College Football Coaches Under Most Pressure in 2020 Season
The college football season is merely two weeks old, yet there's already been a coaching change.
Following a loss to South Alabama in the opener, Southern Miss parted ways with Jay Hopson. While the unique circumstances of 2020 may ultimately limit movement in the coaching world, clearly, this carousel is still ready to spin.
Had this been a normal season, the list of "hot seat" coaches would've been considerably smaller anyway. And now that athletic departments are pinching every penny a little tighter because of revenue loss, schools may be hesitant to make any drastic moves with financial implications.
Nevertheless, several head coaches could really use a positive year—no matter the curveballs that 2020 may throw.
Dana Dimel, UTEP
The year before Dana Dimel arrived, UTEP finished 0-12, so it's not like he entered a great situation in El Paso.
Still, the Miners have a couple of 1-11 records under Dimel.
At some point, you need to start winning. On the bright side, UTEP kicked off 2020 with a 24-14 victory over Stephen F. Austin. Since no reasonable person expected the Miners to compete with Texas in their second game, a loss to the Longhorns is not a major problem.
While there is likely no magic number to reach, Dimel has to start making progress in the win column.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Given that Derek Mason signed an extension only a year ago, Vanderbilt probably isn't rushing to find a new coach.
But it's not like the Commodores are accomplishing much.
In his six seasons, Vandy is 27-47 overall with a 10-38 mark against SEC opponents. Though the 'Dores have reached a bowl twice, losses in those postseason games have resulted in a losing record every year of his tenure. And in 2019, they mustered a 3-9 record.
Vanderbilt is a difficult place to win, but a seventh sub-.500 season could be the final straw for Mason.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina
After posting an encouraging 9-4 record in Will Muschamp's second year, South Carolina is trending in the wrong direction.
Over the last two seasons, the Gamecocks are just 11-14 overall and 7-9 in the SEC. One of the biggest issues is they seem unable to fix the offense, which has ranked 95th or worse nationally in points per game in three of the last four years.
Muschamp is a defensive coach by trade, but it's his responsibility to bring in the right voices.
Hired in December, new coordinator Mike Bobo may be the most important assistant of Muschamp's tenure. Should it pay off, he'll stick around. If progress isn't made in 2020, that might be the end.
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Short of an 0-10 season, Jimbo Fisher won't be fired. Even then, Texas A&M has financial reasons to keep him around.
The point is, though, the Aggies are facing an "if not now, when?" outlook in 2020. They have Kellen Mond, a senior quarterback with multiple years of experience. They return the majority of starters on both sides of the ball. Alabama and LSU—while never short on talent—are retooling, and Auburn is considered a comparable team.
In fairness to A&M, the receiving unit has moved from promising to thin because of Camron Buckley's knee injury and now Jhamon Ausbon opting out. Plus, the initial slate did not include Florida or Tennessee—or Georgia, for that matter. When the SEC chose a 10-game, conference-only schedule, the Aggies added UF and UT.
Considering those two points, it would be fair to exclude Texas A&M from a high-pressure situation.
At the same time, Fisher is 1-5 against Alabama, Auburn and LSU so far. If that doesn't change in 2020 with this experienced roster, the Aggies better hope seniors return next season. Otherwise, it could be two years before that record improves.
Manny Diaz, Miami
Job security isn't necessarily an issue for Manny Diaz, who opened his second year as Miami's head coach with a 31-14 win over UAB.
However, the 'Canes had a few problematic trends in 2019. Beyond a mediocre offense, they surrendered four leads in the fourth quarter and made costly special-teams blunders in nearly every loss. Miami also finished 0-6 with extra time to prepare for a game, including the season opener against Florida.
Diaz addressed some of the offensive issues by bringing in quarterback D'Eriq King and coordinator Rhett Lashlee. And a handful of explosive runs in the 2020 debut showed promise.
But if some of 2019's frustrations return and cost Miami several wins, Diaz won't exactly improve a delicate reputation.
Tom Herman, Texas
Simple win-loss records don't tell a complete story. For comparison's sake, though, Texas managed a 25-14 record in the last three seasons of the Mack Brown era. Meanwhile, the Longhorns are 25-15 in the first three years of Tom Herman's tenure.
With a tradition-rich program, expectations are higher. Plus, as Oklahoma continues to win the Big 12 and appear in the College Football Playoff, it's only natural for frustrations to grow.
Herman recognized the need for change after a disappointing 8-5 season in 2019 and hired new coordinators on offense (Mike Yurcich) and defense (Chris Ash). While there are no grand conclusions to draw from a 59-3 smackdown of UTEP in their respective debuts, it was—at the very least—encouraging.
But that's the only tune-up for Texas in 2020.
The Longhorns have nothing but Big 12 games remaining on the schedule. And with senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger leading the offense, anything short of a trip to the Big 12 Championship Game will be viewed as a failure for Herman.