The 12 Worst Head Coaching Jobs in College Football

Martin Sondermann@@GamedayreporterAnalyst IIMarch 26, 2012

The 12 Worst Head Coaching Jobs in College Football

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    College football is a magnificent display of pageantry and athleticism. It is a game that unites people from every walk of life in a passionate frenzy which culminates every Saturday in the fall.

    Cheering fans, playing bands and the crashing of pads and helmets of opposing teams echo the stairwells and upper decks of storied stadiums all across the land. It is a ceremony of brutality and grace forged in a quest for the retention of a school's pride and the reward of a team's glory.

    College football fans, and fanatics alike, celebrate their team's every victory and suffer heart break every time their favorites suffer loss.

    In nearly every case, those same dedicated and loyal fans place accolades and blame on one man. In victory he may be raised on the shoulders of his loyal players, but in defeat he may carry the weight of an entire fan base upon his own.

    Of course, the man spoken of is the head coach, and it is not a role for the faint of heart or the thin of skin.

    The head coaching job in college football requires a person to be a spokesman, motivator, role-model, manager, recruiter, businessman and probably ten other hats including football coach. It is a difficult job, and requires extreme dedication and overwhelming hours of preparation.

    It is a demanding job that absolutely demands success and is not kind to those who do not find it.

    So, knowing that, why in the world do so many coaches choose to take positions that are, shall we say, less than excellent?

    Coaches sign contracts to coach in places that make winning a nearly impossible task, and yet demand it early and often. Or, worse yet, they agree to coach in locations that couldn't care less about football and spend little time or money on making it better.

    It seems many coaches are set up for failure before they ever blow their first whistle, and this is that list. This list contains the top 12 current college football coaching jobs that make it nearly impossible to succeed.





No.12: Colorado

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    The Colorado Buffaloes have a long history playing college football and playing it well. However, it is recent history that puts this team on this list.

    Colorado fans still talk about that 1990 Associated Press national title, but that was then. Fast forward twenty-two years and you see a far different picture in Boulder.

    Since 2006 the Buffaloes have won just 24 games compared to 50 losses and no winning seasons along the way.

    Perhaps the folks at Colorado thought that a new start in a new conference with a new coach would be the answer -- it wasn't.

    Moving to the Pac-12 has only made it more obvious that something is broken for the Buffaloes.

    Fans of Colorado are certainly tired of losing, and although head coach Jon Embree is only in his second season, don't expect fans to give him much slack.

    If the 2012 Buffaloes fail to live up to expectations, which would probably be a winning season and bowl game, then expect a new coach in 2013.

    The pressure and expectations on the current coach or future coaches will be tremendous. It is not an easy task to lead Colorado

No.11: Kansas

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    Kansas is an incredible place to coach -- basketball.

    It is always tough on any coach when his sport is overlooked and even sometimes written off by a school and a fan base.

    While Kansas fans have not given up completely on their Jayhawks football team, last season their support seemed to be wavering.

    However, it seems that the leadership at Kansas knows that they must step up in the area of football. How else do you explain the hiring of Charlie Weiss?

    Only time will tell if coach Weiss is the answer. However, coach Weiss has a few challenges staring him in the face.

    The first reason was already mentioned in that the sport of football takes a serious backseat to basketball  in Jayhawks land.

    Secondly, the conference that Kansas is a part of just got tougher -- a lot tougher.

    With the additions of TCU and West Virginia, Kansas will find it even more difficult to achieve victory. Those two teams are much better than the departing Texas A&M and Missouri teams.

    Add to that, a decent Baylor team, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas teams with many returning starters and you have a recipe for a very long season in 2012.

    Lastly, recruiting will be difficult for Kansas, but if 2012 is disastrous it may get even harder.

    At this point you have to wonder who in their right mind would want to be the head football coach for the Kansas Jayhawks. Either Charlie Weiss is motivated by this kind of challenge, or he is looking to be forced into retirement.


No.10: Duke

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    Another Basketball School is a slam dunk for this list.

    The Duke Blue Devils are probably the biggest name in college basketball, some would argue that, but that would be out of jealousy.

    However, what Duke is not known for is their excellent football program. Gridiron greatness eludes the Blue Devils season after painful season.

    Their current coach David Cutcliffe was looked at as the answer when he came to Duke four years ago. However, in his time there, coach Cutcliffe has never managed a winning season and has a combined 15-33 record.

    One of the biggest reasons this otherwise successful college football coach has struggled at Duke is the fact that this is another place that is very difficult to recruit football players.

