The Magic Numbers for "Hot Seat" College Football Coaches
Every college football head coach goes into each season with a set of goals. A few want to win a national championship, some want to win a conference championship, and a lot simply just want to get to a bowl game.
Every year there are a select few coaches who only have one goal in mind—survive!
Some coaches enter the season with their butts firmly planted on the hot seat after they’ve fallen out of favor with team supporters. These coaches have a lot of demands that they have to meet if they want to continue on as the leader of the team.
Here’s a look at the win totals that each hot seat coach will need to meet in order to survive the season.
Les Miles: LSU
Magic Number: 9
Hey Les, that 2007 National Championship season was great and all, but the SEC is a what have you done for me lately league, and your recent resume isn’t too overwhelming.
After starting off his LSU career with eleven wins or more in his first three seasons, the coach fell on hard times in 2008, finishing with only eight wins following up a National Championship run the year before. During the 2009 season, the Tigers looked like they gained back their consistency for the most part, but the Ole Miss disaster really shined a negative light on the coach and his team.
The pressure is on Miles this season to rack up the wins or else. The SEC slate is never easy, but now the Tigers must factor in two tough non conference match ups with North Carolina and West Virginia in September.
The team has the talent to get back to their winning ways, but it’s up to Les to implement the proper strategy and game management skills.
Bill Stewart: West Virginia
Magic Number: 8
Maybe West Virginia fans should be giving Bill Stewart a little more credit for what he’s been able to accomplish in his first two seasons. The 58 year old coach now has back to back nine win seasons under his belt, not to mention his 13-1 record at home.
It’s true, the Mountaineers had the talent and capabilities to do more than they've done, but if you look at how other coaches have fared in their first couple transition years at a school, you’ll see that what Stewart was able to accomplish isn’t too shabby.
Still, a large chunk of the Mountaineer faithful will probably never get on board with what the coach is trying to do. They were spoiled with Big East championships and BCS bowls during the Rich Rod era, and now that’s the expectation.
The Blue and Gold have the type of talent to compete for a Big East title in 2010, and now it’s up to Stewart to make sure it happens.
If Stewart loses more than three games with this schedule, the fans might start calling for his head.
Mike Sherman: Texas A&M
Magic Number: 8
Mike Sherman came to College Station hoping to be a stabilizer for a program that has been through some messy situations with former head coach Dennis Franchione. Sherman was an offensive assistant with the Aggies back in the nineties and was hoping to return to the school to help them become a contender in the strong Big 12 South.
It hasn’t been an easy first two years. After a 4-8 season in 2008—which included its fair share of blow outs as well as a home loss to Arkansas State—the Aggies would go on to rebound in 2009, making it to the Independence Bowl. In the end, they would still end up finishing with a losing record of 6-7.
With senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson and a lot of other pieces in place, people are expecting some big things out of Sherman and his team this season.
Eight wins is a must but it won’t be easy. The team has games against Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas this year. Sherman is going to have to pull out an upset or two to help out his cause.
Rich Rodriguez: Michigan
Magic Number: 7
It certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing for Rich Rodriguez during his first two seasons in Ann Arbor. After a shaky exodus from West Virginia, the coach came to town ready to change everything the program held sacred.
So far it’s been a difficult transition.
Rodriguez is just 8-16 in two seasons, and has yet to take the team to a bowl game. For a program that had 40 straight winning seasons and 33 straight bowl appearances, it was certainly a shock to the system when the coach went just 3-9 in his first year on the job.
The revamped spread offense was improved last season, but it still lacks the true firepower that Rodriguez had while he was in Morgantown. The defense won’t be great this year, but it should be steady.
With two years of no bowl games coupled with off the field controversy, it’s imperative that Rodriguez gets the Wolverines back to the postseason. He won’t have to win the Big Ten this year, but the team needs to show a vast improvement in order to secure their coach’s future.
Dan Hawkins: Colorado
Magic Number: 7
If you ask any Colorado fan you meet out on street exactly what their feelings are toward head coach Dan Hawkins, you better be prepared for a few expletives and angry banter.
