College Football: The 10 Worst Coaching Hires in History
College football is home to a truly unique culture.
The increasing number of teams at the FBS level causes the potential for coaches to both excel and fail to grow rapidly.
Some horrifically bad decisions were made in the hiring process for a few major college football programs dating as far back as 1955.
In the end, 10 made the cut as the worst hires in the history of the sport.
Jennings Bryan Whitworth (Alabama)
What does this cake and former Alabama head coach Jennings B. Whitworth have in common?
Both provide a look at one of the softest things that have to do with Alabama's rich tradition, and good money says that cake is delicious, which really knocks Whitworth even farther down the ladder.
Posting a 4-21-2 record as the Tide’s head man, Whitworth never led the Crimson Tide to more than two wins in a season.
He was promptly dismissed following 1957's debacle.
Charlie Tate (Miami, FL)
Long before Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and “Da U,” there was Charlie Tate.
Tate compiled a 34-27-3 record as the head of the Hurricane football team, and while he stumbled through his career as a college coach, he did make a major impact on a young man’s life.
Chuck Foreman, former running back for the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, holds Tate’s actions close to his heart.
"He had faith in me, as a black athlete in the South during that tumultuous time, and I will never forget him. He was a great, generous man," Foreman said of Tate.
Unfortunately, being a good guy doesn’t necessarily get you wins, and this was ultimately the reason for Tate’s dismissal.
Tyrone Willingham (Washington)
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Willingham is your classic “rags-to-riches-to-rags” story.
He managed to build Stanford into a respectable football team before being hired on by Notre Dame in what appears to be a new tradition of finding a new head coach every four years.
Willingham’s first year with the Fighting Irish wasn’t too shabby as he led Notre Dame to a 10-3 record, but a loss in that season's Gator Bowl was an ominous sign of things to come.
He was later booted from the Irish camp and was picked up by Washington, where he took the Huskies to new lows including a 0-12 season during his final year with the program in 2008.
John Blake (Oklahoma)
Blake is a classic example of a good assistant coach that makes a terrible head coach.
His abilities as a recruiter are hard to argue, as much of his talent was a large part of Oklahoma’s 2000 national championship team.
However, looking at his track record as the Sooners’ head coach paints a dismal picture.
A 12-22 record and pastings from Big Eight conference foes made Blake’s tenure a short one that lasted only three years.
Bill Callahan (Nebraska)
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It has been almost four seasons since Callahan’s dismissal, and his name is still cursed within the Cornhusker state.
A classic example of NFL coaches not working out well at the college level, he was selected after a horrifically executed coaching search led by former athletic director Steve Pederson.
While an excellent recruiter, Callahan’s lack of talent development saw Nebraska tank to levels not seen since prior to the Bob Devaney era of the 1960s and 1970s.
After the 2007 season concluded with a 5-7 mark, current athletic director and former Cornhusker head coach Tom Osborne decided that Callahan had to go.
Rich Rodriguez (Michigan)
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Filed under “Seemed like a good idea at the time,” Rich Rodriguez’s Michigan tenure is eerily similar to Callahan’s stay at Nebraska.
Fans didn’t much care for his style of football, he was unable to implement it properly, the fanbase simply didn’t care for the guy, and well, he lost far too often.
Rodriguez held a 2-7 record versus the Wolverines’ primary rivals (Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State) and didn’t win a game in the month of October until his final year at Michigan.
Ron Zook (Illinois)
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Zook took the reins of the Florida Gators program for three seasons which culminated in a pedestrian 23-14 record that simply won’t cut it in SEC territory.
He then found his way to Illinois, where he currently holds a record of 28-45.
If it wasn't for the output of sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and former Illini Mikel Leshoure that led to seven wins and a bowl victory in 2010, Zook would likely be out of a job.
Hal Mumme (Kentucky/New Mexico State)
Hal Mumme’s 20-26 record at Kentucky isn’t abysmal, but his actions spoke far louder than his coaching ability.
A lawsuit was filed against Mumme while at New Mexico State by three players alleging that upon the creation of a “religious brotherhood,” the players were not included due to their Muslim faith.
His eventual 11-38 record as the Aggies’ head coach didn’t help matters, and Mumme was promptly terminated following the 2008 season.
Dan Hawkins (Colorado)
Boise State must seem like an even sweeter gig to Dan Hawkins these days.
Hawkins was a special case, as not only would he bring his son Cody to start for him at Colorado, he managed to embarrass the program both on and off of the field.
His famous tirade that included, "It's Division I football! It's the Big 12! It ain't intramurals!" became a staple of his ridicule.
After the Colorado program fell even deeper into despair, Hawkins was ushered out following the 2010 season.
Ron Prince (Kansas State)
If a book was ever written on how to destroy a program in three seasons, Ron Prince would write it.
Prince took over following the retirement Bill Snyder, one of Kansas State's most beloved athletic icons.
What followed were absolute train wrecks that Prince tried to pass off as college football seasons.
Forget the “Power Towels” or the glut of JUCO recruits that flooded the system.
Prince lucked into having current Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback Josh Freeman at the helm, but if Freeman received any positive coaching, it wasn’t apparent.
The former Kansas State head coach’s 17-20 record doesn’t truly do his futility justice.
To his credit, he never lost to the Texas Longhorns.
Several scientists across the international community are still working to figure out what forces caused this to be.
At the end of the day, Prince can easily be pointed to as one of the worst examples of a college football head coach.
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