While some college football teams and their coaches built momentum coming into the 2013 season, others left 2012 in a way that calls for a forecast of nine months of doubt and angst.
And what this specifically means for the head coach in 2013 is that he’ll likely be sitting on a very warm or fully hot seat when the season kicks off this September.
The following slideshow identifies 16 college football coaches who will begin their 2013 campaigns on seats with varying degrees of warmness.
Though some of these guys are a long way from the dreaded “final press conference,” each has to start winning quickly and decisively in 2013 to keep the naysayers at bay.
Though it’s difficult to imagine Wake Forest actually parting ways with its long-term head coach Jim Grobe, at some point there may be a push for more results.
Other than a trip to the 2011 Music City Bowl, the Demon Deacons haven’t been bowl eligible since 2008 which is also the last time they finished a season with a winning record.
Grobe has been at Wake since 2001 and he’s the guy who pulled off the miracle season of 2003 which included an ACC title and a trip to the Orange Bowl, but still you have to wonder about the long-term goals of Demon Deacons football.
The good news for Grobe is that though the 5-7 finish in 2012 certainly wasn’t pretty, it did include some “quality” losses that is if there is such a thing.
Wake’s losses this season included an early-season fall at then No. 5 Florida State, a close defeat to a good Duke team, a home loss to then No. 18 Clemson, a road defeat at then No. 3 Notre Dame and then a loss to a good Vandy team in the finale.
Either way, Grobe needs some wins to keep the conversation off the table.
Randy Edsall leveraged four eight-plus-win seasons and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl at UConn for the Maryland job in 2011.
Since that date the Terrapins have won a total of six games and are 3-13 in ACC play.
Maryland’s best finish in the Edsall era came this past season when it posted a 4-8 record overall, went 2-6 in league play and finished fifth in the ACC Atlantic race.
A bunch more words and statistical evidence are unnecessary to illustrate the fact that Edsall needs to pump out some more wins quickly to not only stay off the hot seat but to keep his job.
Edsall’s third year at Maryland will be key, especially given the fact that other than a very big blip on the radar in 2009, prior to his hiring the Terrapins had been a bowl team every season from 2006-10.
In other words, this wasn’t necessarily a total rebuild project.
In light of all the talk surrounding whether Mack Brown should finally call it quits at Texas, it’s important to keep in mind that the Longhorns improved to 9-4 in 2012, a mark which includes beating No. 13 Oregon State team in the Alamo Bowl.
But, we all know that results are relative in Austin, Texas and they’re relative to Big 12 titles, BCS appearances and national championship runs.
The most concrete reason that Mack Brown’s seat will be hot until he gets off it (or wins a second national title) is the fact that he has more talent to work with than about 99 percent of the FBS.
To illustrate, according to Rivals.com’s last four recruiting class rankings the Longhorns have hauled in groups ranked No. 5, No. 3, No. 3 and No. 2 respectively from 2009-12.
So, on the one hand you’ve got to give it to Brown for pulling in this kind of talent, while on the other you’ve got to be wholly dissatisfied with a 22-15 record since 2010.
Given the glorious way the 2011 season ended and the 2012 campaign began, Dana Holgorsen is probably a safe bet to be at West Virginia for at least one additional high-flying year.
But, at some point it’s logical to assert that Mountaineer fans will expect the dreams that were swept away in an ugly fashion midway through the 2012 season to be fulfilled.
Indeed, what may harm Holgorsen even in the short term is that he had a great football people on the verge of a first-ever Big 12 title, a first-ever Heisman trophy and a first-ever national championship.
That’s a tough thing to get over, and at some point, if the ugliness continues; it will be very difficult not to play the blame game.
In order to stay off the hot seat, Dana Holgorsen needs to think defense, quickly.
The problem with a bunch of the “hot seat” labels is that they often show up being attached to the coach at the same schools regardless of who actually has the job.
Indeed, some college football head-coaching jobs are inherently more difficult than others and therefore when one of these “tough luck” programs hire a new coach, it’s often only a matter of a year or two before you’ll see the new guy’s name on a “hot seat” list.
And then you’ll realize it wasn’t too long ago that his predecessor’s name was at the very top of the same dubious chart.
The job at Kansas and the role of Charlie Weis are a case in point when discussing really difficult jobs at BCS programs.
And so after a 1-11 opening salvo in 2012, a campaign devoid of a league win (0-9 in the Big 12) and a year that also lacked a victory over a FBS foe, it’s frankly pretty easy to understand why Weis’ tenure at Kansas is already at risk.
There is no doubt that the job of head football coach at Kansas is fraught, but there is also no doubt that Jayhawk fans will expect more than one- and two-win seasons.
Especially given the fact that the program posted a 12-1 record as recently as 2007.
What really hurts Paul Pasqualoni’s bid to become a permanent fixture at UConn is the fact that everything in college football is relative.
Indeed, while back-to-back 5-7 campaigns at UConn may not seem devastating from a national perspective, the Huskies had experienced a run of huge successes before Pasqualoni replaced Randy Edsall.
