Tyrone Willingham in the Hot Seat: A Look at Struggling College Football Coaches

Nick SheSenior Analyst IAugust 3, 2008

As we enter into the 2008 College Football season there are plenty of coaches that are in the so-called hot seat.  To name a few: Tyrone Willingham of Washington, Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Mike Stoops of Arizona, Greg Robinson of Syracuse, Chralie Weis of Notre Dame, and Dave Wannstedt of Pitt.

Which of these seats will burn and whose will cool off before the end of the season?  Funny you should ask.

We will start in reverse, with the coolest of the hot seats first.

Dave Wannstedt

Dave Wannstedt of Pitt is under .500 in his three seasons at Pitt, but things seem to be at least headed in the right direction.  A win over rival and second ranked West Virginia in Morganstown last year cooled his seat off a little as he enters year number four.  Wanny and his Panthers enter 2008 as a middle tier Big East team.

Don't expect the Panthers to seriously compete for a conference crown. They're simply not talented enough yet.  It is safe to assume this talent gap has lessened especially this year and the Panthers should be headed towards a bowl, even if it's not a top notch one.

A bowl berth and seven wins should save Wanny's job.  Anything less and he may go.

Prediction: Expect the Panthers to be bowl-bound and Dave Wannstedt to continue to coach Pitt in the coming years as their talent continues to once again grow.

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Charlie Weis

Charlie Weis may very well be the most disliked coach by the nation outside of South Bend.  Weis in his first two years brought the Irish to their second and third BCS berths, although they were heavily outplayed in both.

The Irish returned to relevance again under Weis, only to see themselves fall off the face of the earth with a 3-9 record a year ago.

The Irish will not be as bad in 2008.  They have gained too much experience for that to happen.

With a schedule including the likes of San Diego State, Stanford, Washington, Boston College, Navy, and Syracuse, expect the Irish to see their win total at least double from a year ago—and that's the worst case scenario.

The Irish return much talent that was not developed in 2007.  Will Notre Dame compete for a national championship like so many Irish faithful felt was going to be a reality a couple short years ago?  Doubtful, but do expect Notre Dame to be vastly improved.

Prediction:  Notre Dame wins seven games or more, makes a low-tier bowl game where they finally find a bowl win, and Charlie Weis leads Notre Dame to a BCS bowl in 2009.

Greg Robinson

The first two coaches seats were considered warm by me I suppose—not exactly hot.  Greg Robinson of Syracuse starts the coaches' seats who are particularly hot entering 2008.

Remember when the Orangemen (turned Orange) were relevant in college football?  Remember when it used to be a major deal to win a game in the Carrier Dome?

Those days are long gone.  Playing Syracuse within three touchdowns now seems to be a disappointment for opponents. 

Greg Robinson has not been what Orange fans were hoping for when he was hired.  His combined record is 7-28 over his first three years in Syracuse.  As rough as many fans around the nation thought they have had it of late, few have the right to complain like those from Syracuse.

The good news for Robinson is that he was able to land four four-star recruits this offseason, something that hasn't happened for sometime in Syracuse.  Will it be enough to buy Robinson some time?

Prediction:  The talent pool will narrow between Syracuse and the rest of the Big East...but not soon enough.  Don't expect the 'Cuse to win more than three games this year, spelling the end of the Greg Robinson era in Syracuse, an era that couldn't come soon enough for many Syracuse fans.

Mike Stoops

There was once a day when Arizona was thought to be the next real contender to possibly knock USC out of the top spot in the Pac-10.  Unfortunately, 'Zona fans are still waiting for those days to get here, now entering the fifth year of the Mike Stoops era. 

Will things change this year?  Can Stoops' job be saved?

The one thing that Arizona has going for them this year is their schedule.  Idaho, Toledo, New Mexico, Washington, Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon State should all be wins.  Add them up and the win total will sit at seven.  That's good enough for a bowl berth.

Arizona still does not match up whatsoever with USC or Oregon, or even in-state rival ASU.  They should, however, find enough wins on their schedule to make a trip to a bowl game for the first time in the Stoops era.

Prediction:  Because of an offense that brings 10 starters back, they will be able to score points on nearly everyone and win enough shootouts to save Mike Stoops' job for now.  However, I still doubt that we'll see Stoops on the AZ sideline come 2010.

Kirk Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz had the entire state of Iowa in love with him a few short years ago.  But since beating LSU in the Capital One Bowl things have headed south for the Hawkeyes. 

Ferentz fell victim to underachieving teams the last couple of years, teams that had much more talent than was shown on the field.

Mix in the off the field issues that Ferentz has had of late and you find him in an unbelievably hot seat entering 2008.  Will a bowl bid save him at this point? 

Iowa has not lived up to expectations of late, not even qualifying for a bowl game this past season.  They will be improved from last year in 2008 but if Jake Christensen doesn't improve they won't go anywhere.

Prediction:  Iowa wins six games this year and Ferentz goes bowl-less once again.  He doesn't make it to 2009 and the Hawkeyes go looking for a new savior for their cause.

Tyrone Willingham

Finally, the hottest seat of the preseason belongs to Tyrone Willingham of Washington.  Notre Dame was racist for firing Willingham, not making the right choice for their football program...or least this is what we were told by the media.

Willingham has gone a whopping 11-25 in his three years at Washington.  These are the same Huskies that won a Rose Bowl less than a decade ago, believe it or not.

Willingham must turn things around in 2008 for Washington, as he was nearly fired after last season.  After firing a few assistants in order to keep his own job, Willingham knows that it is now or never for his Huskies.

As talented as Jake Locker is, he is not enough to save Willingham's coaching career at Washington.  The team will have a brutal schedule, including the likes of Oklahoma, BYU, and Notre Dame outside of conference play while they face the entire Pac-10, where they are probably the eighth or ninth most talented team.

Prediction:  The Huskies will be a better team than in 2006 or 2007 but the record will not show up.  Anything more than three wins will be a gift for Washington this year and the Tyrone Willingham experiment will be done once again.


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