Daily Blog •August 14, 2013

The last four years in the summer, 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.

In 2011, 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.

Last year, I had 11 coaches on the list and again had great success. My top four coaches all were let go or went to another job including #1 John L. Smith, #2 Derek Dooley and #4 Frank Spaziani who were fired after losing seasons. #6 Joker Phillips and #7 Robb Akey were also let go while #9 Jeff Tedford despite a long tenure at Cal, was fired after a 3-9 season. #5 David Bailiff, #8 Mike Riley, #10 Brian Kelly and #11 Mack Brown all did what they had to do to keep their job by improving their team’s record from the year prior.

In the last five years 37 of the 65 (57%) 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 56 of the 65 coaches (86%) 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 2013 Coaches on the Hot Seat.

Keep in mind, I am projecting some of these teams to have great success this year, which would take them off the hot seat by year’s end. However, if they fail to meet the high expectations and/or have a losing season, then I expect a change to be made at the head coaching position.

1. Mack Brown, Texas-Brown has made this list the last two years but did what he had to do getting Texas to eight wins and a bowl win in 2011 coming off a 5-7 season in 2010 and then last year got them to 9 wins and another bowl win. Still Texas fans do not cherish 8 and 9-win seasons and while the Longhorns are my #2 Surprise Team this year (darkhorse national title contender), another sub-par season with 5, 6, 7 or even 8 wins will not sit well with Longhorns’ fans. The Longhorns are the #1 most experienced team in the country playing in a very inexperienced Big 12 conference. Currently, Las Vegas has them favored in all 12 of their games and simply put, if Brown can’t put it together with the experience, talent and advantageous schedule at hand, then it will be time to move on in Austin.

2. Dave Christensen, Wyoming-The Cowboys have been to just 3 bowl games since 1993, but two of those have come under Christensen in the last four years. Under him, they’ve gone from 7 wins down to 3, up to 8 wins, then down to 4 and in that pattern, they should be ready for a 9-win season this year. However, Christensen did come under fire for his post-game altercation with Air Force HC Troy Calhoun last year and a losing season this year on-the-field could have the Cowboys searching for a new head coach in 2014.

3. Randy Edsall, Maryland-The Terps made a shocking move in 2010 firing Ralph Friedgen after he was named ACC Coach of the Year leading them to 9 wins. Edsall was feeling a lot heat in year one as the Terps fell to 2-10. Last year they were probably heading to a bowl at 4-2, but then were injury ravaged especially at the quarterback spot and dropped their last six games of the season. This year, I expect the Terps to be much improved and will qualify for a bowl. However, Edsall will not survive a 3rd straight losing season, even if the Terps have another year of hard luck on the injury front. 

4. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut-Pasqualoni inherited a UConn program that was coming off a Big East Championship and a Fiesta Bowl appearance. He has suffered back-to-back losing seasons but last year’s upset over #19 Louisville probably saved his job. This year he has his best team in 3 years with 13 returning starters. While 7 of my 9 sets of power ratings call for them to be bowl eligible, a third straight losing season will have the Huskies looking for a new head coach in 2014.

5. Gary Pinkel, Missouri-Pinkel is now in his 13th season here and he has had great success including three double digit-win seasons in 4 years from 2007-2010. However, with the move to the SEC last year, expectations were high and the Tigers had their first losing season since 2004.  This year, the Tigers have 14 returning starters and Alabama drops off the schedule. They do make my most improved list as I expect them to get to a bowl. However, if they suffer a 2nd straight losing season, look for them to go in a different direction with the new conference demands. 

6. Bobby Hauck, UNLV-The Rebels fired Mike Sanford in 2009 after 5 straight losing seasons. They hired Hauck from Montana, but he did inherit a team that was coming off back-to-back 5-win seasons and they have only won 2 games in each of his 3 years. This year the AD and Hauck both said 6 wins is the expectation and the Rebels return 18 starters. This is by far Hauck’s best team yet, but it will be tough as they are 0-20 under Hauck on the road and will probably have to end that drought to get to that 6-win total and keep his job.

7. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo-Despite having three straight losing seasons, the Bulls have showed continued improved under Quinn going from 2 wins in 2010, to 3 in 2011 and 4 last year. This year’s team is Quinn’s best yet with 16 returning starters including their stars RB Branden Oliver and LB Khalil Mack. They make my most improved list meaning they should be bowl eligible, however if they fail to show the continued improvement and have a 4th straight losing season, then Quinn could be relieved at the end of the year. 

8. Tim Beckman, Illinois-Even though last year was Beckman’s first year in Champaign, he was feeling the heat by the season’s end as the Illini finished 2-10, their worst mark since 2006. This year he made a great hire at the OC spot bringing in Bill Cubit from Western Michigan and they should be much improved especially with better health at the quarterback spot. While they should improve upon last year’s 2-10 record, they could potentially be an underdog in 10 games. The reason Beckman is not higher on my list is the fact that I could see him keeping his job another year if the Illini won four or five games and were much more competitive. A repeat of last year, however, will have them looking for a new coach in 2014.

9. Doc Holliday, Marshall-Two years ago, Holliday got the Thundering Herd to just their second bowl since 2004. Last year, however they slipped back to 5-7, giving him two losing seasons in his three years here. This year the Herd are my No. 1 Most Improved team in the country thanks to the return of quarterback Rakeem Cato and a bunch of BCS transfers while having a great chance at achieving DD wins for the first time in a decade. However, with that #1 Most Improved distinction comes high expectations and if the Herd have another losing season, then Holliday will certainly be feeling the heat.

10. Lane Kiffin, USC-At the end of the 2011 season, Kiffin was being applauded for keeping the Trojans together despite the scholarship restrictions and bowl bans while leading them to a 10-2 record. Last year, expectations were extremely high as they entered the season ranked #1 in the AP poll (I had them #4). However, it all came crashing down as they lost six games capped off by an embarrassing performance in the Sun Bowl. This year, despite recent comments from USC AD Pat Haden giving him a “vote of confidence,” Kiffin is feeling the pressure to get USC back among the nation’s elite.  I am one of the very few believers in USC this year as I am projecting them to win the Pac-12 South and finish #6 in the country while winning at least 11 games. However, another sub-par season with 7 or 8 wins will not sit well with Trojans fans and if that happens there may be a new sheriff in town.   

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.

Which coach is on the hottest seat entering 2013?
Mack Brown, Texas
Dave Christensen, Wyoming
Randy Edsall, Maryland
Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Tim Beckman, Illinois
Doc Holliday, Marshall
Lane Kiffin, USC
Rich Ellerson, Army
Ron English, Eastern Michigan
Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Don Treadwell, Miami Ohio

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