    The lack of winning, lack of serious tradition and with the focus on basketball, Duke has a poisonous formula that makes it nearly impossible to succeed.

    However, with 41 returning players and many returning starters 2012 is due or die for coach Cutcliffe. This will no doubt be his best chance for a good season for the Blue Devils.

    Which, is another issue. A "good season" at Duke is defined as six wins. Anywhere else six wins is seen as a bit of a disappointment. When you long to break even, you have an issue.


No. 9: Indiana

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    It is only appropriate to follow up two basketball teams with a third. After all, the three-point shot revolutionized the game.

    However, the only thing Indiana football is doing is revolutionizing the art of losing.

    Every once in a while the Hoosiers have a decent year. In 2007 they went 3-5 in conference but still managed seven wins overall. Of course, three of those wins were over Indiana State, Western Michigan and Akron. They ended up losing to Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl 49-33.

    However, since 2007 Indiana has had a 13-35 record. It has been painful to watch, and made basketball season even more important.

    You have to wonder why coaches who have success elsewhere would ever agree to take on the task of head coach for Indiana football.

    It isn't career suicide necessarily, but it can put your ability to be hired elsewhere on life support.

No. 8: Memphis

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    Yet another round ball program dribbles in at number eight on this list.

    As if it weren't hard enough for Memphis to win a game or even two each year, now they must step up in competition.

    Conference-USA has not been good to the Tigers lately. They are 11-38 since 2008 and six of those wins were in that 2008 season. Now, because of a basketball need, the Big East has added the Tigers to its conference starting in 2013.

    The Tigers had better take a serious look at their football program. The on-field competition in the Big East will be more difficult than what they are used to seeing, and recruiting will have to land better and bigger players. That will be hard however, because they are recruiting against teams with much better football programs.

    Basketball is king in Memphis and it leaves football singing the blues.

    The head coaching job for the Tigers has to be difficult at the least. With increased expectations, a more difficult football schedule and a nearly impossible recruiting goals, it would take a miracle to be successful in Memphis.


No. 7: Vanderbilt

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    Vanderbilt went to a bowl game in 2011 so why would they be on the list?

    Well, if you know anything about college football you know why.

    First, the conference they play in is the most difficult and challenging in all of college football. The SEC doesn't take prisoners, and even though the Commodores went 6-6 in the regular season last year they only went 2-6 in conference.

    Those two wins in conference were over a dismal Ole Miss team and a Kentucky squad that finished 5-7.

    A loss in the Liberty Bowl against Cincinnati left them with a losing record of 6-7 for the 2011 season.

    Another reason Vanderbilt has to be a difficult place to coach is because of the three little letters -- G, P and A.

    The academic requirements for a student-athlete being accepted and attending Vanderbilt are high. It is not a place that lowers standards to help its athletic teams. Not that any school does that, but if they did, this one doesn't.

    When an outstanding athlete looks at the menu of SEC teams and is trying to decide where to attend. You have to imagine that those top recruits have the Commodores pretty far down on the list.

    It is a great school, but not a great football program. A coach can count on one good year every four, and that is based on non-conference competition.

    If Vanderbilt ever wins the SEC title it will certainly be a sign that the world is coming to an end. Until then, it will just have to finish coaching careers.

No. 6: Notre Dame

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    Relax Irish fans, listen to the facts before you write an angry comment.

    There are three reasons the Irish make this list:

    1. Pressure

    2. Schedule

    3. A Conference

    First, the pressure. This pressure comes from fans, alumni and administration. There are very few places with such esteem and tradition.

    Notre Dame fans and alumni are used to winning, and they long for the glory days that saw them in the national title hunt year after year.

    Notre Dame fans are some of the most critical and demanding in all of sports. It is not a criticism, its just a fact. They expect more than most, and when it doesn't happen they are louder than most. They are quick to tell administration what they think, and many of those loud voices are important, famous or extremely wealthy voices.

    Second reason, the schedule. Take this year for instance. Notre Dame has the chance to be in the BCS mix again. However, the schedule might not cooperate.

    When you make your own schedule you have the advantage to set your team up for victory. However, In 2012 the Notre Dame athletic department didn't do their team any favors.

    The Irish will play Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, Pitt, Boston College, Wake Forest and USC.

    It seems impossible that any team could navigate this schedule without a hiccup or two. USC will certainly be a challenge, but so will Oklahoma, Michigan and BYU.

