Trick or treat: struggling Pac-12 coaches

A holiday that celebrates the macabre got me thinking: What's the most terrifying part of being a college football fan? Turn away! It's hideous! Run and save yourself! It's…it's…a horrifyingly bad head coach!

Every fan base endures its "I-survived-the-[insert horrible coach's name here] years." Far from legends or leaders, some Pac-12 coaches throughout history live on – the coaching undead, if you will – as examples of futility. These are the stories that invoke bloodcurdling screams from those who survived. In the case of Oregon State back in 1984, it was the 5,000 season-ticket holders who remained.

Joe Avezzano, Oregon State
Years: 1980-1984
Record: 6-47-2 (.127)
Lowlights: The school somehow tolerated five seasons of Avezzano's ghastly experiments, one winless, two with just a single victory. Just one other Division I school lost more games over that span(Northwestern, 48), but at least the Wildcats has the wherewithal to hire Dennis Green. As for the Beavers, the haunting presence of an out-of-touch administration stood in the way. "What we say is that if you lose, you haven't learned anything," school president Robert MacVicar said back then.

Chuck Fairbanks, Colorado
Years: 1979-1981
Record: 7-26 (.212)
Lowlights: Or as they now should refer to him in Boulder, "Dan Hawkins I." His is one of the uglier college coaching resumes. The Dr. Jekyll who guided Oklahoma to a No. 2 national ranking bottomed out as Mr. Hyde just a few years later. PR disasters piled up alongside the losses. When the cash-strapped Colorado athletic department estimated its deficit would exceed $1 million, it cut six sports in 1980. It was later learned $50,000 was spent on a new desk for a coach who twice lost to Drake and served up 82 points to the Sooners.

Paul Hackett, USC
Years: 1998-2000 (.513)
Record: 19-18
Lowlights: Sure, 80 percent of the seniors on his final team graduated the following spring, the highest in recorded Trojan football history to that point. Academic success, however, holds little weight at Heritage Hall when a coach oversees the only last-place conference finish in program history, a 2-6 conference mark in 2000. Even with the likes of Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu, his teams went an aggregate 0-8 against Oregon, Arizona and some truly ordinary Cal teams. Speaking of those toothless Bears…

Tom Holmoe, Cal
Years: 1997-2001
Record: 16-39 (.291)
Lowlights: If you want to scare someone from Berkeley, skip the Freddy Krueger or Ronald Reagan masks. Never in its tortured history has Cal football fallen so far from relevancy as it did under this overmatched coach. His 1-10 record in his final season remains the worst in the program's 129 years. He lost all five Big Games, with Bear fans descending into madness – storming the field, attacking the Stanford Tree, again – after a frightening 10-3 defeat in 1998.

John Mackovic, Arizona
Years: 2001-2003
Record: 10-18 (.357)
Lowlights: Credit Wildcat players for fighting back against this nightmarish coach. After dropping six straight games for the first time since joining the conference, more than 40 U of A players met with their school president. They railed charges of verbal abuse against Mackovic, who had reportedly called one player a disgrace to his family. Fired in disgrace after failing miserably at Texas years earlier, Mackovic was canned a year later after starting the season 1-8.

Walt Wiggens, Stanford
Years: 1980-1983; 2002-2006
Record: 32-68 (.320)
Lowlights: This unholy beast seemed to be dead before appearing in later years, taking the form of various inept/unqualified coaches. May he finally be gone forever.


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