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

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 11, 2018

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

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    Larry Fedora
    Larry FedoraKarl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    The 2018 college football season is only two weeks old, but it's never too early to start wondering which coaches are on the brink of termination.

    One important distinction before we dive in: There's a fine line between the hot seat and a hot take. For instance, Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, Miami's Mark Richt and Florida State's Willie Taggart all had woefully disappointing Week 1 showings, resulting in quite a few fiery opinions about their ability to win a championship. However, it's going to take a lot more than that for those coaches to get fired.

    But the following nine coaches are in danger of losing their jobs.

    Some of them probably just need to avoid further embarrassing losses in order to remain in place, but most of these coaches might as well start packing up their offices if they don't turn around things in a hurry.

    They are listed in alphabetical order by school.

Kevin Sumlin, Arizona

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Week 1: 23-28 vs. BYU

    Week 2: 18-45 at Houston

    Record with Arizona: 0-2

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 86-45

    Let's start out by asking the question that is on everyone's mind after the first two weeks: What in the world has head coach Kevin Sumlin done to Khalil Tate?

    Tate was the most electrifying player in the country last season, averaging 9.2 yards per carry with 12 rushing touchdowns and 14 passing touchdowns. Once he took over at quarterback for Brandon Dawkins, the Arizona Wildcats had one of the most unstoppable offenses in recent memory.

    But since becoming Tate's head coach, Sumlin has limited him to a pithy 15 carries for 22 yards.

    The mobile quarterback suffered a minor ankle/lower-leg injury early in the loss to Houston, but that doesn't explain why he only rushed for 14 yards against BYU in a game in which Arizona desperately could have used that extra dimension.

    Because of the way things fell apart in Sumlin's final few years with Texas A&M, the general public was always going to be a little skeptical about what he could accomplish with Arizona. After a disappointing home loss to BYU followed by a 38-0 third-quarter deficit against Houston, it took less than two full games for him to land on the hot seat—as the only coach on this list who is in his first year with the program.

Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Week 1: 24-58 at Oregon

    Week 2: 14-45 vs. Maryland

    Record with Bowling Green: 6-20

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 6-20

    Bowling Green used to be good.

    This is where Urban Meyer, Dave Clawson and Dino Babers got their starts before moving on to bigger and better programs. From 2001-15, the Falcons had a combined record of 111-78, playing in eight bowl games and winning a pair of MAC championships. No one was ever going to confuse BGSU with Boise State, but it wasn't unusual to see the Falcons knock off the occasional power-conference foe.

    For the past two-plus seasons under Mike Jinks, though, this program has been a national doormat.

    Jinks isn't on the hot seat because Bowling Green is 0-2 this season. Rather, it's because no one was realistically expecting this team to put up a fight against Oregon or Maryland.

    In the season before Jinks was hired, Bowling Green won road games against Maryland and Purdue and put up a solid fight for about three-quarters against Tennessee. With Jinks running the show, though, BGSU is 0-5 against power-conference programs by an average margin of defeat of 39.8 points.

    It doesn't help matters that Bowling Green had a bunch of players arrested this offseason, according to David Briggs of the Toledo Blade. Not only is Jinks not winning games, but the conduct of his players also calls into question his grip on the program overall.

    If the Falcons were to lose to Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Jinks may be the first coach to get the midseason pink slip.

Randy Edsall, Connecticut

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    Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    Week 1: 17-56 vs. UCF

    Week 2: 7-62 at Boise State

    Record with Connecticut: 73-74 (3-11 in current term)

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 95-108

    After six consecutive losing seasons under Paul Pasqualoni and Bob Diaco, Connecticut decided the best step forward was two steps backward.

    The Huskies rehired Randy Edsall, who ran this program admirably for its first 11 seasons at the FBS level. Following a three-year period of expected transitional struggles, Edsall went 59-40 from 2003-10. He even got Connecticut into the AP Top 25 in three different seasons.

    Both parties were hoping to rekindle the old flame of success when Edsall resumed his post before last season, but it's going to take a lot more than nostalgia to fix this mess.

    Connecticut's defense has been an abject disaster since Edsall's return, and he clearly hasn't done much to improve the offense either. The Huskies ranked outside the top 100 in both scoring offense and scoring defense in 2017. And through two blowouts against two of the best teams the "Group of Five" has to offer, they are 127th out of 130 in scoring offense and dead last in scoring defense.

