For Wednesday, the May edition of Countdown to Firing Day.
1. Mike London, Virginia: He’s 23-38 in five years, which doesn’t settle well with the faithful who grew accustomed to minor to mid-level bowl games under Al Groh. Making the situation worse is the fact that seven quarterbacks have transferred out since 2012. With non-conference games at UCLA, Notre Dame and Boise State BEFORE the Almost Competitive Conference schedule kicks in, even his buyout .
2. Al Golden, Miami: Now that Donna Shalala is off to work for the Clintons, Big Al doesn’t have anyone to protect him from those nasty alums who think it’s ridiculous that The U is (a) coming off a losing season and (b) just 28-22 in the last four years even with all that talent in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Anything less than 9-3 and he’s a goner.
3. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: He is 26-49 in six years including 5-19 in the last two. He’s actually a good football coach, but he definitely needs lessons in picking a good job. The faithful think Iowa State should go to bowl games every year. Have you ever been to Ames, Iowa? Do you think the kind of recruits that can get you to a bowl game every year are willing to spend the last four years of their lives when they can blame all their problems on immaturity in Ames?
4. Darrell Hazell, Purdue: The Boilers registered a 300% improvement last year when they improved from one win to three. There are 17 starters returning, which could be good news or bad news depending on your perspective. These are the same guys who are, for the most part, 4-20 the last two years. Does another year older make them another year better? Anything less than six wins and Hazell can kiss it good-bye.
5. Trent Miles, Georgia State: For reasons no one seems to be able to explain, Trent Miles is back to coach another year. He’s 1-23 in his two years on the job, which is compounded by the fact that Georgia Southern not only came into the Sun Belt Conference and ran the table (8-0 in league play) to win the championship but along the way demolished the Panthers, 69-31. The Georgia State folks are talking about taking over Turner Field and turning it into a nice football stadium when the Braves move to their new stadium. You can bet the ranch Trent Miles won’t be coaching the Panthers when that happens.
6. Kevin Wilson, Indiana: In four years he’s 13-35 (4-8 last year) and the problems are the same now as they were when he took over: the Hoosiers can fill out a stat sheet and put points on the board but they still haven’t figured out how to stop anybody. They gave up at least 34 points in eight of their 12 games last year. This year they have to play without Tevin Coleman, who ran for 2,036 yards last year. How do you go 4-8 with a 2,000-yard rusher? Six wins might save him but seven would for sure.
7. Norm Chow, Hawaii: Hawaii is 7-29 the last three years under Norm Chow, who is 68 years old. It’s not like the Rainbow Warriors are putting out any young and exciting vibes. Eleven of last year’s 22 starters have expired their eligibility, which might actually be good news. For a guy who is supposed to be an offensive genius, how is it that the Florida offense was explosive comparatively speaking? The non-conference schedule includes Ohio State and Wisconsin so it’s not like the schedule is going to do Norm any favors. The Hawaii administration has stuck with Norm the last three years. If they don’t go to a bowl game there won’t be another season beyond 2015.
8. Tim Beckman, Illinois: Beckman got the Illini to a bowl game (they lost, of course) last year, which was a major step up and got him another year on the job. All this was before the allegations that he’s been a abusive coach dating all the way back to his days as the head ball coach at Holy Toledo. There is a very real chance he will be the first member of the 2015 Extinct Species List even BEFORE the season begins.
1. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: If they had a GQ magazine for college football coaches, Kliff would be your cover boy. If he can’t figure out a way to do better than last year’s 4-8, he might be looking for work as a male model for GQ. They’re used to going to bowl games in scenic Lubbock. Another loser and Kliff will be On Life Support.
2. Willie Taggart, South Florida: To Taggart’s credit, he doubled the win total to four in his second year on the job. Attendance at RayJay is spiraling downward. Meanwhile, 96 miles to the east, UCF has gone 21-5 in the last two years and regularly fills its 46,000-seat on campus arena. If George O’Leary has UCF competing for the American Athletic Conference title again this year and Taggart doesn’t at least get to a bowl game, figure he will be looking for gainful employment as someone’s assistant coach.
3. Ron Turner, Florida International: The Golden Panthers are 5-19 in Turner’s two years but he’s loaded up the skill positions with fast, capable playmakers so if he doesn’t win this year then there are no excuses. The schedule really isn’t that difficult so seven or more wins is the expectation. Anything less and FIU is Turner’s final head coaching rodeo.
4. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado: Ever since Bill McCartney retired back in 1994, Colorado has become college football’s version of an elephant graveyard. It’s where otherwise very good football coaches go to see their careers die a slow death. The latest really good coach whose career is on the verge of going belly up is MacIntyre, who has the program going in reverse – four wins in 2013, two in 2014. With Hawaii, UMass and Nicholls State among the first four games, MacIntyre will only need three wins in eight Pac-12 games to survive. Odds are he doesn’t.
