The college football coaching carousel has become an annual right of passage. Each season, coaches are hired and fired as on-field performance has become the main, and in many cases only measuring stick. Coaches teetering on the edge of clearing out their offices are on the hot seat and there are coaches who aren't feeling the heat quite yet—but could be with a disappointing 2013 season.
Call it a pre-hot seat list or a warm seat list or whatever, these coaches should probably take the warning seriously: meet or exceed expectations in 2013, or at this time next year we'll be talking about placing you on a bona fide hot-seat list.
Head Huskey Paul Pasqualoni is the first coach to make our 2013 pre-hot seat list. After leaving Syracuse to take an assistant position in the NFL, Pasqualoni took over the UConn program in 2011. Despite 14 seasons of Big East experience at Syracuse, which included at least a share of four conference titles, Pasqualoni has been unable to capture any success at Connecticut.
The Huskies are 10-14—with a 5-9 conference mark—under Pasqualoni. They've never finished higher than sixth in the conference standings. With the new American Athletic Conference emerging from the ashes of the Big East for 2013, there will be immense pressure on UConn for a much better than sixth-place finish. With the conference now consisting of programs like Houston, SMU, Central Florida, and soon adding Tulane, Navy and East Carolina, continued conference losses will quickly lead to Pasqualoni's ouster.
We don't often want to criticize a head coach for one bad year, particularly when its his first season at a new program. But we can't help but wonder how Illinois fans feel about Ron Zook after Tim Beckman's 2-10 (0-8) debut as head coach of the Illini.
Beckman came from a Toledo program that he turned around in three short seasons. The Rockets went from an anonymous MAC-West program to an offensive fireworks factory and East Division champions in 2011. Illinois Is probably hoping for the same kind of turnaround, but this isn't MAC football.
Like we said, this isn't a hot-seat list, and anyone who thinks Beckman is on the hot seat after just one season probably isn't being fair to the guy. But unless the Illini start winning conference games, and quickly, there won't be anyone not putting Beckman's rear end on the hot seat for 2014.
Rich Ellerson may have had the most difficult turnaround job in college football when he took over the Army Black Knights in 2009. Army was coming off of a 3-9 season, and hadn't beaten Navy in seven straight meetings.
That losing streak to the Midshipmen now stands at 11 years. Army also finished the 2012 season a woeful 2-10.
We fully acknowledge that Ellerson doesn't have the world's greatest recruiting platform, and those prospects who do opt to play football at West Point don't have the luxury of taking “football classes” or bulking up to 325 points on the line. But then again, we're not saying Army needs to knock off Alabama for Ellerson to keep his job.
But 2-10 won't cut it.
The upcoming 2013 season will provide plenty of opportunities to accumulate wins. Games against FCS Morgan State, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Western Kentucky and Hawai'i are all games in which Army should be competitive. There are also the annual rivalry games against Air Force and Navy where anything can happen.
Going bowling in 2013 might be a stretch for the Black Knights, but another season with four-or-fewer wins will certainly be a disappointment, and Ellerson may need to start thinking about updating that résumé.
Jerry Kill has made headlines over the past few seasons mainly for the courage he has shown while battling kidney cancer and recurrent seizures. There's little doubt that Kill has been an inspiration to many with his refusal to allow serious personal health issues to detract from his goals as head coach at the University of Minnesota.
But all of that aside, Kill is still sporting a record of just 9-16 at Minnesota and has finished in last place in the Big Ten's Legends Division with a 2-6 conference mark in each his two seasons.
Kill isn't on the hot seat yet, and there's good reason why no coach should find his job in jeopardy after just two seasons. But with season three right around the corner, Minnesota fans need to see the program begin to turn the corner against Big Ten competition. If after another last place, or even near-to-last-place finish in the division again in 2013, the powers that be at Minnesota will begin to wonder if they'll ever see the light at the end of the tunnel with Jerry Kill driving the car.
Charlie Weis is another coach that has just one season under his belt at a new program, but with Weis, there's been a history of epic disappointment.
We can all remember when the Notre Dame faithful were full of hope when this supposed offensive genius arrived in South Bend. The new era of Fighting Irish football had arrived, and Weis was quick to deliver two straight trips to the BCS. Then came the downfall. Years 3-5 at Notre Dame were a combined 16-21 for Weis.
After a season as Will Muschamp's offensive coordinator at Florida, Weis found another head gig at Kansas.
There wasn't much risk of Weis ruining the Kansas program as he did Notre Dame's. First of all, there isn't what we would call a massive tradition of national success at Kansas. The last bowl game of any kind was 2008, and there's only the single BCS appearance at the end of the 2007 season. But surely Weis could improve upon that 2-10 finish to 2011, right?
At first we figured Weis would have a lot more leeway at Kansas than at Notre Dame, and certainly the fan base would be a whole lot more patient. But after watching the Jayhawks bumble their way to a 1-11 season in 2012, even the most downtrodden football fans can get pretty angry.
Anything less than four wins in 2013 will place Weis back in familiar territory: on the hot seat.
After 14 seasons at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz has definitely left his mark on the program. Unfortunately, that mark has typically been the story of the team that always seems to be rebuilding and can never quite get over the hump.
