14 College Football Coaches Most Likely to Retire at Their Current Jobs

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

14 College Football Coaches Most Likely to Retire at Their Current Jobs

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    Given a career and industry as unstable as any, very few head football coaches retire on their own accord.

    Indeed, though some guys remain gainfully employed as an assistant or consultant at some level, very few guys, especially in modern college football, have the luxury of deciding when it’s time to call it a draw.

    To illustrate, of the 32 coaching changes coming into the 2013 season, only two came off retirements while the other 30, or 93 percent, were due to a dismissal or move up the coaching ladder.

    The retirees, Nevada’s Chris Ault and UTEP’s Mike Price, represent a growing minority in what has become a very impatient climate of “win now, or else.”

    So, in a world where almost no one is safe, which guys are most likely to retire while still at their most recent posts in college football?

    The following slideshow does its level best to answer this question and scans the entire FBS landscape to come up with the 14 coaches most likely to retire at their current job.

    Though some of these represent as sure a sure thing as you can achieve in college football, the truth is who knows what will happen next for these coaches, their programs or the game itself.

David Cutcliffe, Duke

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    Although David Cutcliffe is only 58 years old Duke may well be the last coaching stop of his long career.

    Cutcliffe got started in college coaching as an assistant at Tennessee in 1982, and after spending 15-plus seasons in Knoxville, he got his first head job at Ole Miss in 1999.

    Cutcliffe spent six seasons with the Rebels, and despite winning the SEC West in 2003 and posting a 44-29 overall record, he was ousted after dropping to 4-7 in 2004.

    This led to brief stints as an assistant at Notre Dame (2005) and as the OC back at Tennessee (2006-07) before landing the Duke job in 2008.

    Cutcliffe is 21-40 as the Blue Devils head coach and is straight off a 2012 campaign that included Duke’s first bowl appearance since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl.

    What makes Cutcliffe likely a long-term fixture at Duke is that fact that he legitimately looks to have the Blue Devils in position to be a .500 team.

    This is no small feat for a program which last posted back-to-back winning seasons in 1988-89 under Steve Spurrier.

    If Cutcliffe gains some career momentum via his success at Duke you have to wonder if his age combined with his experience with Ole Miss wouldn’t motivate him to just stay put.

    Duke is hardly a destination job for a young up-and-comer, but it may just the ticket for David Cutcliffe who is doing a great job at a great institution.

     

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

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    At 66 years old and with 26 seasons as the head coach at Virginia Tech under his belt, Frank Beamer may well be the safest bet on our list in terms of who will retire at their current job.

    Beamer, who played CB for the Hokies from 1966-69, was the head coach at Murray State from 1981-86 but other than that and a stint as a defensive coach at the Citadel (1973-78) and a single year as a GA at Maryland (1972), it’s been all Virginia Tech.

    Beamer has led the Hokies to seven league titles in his tenure (three in the Big East and four in the ACC), and all but eight of his teams have finished the season ranked in one of the two final polls.

    Barring some unforeseen dramatic developments, there is no reason to think Beamer won’t finish out his career where it all began.

     

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest

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    Despite the fact that Wake Forest only won three ACC games in 2012 and wound up with a 5-7 overall record, Jim Grobe is likely to keep his job until he decides to walk away.

    Grobe will be 61 this month and is 73-74 over 12 seasons at Wake.

    What may seal the deal for Grobe is that he’s been able to take the Demon Deacons to what are relatively serious high points for a program that hasn’t necessarily been historically dominant.

    Highlights of the Grobe era at Wake are anchored by a 2006 season that included an ACC title and an Orange Bowl berth.

    But, it’s important to remember that Grobe isn’t a one-hit wonder, and as recently as 2011 he led the Deacons to a tie for second place in the ACC Atlantic.

    Grobe, who played guard and LB at Furman and Virginia in the early ‘70s, is likely in control of his own destiny at Wake unless he drops below the .500 mark for consecutive seasons in which case things could get dicey.

    The truth is that even at a program like Wake Forest you’ve got to pump out seven- or eight-win seasons every couple of years to keep your job.

     

Bill Snyder, Kansas State

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    Other than Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder may be the only “sure thing” on our list.

