John L. Smith and the 10 Worst Interim Coaches in College Football History

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2012

John L. Smith and the 10 Worst Interim Coaches in College Football History

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    It’s usually never a good thing when a college football program has to find a temporary replacement for their head coach.

    Yes, the interim coaching search is usually brought on by a coach leaving for greener pastures, being dismissed due to poor results or, in the case of Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino, being fired for non-coaching issues.

    The timing of these hires is normally bad, and the pool of who is available to fill the slot is often as shallow as the $19.99 inflatable models featured at Wal-Mart.

    But despite the odds stacked against an administration seeking out a short-term coach, some hires work out better than others.

    The following slideshow highlights the somewhat unconvincing hire of John L. Smith and then reels off 10 interim coaching hires that didn’t quite work out in a winning way.

    Perhaps Smith will prove his doubters wrong and ultimately succeed at leading the Razorbacks to a steaming heap of victories that the other 10 guys on this list couldn’t deliver.

John L. Smith, Arkansas

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    The interim replacement for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, John L. Smith has previously made head coaching stops at four college football programs.

    Smith went 53-20 from 1989-94 at Idaho, 16-18 from 1996-97 at Utah State, 41-21 from 1998-2002 at Louisville and then went 22-26 from 2003-06 at Michigan State.

    Though Arkansas’ coaching search was certainly ill-timed, Smith is an intriguing choice.

    Yes, he’s 132-86 as a head coach at the college level ,and yes, he was on Petrino’s staff from 2009-11. But this is still a guy who is 3-5 in Division I-AA playoff action and is only 1-6 in bowl games.

    Only one Smith-coached team (in 18 seasons) has ever finished ranked in the Top 25, and he’s now the leader of a team that is a preseason Top 10 and a legitimate contender in the national championship picture.

Luke Fickell, Ohio State

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    Though it seems harsh to call out Luke Fickell, who was saddled with guiding his alma mater after Jim Tressel was ousted, he’s still the guy who took a team that enjoyed six consecutive double-digit win seasons to the depths of a 6-7 finish.

    Yes, Fickell’s staff was hamstringed with a young team that was devoid of leadership due to sanctions, but 2011’s Ohio State product was still the first Buckeye team not to finish ranked in the Top 25 in a decade.

Tom Hayes, Kansas

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    It’s almost unfair to throw Tom Hayes under the bus simply because he took over the reins at Kansas when the Jayhawks were 2-6 going into the final three games of the 2001 season.

    But the fact is that Hayes' 1-2 record at Kansas included a devastating 59-0 whipping at the hands of Texas, a 49-7 beatdown by Iowa State in Lawrence and then a heartwarming 27-14 home victory over Wyoming.

    Hayes was named the interim for Terry Allen, who was 20-33 over five seasons in Lawrence, and his release heralded the beginning of the Mark Mangino era at Kansas.

    Tom Hayes was recently named the defensive coordinator at Kansas State.


Billy Alton, UTEP

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    Billy Alton took over as the interim head coach at UTEP three games into the 1981 season.

    Alton relieved Bill Michael, who won only five games during his five seasons in El Paso, a dismal showing that earned him a 10-percent winning ratio.

    Alton led the Miners to a 1-8 finish and an overall mark of 1-10 on the season. All in all, UTEP was outscored 441 to 146 on the year.

    Billy Alton currently serves as the Supervisor of Football officials for the D-II West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Jerry Anderson, UCF

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    UCF had only been lacing it up for five seasons when Jerry Anderson took over as interim head coach eight games into the 1984 season.

    Anderson filled in for the legendary Lou Saban, who left town with a 6-12 mark after less than two full seasons on the job.

    The Golden Knights went 1-3 under Anderson and finished 2-9 on the season.

    Saban had previously served as the head coach at Northwestern, Western Illinois, Maryland and Miami at the collegiate level and also led the Boston Patriots, the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos of the AFL/NFL.

Rick Lantz, Navy

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    Rick Lantz, a seasoned defensive assistant in the college ranks, took the helm at Navy for the final three games of the 2001 season.

