are short.

Brad Lambert, Charlotte...Lambert has been the only coach Charlotte football has ever known, leading the program from its inception in 2013. So it might be unreasonable to put him on this list. But in this day and age of college football, few coaches are completely safe, even those at nascent programs such as Charlotte; witness the pressure Larry Coker recently felt at fellow start-up UTSA, prompting Coker's recent resignation. The 49ers were 2-10 this past season and will be expected to make at least modest progress in 2016. Any regression could signal that Lambert isn't the man for a program that believes it should be on the map, and soon.

Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati...The Bearcats' meek surrender in the Hawaii Bowl vs. San Diego State has turned up the heat on Tuberville, as Cincy's late-season efforts also included a 65-point allowance vs. South Florida. The Bearcat program already seems to be regressing from the highs it achieved during the Brian Kelly and Butch Jones years, and this season's 7-6 mark was not exactly a sign of progress. Possible issues with QB Gunner Kiel, scheduled to be a fifth-year senior next fall but not with the team for its recent bowl trip, might be another situation to watch. Tuberville, who beat a forming posse out of Texas Tech after 2012, might have another quick escape up his sleeve if things begin to go pear-shaped at Nippert Stadium.

Mike MacIntyre, Colorado...Some Pac-12 sources thought "Coach Mac" might not survive 2015, his third straight losing season since being hired in Boulder. MacIntyre has yet to win more than four games with the Buffs, and the magic work he did previously at San Jose State is being quickly forgotten as CU continues to struggle. The Pac-12 remains a tough neighborhood, and the Buffs (who haven't been "bowling" since 2007, when still a member of the Big 12) have only hinted at a breakthrough. A legit surge to bowl eligibility in 2016 might be required for MacIntyre to stay in the saddle and also keep him a viable candidate down the road at alma mater Vanderbilt, where a faction of alums would like to move out Derek Mason and bring Mac back home, where his dad George (who passed away last week) coached from 1979-85. But MacIntyre needs to win soon to stay a viable candidate anywhere, even in Boulder.

Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan...The task in Ypsilanti might be the most thankless in the FBS ranks, and Creighton might not be up to it after winning big at lower-level Wabash and Drake. But the just-completed 1-11 for the Eagles, after a 2-10 mark in Creighton's debut the season before, means progress at EMU remains hard to measure, with no more than two wins in any season since 2010. Like immediate predecessors Jeff Genyk and Ron English, the Creighton regime also appears destined to run aground at Rynearson Stadium.

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State...Not long ago DeRuyter was considered an up-and-comer and a candidate for Pac-12 openings at Cal and Colorado. Now he is looking over his shoulder after back-to-back sub-.500 seasons and an unsightly 3-9 this past campaign. Some Mountain West sources believe DeRuyter was handed a loaded roster (including future NFL QB Derek Carr) from predecessor Pat Hill, which makes the dropoffs in 2014 & '15 a bit understandable but no less alarming. DeRuyter had the excuse of an extremely young roster in 2015, but another 3-9 or similar mark in 2016 turns the heat way up, as it would confirm the recent steep descent of the program.

Paul Petrino, Idaho...The pressure is not great in Moscow, but a few years ago the Vandals ran off a coach (Robb Akey) who got them to a rare bowl game in 2009. Petrino's record improved to 4-8 in 2015 after back-to-back 1-win campaigns, but that isn't enough to keep the war drums from beating, even at Idaho. A well-publicized confrontation with one of the Vandals' few beat writers last August has already landed Petrino in some trouble, and another sub-.500 mark in the Sun Belt might be too much to overcome.

Bill Cubit, Illinois...Cubit had the interim label stripped (sort of) after the just-completed season when he replaced the first Tim Beckman just before the opener vs. Kent State. Instead, Cubit was given a two-year deal, which Big Ten sources believe was more a function of an interim AD and school president being in place, which effectively means that Cubit's interim tag will stick for 2016 & '17 (if still on the job). With new administrators in place, Cubit could be in trouble this fall if the Illini again dip under .500 (as they did in 2015, when finishing 5-7).

Bill Snyder, Kansas State...There will never be any resignation pressure at K-State for Snyder, whose name appears on this list solely because some regional observers believe Snyder might decide to call it quite after the 2016 season, when Snyder turns 77. Snyder is effectively coaching year-to-year at this stage of his career, and he has recently announced that he will return for 2016. Beyond that, however, is anyone's guess, though Snyder is currently signed thru 2017.

Paul Haynes, Kent State...Kent State is not Ohio State, so there is usually little pressure on a coach with a losing record at Dix Stadium. Three losing years in a row, however, is a different story, and Haynes has not recorded a mark better than 4-8 since his first season heading the Golden Flashes in 2013. Even in the MAC, that sort of consistent losing is a problem, especially since Haynes replaced the successful Darrell Hazell, who moved to Purdue after getting Kent State to a bowl in the 2012 season.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky...There isn't as much pressure on Kentucky football as there is Kentucky basketball, but even with a relatively low threshold for safety, Stoops walks a thin line after failing to get the Cats to a bowl in his three years on the job. The past two seasons have been especially frustrating, as Kentucky has collapsed after fast starts, including this past season when fading to lose six of its last seven after a 4-1 start. In 2013, UK lost six straight after beginning 5-1. SEC sources say Stoops needs at least a minor bowl this coming season, as even Wildcat football fans have some expectations.