    Indeed, when you combine a 73-year-old man straight off a Big 12 championship campaign who has retired from the same job once before with a five-year contract extension, you get what amounts to as crystal clear a picture as you could ever hope for in coaching.

    Snyder, who retired from Kansas State after the 2005 season, is 170-85-1 overall as the Wildcats head man and is 34-17 since getting back into the game in 2009.

    Cumulatively, Snyder has two Big 12 titles and three divisional crowns and has led the Wildcats to three Fiesta Bowl appearances.

    Nine of Snyder’s K-State squads have finished with double-digit wins, a remarkable achievement for a program that has only reached the 10-plus plateau once (in 1910) without Snyder.

    With the stadium in Manhattan, Kan., already named after him Snyder will retire, again, as a Wildcat.

Mack Brown, Texas

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    Regardless of how long Mack Brown holds on at Texas, it’s unlikely that he’ll pack his bags for anything but retirement when it’s all said and done in Austin.

    Yes, while the end is now in sight, it’s almost impossible to believe that Brown will step down and then wind up coaching at Maryland.

    Brown played RB at Florida State and Vanderbilt from 1969-73 before taking what became an assistant role at Florida State in 1974.

    Stops at Southern Miss, Memphis State, Iowa State and LSU led to Brown’s first head job where he spent a year leading Appalachian State to a 6-4 mark in 1983.

    After a single season as the OC at Oklahoma in 1984, Brown became a head coach for good by capturing the Tulane job where he served from 1985-87 amassing a dubious 11-23.

    This led to the North Carolina job where Brown went 69-41-1 from 1988-97 before taking over at Texas in 1997.

    Brown is 150-43 at Texas, a mark which includes two Big 12 titles, six divisional crowns, a national championship and four BCS appearances. 

    Mack Brown will be 62 this August.

     

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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    At 56 years young and with lots of good coaching ahead of him, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio might be a stretch for this list.

    But, that said it’s difficult to imagine Dantonio first leaving Michigan State against his will and then starting over at another post.

    Dantonio played DB at South Carolina from 1976-78 and broke into college coaching with GA positions at Ohio (1980), Purdue (1981) and Ohio State (1983-84).

    After bouncing around the country as an assistant (including a run as the DBs coach at Michigan State from 1995-2000), Dantonio landed the head job at Cincinnati in 2004.

    An 18-17 run with the Bearcats was enough to seal the deal for Dantonio at Michigan State where he took over in 2007 and has never looked back.

    Thus far Dantonio is 51-28 over six seasons at State, a run that includes two 11-win seasons, a shared Big Ten title and two top 15 finishes.

    These kinds of numbers at Michigan State make the sometimes quirky Dantonio look like a lock in East Lansing.

    Though it’s easy to argue that Dantonio could get plucked by an another college football program, especially if he wins another Big Ten crown, the “step-up” roles from Michigan State are limited.

    Yes, there are better jobs, but would Dantonio want them and is he flashy enough to get them?

     

Bill Blankenship, Tulsa

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    Bill Blankenship has spent his entire career in college football at one institution, and that institution is the University of Tulsa.

    Blankenship played QB at Tulsa from 1975-79 and after coaching at the high school level he joined the staff at his alma mater as an offensive positional coach (2007-10).

    Blankenship earned the head job at Tulsa in 2011 and since then has led the Golden Hurricane to a 19-8 mark which includes a C-USA title and back-to-back 7-1 marks in league play.

    Though Blankenship is a relatively young 56 and could easily become the target of a bigger program, his strong ties with Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma diminish the odds that he’ll leave on his own accord.

    Having an alumnus serve as the head coach of your football team provides a generous measure of stability, especially if he is winning football games.

George O’Leary, UCF

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    At 66 years old, George O’Leary is one of the elders of the current crop of college football coaches, a fact that makes you think that he’s nearer to retirement than to the proverbial “next job.”

    O’Leary broke into the coaching ranks back in 1980 when he scored the D-line job at Syracuse, a seven-year run that led to the DC post at Georgia Tech from 1987-91.

    From there O’Leary stepped up to the NFL briefly as the defensive line coach at San Diego before returning to take over the Georgia Tech program in 1994.

