Daily Blog • August 15, 2014

In the last six years during 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 the next 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 the next 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 slid back to DC in 2012. #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.

In 2012, 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.

Last year, I had 10 coaches on the list and had moderate success. Texas head coach Mack Brown topped the list and stepped down after a fourth straight sub-par season. Dave Christensen was #2 on my list and he was let go after a losing season. My #3 hot seat coach Randy Edsall had a winning season and saved his job but the same could not be said for my #4 coach Paul Pasqauloni who was let go mid-season. Gary Pinkel, Bobby Hauck and Jeff Quinn all guided their teams to bowls and got off the hot seat. Tim Beckman did have another losing season, but the team did show improvement going from 2 to 4 wins. Doc Holliday guided the Herd to a CUSA East Division title and finally my #10 coach on the hot seat, Lane Kiffin was let go mid-season.

In the last six years, 41 of the 75 (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 65 of the 75 coaches (87%) I have listed have either been fired or did what they had to do to keep their job. Only 10 of the coaches would go on to have a losing season and be retained for another year.

Here are my 2014 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. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Many forget that in Holgorsen’s first season (2011), the Mountaineers barely escaped each of their last three regular season games (won by a combined 7 points) just to make the Orange Bowl. In that game, they did put on one of the best performances in school history winning 70-33, but it has been downhill since after disappointing 7-6 and 4-8 seasons. This year they are in much better shape with 13 returning starters but do face my #4 toughest schedule in the country and I only have them favored in 3 of their games this year. If they don’t exceed those expectations, I look for a change to be made in Morgantown this year.

2. Norm Chow, Hawaii

It’s been a tough two-year stint for Chow in his first head coaching role as he is just 4-20, which included an 0-11 start to last year.  On the bright side, the Rainbow Warriors were much more competitive than their record indicated as they lost five games by a touchdown or less. With 13 returning starters, this is probably his best team yet, but they do play a tough schedule that features three Pac-12 teams and the defending CUSA champs in non-conference action.  I have them listed as an underdog in 10 games and if Chow doesn’t get to at least 5 wins or so this year, he probably will not be back in 2015.

3. Bo Pelini, Nebraska

I’ll give coach Pelini credit, he has been notoriously consistent in his six years losing exactly four games each season. This year expectations are high in Lincoln after a bowl upset win over Georgia but, keep in mind, they did benefit from five net close wins last year. They also have a tough Big Ten road schedule as I expect them to be a dog in all four games (Michigan St, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa). If they don’t pull an upset, it looks like another 4-loss season and if there are some more sideline antics from Bo, I am not so sure that will sit well considering this year’s preseason expectations.

4. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

Air Force went to bowl games in each of Calhoun’s first six seasons but after posting a 9-4 season in 2010, the Falcons have seen their record get weaker each of the next three years and last year the bottom fell out at 2-10, the first time they lost 10 games in a season in school history. This year’s team does return 16 starters and I would rate them a two-touchdown favorite over last year’s team. They did make my most improved list, which means I have them projected to get to a bowl, however, if they suffer another losing season, the Academy may look in a different direction.

5. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

The Paul Johnson era started off with a bang as they went 20-7 his first two years including an ACC championship in 2009. However, the team has failed to achieve that same type of success since and have gone just 28-25 the last four years. This year’s team returns just 10 starters and I have them a clear underdog in four games with three others listed as toss-ups. While I do have them qualifying for their 18th straight bowl, I have to think that if they suffer six or more losses for the fourth time in five years, Johnson will not be back in 2015.

6. Mike London, Virginia

London was a hot commodity after an 8-3 start to the 2011 season, but since then has gone just 6-20 and last year’s 10 losses were the most here since 1981. This year’s team has 17 returning starters and they add in another solid recruiting class. While they are clearly superior to last year’s team, they do have to play my #7 toughest schedule in the country that includes non-conference games against UCLA and a road trip to BYU. If the Cavaliers don’t show marked improvement and possibly grab a bowl bid, I am not sure London will survive a fourth losing season in 5 years.

7. Will Muschamp, Florida

Muschamp actually tops most hot seat lists entering 2014, but he is only #7 on my list because I fully expect the Gators to be much improved this year. Keep in mind, this was a program that was just a Notre Dame loss away in 2012 (several close games) from playing for the National Title. Last year’s 4-8 season was filled with numerous injuries on both sides of the ball and they should remain healthier. They return 14 starters and I see the Gators at least doubling last year’s win total, which means Muschamp will be around in 2015.

8. Tim Beckman, Illinois

Beckman was the only coach to “beat” my list last year as he survived a losing season and kept his job. It did help that his team was much improved from his first year especially on the offensive side as they improved by nearly two touchdowns per game. This year they have 14 returning starters and this is his best team yet. I do them have them favored in five games, meaning they would have to pull just one upset over Penn State or Iowa at home in November to get to a bowl and that would most likely keep Beckman around in 2015.

9. Brady Hoke, Michigan

Like Muschamp, Hoke is near the top of many of the hot seat lists entering 2014. After an 11-2 first season, the Wolverines are just 15-11 since. The good news for Michigan fans this year is that they return 15 starters and have the Big Ten’s best set of LB’s and DB’s. They will most likely be favored in at least 8 games, but the problem may be a schedule that has them going on the road to Notre Dame, Michigan St and Ohio St and Hoke can ill afford to lose to all three rivals. I do think if he gets them to 9 wins counting the bowl, then he will be back in Ann Arbor for 2015.

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas

It has been a tough two-year tenure for Charlie Weis as he is just 4-20. However, the team did show improvement last year going from 1 to 3 wins and ended their 27-game Big 12 losing streak. This year’s team does have 17 returning starters and is clearly his best team yet. The problem is a tough schedule that will probably see them an underdog in at least nine games. While a third straight losing season is most likely in the cards, Weis will have to show improvement again in the win column if he wants to continue to build the program.

11. Ron Turner, FIU

Turner had a disastrous first season as the Golden Panthers were not only 1-11, but for the most part were uncompetitive losing by an average of 27 ppg. This year they do go from just 6 last year to 17 returning starters and could start out 2-0. While I have them an underdog in their next 10 games, four of them are by a touchdown or less and if they can pull an upset or two, Turner probably can survive a 4-8 season as long as they are competitive in the other games. If that’s not the case, then he won’t survive to see a third season.