College Football Hot Seat: Coaches in Danger of Getting Fired After Rough Start

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2017

College Football Hot Seat: Coaches in Danger of Getting Fired After Rough Start

0 of 10

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    One of the most popular topics in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of college football is which coaches are in danger of losing their jobs.

    Entering the 2017 season, a number of head coaches were teetering on the brink of unemployment. Two weeks in, some of those situations have worsened. 

    Take Kevin Sumlin, whose Texas A&M squad blew a 44-10 third-quarter lead in a high-visibility game on opening weekend to bring his pressure cooker to an uncomfortable boil. New Baylor coach Matt Rhule, meanwhile, is enduring an inexplicable start with a program in an already embarrassing position.

    If things don't improve quickly, some of the following coaches may not make it through the regular season.

Steve Addazio, Boston College

1 of 10

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Issues so far

    During Steve Addazio's brief tenure, Boston College hasn't been able to consistently produce on offense. That has continued through a 1-1 start in which the Eagles notched a narrow 23-20 win over Northern Illinois before Wake Forest trounced them, 34-10, in Week 2.

    Quarterback Anthony Brown needs to take care of the ball better than he has, and the Eagles must start to average better than 3.2 rushing yards per carry. It's been a rough start at every position on offense, and there's no relief in sight.


    Challenges going forward

    The next few weeks are brutal, with Notre Dame, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Louisville all on deck. The only "break" in between? A game against a Central Michigan team that whipped Kansas this past weekend.

    Boston College could be staring at a 2-5 start, and Florida State and North Carolina State loom at the end of the season. The Eagles need to find something that works on offense, but it's going to be difficult with that schedule. 


    Chances he'll be fired

    The Eagles' improvement from 2015 to '16 bought Addazio some time, as they went from 3-9 to 7-6 and a Quick Lane Bowl win over Maryland. But this looks like it could be another rough year, which wouldn't bode well for the natural progression you want to see in the program.

    It's hard to find more than four wins on this schedule, and a 4-8 season will likely get Addazio canned after the season.

Chris Ash, Rutgers

2 of 10

    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Issues so far

    Though Rutgers kept things close with No. 8 Washington for a while in the season opener, the Huskies eventually ran away with a 30-14 win in New Jersey.

    Any goodwill fostered by that moral victory disappeared when the team lost 16-13 to Eastern Michigan this past weekend. Setbacks like that aren't going to cut it for a program that hasn't shown many flashes of success in recent years.

    Head coach Chris Ash shows little aggressiveness in handling his offense, and the Scarlet Knights struggle to make any splash plays. Ball control isn't going to always cut it, and Rutgers doesn't seem to have a second gear.


    Challenges going forward

    This wasn't supposed to be an overnight rebuild for Ash, but the first 14 games of his tenure have been forgettable. In that time, the Scarlet Knights are 2-12 and have yet to win a Big Ten game. They've lost 11 consecutive games, and this was the first time Eastern Michigan has beaten a team from that conference.

    There aren't a lot of obvious wins on Rutgers' schedule, and it's a hard to convince fans that a program is progressing when it loses to a team that entered the game 0-38 against the Big Ten.

    The Scarlet Knights need to beat Morgan State and play well against Nebraska and Ohio State before taking advantage of back-to-back games against Illinois and Purdue. Right now, that seems like a long shot. 


    Chances he'll be fired

    Coaches normally get more than two seasons in a rebuilding project, but it's just a matter of who Rutgers thinks it can get as its head coach.

    If Ohio State defensive coordinator and former coach Greg Schiano would come back, that may be Ash's downfall. But the Knights have a ton of issues, and whoever took over for Ash would have his own rebuilding project on his hands. If something happens, it won't be until after the season.

Bret Bielema, Arkansas

3 of 10

    Joey Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Issues so far

    The Razorbacks took care of business in a season-opening 49-7 win over Florida A&M during which they appeared to have found a new weapon in freshman running back Chase Hayden. 

    But in a CBS game against No. 23 TCU this weekend, Arkansas again proved it was far from a marquee program, posting just 267 yards of total offense against the Horned Frogs in a hapless 28-7 loss. When you pair that with the disastrous losses to Missouri and Virginia Tech to end last year, head coach Bret Bielema is sweating.


    Challenges going forward

    Nobody in Fayetteville wanted the Bobby Petrino era to end, but his off-the-field transgressions necessitated it. When Arkansas hired Bielema away from Wisconsin, it was widely lauded as a home run.

    After Rawleigh Williams III elected to retire from football heading into the year, the Hogs suddenly needed to find a playmaker. Devwah Whaley and Co. need to fill it quickly, and they need to get back to playing hard-nosed, aggressive football.

    The biggest challenges going forward come in the SEC West, where every game is rugged. If the Hogs don't turn things around, Bielema's seat will get hotter.


    Chances he'll be fired

    Despite the proud Razorbacks fans being frustrated, athletic director Jeff Long has adamantly and defiantly stood behind Bielema. Long said Bielema was the program's leader and that he is "100 percent behind" his coach, according to

    Will that continue if Bielema doesn't make a bowl game? That remains to be seen. But with him under contract through 2020, it's hard seeing the Razorbacks parting ways at the moment.