    O’Leary blazed to a 52-33 mark in eight seasons at Tech which led to him earning the coveted Notre Dame job, a project that ended before it ever began due to factual errors regarding his resume.

    After returning to the NFL for a three-year stint as the DC at Minnesota, O’Leary ultimately landed at UCF in 2004.

     O’Leary has earned a 60-55 mark which includes four divisional titles and two C-USA crowns in nine seasons at UCF.

    During O’Leary’s tenure he has managed to basically put the Knights on the map from a national perspective.

    Highlights include the program’s first-ever bowl berth (the 2005 Hawaii Bowl), first-ever bowl win (the 2010 Liberty Bowl over Georgia), first-ever title of any kind (the 2005 C-USA East Division crown) and first-ever finish in the D-IA (or FBS) polls (in 2010).

    Additionally, O’Leary guided UCF from the MAC to the C-USA in 2005 and his successes are again validated with the Knights planned move to the Big East for the 2013 season.

    There is no reason to think that O’Leary, who turns 67 this August, won’t end his career at UCF.

     

Frank Solich, Ohio

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    Another aging guy who has coached at the highest level and looks to be finishing out his career in the non-BCS ranks, Frank Solich’s long career is likely to end at Ohio University.

    Solich turns 69 this September and his age combined with the success he’s had at his current post combine for a strong argument that the location of his final chapter in coaching has been scripted.

    Solich played fullback at Nebraska from 1963-65, and after a long run at the high school level, he rejoined his alma mater as an assistant in 1979.

    Solich earned the coveted head job at Nebraska in 1998 and overall was 58-19 in six seasons which included three Big 12 North division titles, the 1999 Big 12 crown and five out of six Top 25 finishes.

    Solich was dismissed at Nebraska after a 9-3 finish in 2003 and after a brief respite returned to coaching as the head man at Ohio in 2005.

    The Bobcats are 59-44 over Solich’s eight seasons and haven’t dipped below the eight-win mark since the 2008 campaign.

    This is a substantial achievement for a program that, pre-Solich, hadn’t won more than eight games in a season since going 10-1 under Bill Hess in 1968.

    Solich’s three MAC East titles also mark the first championship hardware, of any kind, since Hess’ Bobcats won the MAC in ’68.

    Though it’s not Nebraska and national championships, Solich will likely retire from Ohio with the full honors he so richly deserves.

     

     

Norm Chow, Hawaii

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    Even though it’s quite plausible to think that Norm Chow will eventually leave Hawaii to take yet another assistant job somewhere else in football, nature dictates that his age will ultimately catch up with him.

    And if Chow, who is 66, can improve on an inaugural season at Hawaii that ended with a thud-like 3-9 mark, Honolulu might be the final stop on what has been a whistle-stop type of career.

    When you look back at Chow’s lengthy resume in college coaching, it’s amazing that the Hawaii job marks his first crack at being a head coach, at any level.

    The well-traveled Chow started out as a guard at Utah from 1965-67 and entered the coaching ranks as a GA at BYU in 1973.

    After slowing rising through the ranks at BYU from 1974-95, Chow scored the Cougars’ OC job in 1996, a role which he held until 2000 when he landed the same position at NC State.

    This move signaled a decade-long run through the NFL and college ranks as an OC with stops at USC (2001-04), the NFL Tennessee Titans (2005-07), UCLA (2008-10) and then Utah (2011).

    Chow turns 67 this May which means that it is likely, again if he can win some games, that his first head-coaching job could be his last.

     

Nick Saban, Alabama

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    Really you could make strong arguments for both Nick Saban finishing his career at Alabama and then him hitting the road and changing jobs at least one more time.

    Saban’s unprecedented success at Alabama combined with the fact that he turns 62 this October makes it easy to believe that he’ll ride out the rest of his career in Tuscaloosa picking up championships and setting records along the way.

    But, the flip side of these same elements that make it look like he’ll stay at Alabama might in fact be reasons he’ll leave the Tide behind.

    Yes, what if Saban, who has wandered before, is a guy who is all about the chase and once he gets to the promised land he’s ready to go on to yet another challenge, either in college ball (i.e. Texas) or via another crack at the NFL level?

    And, what if the age thing just spurs him even further, as in what if he’ll make a move while he still has time to really develop a program someplace else?