Yes, prior to the two five-win seasons the Huskies enjoyed a 9-4 campaign in 2007 and 8-5 years from 2008-10.
Included in the glory days were a 2-2 mark in bowls, two shared conference titles and a trip to the 2010-11 Fiesta Bowl.
Based on the past, you’ve got to figure Paul Pasqualoni needs a bowl-eligible season in 2013 to keep a firm grasp on his job at UConn.
In the case of Bo Pelini at Nebraska, you could make a really solid argument that his name really doesn’t belong on this list.
Seriously, here’s a guy who has never led the ‘Huskers to a sub nine-win season since he took over in 2008, he’s captured four divisional titles in five seasons with two different league homes and overall he’s 49-20.
But, what about three consecutive bowl losses and a 0-3 record in conference championship games?
Yes, what about the sting of a 2012 campaign that included a 63-38 loss to Ohio State and a 70-31 beatdown at the hands of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game?
To make things worse, the once-vaunted Nebraska defense gave up 371 yards of rushing to the Buckeyes and coughed up an unthinkable 539 yards of rushing in the loss to the Badgers.
Bo Pelini is a very good coach and a great guy, but at what point will the children of the corn expect to cross back over the threshold and join the championship conversation?
Brady Hoke is another name that may seem to be a bit premature for this sort of list, but before you totally discount the thought, let’s gain a measure of perspective.
Hoke charged out of the gates in his inaugural campaign in 2011 and scored an 11-2 mark which included a thrilling win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Coming into the 2012 season, Michigan was ranked No. 8, a high rating backed up with 16 returning starters and an experience rating that in his preseason magazine Phil Steele evaluated as the No. 1 group from the Big Ten and the No. 33 unit in the nation.
And this makes the 8-5 finish, the turnover laden loss to Ohio State, the narrow loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl and the No. 24 final ranking in the AP pretty hard to swallow.
Though the animated Hoke may not have any fire under his seat yet, he’ll need to win some convincing games again in 2013 to keep his name off these types of lists.
The truth is the flip side of jobs like Michigan being so great is that they require winning, and lots of it, to stay fully afloat.
Really it’s a tribute to what Kirk Ferentz has achieved during his 14-year tenure at Iowa that his name isn’t more prominently included on “hot seat” lists.
But, the truth with Ferentz is that he and Iowa are in a definitely in a downward trend.
That doesn’t mean that everything can’t be mended with a solid 2013 season, but it does mean that if things continue to spiral next year then Hawkeye fans might be thinking the unthinkable in considering ousting a coach who has been loyal through a long series of NFL offers.
Ferentz reached paydirt at Iowa as recently as 2009 with an 11-2 mark which included a second-place finish in the Big Ten, an Orange Bowl victory and a No. 7 ranking in the final polls.
But since then things have disintegrated starting with an 8-5 finish in 2010, a 7-6 mark in 2011 and then the 4-8 finish this season.
The 2012 campaign was highlighted with only two Big Ten wins (over Minnesota and then in double OT over Michigan State), a narrow, one-point victory over Northern Illinois, a loss to Iowa State and six consecutive losses to close out the season.
Ferentz is the kind of guy you’d like to see go out with a parade celebrating past and present glory, but if he can’t right the ship at Iowa, then it may be time to reconsider his place in Hawkeye lore.
It’s a sign of the times in college football when head coaches come up on the chopping block after only two seasons on the job.
But, unfortunately that’s the super-competitive, “win now or else” culture of the world we live in and therefore guys like Tim Beckman are on this list.
Before coming to Illinois in 2011 Beckman posted a very solid 21-16 record in three seasons at Toledo, and he looked like just the sort of guy to revive the Illini football program.
Unfortunately this wishful thinking ended with a thud in 2012 with a 2-10 record devoid of even a single conference win.
The Illini’s sole victories this past season where a 24-7 triumph over Western Michigan in the opener and then a 44-0 victory over FCS Charleston Southern in Week 3.
Other than that it was nothing short of cataclysmic, including a 45-14 loss to Arizona State, a 52-24 loss to Louisiana Tech, a 45-0 loss to Michigan and a 52-22 loss at Ohio State.
To make matters worse, the back-breaking string of nine consecutive losses that ended the season included a final three-game stretch vs. Minnesota, vs. Purdue and then at Northwestern (50-14).
This would normally be seen as quite a gift in terms of Big Ten scheduling.
Regardless of how good Beckman might become, he absolutely has to gain some traction in 2013 and win enough games to get folks even marginally on board that he’s still the guy to make the Illinois football program viable.
Though nobody is really expecting Army to post double-digit win seasons and vie for a place in upper-tier bowl games, the expectation has got to be higher than two- and three-win campaigns.
Rich Ellerson is 17-31 since taking over at Army in 2009, and other than going 7-6 in 2010 and winning the Armed Forces Bowl, the Black Knights haven’t been above .500 under his direction.