Hawkins hasn’t exactly endeared himself to Buffalo fans in his four seasons at the school. Things didn’t start out on the right foot when the coach lost his first game to FCS Montana State back in 2006. They haven’t gotten much better since.
Hawkins has a 16-33 record in Boulder, and he has failed to put together a winning season thus far. His hefty contract saved him for this year, but now he needs to get results. Colorado has two tough out of conference games against Cal and Georgia, and the Big 12 schedule is far from easy. Regardless, Hawkins has to make it his mission to get the team back into bowl contention.
Three wins won’t cut it this year.
Ron Zook: Illinois
Magic Number: 7
The 2007 Rose Bowl season seems like ages ago in the minds of Illinois fans. Since then, coach Ron Zook and his team have slowly faded into the abyss of the Big Ten conference.
The team hit rock bottom last season and finished 3-9 overall. Senior quarterback Juice Williams, who once looked like a promising athlete, looked lost without the guidance of coordinator Mike Locksley.
And the rest of the offense didn’t look a whole lot better.
This year Zook should have a better chance at success with running backs Mikel Leshoure and Jason Ford. The coach hopes they can help carry the team to the winning season that he so desperately needs.
There are a lot of obstacles that need to be overcome for Zook to keep his job.
Tom O’Brien: North Carolina State
Magic Number: 7
After things just didn’t work out with head coach Chuck Amato, North Carolina State decided to bring in the tough minded Tom O’Brien from Boston College to give the program some needed discipline.
O’Brien has started reshaping the program in his image, and has done a good job of injecting some structure, but it just hasn’t resulted in a breakout season yet.
The Wolfpack fans have been treated to three straight seasons of seven losses. There’s no doubt that kind of performance just doesn’t meet expectations.
O’Brien’s offense will be fine this season with one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, junior Russell Wilson, leading the way.
The defense is what needs to sharpen up. The unit let up over 30 points a game last season, including a three game stretch in which they gave up over 45 points in every game.
O’Brien has to get this team to a bowl and show the fans and the boosters that he can put a defense out on the field worthy of respect.
Ralph Friedgen: Maryland
Magic Number: 6
This is most likely Ralph Friedgen’s last season as coach of the Terrapins. Offensive Coordinator James Franklin is the coach in waiting, and after last year’s debacle of a season, many feel Coach Friedgen has lost his touch.
Friedgen started off in a sensational manner during his first three seasons at the school. Under his leadership, Maryland was able to put together three straight double digit win seasons from 2001 to 2003.
The coach has just never been able to regain that kind of success in years since. Friedgen has had four losing seasons over the last six years including a 2-10 season in 2009.
If he can’t get the team back to a bowl this year, the job will probably be handed to Franklin.
Tim Brewster: Minnesota
Magic Number: 5
There is some debate as to whether or not Tim Brewster is actually on the hot seat this year.
One things for sure though, even if Brewster’s job isn’t jeopardy this year, it could be very soon.
Brewster has compiled a 14-24 record in three seasons since taking over for Glenn Mason in 2007. That includes a 1-11 season and two mediocre losses in the Insight Bowl.
We haven’t seen the progress that Brewster promised upon taking over this job. The coach has recruited well, but his team just hasn’t been consistent on the field of play.
The prospects for this season aren’t overwhelming. The defense has some huge holes to fill, and senior quarterback Adam Weber has done nothing to warrant a lot of hope for something great.
If Coach Weber can get this team to five wins, he should be OK. But if they fall off the cliff again like they did in his first season he could be in trouble.
Paul Wulff: Washington State
Magic Number: 4
To be fair to Washington State head coach Paul Wulff he’s coaching literally the worst team in any BCS conference.
The Cougars just don’t have the talent to compete right now.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can play uninspired football. During Wulff’s two years as coach not only has the team not been competitive, they’ve shown little effort to try and improve.
The offense has averaged a paltry 12 points a game for two seasons while the defense has been one of the worst in the country.
Wulff is 3-22 as Washington State’s head coach and that’s just unacceptable, no matter how talentless your team may be.
Washington State has 15 starters returning for 2010 and they now have to show some semblance of life if Wulff wants to stick around.
But with things as bad as they are, the coach might be better off just skipping town.