    Lantz was the interim replacement for Charlie Weatherbie, who was 30-45 on nearly seven seasons in Annapolis and had led the Midshipmen to a 1-10 finish in 2000 and then a 0-7 start in 2001.

    Lantz can’t saddle the blame for the entire season, but it still is no accolade to say that the team went 0-3 under his leadership, which included losses to Tulane, Notre Dame and Army.

    The team finished 0-10 on the season, an all-time low point in program history, and Lantz holds the unsavory honor of being the last Navy coach to lose to Army.

    Rick Lantz went on to a very successful head coaching stint in the European version of the NFL, where he went 23-11-1 at Berlin and Rhein from 2004-07, including a World Bowl XII title.

Joe Kines, Arkansas

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    Kines, a long-term assistant coach in the collegiate ranks, was promoted to head coach at Arkansas after the first game of the 1992 season, which the Razorbacks lost 10-3 to FCS Citadel. 

    Kines, who had been the defensive coordinator since 1991, took over for Jack Crowe, who was fired after going 9-15 over two seasons plus one game.

    Joe Kines went 3-6-1 as the head man in Fayetteville, a run that ironically included wins over South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU in what was Arkansas’ first season as a member of the SEC.

    Kines also served as an interim at Alabama for the 2006 Independence Bowl after Mike Shula got canned (a game the Tide lost 34-31 to Oklahoma State) and most recently was the DC at Texas A&M from 2008-09.


Lee Moon, Kansas State

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    Lee Moon, who is currently the Senior Associate AD at UAB, served as the interim head coach at Kansas State for the final nine games of the 1985 season, where he led the Wildcats to a 1-8 mark and an overall record of 1-10.

    Moon took over for the beleaguered Jim Dickey, who went 25-62-2 from 1978-85 as Kansas State’s head coach.

    Stan Parrish was hired as the Wildcats' full-time football leader in 1986, and he skidded to a 2-30-1 record. That led to the fortuitous hire of Bill Snyder, who has since amassed a 159-83-1 record over 20 seasons in Manhattan.

Pat Henderson, Tulsa

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    Pat Henderson coached the Golden Hurricanes to a 1-3 record through the final four games of 1999 when he took over for Dave Rader, who was 49-80-1 over 12 seasons at Tulsa.

    Henderson is yet another guy who is, in reality, hard to blame for a poor performance as Tulsa was 1-7 when he took over the reins.

    Henderson is now an Assistant AD at his alma mater, Kansas.

Alan Gooch, UCF

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    UCF’s second-ever interim head coach, Alan Gooch led the Golden Knights to a 0-2 finish in 2003 in relief of Mike Kruczek.

    Kruczek had amassed a 36-30 record from 1998 through the tenth game of the 2003 campaign at UCF, and the team was 3-7 when he left town for good.

    The Gooch-led Knights lost to Marshall 21-7 and then got blown out 56-21 in the finale at home against Miami (Ohio).

    Gooch spent his entire playing and coaching career at UCF and is currently the Executive Director of the Orlando Sports Foundation.

John Mumford, Army

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    John Mumford, who played TE at Pittsburgh State in the late 70s, had the unenviable task of taking over as the interim at Army after Todd Berry led the team to a 0-6 start on the season.

    Berry was only 5-35 from 2000 to mid-2003 at West Point, and the Black Knights hadn’t won a game since a Nov. 16, 2002 10-14 triumph over Tulane when he left. They didn’t taste victory again until Oct. 9, 2004 when they beat Cincinnati 48-29 under new head man Bobby Ross,.

    Between the two leaders, Mumford led Army to an 0-7 finish in 2003, which included loses to East Carolina, Cincinnati, UAB, Air Force, Houston, Hawaii and Navy.

    The 2003 Black Knights finished the season 0-13, marking only the second winless campaign in program history (the first came precisely 30 years before when Army went 0-10 under Tom Cahill).

    Mumford, who had previously served as the head guy at Southeast Missouri State and gone 40-70 from 1990-99, still works on the staff at Army, where he currently is responsible for coaching the defensive ends.


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