TGS EXTRA!!! SPECIAL REPORT...COLLEGE COACHING CAROUSEL
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor
No question, it’s “hot seat” time in college football.
Following is our final update of the original in-trouble list we noted at the beginning of the season...with a few new names added to the list.
Original 2011 preview: Mark Richt, Georgia..Richt has won plenty over the past decade in Athens, but the Bulldogs have been losing traction the past few seasons and slipped all of the way under .500 last fall (6-7), capped by a loss to Conference USA rep UCF in the Liberty Bowl. But discontent in Bulldog Nation began to fester as far back as 2008, when a team featuring Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno fell fall short of contending for national honors as predicted by many, and the descent has been rapid since.
Update: Richt has been safe for several weeks, with Georgia finishing the regular season on a 10-game win and winning the SEC East. He’s off the “hot seat” for next year, too.
Original 2011 preview: Rick Neuheisel, UCLA...In Neuheisel’s defense, he’s coached in some bad luck the past three years since returning “home” to Westwood, where he was QB of a colorful UCLA Rose Bowl team once upon a time, in 1983. Cluster injuries, especially at QB, have not helped, but the product on the field has been subpar, indicated by Rick’s 15-22 mark that includes a pair of 4-8 finishes, the last of which a year ago prompting some Bruin honks to demand a change. The offense, supposedly an area of expertise for Neuheisel, has been a mess since his arrival, and Rick’s Bruins have achieved less than predecessor Karl Dorrell’s teams did in their first three years between 2003-05.
Update: Neuheisel is finished at UCLA, but will be allowed to coach Friday's Pac-12 title game at Oregon, a game in which the Bruins almost qualified by default from the shallow Pac-12 South (Southern Cal’s probation also noted). Neuheisel again couldn’t forge a winning regular-season record (6-6) and continued to space several humiliating losses among his occasional wins. Last week’s 50-0 capitulation vs. hated Southern Cal will be the final straw, with “Slick Rick” entering Oregon game with a 21-28 four-year mark in Westwood, an astounding 19 losses by 17 points or more, and winless in four tries vs. the crosstown Trojans, outscored 134-28 in the process.
Original 2011 preview: Dabo Swinney, Clemson...Swinney was a default hire from the outset in Death Valley, promoted as he was in the middle of the 2008 season after Tommy Bowden’s tenure unraveled. ACC sources report a cash crunch at the school and within the IPTAY support group limited the scope of securing a higher-profile permanent replacement for Bowden, and Swinney kept the gig, partly because he was willing to work for less than other interested candidates. Dabo has done just well enough to stay on the Tiger job and has made it into a bowl game each of the past three years, but last season it merely was another “L” in a 6-7 campaign that ended with a loss to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Update: Dabo has tailed off late in the season as his Tigers have lost three times in the last month, but with Clemson into next week’s ACC title game, he’s off the hot seat for another year.
Original 2011 preview: Mack Brown, Texas... Can Brown really be in trouble at Austin, just two years removed from a BCS title game appearance? Maybe, especially if the Horns again sink beneath .500 as they did a year ago when finishing an unsightly 5-7, with humbling home losses to the likes of UCLA, Iowa State, and Baylor. Supposed coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp also bailed out after 2010 to take the job at Florida, so the apparent line of succession has been interrupted, but that will probably not provide Brown any cover if he slips beneath .500 again. Remember, immediate predecessors Fred Akers, David McWilliams, and John Mackovic were all dismissed at Texas for less.
Update: Brown is not yet on secure footing, and many regional sources believe last week’s 27-25 win over Texas A&M was more important than many realize for Brown’s future in Austin. Mack risked a 6-6 regular-season finish with losses to the Ags and this week vs. Baylor; even at 7-5, Brown might not be safe, although he had a plethora of offensive injuries as an excuse for recent losses vs. Missouri and Kansas State. The “baseline” at Texas is supposedly nine wins, and Brown runs the risk of falling far short of that magic number two years running. Not out of the woods yet.