Mike Riley, Nebraska...The Huskers were assuredly the best 6-7 team in the nation this past season, but Riley was not hired from Oregon State a year ago to shepherd a descent into mediocrity. Nebraska would lose five games in maddening, last-minute fashion in 2015, prompting some Husker backers to wonder why they had dismissed Bo Pelini, who could have just as easily lose almost every close decision. In the end, Riley might have been saved by a rousing early-November win over Michigan State, and the Huskers' bowl pounding of UCLA temporarily removed some pressure into the offseason. But another losing record in 2016 might prompt some Husker administrators into believing they made a mistake, as not even Bill Callahan posted back-to-back losing seasons before being dismissed after 2007.

Darrell Hazell, Purdue...Some Big Ten sources were wondering if Hazell would survive 2015 if the Boilermakers missed a bowl game for the third straight season on his watch. Not only did Purdue, miss, it didn't come close, regressing to 2-10, putting Hazell at a not-so-robust 6-30 in three years on the job at Ross-Ade Stadium. Failure to land a postseason slot in 2016 would likely prompt a revolt by whatever boosters are remaining in West Lafayette, so Hazell enters next season not only on the hot seat, but also as one of the coaches most likely to walk the plank before the campaign completes.

Ron Caragher, San Jose State...The Orlando Cure Bowl win over Georgia State was a nice way to end the season, but it only got the Spartans to 6-7, and Caragher has overseen a decline in the program since succeeding Mike MacIntyre in 2013. Some Mountain West observers thought Caragher might be in trouble this season until the unexpected bowl lifeline. More regression next season, however, will likely spell problems for Caragher, who has yet to post a winning record in three season since his hire from USD.

Clay Helton, Southern Cal...Don't let the full-time appointment AD Pat Haden bestowed upon Helton prior to the Pac-12 title game vs. Stanford suggest that the new coach is in the clear. With several Pac-12 sources suggesting Haden could retire within the next year due to health concerns, there is a possibility that Helton will be working for a new AD next fall. And since some Pac-12 insiders already believe the job is too big for Helton, a repeat of recent messy scenarios at SC could be on the horizon. Note that the Trojans are 0-2 since Helton had the interim label stripped by Haden, and SC will be breaking in a new QB when it opens next season vs. Alabama in Arlington. The possibility of an 0-3 break from the gate by Helton is hardly a way to endear himself to some of college football's most demanding fans.

Charlie Strong, Texas...Two back-to-back bowl-less seasons are hard to do these days, especially at a locale like Austin, which sums up Strong's current plight at Texas.  Thus far, the program has not revived since Mack Brown's forced exit after 2013, and worst of all for all of the Texas-exes, the Longhorns have become an afterthought in the state, with more attention paid to the creative offenses at Baylor and Texas Tech, TCU's recent resurgence, and outside of the Big 12, the SEC connection at Texas A&M and the burgeoning power at Houston under HC Tom Herman.  Strong was forced to look for a new offensive coordinator to modernize the Texas offense, but there has always been an anti-Charlie contingent in Austin, and it was no surprise that Strong reportedly had interest in the opening at Miami that was eventually filled by Mark Richt.  There is no way Strong survives another 5-7 mark, and a minor bowl might not be enough to throw him a lifeline for 2017, either. 

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M...The recent forced resignation of Aggie AD Eric Hyman, ostensibly because he was such a pro-Sumlin supporter, should be a warning sign for the A&M coach, who has presided over three consecutive disappointing seasons at Kyle Field after his rousing debut with "Johnny Football" in 2012. Since then, however, the situation would sour with Manziel and a succession of other QBs (six in all) who have left College Station early during Sumlin's four seasons in charge, including both of this past season's QBs, Kyle Allen (transferring to Houston) and Kyler Murray (bound for Oklahoma). With the Aggies not competing at the top level of the SEC West in the past three seasons either, Sumlin has suddenly found himself in the crosshairs. It has been reported that Sumlin was once high on the list of potential college-to-NFL coaches, and Sumlin might still be desirous of such a move, but his marketability could be on the wane. Along with Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Sumlin's situation looms as one of the most treacherous in the SEC entering 2016.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt...Though the Dores were a tough out in 2015, they have descended noticeably in two years under Mason, who hasn't come close to matching the stretch of bowl visits that highlighted predecessor James Franklin's regime. Moreover, the Dore offense has become unspeakably boring as the team has become painful to watch under Mason. With local support evaporating in the two losing seasons on Mason's watch, many alums are voicing their displeasure. Mason's fate, however, is aligned closely to Commodore Vice Chancellor for Athletics (the Dores' fancy name for their AD) David Williams, who is staunchly in Mason's corner. As long as Williams remains on the job, SEC sources believe Mason has a safety blanket for at least a couple of more years, but that won't stop some of the disgruntled alums from hoping.

Craig Bohl, Wyoming...Bohl's reputation continues to be burnished by the powerhouse he built and situation he left behind at North Dakota State, with the Bison continuing to win FCS titles (now five straight after claiming another last weekend vs. Jacksonville State!) as they did for three consective years with Bohl before he moved to Laramie in 2014. Which Bohl might be wondering about these days after back-to-back losing seasons and a painful 2-10 this past season, the Cowboys' worst since Vic Koenning's 2002 team finished with the same record. Wyo's small but hardcore support base knows that it might as well have kept predecessor Dave Christensen for a 6-18 two-year mark (indeed, Christensen never won fewer than nine over any of his two-year spans in Laramie). For the moment, Bohl is said to retain support of the administrators, but anything close to another 2-10, and the former NDSU coach could find himself in the soup at Laramie.


Return To Home Page