Todd Graham, Arizona State

4 of 10

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Issues so far

    It may get ugly in Tempe this season.

    Arizona State escaped with a 37-31 win over New Mexico State in Week 1, but the Sun Devils couldn't replicate that good fortune against San Diego State in Week 2.

    While a lot of preseason publicity centered around the quarterback battle between Manny Wilkins and Alabama transfer Blake Barnett, the passing game isn't close to Arizona State's biggest issue. Rushing offense and all facets of the defense continue to plague Todd Graham's squad.


    Challenges going forward

    The hurdles are bountiful, as the Pac-12 South may wind up being one of the top offensive conferences in the country. With the Sun Devils offering little defensive resistance, it is only going to get worse.

    They won't face division opponents over the next two weeks; instead, Graham's team will take on offensive juggernauts Oregon and Texas Tech. Following those games, the Sun Devils have games against Stanford, Washington, Utah, USC, Colorado and UCLA.

    It's going to be hard for this team to rebound.


    Chances he'll be fired

    It's only a matter of time.

    Graham didn't come into Arizona State with the best reputation, as he bailed on Pittsburgh to take what he said was his dream job. After his first few seasons on the job, his tenure has taken a turn for the worst. With deep-rooted defensive issues, it doesn't matter who plays quarterback for the Sun Devils this year.

    Graham is likely to lose his job before the season ends, perhaps after the grueling stretch that concludes with UCLA.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

5 of 10

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Issues so far

    Brian Kelly is coaching at one of the nation's most difficult programs, and the leash is always short no matter who is at the helm of Notre Dame.

    After making coordinator changes on both sides of the ball in the offseason, the nation took notice of the Fighting Irish, but that was before an all-too-familiar close loss to Georgia on Saturday night. The 20-19 setback was the 10th one-possession loss in Kelly's past 12 losses at the program.

    His inability to secure close victories may be his downfall.


    Challenges going forward

    Coach speak won't get Kelly anywhere, and he hasn't done himself any favors with his sour demeanor toward reporters. That doesn't lead to a positive narrative when the Irish lose, as Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports demonstrated Saturday.

    It takes time to adjust after changing coordinators, but the Irish players must adapt quickly. Luckily, this year's schedule isn't as tough as it has been in years' past.

    The Irish should beat each of Boston College, Michigan State and Miami (Ohio) and North Carolina over the next four weeks, which would give them a 5-1 record heading into a date with No. 4 USC.


    Chances he'll be fired

    Kelly should be on firm footing if Notre Dame topples all of its lesser opponents and breaks through against one of its tougher foes.

    USC, North Carolina State, Miami and Stanford are the hardest remaining games. If the Irish go 2-2 against those four, they'd be 9-3 if they take care of business elsewhere. That will save his job. Anything less than seven wins, however, could cause the Irish to go in a different direction.

Matt Rhule, Baylor

6 of 10

    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Issues so far

    Transitioning from Art Briles to Jim Grobe didn't go well for Baylor last year, but nothing could have prepared the team for the start to its 2017 seasom. The hope of a new coaching staff brought excitement back to Baylor's football program.

    However, things have been anything but rosy for first-year coach Matt Rhule. After an inexplicable season-opening loss to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Liberty, the Bears rolled over against UT San Antonio on Saturday.

    They're now 0-2, and it's even worse than anybody expected.


    Challenges going forward

    There are issues all over the field for Rhule, who is turning this into a complete rebuild. Yes, the roster he inherited from Grobe was in rough shape, but was it this bad?

    The Bears' personnel doesn't seem to be a schematic fit for what Rhule wants to do on offense. The defense is struggling at important moments, too. The upcoming schedule won't provide a reprieve. 

    Baylor must travel to upstart Duke next week, followed by games against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas. Baylor won't face an opponent it's better than on paper until Kansas on Nov. 4.


    Chances he'll be fired

    It may seem inconceivable, but if the Bears start out 0-8, the university may go in a different direction.

    As Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman wrote prior to the game against the Roadrunners, "New coach Matt Rhule has made great inroads in trying to restore Baylor's integrity. But lose to UTSA, and the focus will turn to football, for all the wrong reasons."

    That happened. If 0-8 does as well, don't be surprised if the Bears look elsewhere.

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

7 of 10

    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Issues so far

    Mistakes galore have tarnished Arizona's offense, and it all begins with the issues at quarterback. The problems have led to some incredible Rich Rodriguez expressions of anguish on the sideline.

    Like his rival, Graham, Rich Rod may not make it much longer in Tucson if the Wildcats can't turn things around on offense. Though they did look far better defensively in a narrow loss to Houston at home Saturday, Rodriguez has been at the school too long for moral victories.


    Challenges going forward

    The Arizona Daily Star's Greg Hansen didn't mince words about the ugly loss to Houston, likening it to a player's vomit. Though the Wildcats opened their 2017 season with a win against Northern Arizona, they also allowed the Lumberjacks to rack up more than 560 yards.

