Daily Blog •August 6, 2012

The last three years in July I have posted my Coaches on the Hot Seat. Here is a quick recap of how those coaches fared.

In 2008, my #1, #2 and #3 coaches on the hot seat were all fired BEFORE the end of the season! My #5 and #9 coaches on the hot seat were also fired before the season ended. Two more coaches were let go after the year, so 7 of the 12 lost their jobs. Two coaches in Kirk Ferentz and Mike Stoops did what they needed to do as Ferentz got the Hawkeyes to a New Year’s bowl winning in blowout fashion and Stoops guided Arizona to a bowl and then won it. Both coaches were OFF the Hot Seat last year. The three remaining coaches who kept their jobs all made my hot seat list again the next year and all were fired during or after the 2009 season.

In 2009, I had 13 coaches on the list and this time actually missed on a couple but a lot of that had to do with the Economy. It was tough times for a lot of schools financially after the season and that made paying off a coach for multiple seasons on his contract and then having to pay a new coaching staff unpalatable. Therefore six coaches who were on the list and had losing seasons, all kept their jobs in Dan Hawkins, Doug Martin, Todd Dodge, Rich Rodriquez, Bill Lynch and Mike Price. Naturally all those coaches remade my list last year. My #1 coach on the hot seat in 2009 was Steve Kragthorpe of Louisville and he was let go after the season as were the #3 coach Al Groh, #5 Mike Sanford, #11 Charlie Weis and even my #6 coach Mark Snyder was let go after guiding Marshall to a bowl.

In 2010, I again had 13 coaches on the list and had great success. My #1 coach on the hot seat was Rich Rodriguez and I mentioned that his magic number for wins was 8 and after a 7-5 regular season then an embarrassing bowl loss he was let go. Ron Zook and Les Miles rounded out my top 3 but both did what they had to do to keep their jobs with Zook guiding the Illini to an unexpected bowl and Miles getting LSU back in the top 10. My next 5 coaches were all let go including #4 Dan Hawkins, #5 Tim Brewster and #6 Todd Dodge who were all gone in the middle of the season. #7 Ralph Friedgen was named ACC COY but was still let go while #8 Bill Lynch despite improving the Hoosiers win total was let go as well. Two other coaches were also fired in #10 Doug Martin and #12 Steve Roberts.

Last year, I listed 14 coaches along with two other honorable mentions and again was pleased with the results. Each of my top three including #1 Rick Neuheisel, #2 Dennis Erickson and #3 Mike Stoops were all let go during the season while Erickson was allowed to coach the bowl game. My #4 and #5 coaches (Dabo Swinney & Mark Richt) both did what they had to do to keep their job while my #6 coach Jeff Tedford got Cal back to a bowl game.  My #7 coach Houston Nutt was let go while my #8 coach Greg Schiano left for Tampa Bay after a successful 9-4 season. Interim Ohio St HC Luke Fickell was #9 on the list and naturally was replaced by Urban Meyer while Fickell slides back to being the DC this year. #10 Tom O’Brien led NC State to another bowl win while my #11 (Mike Locksley), #12 (Neil Callaway) and #13 (Bob Toledo) coaches were all let go. After a losing season in 2010 my #14 HC Mack Brown got Texas to eight wins which was enough while my two honorable mention coaches (Pat Hill and Paul Wulff) were both let go suffering losing seasons. Overall, 10 of the 16 coaches I listed were let go last year.

In the last four years 30 of the 54 (55.5%) coaches listed here have been fired or let go with most of the others doing what they had to do get off the hot seat. In fact 45 of the 54 coaches (83.3%) I have listed have either been fired or did what they had to do to keep their job. Only 9 of the coaches would go on to have a losing season and be retained for another year.

Here are my 2012 Coaches on the Hot Seat.

  1. John L. Smith, Arkansas-John L.Smith will be under immense pressure this year as it is probably SEC title game or bust for him. He is definitely a stop-gap hire due to time spent on staff prior and he is in a very similar situation to what Ohio St interim HC Luke Fickell dealt with last year and naturally Fickell was demoted back down to DC after the Bucks suffered a disappointing season. With home games vs Alabama and LSU, the Hogs are definitely capable of getting to Atlanta but if they stumble against both of those teams, they also have road trips at A&M, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi St which could be tricky and it will be very tough to meet the high expectations of Hogs’ fans this year in a tough situation. 

