The Heat Is On: Mack Brown & 10 College Football Coaches Already on the Hot Seat
It is never too early to talk about the college coaching hot seat. This year, unlike last, there are many mainstream names that should consider their job in jeopardy.
Last year in an article I published in June, I had pegged nearly a dozen coaches that should have been considering a tweak of the resume just in case.
Of those dozen or so, only Ron Zook, Ron English, Steve Fairchild, and Bob Toledo escaped the iron fist. I guess as Meatloaf would say, an average of two out of three ain't bad.
This year's list is a bit more prestigious and contains coaches who have won National Titles, multiple conference crowns, and maybe at one point were considered, "untouchable."
Here is a look at 10 coaches I am keeping my eye on in 2011 to see if they will finish what they started, or will be sitting in the ESPN studio by Halloween.
Mack Brown at Texas
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Mack Brown has done nothing but win since arriving at Texas in 1998. He has amassed 133 total wins, with an 82-21 conference mark and a national title in 2005. But the 2010 campaign was marked with Texas' first non-winning season during the Mack Brown era.
Brown didn't help his cause out by being quoted as saying that,
"If I can't trust our coaches and I can't trust our players that we can be ready to play 12 times a year, that's the worst thing that can happen to a head football coach," after the loss to Iowa State. It's never good to throw your assistants and players under the bus like that.
Brown can recruit, but can he turn it around on the field in 2011?
If he can, then Texas could and should be at the top of the Big 12 once again. If the Horns struggle again, look for the $5 million man to be shown the door either during or shortly after the season.
Jim Tressel at Ohio State
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Thee Ohio State University is under the NCAA microscope now maybe more than ever after the whole "inkgate" incident. Coach Tressel himself has accepted a self-imposed five-game suspension to begin the season. The same in which the 5 players named in the NCAA violation are facing.
Unfortunately it doesn't stop there, as the NCAA has accused Tressel of withholding information on the infractions, which allegedly occurred before the season, so that the players could stay eligible on the field in 2010.
Tressel undoubtedly one of the best coaches in all the college land, but can he overcome the heat that both the NCAA and certainly the university (behind closed doors) are putting on him?
For Tressel it is not a question of how the Buckeyes do on the field, it is a question of how well he can avoid what could be a spectacle off of the field.
Paul Wulff at Washington State
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A 5-32 record over three seasons with a 2-25 conference mark would normally get a coach fired, but not Paul Wulff at Wazzu.
In Wulff's three seasons in Pullman the Cougars have ranked near or at the bottom of nearly every defensive category, and last season needed a come from behind effort to beat FCS foe Montana State at home.
To Wulff's credit he has dealt with a ton of injuries during his tenure which has lead to many players being shown the field before they are ready.
But the bottom line is wins and losses. Sure Wazzu was much improved last year to the previous one where they were seemingly beaten by 40-plus per game. This year they were only beaten by a mere 21 points per loss.
Wulff had better hope that the Pac 12 is down this year, otherwise the name Mike Price may resurface quickly in Eastern Washington.
Mike Locksley at New Mexico
Continuing in the tradition of bad records is Mike Locksley of New Mexico who has won just twice in two seasons and has lost 22 times. Even worse for Locksley is his reputation in Albuquerque off the field.
In late May of 2009, just before the start of his first season he was hit with an age and sex discrimination complaint filed by the EOC. Later that year he was reprimanded for hitting an assistant and docked for 10 days pay and suspended for the UNLV game.
Yet after all of this Locksley still has a job?
I guess Lobo fans can still dream about the Rocky Long era for now.....
Steve Fairchild at Colorado State
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His first season at Ft.Collins saw the Rams win seven games including a bowl game. Since then Steve Fairchild and his Rams have failed to total seven wins over the past two seasons.
Fairchild took over for Sonny Lubick, who won 108 games, three of which were bowl games, and conference crowns outright. Now the heat is on for Fairchild to live up to the expectations from his 7 win 2008 campaign.
To his credit he did have a a very young offensive line, coupled with a true freshman in Pete Thomas at QB. But the problem may have been on defense, where they gave nearly 35 per game.
The heat is on Fairchild to improve the defense, mature the young offense, and start putting "W"s back in the CSU win column.
Rick Neuheisel at UCLA
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Heading into Neuheisel's first year at the helm back in 2008 he had just 1 losing season in 8 total as a head coach.
He has had two in three seasons at UCLA. This Spring he made several changes with assistants, hoping it could help recharge a slumping Bruins program.
Perhaps the biggest problem for Neuheisel at his alma mater is finding a guy that can play at a high level at the position that Neuheisel played during his playing days, quarterback.