    After a respite against UTEP this coming weekend, the rigorous Pac-12 schedule begins in earnest, and Arizona doesn't have enough difference-makers on its roster to survive. Barring a surprise, the end seems nigh for Rodriguez.


    Chances he'll be fired

    According to Doug Haller of, Rodriguez's buyout is reportedly just under $6 million, and it must be paid within 60 days. But the school invested in the football program in 2013 with a new facility, and the lack of fan interest isn't a good sign. 

    Rodriguez also works for an athletic director in Dave Heeke who didn't hire him, and if you're going to lose, you may as well take chances with your own guy. As such, the administration may deem it a long-term investment to cut its losses.

    Rodriguez won't make it to 2018.

Tony Sanchez, UNLV

8 of 10

    Loren Orr/Getty Images

    Issues so far

    When UNLV hired Las Vegas national high school powerhouse head football coach Tony Sanchez to be its next coach in December 2014, it was an out-of-the-box decision.

    Since then, Sanchez has consistently looked overmatched and, well, like a high school coach.

    After a difficult-to-stomach 43-40 loss to FCS program Howard in the season opener, the Runnin' Rebels rebounded with a convincing 44-16 win over Idaho. The Rebels have endured too many empty offensive possessions thus far and have defensive issues as well, but Saturday was a nice change.


    Challenges going forward

    Just how important was Saturday's win?

    "This was a must-win game," junior running back Lexington Thomas told the Las Vegas Sun's Mike Grimala. "We had to win this game. Everybody knew in the locker room. You could tell the demeanor was totally different during practice. Everybody was going hard, there was less goofing around. And we came out and we were ready to play."

    That sounds like a program with a sense of urgency, and if the players want to save their coach, they have to keep playing with it.


    Chances he'll be fired

    Saturday was a promising answer to a team that had tons of questions after its loss to Howard. The Rebels aren't going to beat San Diego State, Air Force, BYU or Ohio State, but they can win six games on their schedule. If they do that, Sanchez's job will be is safe.

    If they finish 5-7, that will be one game better than a season ago, but will it be enough for Sanchez to keep his job? That depends on how the players develop. The Rebels look like they'll fall a bit short of the postseason again this year, and Sanchez will enter next year in must-win mode.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

9 of 10

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Issues so far


    Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has a long way to go to survive a historic loss in the season opener against UCLA, when the Aggies blew a 44-10 lead. Yes, they came back and beat Nicholls State in Week 2, but that was expected. 

    In that devastating loss against UCLA, starting quarterback Nick Starkel suffered a season-ending ankle injury. This team must find new leaders and fix major defensive issues in a hurry.


    Challenges going forward

    The Aggies paid a lot of money to pluck defensive coordinator John Chavis from LSU, but his "Mustang" prevent package continues to falter with leads late in games.

    With a rigorous SEC West schedule upcoming, the Aggies need to rebound, or Chavis may be a midseason sacrificial lamb with criticism of Sumlin mounting. Offensively, the development of true freshman signal-caller Kellen Mond is vital for the Aggies to move forward.

    Texas A&M needs a few upsets against opponents like Auburn, LSU and Alabama for Sumlin to earn back the trust of fans and boosters.


    Chances he'll be fired

    Heading into the season, Sumlin's seat was already scorching because of late-season collapses. After the devastating loss to UCLA, the heat is even higher. If A&M loses another game it shouldn't, Sumlin may get canned in the middle of the season.

    With Chip Kelly possibly on the market, the Aggies may open their wallet to get him to College Station. Watch the Sept. 23 game against Arkansas and the Sept. 30 game against South Carolina. If Sumlin survives those, he may last through the end of the year. 

Mark Whipple, Massachusetts

10 of 10

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Issues so far

    UMass couldn't imagine a worse start, as it's 0-3 with losses to Hawaii, Coastal Carolina and Old Dominion.

    While none of those losses were blowouts, the team's issues with run defense and its rushing game look difficult to address. Opponents are gaining chunk yardage against the Minutemen, who are 104th nationally in stopping the run.

    The upcoming schedule is not conducive to fixing that number.


    Challenges going forward

    Though quarterback Andrew Ford looks like a major bright spot, the Minutemen can't find an offensive balance. That won't be easy to do in the next two games against Temple and Tennessee.

    As far as rush defense goes, it's even uglier when you look at UMass' schedule.

    Tennessee's John Kelly is a terror running the ball, and the Minutemen also must face solid programs like Ohio, South Florida (with dynamic quarterback Quinton Flowers), Mississippi State (with elite dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald), Appalachian State and BYU. It's tough to imagine a lot of wins there.


    Chances he'll be fired

    Even though UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford told the Boston Herald's Stephen Hewitt he was confident in head coach Mark Whipple prior to the season, that feeling has to be waning.

    The Minutemen can't sell out their 17,000-seat stadium, and they appear poised for few victories this season. After an 0-3 start against three poor teams, Whipple's time at the school is likely coming to an end.

    Whipple is 8-31 overall as UMass' head coach, and after back-to-back 3-9 seasons to start his tenure, he went 2-10 last year. It's going to get worse in 2017, and he may not make it through the entire slate.