Some coaches want to win, some coaches expect to win, but some coaches actually need to win.
College programs, unlike their professional counterparts, are often defined by their coaches more than their players. Students shuffle out in three or four years, but coaches are allowed to stay for decades.
That's why coaching icons last longer than playing icons. When you think of Alabama, you think of Nick Saban or Bear Bryant. When you think of Florida State, you think of Bobby Bowden. When you think of Penn State, you think of....never mind.
All athletic departments are looking for their own version of that, and if one man proves incapable of realizing their vision, he is given a swift, judicious axe.
Only wins, the all-important figure on a coach's bottom line, can ensure one's safety.
Tim Beckman is the anti-Gus Malzahn.
Malzahn, the new head coach at Auburn, earns plaudits for two reasons. Every team he joins seems to instantly get better, and every team he departs seems to instantly get worse.
For Beckman, not only did Illinois crumble in his first season with the team, his former program, Toledo, looked just fine (if not better) in his absence.
The Illini's 1-11 record last season was unacceptable—in any context. But it's even worse because Ron Zook hardly left the cupboard bare in Champaign. He always recruited well, and in the two years prior to his firing, that recruiting success helped to produce a record of 13-12.
In some ways, it's surprising Beckman even lived to see Year 2. Unless he makes some drastic improvements, he won't live to see Year 3.
This one seems unthinkable but it's true. Mack Brown might be facing a do-or-die year in Austin.
Since the BCS National Championship loss in 2009, Texas has gone 22-16. Last year's nine wins were the most in three seasons, but also tied for the least since Brown took over in 1998.
That a nine-win season was cause for celebration speaks volumes about the state of Texas football.
The Longhorns enter 2013 with much bigger expectations, though. Phil Steele has famously pegged them a top-five team this year, and despite a fourth-place finish in the Big 12 media poll, Texas fans always expect the Longhorns to finish atop the conference.
In that regard, everything in Austin is just as it should be. But if Texas and its 19 returning starters underachieve, Brown could be done wearing Burnt Orange.
Edsall has been under a microscope since Day 1. Ralph Friedgen, the man he replaced, was a beloved figure in College Park; Edsall was immediately held to that high standard of adulation.
But you don't need a microscope to see his 3-13 conference record at Maryland. That number sticks out. And even if Edsall has endured some comically awful injury luck, without a turnaround this season, he'll be hard-pressed to keep his job.
He does have a few things going for him, though. Given the whole "freshman linebacker starting at quarterback" thing, Maryland, at times, looked better than it had any right to last season.
And Edsall did help lure in wide receiver Stephon Diggs, one of the best (if not the sole best) recruits in Maryland history.
There are seedlings of optimism in College Park this season. But if those seedlings fail to sprout, Edsall will bear the blame.
Note to USC fans: You can argue day and night about whether Kiffin deserves to be on the hot seat. That's fine. But despite the insistence of AD Pat Haden, you're crazy to deny that he is indeed on it nonetheless.
Pete Carroll left a mess in his wake in Southern California. And given the recruiting restrictions, Kiffin, one of the best recruiters in America, has been highly successful off the field.
But, eventually, that must translate into fulfilled expectations. And a preseason No. 1 ranking that devolves into a 7-6 season is quite the opposite of that. No matter how many scholarships Carroll cost them, the Trojans do not accept mediocrity.
Kiffin has a team with top-15 talent once again this season. In Marquise Lee, the offense still has America's top receiver, and the defense now gets Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 scheme.
Another underwhelming record will not be tolerated.
On the morning of January 3, 2007, Charlie Weis was gearing up for his second-consecutive BCS bowl game. He was regarded as one of the best coaches in college football and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish were supposed to give JaMarcus Russell and LSU a dogfight in New Orleans.
But Weis's team lost that game badly, 41-14, and since then his stock as a college head coach has been in a tailspin.
His teams are 20-32 since that Sugar Bowl, including 1-11 in one season with Kansas. And while Lawrence isn't exactly a hotbed of football success, it's certainly seen better days than these. Even Weis himself admits the team is crap.
I guess that old saying is true: the "bigger" they are, the harder they fall.