    Either way, Saban’s impossible to leave off this list because logic tells you that there is every reasonable chance that he’ll stay at Alabama till his coaching days are done.

    Part of this is a decidedly “how can you do better than Alabama” mentality.

    To chart his previous moves, Saban began his affiliation with the college game by playing DB at Kent State from 1970-71, where he also broke into coaching as a GA in 1972.

    Head-coaching stops for Saban include a season at Toledo (1990), the stint at Michigan State (1995-99), LSU (2000-04), the NFL Miami Dolphins (2005-06) and then the current run at Alabama that began back in 2007.

    Overall Saban is 154-55-1 as a college coach, holds four national championships, four SEC crowns, six SEC West titles and has won 14 major coaching awards.

    Saban’s current tenure with the Crimson Tide includes a 68-13 record (39-9 in SEC play), three national championships and five top 10 finishes in six seasons.

     

     

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

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    Though Steve Spurrier seems almost ageless, all logical indicators point to the ‘Ole Ball Coach finishing out his career with the South Carolina Gamecocks.

    The real question regarding Spurrier and the end of what’s been a storied career in college ball is whether or not he can lead the Cocks to their first-ever SEC conference championship.

    And, if this could come to fruition then Spurrier could potentially go out on top with a BCS title run.

    Spurrier played QB at Florida from 1963-66 where he won the Heisman Trophy before going on to the NFL where he was stationed at San Francisco and then Tampa Bay for his final season in 1976.

    Spurrier signed on as his alma mater’s QB coach in 1978 and landed his first head job at the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits franchise from 1983-85.

    His first head job at the collegiate level came at Duke (1987-89) and from there he returned to his alma mater as the head man in 1990.

    The NFL called again in 2002 and Spurrier spent two fraught seasons with the Redskins before returning home to the college game in 2005 at South Carolina.

    Spurrier is 208-77-2 all-time as a college coach, owns a national championship, an ACC title, six SEC crowns and eight SEC East championships.

    He is 66-37 thus far in his eight seasons at South Carolina including top 10 finishes in his last two tries; Spurrier will be 68 in April.

     

Larry Blakeney, Troy

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    In case you’re wondering, only one guy in the FBS has consecutively been at his head-coaching post longer than Larry Blakeney has been at Troy, and that guy is Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech.

    Blakeney has been the head guy at Troy since 1991 and in that time he’s compiled a 168-99-1 record which includes eight conference championships.

    Troy transitioned from D-II football to the D-IAA (FCS) ranks in 1992 under Blakeney’s guidance and then moved up again in 2002 when it became a full-fledged D-IA or FBS program.

    Blakeney has also led Troy to its first bowl appearance in program history (the 2004 Silicon Valley Classic) and the first-ever bowl win with a 41-17 triumph over Rice in the 2006 New Orleans Bowl.

    Blakeney’s only other coaching stop came from 1977-90 when he served his alma mater (Auburn, where he played QB from 1966-69) as an assistant.

    With his 66th birthday coming this fall, there is no reason to think that Larry Blakeney won’t finish out his stellar career at Troy.

     

Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio

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    In case you hadn’t heard, one-time Miami (Fla.). head coach Larry Coker is at the helm of the fledgling UTSA Roadrunner football program.

    The University of Texas at San Antonio didn’t even start fielding a football team until 2011, and it’s Larry Coker who has attended the program from the pangs of its birth to its first two seasons of play.

    UTSA’s first steps have big huge, beginning life as an FCS team in 2011, moving up to the FBS ranks in the 2012 WAC and then shifting to the C-USA West for the 2013 season.

    Coker began his football journey as a DB at Northeastern State in Oklahoma from 1966-69 and after a stint as a high school coach landed an offensive assistant role at Tulsa in 1979.

    After a slew of stops including landing OC roles at Tulsa (1980-82), Oklahoma State (1983-89), Oklahoma (1990-92), Miami (Fla.) (1995-2000), Coker became the head guy at Miami (Fla.) in 2001.

    Coker led the Hurricanes to a 60-15 mark in six seasons, a run which included a national title, three Big East championships and top 20 finishes five of the six seasons.

    Larry Coker is 12-10 at UTSA and at 64 years young this is likely his last stop in college coaching.