Keeping an eye on the Coaching Carousel

Quite apart from the pageantry, the intensity, and the pure adrenaline rush that is college football season is the offseason. Beginning next week, recruiting takes over, team meetings are the prevalent activity, and many teams play their last game. But there is another fascinating aspect to college football: the coaching carousel. (credit: Getty Images)

Every year it brings us something new and unexpected. From daring hires to the perfect fit, there is always coaching drama once bowl season starts. This year has already been no exception: three major programs have parted ways with their head coaches, with several more expected immediately. And that doesn’t include the coordinators on the way out, those who will move up, and the ones to be hired. Here’s a look at the openings, the hires, and the expectations this year.

Already Hired: SMU and Buffalo

SMU- The team most famous for the death penalty has really struggled since its return to the college football stage, but have come on since the 2008 season, and have gone to a bowl game in four of the last five seasons.

Chad Morris (Credit: Getty Images)

SMU announced last week that they had hired Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to take over the program after a dismal 0-11 campaign this year. Morris is part of the offensive legacy that originated from coaching experience at the University of Tulsa after 16 years of coaching high school ball in Texas. Returning to his roots could propel Morris, a proven recruiter, and SMU, back into a prominent team outside the Power 5 conferences.

Buffalo- Let’s face a hard truth: it is not easy to coach at the University of Buffalo. Great coaches will struggle here, and that may be a big reason why Buffalo had to part with Jeff Quinn. But when one goes out, one must come in, and with that thought, the Bulls went out and hired Lance Leipold. Never heard of him? Well, maybe you should have. Leipold has compiled a 106-6 record over the last 8 seasons (with 5 D III Championships) at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He has reached 100 wins faster than any coach in NCAA history. His shot in D I will start at the Buffalo Bulls, but with any success, look for him to be at a major program soon.

Openings: Kansas, Nebraska, Florida

Who knows how each of these positions will get filled? There could be some kind of awkward, passing each other in the door trade off (Muschamp and Pelini?) or the possibility for an upstart coordinator to get his big shot (Scott Frost?). But we can always speculate, which is half the fun anyway.

Kansas- This is an easy one in my mind. Kansas has been troubled for a few years, but the school doesn’t thrive on football anyway. Charlie Weis was fired early in the season to give the Jayhawks plenty of chances to search for a suitable candidate—or try one out.

Clint Bowen (Credit:Getty Images)

If you ask me, Clint Bowen will be given a shot to see if he can make some changes to the Kansas program. He’s a known commodity, a Kansas product, and has already handled the transition period. The smart money says that Bowen will keep the job, but the turn-around period to get the Jayhawks on track will be short.

Nebraska- What is Nebraska’s deal? Sure, Bo Pelini may be a little gruff and tough, but Nebraska seems to be acting out like a child upset that it’s no longer the center of attention. Pelini posted a record of 67-27 over his 7 year coaching stint, including 6 bowl games (technically, 7. Pelini also coached the 2003 Alamo Bowl as interim head coach, and WON).

Bo Pelini (Credit:Getty Images)

Pelini also handled the transition to the Big Ten, and won at least 9 games in every season he coached, though he never won a conference championship. Replacing Pelini will be a monster task, and there aren’t many coaches that may be up to the challenge. Scott Frost (OC, Oregon) is a Nebraska guy (he was born in Lincoln) and he would be a huge catch for the ‘Huskers as a first year-head coach. But, can they lure him away from his monster at Oregon?

Florida- Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It seems as though Florida has huge ups and huge downs. When Ron Zook took over from Steve Spurrier, Florida crashed like the stock market. When Muschamp walked into Gainesville after Urban Myer left, it seemed like he would hold the ship—but only briefly.

Will Muschamp (Credit:Getty Images)

Muschamp will definitely rebound, but will the Gators? A fan base that is tough even in good times and with immediate expectations for winning will be daunting to any coach. Is there one? Well… maybe. Several names have been tossed around already, but only a few make any real sense. Look out for Kirby Smart (OC, Alabama) to potentially make a move out of the combined shadow of Nick Sabin and Lane Kiffen. A great dark horse prospect could also be Rich Rodriguez. He should be content in Arizona, but Florida may be able to lure him away for the right price.

We’re only scratching the surface of the college coaching carousel this year, and it’s already shaping up to be an interesting one. When the dust settles and the smoke clears, the college landscape could be a completely different place. Stay tuned to for more football coverage.

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