5. Mike Leach, Washington State: Leach is a reporter’s dream. Only Steve Spurrier gives a better interview. They would be most happy at Wazzoo if the football Cougars (3-9 last year) were as scintillating as a Leach post game presser. The Cougs did great last year in PF (points for) with 31.8. They were a tad too generous in PA (points against) at 38.6 which was 117th nationally. Leach needs more PF than PA this year and seven wins would make everybody happy.
1. Todd Monken, Southern Miss: Considering the mess Ellis Johnson left behind and the fact the Southern Miss athletic budget is like flying a plane on fumes, Monken has actually done a decent job by going 4-20 in two seasons. Tell that to alums who think you can turn chicken poop into chicken salad.
2. Paul Petrino, Idaho: The problem at Idaho is NOT the coach. Paul Petrino is a fine coach. The problem at Idaho is a budget that makes Southern Miss seem like Notre Dame, horrible facilities (they play something called The Kibbie Dome) and a location (Moscow, Idaho) that isn’t the end of the earth although if you follow the arrow on the signs in downtown that read Beware of Grizzly Bears you can get there in a matter of minutes. Idaho is 2-21 in the last two years. The Vandals need to be in the D1AA Big Sky Conference but they are in D1 because the will take a beating for a paycheck cash keeps the women’s programs afloat.
3. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Prior to last season’s 3-9 debacle under Mason, who was in his first year as a head coach, the Commodores had gone to a school record and unheard of three straight bowl games (24-15 record). The Dores were inept on offense (107th in rushing; 116th in passing; 119th in scoring) and couldn’t stop anyone on defense (gave up 33.3). The fans at Vandy grew accustomed to better football when James Franklin was the coach. If Mason doesn’t improve significantly in his second year there is every good chance disgruntled alums who write the checks will demand no year three.
5. Scott Shafer, Syracuse: Year two in the Almost Competitive Conference was not kind for the Orange, who went from 7-6 in 2013 to an horrendous 3-9 last year in which the PA was a lousy 17.1 points per game, 121st nationally. Twelve of the 22 starters are gone, which could actually prove to be a good thing. Syracuse plays in a rather weak league so the expectations of the people who write the checks are a lot higher than the bad product Shafer put on the field last year.
1. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: The Mounties are 28-23 in Holgorsen’s four years at WVU but for reasons beyond comprehension former AD Oliver Luck gave Holgorsen a six-year contract extension through 2017 that is fully guaranteed. So if they decide to fire him after the 2015 season, they’ll still owe him $5.6 million.
2. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: When Iowa went 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl in 2009, Ferentz was given a 10-year contract extension with $3 million per year guaranteed. Since then, Iowa is 34-30. It would only cost the school $12 million to fire him after the 2015 season.
2. Justin Fuente, Memphis: He’s 38 years old and has a great offensive mind. He’s turned Memphis from one of the worst jobs in D1 to a respectable program in three years including last year’s 10-3. He makes $975,000 a year.
3. Jeff Brohm Western Kentucky: He spent seven years playing in the NFL and coached as an assistant under Bobby Petrino, Howard Schnellenberger and Ron Zook. He went 8-5 in his first year as a head coach in 2014. He only makes $600,000 a year.
4. Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern: He went 137-62 coaching in D1AA and DII then went 9-3 and won the Sun Belt in Georgia Southern’s first year as a D1 school. This is a legitimate offensive genius. Salary is $500,000.
5. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan: He’s only 34 years old but everyone raves that he’s going to be one of the greats before he’s through. He took over a train wreck and went 1-11 in year one, then last year went 8-5. He makes $500,000.
Even with a first year starter at quarterback and Nick Saban looking over his shoulder, Lane Kiffin put a record-setting offense on the field at Alabama last year. The Crimson Tide averaged 36.9 points and a school record 484.5 yards per game in 2014. Even with the loss of Blake Sims, T.J. Yeldon, Amari Cooper and three of the five starters on the O-line, Bama’s offense will be formidable in 2015. Bet the farm that Kiffin will be somebody’s head coach in 2016.
If you were an athletic director at a Division I school that has hit some rough times would you take a chance and hire Lane Kiffin?
When I was 16 I was warned that if I listened to Jefferson Airplane my mind would be permanently warped and I would probably end up addicted to drugs. With that in mind, I couldn’t wait until “Surrealistic Pillow” went on sale in February of 1967. This was Airplane at its best with Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jormal Kaukonen. “Somebody to Love” still rates as one of the best songs I’ve ever heard.