Help Me: Five Big Ten Football Coaches Who Need to Win
As official game times trickle out for the season ahead, these coaches better make sure they arrive early, because it may be their last chance to do so.
The Big Ten coaches on this list have all had varying levels of success at some point, but in an age without patience, the past doesn't matter.
Not all coaches on this list may be fired at year's end, for varying reasons such as contract buyouts or the lack of other options. But once the fanbase begins to abandon the teams, money is lost, and administrators are not happy.
The only way to turn things around is why they were brought in to coach in the first place...WIN.
Feel free to add your own coach or dispute those on the list...
No. 5: Mark Dantonio
Mark Dantonio, perhaps the most interesting case for this list, has kept Michigan State an average team since taking over for John L. Smith.
Dantonio arrived on the scene with a goal to enact a hard-nosed football program both on and off the field.
Bobby Williams and John L. Smith both struggled to handle the off-the-field actions of their players, but with Dantonio it was expected to be different.
Unfortunately, his own set of troublemakers emerged, culminating in numerous suspensions for last season's Alamo Bowl.
In the offseason, several of the players involved left the team through transfer or other means. Those remaining were given a final chance. The coach also implemented a new player-run unity council to help keep teammates in check.
While all this is a step in regaining respect and discipline, his teams have been inconsistent on the field as well. After a strong 9-4 showing in 2008, the Spartans dropped down to 6-7 in 2009. A big part of the reason: Dantonio himself.
Dantonio started the season with a two-quarterback system, but once Kirk Cousins began to pull away from Keith Nichol, he continued to force Nichol into the lineup. With a struggling run game to complement the mix-and-match QB game, the offense would go through inconsistent spurts.
The defense, however, was more troublesome than the offense. Ranked dead last in passing defense in the Big Ten, the Spartans gave up 32 TDs and 267.6 yards per game through the air. While MSU sacked the opposing QB 35 times, the team only garnered six interceptions and need that to change for a successful year.
For 2010, Nichol has moved over to WR, and the running game should be much improved with Larry Capers and Edwin Baker having a year under their belts. The defense has added top recruit William Gholston and others who should help improve the defense's fate.
If Dantonio's team cannot stay disciplined on and off the field, rumblings may emerge for his tenure to wind down. An 8-4 season, with Dantonio's first bowl win to complement the record, would do enough to silence critics and perhaps earn him an extension.
No. 4: Bill Lynch
Coaching a perennially poor football team sometimes has its perks. The fanbase didn't care in the first place, and oftentimes the administration is willing to accept ineptitude longer than other programs.
For Bill Lynch, however, his circumstances are a bit different.
After taking over in 2007, for the late Terry Hoeppner, who was battling cancer at the time, Lynch was able to help Indiana reach a bowl game for the first time since 1993. Although the team lost the game, Hoeppner's foundation and the winning season had helped rejuvenate the program.
Unfortunately, since that point Lynch has led Indiana to 3-9 and 4-8 seasons. In 2008, the Hoosiers were ravaged by injuries. Last year, a 3-0 start for the Hoosiers seemed to get things back on track. But a heartbreaking (and controversial) loss to Michigan in the fourth game began a 1-8 finish to the season.
Indiana lost some close games and struggled on both sides of the ball, but the team did have two bright spots.
The defense forced 29 turnovers last year and helped Indiana hold the second best turnover margin in the Big Ten.
While the turnovers were great, when the Hoosiers couldn't take the ball away from the opposing team the defense got dismantled. The defense allowed 47.5 percent of their opponents' third downs to be converted and gave up 268 first downs to rank last in the league.
The other bright spot was quarterback Ben Chappell. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes and threw for 2,941 yards with 17 TDs. If he can come back for a strong senior season and sophomore running back Darius Willis can complement him to keep the defense off the field, the team has a chance for a bowl game with a weak schedule.
If Indiana can manage a 6-6 season and a bowl appearance, look for Lynch to continue into the 2011 season as head coach of the Hoosiers.
No. 3: Tim Brewster
When a team changes offensive coordinators like Minnesota did, there is usually some sort of desperation behind it.
For Minnesota, the changes spawned from the worst offense in the Big Ten last season scoring only 20.9 points per game.
Jeff Horton and Thomas Hammock will be co-offensive coordinators, and Brewster hopes more minds mean more points.
After starting his tenure with a 1-11 season, Brewster made improvement in his second year, going 7-6. Last season, at 6-7, the team still managed to make a bowl game. The defense has been middle of the pack under Brewster, which keeps the team at the .500 level.
After the mediocrity of Glen Mason's run, fans are a bit more impatient.
Brewster signed a five-year contract in 2007, meaning after the 2010 season completes he will enter lame duck territory. Minnesota will have to decide whether to extend him or go in a different direction.
A brand new stadium opened up in 2009 as the first step to making Golden Gophers football relevant. One more year of horrid offense and that stadium will have a new coach.
No. 2: Rich Rodriguez
Nobody truly knows what is going through the mind of newly appointed Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon as Rich Rodriguez enters his third season as head football coach.
NCAA violations, back-to-back losing seasons, and an interesting personality have had fans and former players developing a wide range of opinions on what to do with the coach.
A third class of recruits who fit "his style of play" should set up Michigan for a make or break season. If Rodriguez fails to get it right this year without any signs of improvement, UM may not have a choice in what to do with him.
While it still may take a disastrous season for him to truly be fired with millions left on his contract, the university cannot afford more embarrassment.
On the field the Wolverines must choose a QB, figure out ways to hold on to the ball, and play better defense.
The Wolverines start the season against a solid Connecticut team, followed by a visit to Notre Dame. Fans will immediately know where UM stands.
If the calls for Rich Rod's removal begin early and increase in loudness, Brandon may have no choice, but to look for a new "Michigan Man" to take over the once storied program.
No. 1: Ron Zook
It's amazing to think Ron Zook has led Illinois to only ONE winning season.
Of course, that 2007 season included a Rose Bowl appearance and has overshadowed a disappointing tenure.
Zook has consistently brought in highly rated recruits and athletes to play his brand of football. But like his teams did at Florida, he has grossly underachieved. In years where the Big Ten hasn't always fielded the best teams, Zook still has failed to win.
After many were surprised he survived after a 3-9 campaign last season, he reaches the end of the line. With no set quarterback, a position Zook has struggled to find consistency at since he arrived, a bit of desperation lingers in the air.
He has new offensive and defensive coordinators to figure out answers. With still solid RBs and WRs, the offense Paul Petrino brings to the program must put minimal pressure on the QB. The team was ranked second in rushing offense last season at 200.4 yards per game. Zook cannot allow that part of his team's game to go missing in the new scheme.
As for the most challenging problem, the defense ranked last in the Big Ten in total yards and points given up last year at over 30 points per game. The defense could not put pressure on the QB, create turnovers, or stop teams on third down.
The defensive must get real creative and at least force turnovers to offset their abysmal play from 2009.
After a 37-9 thrashing at the hands of Missouri to start last season, the Illini host Missouri in 2010, to begin a new year. Illinois must at least compete in this border rivalry game to set the tone that Zook refuses to disappear easily.
With a mediocre schedule, a 6-6 season is a possibility, but unless that includes some upset wins, it may not be enough to stop the search for a new head coach in 2011.