    If they don't beat the Rhode Island Rams this weekend, the Huskies are probably destined for a winless season. And somewhere along the way, they'll start to reconsider if Edsall is the answer to their problems.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Week 1: 17-24 at California

    Week 2: 19-41 at East Carolina

    Record with North Carolina: 43-36

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 77-55

    Larry Fedora was already on one of the hottest seats before the season beganthis despite an 11-1 start to a 2015 campaign that almost ended in an ACC championship.

    Part of that is due to the off-field distractions. The Tar Heels suspended 13 players this offseason as a result of the sneaker scandal. That came hot on the heels of Fedora's strange comments at ACC media day about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and football being under attack.

    A moderately successful coach can get away with stuff like that. Heaven knows Mike Leach has had more than his fair share of off-the-wall remarks over the years, but we usually laugh it off because he's eccentric and runs a fun offense.

    It's different for Fedora, whose ability to lead a program was already under the microscope because of the on-field product.

    His overall record at North Carolina is solid, but the recent history has been considerably less so. Since early November 2016, the Tar Heels are 4-14with half of those wins coming against FCS schools, no less.

    The Week 2 blowout loss to East Carolina has cranked up the heat on his seat.

    The Heels play three of their next four against No. 18 UCF, No. 21 Miami and No. 13 Virginia Tech. If they don't win the Week 4 home game against Pittsburgh, they're probably headed for an 0-6 start, which would be quite the low mark for this program. The last time that happened was in 1988.

    And if it happens again, it should be the last time we see Fedora on this sideline.

Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion

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    Mike Comer/Getty Images

    Week 1: 10-52 at Liberty

    Week 2: 20-28 vs. Florida International

    Record with Old Dominion: 26-25

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 26-25

    This is only Old Dominion's fifth season at the FBS level, so it will probably have a longer leash with its coach than the rest of the teams on this list. Moreover, Bobby Wilder led the Monarchs to a 10-3 record, including a bowl win, two years ago, so he likely earned a mulligan to use on this season's slow start.

    Still, ODU got boat-raced by Liberty before dropping a winnable home game against FIU.

    That's not encouraging.

    If the Monarchs were to lose to Charlotte this weekend, it would be reasonable to argue that they are the worst team in the country this season. And if they follow it up a week later with a shutout loss to Virginia Tech for the second consecutive year, it might be time to start wondering if there are better options to lead this program.

    The most troubling part of ODU's early struggle is that most of the key pieces from last year are still on the roster. Quarterbacks Steven Williams and Blake LaRussa are back, and there's plenty of veteran leadership in senior running back Jeremy Cox, senior wide receivers Isaiah Harper and Travis Fulgham and fifth-year senior wideout Jonathan Duhart.

    If the Monarchs are having a hard time scoring this season, how much worse is it going to get once they need to replace all those primary contributors?

    This is looking like more of a full-blown rebuilding situation than a one-year swoon, which is as good of a time for a coaching change as any.

Jeff Brohm, Purdue

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Week 1: 27-31 vs. Northwestern

    Week 2: 19-20 vs. Eastern Michigan

    Record with Purdue: 7-8

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 37-18

    Unless Purdue loses another six games to start out 0-8—which would include a loss to lowly Illinoisit probably won't fire Jeff Brohm anytime soon. The Boilermakers had lost 39 of their last 48 games before he came in two coaching-carousel rides ago and immediately got them to a bowl game. He has earned some sort of grace period for that quick turnaround.

    That said, Purdue hasn't gotten anything close to what it expected from the former quarterback who led Western Kentucky to three consecutive seasons of at least 44 points per game.

    Brohm was supposed to come in and breathe life into a futile offense. Purdue's most prolific offensive season from 2008-16 was in 2012, when the Boilermakers averaged 28.7 points per gamestill only good for 65th out of 124 teams. But through 15 games under Brohm, they have been only marginally more effective (24.9 PPG) than in the last four years of ineptitude (22.1 PPG).

    Western Kentucky ranked top-five in the nation in passing yards in all three of Brohm's seasons there. Purdue ranked 46th last year and is tied for 89th this campaign.

    Factor in the poor fourth-quarter execution in the two home losses to open this seasonas well as the fact that the loss to Eastern Michigan was one of the most embarrassing results for any team thus farand it's at least worth asking if Brohm is worth the nearly $4 million per year.

Brent Brennan, San Jose State

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    Brent Brennan
    Brent BrennanYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    Week 1: 38-44 vs. UC Davis (FCS school)

    Week 2: 0-31 at Washington State

    Record with San Jose State: 2-13

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 2-13

    Rome wasn't built in a day, and it's hard to turn around a program in just 15 games. But where, pray tell, is San Jose State headed?