What hurts the most and what could heal all the wounds of the past would be a win over Navy, a feat that Army hasn’t been able to pull off since 2001.
Even though Ellerson came oh so close with a six-point defeat to the Midshipmen in 2011 and then the narrow four-point loss this past season, nobody will remember much beyond the haze of defeat.
Perhaps what hurt Ellerson the most is that after beating Air Force 41-21 this season, he had a chance to capture Army’s first Commander in Chief trophy since 1996 with a win over Navy.
No matter how you slice it, five wins in two seasons doesn’t bode well for Ellerson to be a permanent fixture at West Point.
That is, of course, unless he manages to beat Navy in 2013.
What’s important to remember about Terry Bowden taking over at Akron in 2011 is the fact that he’s not just some “blast from the past” who whizzed out of retirement to try his hand at coaching one last time.
No sir, Bowden came to the Zips fresh off a 29-9 run at FCS Northern Alabama which included a league crown and three straight trips to the FCS playoffs.
And beyond that, it’s key to keep Bowden’s ugly 1-11 finish at Akron in 2012 in a perspective that includes remembering that the Zips haven’t won more than one game in a season since they went 3-9 in 2009.
This makes the Akron job, arguably, one of the toughest in the entire FBS.
What also hurts Bowden is that he took the job in the year that wound up being the MAC’s best season in the BCS era, making one loss look even worse.
But, all this said Akron hired Bowden to bounce back from two consecutive 1-11 seasons in 2010-11, not add another one.
Regardless of how hard it is or how unrealistic it all is, Bowden likely needs to win five games in 2013 to keep the ball rolling.
Ron English is one of the guys on our list who has a record at his current post that frankly makes you wonder how he stays employed.
But Ron English is also one of those guys on our list who is saddled with one of the most difficult programs in which to launch a winning campaign from.
So, English is 10-38 as the head guy at EMU and included in this record is the glorious 6-6 record in 2011 and then a 4-32 mark among the other three seasons he’s been on board.
But, the flip side of this dismal report is that other than the 6-6 mark, Eastern Michigan hasn’t won more than four games in a season since going 6-5 in 1995.
This all means that though English is an easy target for “hot seat” lists, his record at EMU isn’t all it seems to be on the surface.
It’s difficult to think of major college football program that has suffered a more bizarre fate than highly touted USC did in 2012.
The Trojans went 10-2 in 2011, the final season of their postseason ban, and coming into 2012 returned 17 starters and earned the preseason No. 1 nod from the AP.
And this makes the 7-6 finish and a complete and total free fall from the polls seem absolutely tragic, especially when you remember that USC has (according to Rivals.com) hauled in top-five rated recruiting classes three of the last four years.
Oh yeah, and in the off year, 2012, the Trojans dipped all the way to the depths of the No. 8 slot in the team recruiting rankings.
All this does nothing but underscore questions about how good Lane Kiffin really is as a head football coach.
Indeed, here’s a guy who went 5-15 as the head man with the Oakland Raiders, went 7-6 in a single season at Tennessee and now is 25-13 with some of the best talent in the land at USC.
Is Lane Kiffin on the hot seat going into 2013?
How can he secure his spot as an upper-echelon college ball coach?
Win double-digits, compete for the Pac-12 title and go to the BCS, not in 2014, not in 2015, but in 2013.
Forgotten somewhere underneath the glorious layers of Johnny Football and the Aggies unlikely run through the SEC is the fact that Missouri just posted it worst record since 2004.
Yes, Missouri’s 5-7 finish during its first try in the SEC marks the Tigers worst finish since going 5-6 nine years ago.
Given his overall 90-61 mark at Missouri since 2001, surely Gary Pinkel has time to prove that he’s still the guy in Columbia…right?
Well, one would think so, but don’t forget that Pinkel’s 2-6 mark in SEC play this season takes his overall record in conference play at Missouri to 49-48.
Call it a lukewarm seat if you will, but at some point Missouri will want to ensure that it doesn’t become the new Vanderbilt or Kentucky of the SEC East.
DeWayne Walker’s predicament at New Mexico State is a lot like Ron English’s situation at Eastern Michigan; both coaches have posted losing records at schools that have never historically been winners.
The New Mexico State job is among the toughest in the FBS ranks which at least partially explains how Walker, who is 10-40 since 2009, still has a job.
But, what makes Walker more at risk in terms of hot seats and final pressers is that his win total rose over his first three seasons only to fall in his fourth.
And that’s never a good thing, no matter which sideline you call home.
To illustrate, Walker coached the Aggies to a 3-10 finish in 2009, a 2-10 mark in 2010 and then all the way to a 4-9 record in 2011.
Things crashed hard in 2012 with a 1-11 finish that included a 0-6 mark in WAC play and a single win over FCS Sacramento State in the opener.
Even though we’re talking about a program that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2002, most teams with this kind of track record over the last several years have a new coach coming into 2013.