  2. Derek Dooley, Tennessee-In his first two seasons combined Dooley had a total of 19 returning starters (8 in 2010, 11 LY) but this year alone he welcomes back 19 starters in what should be a much improved team. Dooley inherited a program that was going on its third HC in three seasons and naturally there is a lot of attrition with the different HC’s and styles of play and he had a depth-shy team each of his first two years. Last year he saw his star WR Hunter go down early in game #3 and also saw his QB Bray miss several games while the backups had just a 1-6 ratio in his absence. Also the Vols were dealt with the SEC’s toughest schedule as they drew LSU, Alabama and Arkansas from the SEC West while the SEC East champ last year Georgia avoided all three of those teams. Provided he gets better health, the Vols should win at least 7-8 games this year and after going thru so many coaching changes, I don’t think it would be wise for the Vols to get rid of Dooley provided he has a winning season this year which I expect the Vols will have. You guys voted Dooley a clear #1 in the Coaches on the Hot Seat poll on PhilSteele.com and if he does suffer another losing season the Vols will probably make a change.

  3. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech-Tubberville inherited a very tough situation as he is a run-first HC and took over a program that had been to 10 straight bowls running a spread offense under the eccentric HC Mike Leach. He probably was not thrilled when he had to keep running the spread offense because of the personnel he inherited but did finish a respectable 8-5 in his first season. Last year Tech suffered a losing season which was deemed a major disappointment but with that said they were at one point 5-2 and ranked #19 before starting RB Eric Stephens was lost for the year and they would stumble in their last five games. This year they are much improved with 17 returning starters and make my Most Improved List. However, it may be tough for Tuberville to survive another losing season in Lubbock so he makes this list.

  4. Frank Spaziani, Boston College-Spaziani inherited a Boston College team that won 9 games in 2008 and during his first 3 seasons,  the win total has gone down from 8, to 7 and then last year was their first losing season since 1998 going 4-8.  It does not help that the ACC as a conference has upgraded its caliber of talent.  One thing Spaziani has going for him is the loyalty he has showed to Boston College over the years being a long time DC for two different HC’s and after the tumultuous Jeff Jagodzinski tenure, I’m sure the Eagles don’t want to become a revolving door at HC position. The Eagles are in good shape to make it back to a bowl this year with 17 returning starters and if he does that Spaziani should be in good shape, but if he suffers another losing season he could be in trouble.

  5. David Bailiff, Rice-Bailiff has suffered through three straight losing seasons after the ultra-successful 10-3 season in 2008 when he had a great combo of QB Chase Clement and WR Jarett Dillard who are the school career leaders in passing and receiving yards respectably. While Rice does not have a huge fanbase to be loudly calling for Bailiff’s head, it does not help that nearby Metroplex programs (TCU, SMU and Houston) have enjoyed so much recent success. If Rice does not exceed LY’s 4-win total, I have to think that the Owls will make a change after 5 losing seasons in six years.

  6. Joker Phillips, Kentucky-Phillips may find himself in the same situation that former UK HC Rich Brooks dealt with early in his tenure. Brooks started off 4-8, 2-9 and 3-8 in his first three years in Lexington but was given a 4th year because the schedule looked more promising and the team would be more experienced in that upcoming year. Naturally Brooks would then reel off four straight winning seasons to end his tenure. Phillips has started with two losing seasons at 6-7 and 5-7 and this year looks like a rebuilding year with just 11 returning starters and they are the consensus pick for last in the SEC East. While Phillips probably can’t endure a 2-10 or 3-9 season, I think he will probably be given another year because the promise of next year looks better. However, with so much outcry among the Kentucky fanbase, (season tickets sales are way down) he has to be included on this list.

  7. Robb Akey, Idaho-Akey started off just 3-21 in his first two seasons here but then led the Vandals to a 8-5 record and a bowl win in his 3rd seasons. The Vandals have then proceeded to have two more losing seasons the last two years. The one thing Akey may have going for him is the fact that the Vandals really don’t have a conference ns year with the WAC folding and it would be very tough to bring a new HC into that type of situation. While Akey probably could survive a 5-7 season, Idaho does face three teams that were FCS members last year and in the watered down WAC if they don’t at least double last year’s 2-win total, I think the Vandals could make a change.

