College Football Coaches Who Aren't Living Up to Their Schools' Expectations

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2015

College Football Coaches Who Aren't Living Up to Their Schools' Expectations

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    Neither North Carolina coach Larry Fedora (left) or Miami's Al Golden have lived up to expectations.
    Neither North Carolina coach Larry Fedora (left) or Miami's Al Golden have lived up to expectations.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    It was all smiles, hope and optimism at the beginning. Now doubt, skepticism and uncertainty have become the more prevalent emotions.

    Are we describing a bad marriage? Sort of. But not the kind with rings and vows, but instead one involving lucrative contracts and introductory press conferences.

    Every college football coaching hire is lauded by the school as the perfect choice for its program, yet we know this isn't really the case. Thirty FBS coaches have been fired or forced to resign in the past three years, and each of them began his tenure with endless praise and compliments.

    "Ellis Johnson emerged as the absolute best candidate to lead Southern Miss football at this time," then-school president Martha Saunders said in December 2011, via USA Today, less than 12 months before Johnson was fired for going 0-12 in his one and only season with the Golden Eagles.

    The expectations that schools had when choosing their coach often aren't met, which often ends in termination or resignation before the ax can be dropped.

    Whatever the case, these coaches have one thing in common: They haven't lived up to the hype.

Tim Beckman, Illinois

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Year at school: 4th

    Record at school: 12-25

    Best season: 6-7 in 2014

    Career record: 33-41

    It's almost a rite of passage for Big Ten schools looking to go in new directions with their football coaches to dip into the Mid-American Conference ranks to find their men. The MAC has served the Big Ten both as a breeding ground for coaching prospects as well as nonconference opponent fodder.

    This approach doesn't always work, despite the hope that comes with hiring someone who had been winning at a lower level.

    Tim Beckman's arrival at Illinois was looked at as an opportunity for the program to end more than two decades of futility with occasional bits of mediocrity (and one anomalous 10-win season) but instead has turned the school into a punch line.

    Most of that has been down to Beckman, and not just because he's failed to produce much on the field.

    Following the signing of his best recruiting class yet—and coming on the heels of a losing season that still could be considered progress—Beckman told reporters that more positive coverage of Illinois will help the program get better.

    Not surprisingly, this tactic led to plenty of attention and quite a bit of rancor.

    "He already was considered crazy," Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune wrote. "He has been dissed and nearly dismissed. He's 4-20 against Big Ten teams, a road apple you can't polish. He has yet to have a winning season in three years. Why not point a finger at the media?"

    Beckman secured his return for 2015 even before Illinois knocked off Northwestern in the regular-season finale to become bowl-eligible. The powers that be likely will expect much more this fall if they're to keep him around any longer.

Bob Davie, New Mexico

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Year at school: 4th

    Record at school: 11-26

    Best season: 4-8 in 2014

    Career record: 46-51

    "Notre Dame football coach" looks really snazzy on a resume and certainly brings with it some star power and notoriety. It doesn't mean he's going to win, though.

    Of the last five Fighting Irish coaches to land a job elsewhere, none have posted a winning record at that next gig. Not counting Bob Davie, only Lou Holtz (at South Carolina) avoided getting fired, and his 33-37 mark with the Gamecocks was the best of the recent ex-Notre Dame lot.

    Davie went 35-25 at Notre Dame with two losing seasons and an 0-3 bowl record, then spent a decade in broadcasting before being lured back to the sidelines to attempt to do something with one of the FBS' worst programs.

    His results are far better than those of his predecessor, Mike Locksley, who went 1-11 in three straight seasons. But New Mexico had to have hoped Davie could do more than just go unbeaten against rival New Mexico State.

Randy Edsall, Maryland

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Year at school: 5th

    Record at school: 20-30

    Best season: 7-6 in 2014

    Career record: 94-100

    Maryland parted ways with newly crowned ACC Coach of the Year Ralph Friedgren in 2010 because it felt it could do better. Randy Edsall has since received exactly zero votes for subsequent Coach of the Year awards, either in the ACC or the Big Ten.

    The Terrapins were a mild surprise this past season, their first in the Big Ten, and Edsall's teams have steadily increased their conference victories throughout his tenure. Yet it's hard to believe this is what Maryland had in mind when they bought out Friedgen's contract following a 9-4 season.

    Edsall wasn't exactly a sexy hire coming from Connecticut, where he'd successfully transitioned that program from the FCS to the FBS but had seemed to plateau. His final season with the Huskies included an Orange Bowl bid, but only because the Big East was so bad that year Connecticut earned the automatic BCS invite with four regular-season losses.

    The expectation was that with better facilities and far better financial support—Maryland is essentially to Oregon what apparel company Under Armour is to Nike—Edsall could make the Terps a perennial power. That might still happen, but just because the school's mascot is a turtle doesn't mean the progress has to be so plodding.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Year at school: 4th

    Record at school: 21-17

    Best season: 8-4 in 2012

    Career record: 55-36

    It's pretty safe to say that expectations aren't being met by a coach whose win total has decreased every year during his tenure. It's also not too far-fetched to assume North Carolina won't put up with Larry Fedora's downward performance trajectory if the 2015 season ends with five or fewer victories.

