The Hiring and Firing of CFB Head Coaches is Reaching an Unsustainable Pace

Adam KramerSeptember 18, 2022

Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin reacts after a turnover during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Before the next round of weird football began, fans of a desperate, slumbering football program couldn’t help but yell.

Despite how strange, controversial and unsuccessful the last few years of Urban Meyer’s football life has been, “We want Urban!” chants erupted from Lincoln, Nebraska during FOX’s broadcast with the head coach sitting on site.

Meyer didn’t tip his hand to whether these calls to fill Nebraska’s vacancy will ultimately be fulfilled. He simply smiled, something he rarely did when he coached the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the show continued.

Nebraska then lost to Oklahoma 49-14, showing very little after firing Scott Frost less than a week prior. It also highlighted a movement in college football that is growing louder as more money is being injected into all avenues of the sport each year.

FOX College Football @CFBONFOX

"We want Urban!" 👀 <a href="https://t.co/g0pLheTfOL">pic.twitter.com/g0pLheTfOL</a>

The stakes are high, the pressure is immense, and the movement, starting with the hiring and firing of head coaches, is reaching a frenzied, unsustainable pace.

We already have seen one head coach lose his job this year. Scott Frost barely made it past Labor Day.

It is possible, perhaps even likely, that Week 3 will claim at least another coach before Monday begins. Whether it’s this week or not, Nebraska won’t be the only fan base chanting for a program savior before long.

Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins is a name to watch first and foremost. The Yellow Jackets lost 42-0 to Ole Miss at home, and they’ll enter Week 4 at 1-2. In the infancy of his fourth season with Tech, Collins has 10 wins. This one truly is a matter of time.

Colorado can relate. The Buffaloes lost 49-7 to Minnesota, and they are off to an 0-3 start. Karl Dorrell’s team has allowed 128 points this season while scoring just 30. That is not a recipe for success or job security. Given the lackluster results coming into 2022, this one also feels like an eventual formality.

Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

And then there is Bryan Harsin, who barely survived the 2021 season. The Auburn head coach was able to keep his job, although a 41-12 home loss to Penn State could change his future quickly.

The environment was already unstable, and the margin for error was already minuscule. While one loss doesn’t normally push a decision over the edge, a home loss of this magnitude could change his outlook in a hurry. Keep an eye out on Sunday for this one.

Fans of other programs are constantly calling for change, which isn’t new. What has changed in the past five years, however, is how swiftly these changes will be delivered.

This season feels like a turning point. At a time when coaches are securing enormous guarantees—in both years and money—programs are attaching themselves to long-term potential and promise.

Mel Tucker inked a contract worth a reported $95 million contract for one season of success at Michigan State. On Saturday night, the No. 11 ranked Spartans lost by double digits to unranked Washington.

Jimbo Fisher has now received multiple long-term deals from Texas A&M. To date, his offenses have underwhelmed despite an influx of talent. A&M's home loss to Appalachian State is one of this season's most memorable moments to date,

LSU and USC committed to Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley with massive long-term contracts. In the moment, which has a fraction of results to pull from, these seem like sound business decisions. Time will tell if that’s the case, although impatient fan bases will ultimately create hostile moments across the lifespan of these deals.

At Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman began to feel the pressure after starting 0-3 to begin his coaching tenure. A nail-biting win against Cal on Saturday, his first as head coach, won’t exactly calm things for long.

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach Marcus Freeman of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks on prior to the game against the California Golden Bears at Notre Dame Stadium on September 17, 2022 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The fact that these doubts are openly circulating this early says more about the state of the sport than it does about Freeman’s ability to coach.

This is the nature of the business. Win or be fired. That isn’t something that has changed over the past couple of years. The urgency and angst of a fan base suffering from unfulfilled potential has been circulating for some time.

But it’s different now, and it’s only going to become more intense. As boosters pour more money into the sport through NIL and fundraising, the expectations will continue to rise.

As the College Football Playoff expands, which will happen in the next few years, so will the requirements to regularly appear in said expanded playoff.

Even now, the going rate of simply being relevant has gone up substantially. More specifically, programs can’t afford to be bad.

If you’re Auburn, this is what you’re gazing back at. The cost of doing business is greater than it’s ever been. The risk of hiring the wrong head coach is more costly than ever.

The business of college football is booming. The chants for Urban Meyer’s return are mounting, and we’re not done hearing those. More teams are likely to join in.

The likelihood for another coach to be fired by the time you read this seems high. We haven’t reached October yet, and the Silly Season, college football’s yearly hiring and firing cycle, is poised to reach another gear.

Get used to it. We're just getting started.