Sure, Iowa has some big wins under Ferentz, but the Hawkeyes always seem to play the role of spoiler in the Big Ten, mainly because they never seem to be in a position to do anything else.
Iowa has never won an outright Big Ten championship under Ferentz, and the two shared titles were back in 2002 and 2004. The last truly successful Iowa team was in 2009, when the Hawkeyes finished 11-2 and won the 2010 Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.
Since 2009, Iowa is 19-19 over three seasons, finishing no higher than fourth place in the Legends Division.
An overall record of 100-74 is all that has gotten Ferentz to this point. If the losses keep mounting and the Hawkeyes can't make some kind of noise in the Big Ten in 2013, you can bet that 2014 becomes a do-or-die season for Ferentz's future with the Hawkeyes.
If Maryland is going to make a change at the top, it may come sooner rather than later.
The Terrapins are preparing for their last season in the ACC before joining the Big Ten in 2014. If things don't turn around by then, perhaps some new blood for a new conference won't seem like such a major change for the program.
Edsall was remarkably successful at Connecticut, guiding the program from its days as an FCS member of the Atlantic 10 in 1999 through FBS transition and independence before joining the Big East in football in 2004. By 2007, UConn had won a share of its first Big East title and a BCS berth came following the 2010 season.
Edsall quickly cashed in his chips and took the job at Maryland, a program sorely in need of some new leadership. Unfortunately, the Terps have struggled under Edsall, winning just three conference games in two seasons and posting an overall mark of 6-18.
The 2012 season (4-8) was marginally more successful than 2011 (2-10), but the Terps are better known for their threads than their ability to play football.
If Edsall can't start turning things around soon, another bowl-less season could mean his first season in the Big Ten will be his last at Maryland.
The Washington Huskies under Steve Sarkisian have been remarkably consistent. Unfortunately, they've been consistently mediocre.
After Sarkisian's first season (2009) at 5-7, the Huskies have been 7-6 every season since with a 1-2 record in bowl games. Washington is also 5-4 each of the last three years in conference play, and with big boys like Oregon and Stanford dominating the Pac-12's North Division, there's been no real hope of making a conference title run.
It wasn't always this way in Seattle. Washington is a program that has won a conference title and Rose Bowl Game as recently as the 2000 season, and a national championship as recently as 1991.
You can't lay the blame for the program's retreat from its glory days at Sarkisian's feet, but you can certainly question if Sarkisian is the right guy to rebuilt the program. With a record of 26-25 over four seasons and a recent loss to Washington State and Boise State to cap off the 2012 season, Washington may need to go in a different director to get things back on track.
Sarkisian has the 2013 and 2014 seasons to convince people otherwise.
Mack Brown is an interesting case study in what can happen to a coach based on one single season of success.
Brown was hired in 1998 to take the famed program at Texas. It wasn't until 2005 that Texas won a conference title under Brown, but the Longhorns also captured the national championship that season. Texas also won a Big 12 title in 2009, but lost in the BCS National Championship Game to Alabama.
As far as trophies go, that's it for Brown's Longhorns. Two conference titles in 15 long seasons.
Sure, Texas is 150-43 during Brown's tenure, but if the numbers of titles at all figures into the equation of success, then Brown's résumé is a bit lacking.
Just for the sake of argument—because we know a lot of Texas fans will want to argue the point—let's take a peak at some random other program. Say, Oklahoma.
Bob Stoops was hired in 1999, just one year after Brown. By 2000, Oklahoma had won a Big 12 title and national championship. OU also won another conference crown in 2002. And 2004. And 2006. And 2007. And 2008. And 2010. And shared the title in 2012.
That's eight Big 12 trophies in the case over basically the same span as Brown at Texas and the Longhorns' lonely two titles.
Stoops is also one win short of Brown's Texas total with one less year on the books—and with six fewer losses.
The real problem for Texas is that Brown is doing well enough to not get fired, but not well enough to be anything other than perennially the second-best team in the Big 12—and nowadays, not even that.
Another lackluster season in Austin and Brown probably still won't find his name on a hot list, but another disappointment will likely lead to discussion of a strongly suggested retirement.
Pat Haden, athletic director at the University of Southern California, hasn't been shy about his support of Lane Kiffin as the head football coach. USA Today and the Los Angeles Times have both reported that Haden is sticking with Kiffin and has his full support. Sort of.
During an extended conversation with Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times, Haden said he understands that his stance on Kiffin might not be extremely popular inside the USC fan base.
"But in my judgment, and I get paid to make the best decisions I can for USC, there's no reason that Lane Kiffin shouldn't be our coach," Haden told Klein.
There is one change, however. While Haden said after a loss to UCLA in November that "Lane is my coach 150%," that total dropped to "137.5%" during his talk with Klein. Still, that's a high level of support – one could say (I'm not a mathematician) an impossibly high level of support, in fact.
What can the rest of the college football world read into Haden's comments? Probably that Kiffin isn't on the hot seat... yet. But if the Trojans put together another PR disaster-filled season complete with stupid tweets from players and lying to the press combined with barely cracking .500, you can bet your last dollar that Haden's support will begin to evaporate very quickly—lest his own support with the administration follows suit.
After all, 25-13 probably isn't what USC was expecting—even with NCAA sanctions—after three seasons of Kiffin's leadership.