    It was only a few years ago (2012) that the Spartans went 11-2 and darn near upset Stanfordwho went on to win the Rose Bowl that season. They even finished the year at No. 21 in the AP poll. But since losing head coach Mike MacIntyre to Colorado that offseason, they've struggled to recapture that lightning in a bottle.

    Ron Caragher went just 19-30 from 2013-16, but that winning percentage would be a welcome change from how far the Spartans have fallen under Brent Brennan.

    San Jose State was one of the worst teams in the country last season. The Spartans ranked in the bottom five in both scoring offense (15.8 PPG) and scoring defense (41.7 PPG). Their lone FBS win was a home game against Wyoming that Josh Allen didn't play in because of injuryand they just barely eked that one out.

    But if it's even possible, SJSU might be worse this year. Brennan's squad allowed nearly 600 yards of total offense in the loss to UC Davis and then managed just 109 yards of offense in the shutout loss to Washington State. And you can just about take it to the bank that the Spartans are going to get drilled by the No. 20 Oregon Ducks this weekend to fall to 0-3.

    Conveniently, their bye week comes right after the Oregon game, so that will be the time to make a move if they're planning one before the year ends.

Tom Herman, Texas

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 1: 29-34 vs. Maryland

    Week 2: 28-21 vs. Tulsa

    Record with Texas: 8-7

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 30-11

    For Tom Herman and Texasjust like Jeff Brohm at Purdueit's hard to believe how quickly the honeymoon phase ended for what was widely regarded as a home run hire less than two years ago.

    Given both the on-field and recruiting success that Herman had at Houston, it was almost a given that he would fare better at Texas than Charlie Strong. While he technically has been better, Herman's 53.3 winning percentage isn't as much of an improvement on Strong's 43.2 percent disaster as the Longhorns were expecting.

    On the whole, Herman has done a nice job. Five of his seven losses have been by a margin of five points or fewerthree of which were games against teams ranked in the AP Top 12 at the time. A couple of lucky breaks here or there and he'd be 13-2 instead of 8-7.

    Herman did score one road win over a ranked team last year (No. 24 West Virginia). And he put together the nation's third-best recruiting class in the 2018 cycle, according to 247Sports.

    The problem for Herman has been awful first impressions.

    In each of the last two seasons, Texas was the only ranked team to lose to an unranked team in Week 1, falling to Maryland on both occasions. As a result, the Longhorns keep getting labeled as a bunch of overrated underachievers.

    But let's face it: Texas didn't back up the Brink's truck just to fire Herman after less than two seasons. Unless an off-field scandal forces their hand, the Longhorns are going to keep him until at least midway through the 2019 season, at which point it would maybe be time to consider a change if they are still barely playing .500 football.

    Now, if they had lost to Tulsa, we might be singing a different tune today. As is, Herman is much further away from the chopping block than most of the coaches on this list.

Mike Sanford, Western Kentucky

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    Week 1: 3-34 at Wisconsin

    Week 2: 28-31 vs. Maine (FCS school)

    Record with Western Kentucky: 6-9

    FBS Head Coaching Record: 6-9

    From 2011-16, Western Kentucky had six consecutive winning seasons. It started under Willie Taggart, continued for one year with Bobby Petrino at the helm and hit a crescendo with Jeff Brohm calling the shots. Though the Hilltoppers had only been at the FBS level for 10 years, they appeared to be establishing themselves as legitimate, year-over-year Group of Five contenders.

    But after losing offensive weapons in running back Anthony Wales and wide receivers Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris after the 2016 season, Western Kentucky predictably had a down year in Mike Sanford's inaugural season. And now that quarterback Mike White is no longer steering the offense, things have really taken a turn for the worse.

    Getting blown out by then-No. 4 Wisconsin in the season opener was no surprise, but the subsequent home loss to Maine was a clear sign of how far this team has fallen.

    The most damning thing for Sanford isn't just that his team lost to an FCS opponent but that it blew a 21-0 lead established roughly five minutes into the first quarter.

    That's right. Western Kentucky was ahead of Maine by three touchdowns after just six offensive snaps, thanks to a 66-yard reception on the first play of the game, a pick-six and an effortless drive down the field.

    From there, they allowed 31 unanswered points en route to an awful L.

    The good news for the Hilltoppers is they still get to play UTEP, Charlotte, Old Dominion and Marshall, so they should at least get a couple of wins. But if they keep putting out efforts like the final 55 minutes against Maine and end up losing to three of those four bottom-feeding opponents, they'll be looking for a new head coach sooner rather than later.