Which one of these coaches made my list?
In college football, the success and longevity of head coaches often define programs. The best examples during my lifetime were Joe Paterno at Penn State and Bobby Bowden at Florida State. They were the head coaches at those schools both when my parents and I began college.
Head coaches who stay at one university for a long time can become the face of the entire school. In the case of Paterno at Penn State, we have learned that some head coaches seem to have more power over the program than do the universities themselves.
College football head coaches have much different responsibilities than those in the professional ranks. As I mentioned earlier, these men become intertwined with their universities’ cultures. Some, like Paterno, actually create the culture. For these reasons, I think it is much more difficult to fire head coaches in college football after a few underachieving seasons. In the NFL, where head coaches have different responsibilities, there are fewer strings attached.
This slideshow discusses FBS head coaches that should be on the hot seat. I have considered the time the coaches have spent at their respective universities, 2012 season projections for their respective teams, the on-field performances under their watch and off-the-field headlines their respective programs have made (when applicable).
In the wake of the Penn State situation, I have found this to be an interesting topic. As always, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below.
Let’s take a look at four of these head coaches.
If you guessed the coach on the left, you are correct.
Kirk Ferentz has led the Iowa program to 10 bowl games in the past 11 seasons. The Hawkeyes have finished the season ranked in the top eight nationally four times under Ferentz. Why then, have I placed Ferentz on this list, whose tenure began in 1999?
First, Athlon Sports predicts Iowa will struggle this season in the Big Ten. According to the team preview, the Hawkeyes had difficulty with a relatively easy schedule in 2011, and another manageable schedule awaits in 2012. Mike Singer of CBSSports.com thinks Iowa has the second-easiest schedule in the Big Ten Legends Division.
Ferentz must take advantage of these opportunities.
Second, and maybe most importantly, Ferentz oversaw an issue in 2011 where Iowa football players became ill after over-exerting in team workouts.
According to Shari Roan of LATimes.com:
“[The] diagnosis of 13 cases of rhabdomyolysis among University of Iowa football players in January  has shaken the world of sports training and taught coaches and trainers that the illness can arise out of ‘normal’ high-intensity workouts…independent experts who reviewed the Iowa case confirmed that the 13 players, all of whom recovered after several days of hospital care, became ill due to overexertion. In this type of rhabdomyolysis, muscle tissue is so overworked it breaks down and floods the bloodstream with a protein that can impair kidney function.”
The main point of this story is that Iowa trainers at the time were not educated enough about rhabdomyolysis. Indirectly, they prioritized preparing for the next football season over player health and safety.
If Ferentz’ team does not perform up to expectations in 2012, Iowa should consider moving on to someone new. In regards to the over-exertion case, I hope Ferentz has learned from this, but it has led me to believe in the possibility of a no-longer-effective system.
Although I promise I was not influenced by this, check out the website FireKirkFerentz.org, which was created in 2010.
Oregon State hired Mike Riley in 2003. Since then, the Beavers have gone to six bowl games and finished three consecutive seasons ranked in the top 25 (2006-08).
2008 was the last time Oregon State has won a bowl game, though. In both 2010 and 2011, the Beavers finished with losing records.
According to Athlon Sports, Oregon State gave up on the running game in 2011, which made the offense too predictable and thus ineffective. The defense was also poor but inexperienced. Hopefully for Riley’s sake, 2011 will be an exception and not the norm moving forward.
I think the emergence of Oregon as an elite college football program under head coach Chip Kelly makes Riley’s seat hotter. Oregon State has not won the Civil War rivalry game against the Ducks since 2008. If the Beavers plan on making the Civil War competitive again in the near future, a big-name defensive-minded coach might be needed to stop Kelly’s offense.
Rick Stella of NWSportsBeat.com agrees that Riley’s days should be numbered in Corvallis if the Beavers disappoint again in 2012.
That magical 2006 season where Jim Grobe took Wake Forest from a previously four-win team to the Orange Bowl was, well, six years ago. The Demon Deacons made bowl games in the two following seasons, but have not posted a winning record since 2008.
“Grobe stopped a two-year slide with a bowl bid last year, and he’s brought in four new assistants over two years to rejuvenate the program. His emphasis on recruiting speed shows across the field, but the Deacons’ season will likely be decided by whether they can control the line of scrimmage. Across both lines, Grobe might start at least five players with no game experience."
I immediately saw this as a red flag. In football, the offensive and defensive lines are the foundation, and everything else is supplement. Without good line play, teams fall apart.
Grobe would have to take the blame for another losing season in 2012. Four straight losing seasons should put a nice fire under his seat.
If UTEP does not have a strong season in 2012, the athletic department should be mining for a new coach.
According to Athlon Sports, Mike Price is 66 years old and in a contract year. Price strung together a two-year bowl run upon arriving on campus in 2004, but the Miners have not posted a winning record since 2005. Whether Price likes it, the age discussion could become relevant this season.
A winning record could be difficult for the Miners to attain in 2012. Three of its first four games are against Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Wisconsin. At least the bad part gets over with right away.
I commend Price and his staff for creating a challenging non-conference schedule, but in all honesty, they should have just tried to get into a bowl game this year. Otherwise, Price and his staff will no longer be scheduling games for the Miners to play—because they will be gone.
Does Mack Brown belong on this list?
The 2010s have seen a lot of coaching changes in college football. This explains my short list; many college football programs recently wanting new head coaches have already found them.
I wanted to make sure all the coaches on this list have been around long enough to have put their systems in place with their recruits. UTEP head coach Mike Price was the most recent hire on this list (2004).
I do not feel Texas head coach Mack Brown should be on the hot seat—yet. I am confident that 2010 and 2011 were blips in Brown’s otherwise exemplary tenure in Austin. If the Longhorns struggle again in 2012, though, I expect more people to demand Brown be fired.
The longest-tenured head coach in college football is Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech, whose Hokies career began in 1987. Beamer’s seat has been ice cold for two decades, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.
In closing, I will say something I thought I would never get the chance to say: Beamer (209) and Brown (221) are both within 90 wins of surpassing Joe Paterno (298) on the all-time list.