Original 2011 preview: Dennis Erickson, Arizona State...The Sun Devils were one of the hard-luck teams of 2010, losing 4 games by 4 points or fewer, but the fact is that ASU hasn’t been to a bowl or finished above .500 since Erickson’s first year in the desert back in 2007. Plenty of empty seats at Sun Devil Stadium prompted lots of speculation about Erickson surviving beyond last season, but he’s been given one more chance (partially, according to Pac-12 sources, due to financial considerations) to forge a turnaround.
Update: After ASU collapsed down the stretch with four straight losses to close the year, Erickson is out in Tempe . Names such as Southern Miss' Larry Fedora, SMU’s June Jones, and and Houston’s Kevin Sumlin are being mentioned prominently in the desert.
Original 2011 Preview: Luke Fickell, Ohio State...This situation goes without saying, as Fickell’s appointment is an interim one after Jim Tressel’s abrupt resignation on Memorial Day. Even if the Buckeyes succeed for Fickell, many Big Ten sources suspect that OSU will be likely to disassemble the Tressel staff (of which Fickell, promoted from co-defensive coordinator, was a part) and look elsewhere for leadership.
Update: Fickell’s fate was probably sealed before the season began, although he will likely be welcomed to stay in his old assistant’s role by the new regime. Which will be headed by Urban Meyer after the worst-kept secret in college football wass confirmed sometime this week. Fickell, by the way, might surface as a candidate at Akron, which has relieved Rob Ianello of duties after the Zips’ 1-11 mark and 68-19 season-ending loss at WMU.
Original 2011 preview: Paul Wulff, Washington State...Wulff was considered a longshot to last beyond the 2010 campaign, when a 2-10 mark seemed to seal his fate, especially with new AD Bill Moos (a former Coug player) in the saddle. Moos, however, saw enough progress in last year’s Wazzu to give Wulff (also a former WSU player) another chance in 2011.
Update: Wulff is out after the Cougs faded to a 4-8 mark after hinting at bowl contention earlier in the season. Mike Leach has been hired by AD Bill Moos as the new Wazzu coach and will inherit a program that appears on the ascent.
Original 2011 preview: Joe Paterno, Penn State...Unforseen developments during the season put Paterno out of a job in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky mess.
Update: This will be an interesting situation, with the school likely to break all ties with the Paterno regime, which means interim HC and d.c. Tom Bradley is not a probable candidate. The school’s trial balloon to Virginia’s Mike London was already popped, and Miami’s Al Golden, a Penn State alum, is probably out of the mix as well due to the Paterno factor.
Original 2011 preview: Danny Hope, Purdue...Although it’s only the third year of Hope’s regime, and his Boilermakers have risen up with spunky efforts on occasion over the past two seasons (including a memorable upset over Ohio State in 2009), indicators are not encouraging in West Lafayette. No bowls, a 9-15 overall mark, home defeats vs. MAC reps Northern Illinois and Toledo, six straight losses to end 2010, and, worst of all, sluggish ticket sales do not constitute the sort of trendline that suggests a coach is long for his job.
Update: Hope got the Riveters to 6-6 and into a minor bowl, considered a prerequisite to stick around for 2012. Which he will, although he stays on the hot seat until Purdue makes a true breakthrough on his watch.
Original 2011 preview: Bob Toledo, Tulane...Many C-USA observers were surprised that Toledo survived last year’s 4-8 mark, even though it was his best in four years on the job. Although the Green Wave demonstrated slight progress a year ago, regional sources suggest that financial considerations played a large part in keeping Toledo in the fold.
Update: Toledo was relieved of duties at midseason, and the Wave is now actively searching for his replacement. Rich Rodriguez, a former Wave assistant, has taken the Arizona job, and Oklahoma State o.c. Todd Monken has removed his name from consideration. The new hot name to watch is former Miami-Ohio and Pitt (for a few days, at least) HC Mike Haywood. Also keep an eye on former Wave HC Tommy Boden who coached the Greenies with success in 1997-98.