    Lastly, being part of a conference was better for Notre Dame. What a conference does for you is allow you to lose a few games without falling off the radar. You can always win your conference championship and play in a BCS game.

    Of course, the NBC television deal is probably what has stopped that from happening. When you can play most of your games at home and get paid BCS type money, administrators probably don't care about those BCS appearances.

    To coach at Notre Dame is an honor and a privilege for those who do it. They are thankful for the opportunity, but in its current form it has to be one of the most challenging coaching jobs out there.

    If this season falls apart, look for yet another new coach on the Notre Dame campus in 2013.


No. 5: UAB

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    How do you fill a 71,000 seat stadium? Don't ask the Blazers.

    UAB hired a new football coach in late 2011. Why Garrick McGee would leave being the Arkansas offensive coordinator to do so is anyone's guess.

    Maybe he was just excited to be a head coach, but there were other coaching jobs available. Why wouldn't he try for one of them?

    UAB is a program that is relatively new to college football. They have an overall record of 107-128-2 in the 20 years they have been officially playing the game on campus. They joined the ranks of division 1-A in 1996 as an independent and joined Conference-USA in 1999.

    With the newness of the program, the huge stadium that is never filled and the fact that they play football in Alabama are all good reasons not to coach for UAB. After all, the Crimson Tide cast a huge fan net and very large shadow over the entire state.

    Success for UAB is probably a long way off, and before it ever happens you have to believe that many hopeful coaches will be broken on the altar of good intentions and high expectations.


No. 3: New Mexico

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    New Mexico is one last basketball school on this list, and they make it just before the buzzer.

    The Lobos have become the subject of many jokes over the last few years. Their football team has been horrible, and without much hope of getting better.

    However, Bob Davie was named the new head coach so the Lobos fans are excited. They dream of a day when they will return to a bowl game, or at the very least, win at least three games.

    Still, the New Mexico program is not a place that invites success.

    They play in the Mountain West which gets little exposure and unless you are Boise State, TCU or San Diego State, you have no hope of that changing.

    Secondly, recruiting football players to New Mexico will be a daunting task for any coach. Between New Mexico State and New Mexico it is a wonder college football hasn't been outlawed in the state.

    Lastly, the basketball angel. They take a lot of pride in that basketball team, and it almost seems most fans have written off the football team. Still, success could change that, but Davie has a huge job ahead of him.

    He may realize that taking this job wasn't the best decision he ever made -- and that's saying something.

No. 2: Ole Miss

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    Ole Miss has one of the best tailgating parties and fan bases in all of college football. However, even that can't help their coach. In fact, it might hurt any coaches chance at success.

    The Ole Miss fan base expects much more than their school might ever be able to produce in the modern SEC.

    With half the budget of Alabama and the amount of ground they have lost in the last few years, it will be hard for the Rebels to rise to the status of conference contender rather than SEC cellar dweller.

    Right now fans are angry and impatient. If new head coach Hugh Freeze doesn't heat it up in Mississippi, he may be given the cold shoulder quickly.

    Budget, conference, expectations and recruiting struggles are all weighing heavy on this program. Will the Rebels rise again? Only time will tell, but until then it is going to be difficult task for any head coach.

No. 1: Penn State

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    The Penn State head coaching job is going to be one of the most difficult and challenging jobs in college football, at least for a while -- a long while.

    To call it the worst job in the game seems sacrilegious, but you can't escape the facts. Right now it has to be the one place, above all others, that has very little upside.

    First, the scandal and media feeding frenzy has not ended. When trials and hearings begin it will only be multiplied.

    Second, replacing Joe Paterno will be impossible. Yes, "impossible" is the word used. No matter how good coach O'Brien does, it won't replace Joe Pa. He could go undefeated and win a national title and he will still wear Joe Paterno's shadow.

    Still, someone had to take the job.

    Right now that man is Bill O'Brien. For the rest of his life he will be remembered as the guy who replaced the legend. Now, if everything goes perfect and story like, in ten years people will say he did a great job.

    However, that seems highly unlikely.

    The pressure O'Brien is going to be like no other in his career. If he starts to lose important games, the fan base will become restless. If they become restless, anger may show its ugly head. After all, you have to believe there is some underlying tension in University Park.

    Let's hope it all works out, for everyone's sake. Let's hope coach O'Brien does a great job and he gets the faithful support of the fan base. Still, it is a burden that few men would sign up for, or few men could bear.

    It is that burden that lands the head coaching job at Penn State No.1 on this list.