Recruit Brett Hundley has been said to be the next Donovan McNabb by ESPN and several other publications, but how quickly can this kid grow into the offense and will it even matter for a team that finished only above Washington State in the Pac 10 a year ago?
Neuheisel could be trying to save his job on or before the October 8th clash with Wazzu at home.
Tom O'Brien at N.C. State
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Tom O'Brien may be the first jaw dropper on the list. He is coming off of his best year in Raleigh, a 9-4 campaign that ended with a Champs Sports Bowl victory. So why would he be on the hot seat?
He isn't yet, but that could all change during or after the season.
Russell Wilson led the ACC in passing last year, and was the offensive rookie of the year back in 2008. Now he is looking for another university after N.C. State released him from his scholarship.
This was due mainly to his commitment to baseball and the Colorado Rockies organization, which was a storyline even heading into last summer. But this year O'Brien and the Wolfpack will be moving ahead with redshirt junior Mike Glennon who has had great reviews.
O'Brien may be on the hot seat when it is all said and done simply because he made the decision to cut his best offensive weapon and turn to an unknown.
If N.C. State heads South on offense and in the standings, look for the heat to fall on O'Brien's shoulders, especially if Wilson has a stellar season wherever he lands in 2011.
Ron English at Eastern Michigan
To play in the MAC and only have two wins in two years to show for it has futility written all over it, and if Eastern Michigan doesn't show signs of drastic improvement, Ron English could be moving on sooner than later.
Granted, EMU doesn't have much of a history as a football power, but English came over from Michigan and at least gave the Eagle faithful a reason for optimism. However a 2-22 record has taken that and shoved it right out the door.
Last year improvement looked like a certainty as they lost the first two games by just 11 total points.
But by the season finale, a game in which they lost 71-3 at home to an eventual bowl winning Northern Illinois, it seemed like the ship was sinking even faster than the 0-12 one of 2009.
Not that expectations in Ypsilanti are big, but a sub .500 record should mean a job opening for head football coach in 2012.
Houston Nutt at Ole Miss
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For a guy who has two nine-win seasons and 2 Cotton Bowl victories under his belt in three seasons, Houston Nutt is sure getting heat these days.
Perhaps it is after last year's 4-8 campaign that saw the Rebels win just one conference game, and an embarrassing loss at home to FCS Jacksonville State.
It will not get any easier for the Rebels in 2011, as they play BYU, Fresno, and LaTech in the non conference, with an improved Georgia team coming in from the East.
Tailback Brandon Bolden should be a key part to whether Nutt can keep his job in Oxford as Ole Miss must break in a new starter after the Jeremiah Masoli experiment.
Do I hear a Russell Wilson sighting?......
Danny Hope at Purdue
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After a 5 win season in 2009 in his first year, many in West Lafayette had hoped a bowl bid would be the result of the 2010 season. It was not to be...
Now as Danny Hope heads into his third season at the helm many consider him to be on the hottest of the Big Ten's hot seats.
To Hope's credit he did face a ton of injury problems in 2010, which could easily be used as crutches for the 19.7 ppg average they saw on the scoreboard.
The biggest question may be which Rob starts in 2011? The Robert Marve who was the starter in 2010, or the Rob Henry that was as promising a dual threat QB as a true freshman?
Hope may not be fired with a losing record in 2011, but look for both the Purdue athletic department and the boosters to put heat on him if he doesn't find a way to win at least six.
Other Potential Seat Sitters
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There are a few others out there to also keep an eye and ear out for.
Mark Richt has been on a lot of people's radar after last season's sub-par year. But with the nation's top RB recruit, and an Aaron Murray with a year under his belt, look for Georgia to bounce back and get back in the SEC East hunt.
Jeff Tedford is also on the hot seat out in Berkley, despite having the most successful run since the Pappy Waldorf days.
Last year was Tedford's first losing season, but look for him to get the Bears back to a bowl in 2011, especially with the lack of strength in their own division, with Oregon and Stanford being the exception.
Greg Schiano was at one time considered the next big thing when it came to college head coaches. Now he may be the next coach fired. Schiano went 4-8 last year for a Rutgers program he helped build. He has won four of five bowl games that he has coached, but a bowl-less season in 2011 could leave Schiano wondering what if.
Finally I end with Bob Toledo of Tulane, a guy who I thought would be gone prior to 2011. 13-35 over four seasons is not acceptable by any college, yet Toledo continues to coach there.
Maybe the Green Wave fans are hoping for the Toledo of 1998 that led his UCLA Bruins to the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile that same season Tulane became the first non-BCS team to finish the season unbeaten. Oh how times change.