    Fedora parlayed a 12-2 record at Southern Mississippi in 2011 (which included a win at Virginia) into an ACC job. When hired, he boldly warned Tar Heels fans to "buckle your seat belts and hold on, because it's going to be a wild ride," per Nicole Auerbach of USA Today. Then he went out and lost his first ACC game to a Wake Forest team that would go 5-7 in 2012.

    Known as an offensive guru, his first UNC team averaged more than 40 points, but in 2013 that dipped to 32.6 and was at 33.2 this past season. His defense bottomed out in 2014, tying for 119th in FBS by allowing 39 points per game.

    Fedora responded by gutting his coaching staff and bringing in former Auburn coach Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator, a move that again has brought raised expectations for the program. Failing to meet them this time likely will end in a pink slip.

Al Golden, Miami (Florida)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Year at school: 5th

    Record at school: 28-22

    Best season: 9-4 in 2013

    Career record: 55-56

    Unlike the rest of the coaches on this list, Al Golden has a better record at his current school than at his previous one. But when that previous job was at Temple, that's not saying much.

    Golden's work turning the Owls' moribund program around was a big reason Miami tapped him in 2011 to do better than what Randy Shannon could accomplish in his four seasons. Yet Golden's overall record, his ACC mark (16-16) and his bowl performances (0-2) are exactly the same as what Shannon accomplished, per InsideTheU.com.

    The main difference is that Golden's first two years (2011-12) played out amid a cloud of scandal, as the NCAA was investigating alleged ties to a booster and improper benefits from 2002-2010. Golden was basically given a pass in those years. Then in his first season with a chance to play in a bowl, the Hurricanes won nine games (yet collapsed on offense down the stretch).

    Golden could have left to coach his alma mater, Penn State, but opted to stay at Miami, which might have earned him another pass for going 6-7 last year.

    How many more considerations will he get?

Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Year at school: 3rd

    Record at school: 6-18

    Best season: 4-8 in 2013

    Career record: 22-39

    Colorado lays claim to a share of a national title and has played in huge bowl games like the Fiesta and Orange Bowls in the past quarter-century. Those aren't the kind of accolades that a program in need of hiring a coach from San Jose State normally has.

    But the Buffaloes have been on a mostly downward path since Bill McCartney retired in 1994. They've promoted coordinators, plucked coaches from schools like Northwestern and Boise State and hired NFL assistants, each of whom were presumptive saviors but ended up being collective disappointments.

    Mike MacIntyre was supposed to be different, especially after he went from 1-11 in 2010 to 10-2 just two years later at perennial FBS doormat San Jose State. And while his 4-8 record that first year with Colorado quadrupled what the Buffaloes did in Jon Embree's final season, it still came with a 1-8 mark in Pac-12 play that was no improvement.

    Then Colorado went winless in conference play last season, something it hadn't done since Fred Folsom—whom the school's football field is named after—went 0-5 in the Rocky Mountain Conference in his final season...in 1915.

Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Year at school: 7th

    Record at school: 29-46

    Best season: 7-6 in 2009

    Career record: 29-46

    It was an odd twist of fate that landed Paul Rhoads back at Iowa State in 2009, as he replaced the man who didn't retain him at his previous job. When Gene Chizik left ISU to take the Auburn job, he didn't keep Rhoads as defensive coordinator, freeing Rhoads to go back to the school where he had previously been an assistant and which was close to where he grew up.

    The hope was that Rhoads would bring some consistency back to the program, which had fallen on hard times toward the end of Dan McCarney's tenure and continued in that direction under Chizik. And he made good on those expectations early on, reaching bowl games in three of his first four years.

    Then the bottom fell out in 2013 with a 3-9 record, and last season was even worse at 2-10.

    Immediate improvement doesn't seem likely, as Iowa State's 2015 recruiting class ranked 71st (second-worst among power-conference teams), while the 2014 class was last in the Big 12, according to 247Sports.

Willie Taggart, South Florida

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Year at school: 3rd

    Record at school: 6-18

    Best season: 4-8 in 2014

    Career record: 22-38

    Since hiring a coach from Conference USA didn't work out so well, South Florida decided the next-best thing was to reach lower and go after one who cut his teeth in the Sun Belt Conference.

    Either way, neither has appeared to work out as well as hoped.

    The Bulls only gave Skip Holtz three seasons before firing him in 2012 and replacing him with Willie Taggart, who had a career losing record at Western Kentucky but was seemingly on the rise after posting back-to-back 7-5 seasons with the Hilltoppers.

    South Florida wanted to remain relevant in college football despite being shut out of the realignment craze that was moving schools all over the country to new conferences. USF hoped Taggart would be the guy to make the Bulls competitive in the newly named American Athletic Conference, and while five of his six victories the past two seasons have been in league play, he's been far from sniffing the upper half of the standings.

    Athletic director Mark Harlan wasn't the guy who hired Taggart, but he'll be the one to fire him if things don't get better.

    "This university is too special to not have a team in a bowl game," Harlan said, via Joey Johnston of the Tampa Bay Tribune. "That's something (Taggart) knows he needs to fix and work on."

    To help this cause, Harlan brought in former Arizona, Hawaii and San Jose State coach Dick Tomey as an associate AD who will oversee football operations.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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