  8. Mike Riley, Oregon St-Riley is one coach that always seems to exceed my expectations and Oregon St has overachieved those expectations in seven of the last nine years. The last two years have been tough on Oregon St fans as the Beavers have had two straight losing seasons while they have had to watch their in-state rival Oregon Ducks play for a national title and win the Rose Bowl. While I think the Oregon St would be making a mistake if they got rid of Riley, the Pac-12 as a conference has nine of their 12 HC’s entering their 4th year or less and a lot of other programs are going to more exciting, dynamic offenses. With 15 returning starters this year, the Beavers are much improved and I have them projected to make a bowl. However, I have read some grumblings among the Oregon St fanbase and while I have so much great respect for Riley, another losing season would not sit well in Corvallis.

  9. Jeff Tedford, California-Like Riley, Tedford is among the dean’s of the Pac-12 HC’s when it comes to experience as he enters his 11th year at Cal. He certainly wet the appetite of Bears’ fans early in his tenure as he led them to eight straight bowl games but they have not finished a season ranked in the AP Top 25 since 2006 and have suffered at least 6 losses each of the last two years. While I think Cal playing back in their newly renovated home stadium (5 Pac-12 HG’s) will be improved over LY and make it to a bowl for the eight time in the last nine years, Tedford probably will not survive another 6-loss or more season.

  10. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame-Kelly was the only HC in the history of my magazine to exceed my expectations for six straight seasons when he was the HC at CMU and Cincinnati. However, he has not come close to my expectations in each of his first two seasons in South Bend as the Irish have gone 8-5 each year. This year the Irish play the toughest schedule in the country with road games at Michigan St, Oklahoma and USC along with home games vs Michigan, BYU and Stanford and a trip to Ireland along with a game against Miami, Fl in Chicago. While I think Kelly may have his best team yet in South Bend in year three, if he comes up short again and suffers a losing season, the always boisterous ND Alumni and fans (you voted him #2 on the hot seat in an earlier poll on PS.com) will be calling loudly for his job.

  11. Mack Brown, Texas-Brown made this list last year but did what he had to do getting Texas to eight wins and a bowl win coming off a 5-7 season. Still Texas fans do not cherish 8-win seasons and while the Longhorns are my #1 Surprise Team (darkhorse national title contender) this year and should easily get back to DD wins and a BCS bowl game, another subpar season with 5, 6, 7 or even 8 wins will not sit well with Longhorns’ fans. Three straight mediocre seasons in Austin would clearly put Brown’s job at risk.

Honorable Mention:

Let me clarify that with both of these coaches, if I’m the AD at these schools, they would not be on the hot seat in my opinion as both of these guys are doing a good job and have the programs pointed in the right direction. But since I’m not the AD and judging from what I read among the fanbases, I am going to mention them here on this list. Again, I would not put them on the list if I’m the AD.

  1. Dan Enos, Central Michigan-I have talked to coach Enos in the offseason in each of the last couple of years and I do think he has the Chippewas pointed in the right direction. He inherited a tough situation as CMU was coming off unprecedented success winning three MAC Championships in a four-year period and I understand the struggles that they have dealt with in each of his first two years. This year a lot of publications have CMU picked 6th in the MAC West but I think they will fare better and have an outside shot at bowl. This is clearly his best team that has the best depth in his tenure and I think he will be around for year four. However, if he does suffer a 3rd straight 3-9 season, I could see them making a change.

  2. George O’Leary, UCF-The Knights are coming off a disappointing 5-7 season but if you read my magazine you know that I am very high on them this year as they were my pick to be the Top Non-AQ team in the country this year. The recent NCAA sanctions which have banned UCF from going to the CUSA Champ gm and a bowl (is currently being appealed) may put that prediction in jeopardy but I still think they have a great shot at finishing in the Top 25 at the end of the year. However, if UCF suffers a 2nd straight losing season and because of the off-the-field problems, O’Leary’s job would definitely be at risk.

On the homepage of PhilSteele.com right now, you can vote on which coach should be included on this list and I will add it to my coaches on the hot seat article. The poll will be up for only a couple of days so make sure you vote which coach you think should make my list.

Only 24 Days Until the First College Football Game!

In addition to the 13 Coaches listed, which coach should be included in Phil Steele's Coaches on the Hot Seat Article?
DeWayne Walker, New Mexico St
Mike Price, UTEP
Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Randy Edsall, Maryland
Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
David Cutcliff, Duke
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
Doug Marrone, Syracuse
Todd Berry, ULM
Danny Hope, Purdue
Jim Grobe, Wake Forest