Original 2011 preview: Houston Nutt, Ole Miss...Never mind that Nutt won 9 games and Cotton Bowls in each of his first two years with the Rebels. Nutt was considered to have inherited a talented nucleus of players in 2008 from predecessor and recruiting whiz Ed Orgeron, before the 2009 team was considered a bit of an underachiever, and last year’s slip to 4-8. Which, coupled with the resurgence of in-state rival Mississippi State, has suddenly turned up the heat in Oxford.
Update: Nutt is gone after a 2-10 debacle. Mike Leach’s name, surfacign everywhere, has already surfaced in Oxford. Others to watch are La Tech HC Sonny Dykes, UL-Lafayette HC Mark Hudspeth, Arkansas State HC Hugh Freeze, Auburn o.c. Gus Malzahn, and Alabama d.c Kirby Smart.
Original 2011 preview: Steve Fairchild, Colorado State...This looked to be a homerun hire a couple of years ago when Ram alum and Sonny Lubick disciple Fairchild steered his first CSU team in 2008 to an unexpected 7-6 mark and a New Mexico Bowl win over Fresno State. Since then, however, it has all gone pear-shaped in Fort Collins, with back-to-back 3-9 seasons.
Update: Fairchild is one more loss form a third straight 3-9 season that likely seals his fate. The Rams conclude their season on Saturday in the border war vs. Wyoming.
Original 2011 preview: Neil Callaway, UAB...Another coach who has likely been helped by the downturn in the economy, Callaway (15-33 in four years with the Blazers) was helped after last season’s 4-8 mark by the fact UAB was not in a position to be able to afford a buyout of his contract. Since 2007, Callaway’s Blazers have stayed fairly competitive, but even with reduced expectations at UAB, a fifth straight losing season would be hard to overcome.
Update: Callaway was released after the season-ending 38-35 loss at Florida Atlantic. Some veteran head coaches out of work for a few years, including Tommy Bowden, Phil Fulmer, Jim Leavitt, and Jeff Bower are being prominently mentioned for the Blazer job.
Ron Zook, Illinois...Released after season-ending 27-7 loss at Minnesota, the Illini’s sixth straight after opening with six wins, a first in D-I history. New AD Mike Thomas, recently at Cincinnati, is said to be considering the Bearcat coach he hired, Butch Jones. Also keep an eye on Toledo’s Tim Beckman, Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, and perhaps Western Kentucky’s Willie Taggart.
Rob Ianello, Akron...Dismissed after a dismal 1-11 season and just two years on the job. The aforementioned Luke Fickell could get in the successor mix, but other MAC sources suggest none other than ex-ohio State HC Jim Tressel could be targeted.
Turner Gill, Kansas...Like Inaello at Akron, out after just two years, with a subpar 5-19 record at Lawrence. Early candidates in Lawrence are reportedly Southern Miss HC Larry Fedora, Florida State d.c. Mark Stoops, Oklahoma d.c. Brent Venables, and aforementioned MAC coaches Beckman (Toledo) and Doeren (Northern Illinois).
Larry Porter, Memphis...Given the boot after two horrible years and a 3-21 mark at the Liberty Bowl. Look for Memphis to look at a candidate with prior head coaching experience; the aforementioned Phil Fulmer and Tommy Bowden would both fit that criteria, as each were also under consideration two years ago when Porter was mistakenly hired. Pittsburgh Steelers assistant Randy Fichtner, a former Memohis aide, is also reportedly under consideration. A real longshot being mentioned is Houston Nutt.
Others who had better be on the lookout in the next two weeks: Mike Sherman, Texas A&M; Greg McMackin, Hawaii; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State; Rob Akey, Idaho.
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