CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Coaching Hot Seat

8 Comments

Like death and taxes, another certainty in life is that, somewhere, a coach’s backside is feeling a little toasty.

Such is the case as we get set to embark on a sparkling new football season, with a handful of coaches feeling the heat from folks off the field for their collective failures on it. Fair or not, it’s a fact of life in the coaching profession: win or you’re gone, ofttimes with a multi-million buyout serving as a parachute.

So, just who is possibly looking at a spot in the coaching unemployment line at season’s end, or sooner? Recent history suggests that at least 20 of the head coaches who are on the sidelines when the season begins won’t be there when the calendar flips to 2015.

Below are but a few of the coaches who could be entering a make-or-break season at their respective schools, in order from hottest to slightly less hot.

WILL MUSCHAMP, FLORIDA
2013 RECORD: 4-8
OVERALL RECORD AT UF: 22-16 overall, 13-11 in SEC
By now, everyone’s aware of the carnage wrought by the Gators last season, but we’ll repeat them for those who’ve been in a coma and/or living under a rock.  The 4-8 record was the worst for the football program since 1979; a bowl-less postseason was the first for a non-sanctioned Gators team since 1986; a second 3-5 record in SEC play in three years showed just how far behind the conference elite they currently are; and, arguably the most embarrassing facet of the woeful season, UF lost to FCS Georgia Southern in The Swamp as the latter didn’t complete a forward pass.  The calls for Muschamp’s head on a platter from the media and fans alike were coming fast and furious.  So much so that the athletic director had to offer his beleaguered head coach an in-season vote of confidence. While Jeremy Foley has publicly supported the coach, there is growing concern behind closed doors that Muschamp may not be the man to lead the Gators back to national prominence.  If 2014 is even remotely close to a repeat of 2013, the outcry will be so great that Foley may have no choice but to make a change and go in a different direction.

BRADY HOKE, MICHIGAN
2013 RECORD: 7-6
OVERALL RECORD AT UM: 26-13 overall, 15-9 in Big Ten
I’ll just go ahead and copy & paste what I wrote in an earlier preview as it pretty much covers it all:

Early on, it was all chili puppy dogs and pizza rainbows for Hoke in Ann Arbor.  In his first year at Michigan, the Wolverines went 11-2 and beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.  Most importantly, and even as it came between the tenures of Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, UM ended a six-game losing streak against hated rival Ohio State.  The honeymoon was hot, steamy and sweaty; the marriage since?  Ankle-length robes and open bathroom doors.  The Wolverines have gone a pedestrian 15-11 the last two years — two losses in minor bowls included — and returned to their losing ways in The Game.  Not only that, but UM has watched as “little brother” Michigan State has leapfrogged them, with the Spartans not only turning themselves into a force in the conference but a factor on the national stage as well.  Throw in some coaching changes, uncertainty at the quarterback position, an offensive line that’s subpar and suspect, just add everything all up and this could very well be a make-or-break year for Hoke.

DANA HOLGORSEN, WEST VIRGINIA
2013 RECORD: 4-8
OVERALL RECORD AT WVU: 21-17 overall, 11-14 in Big 12/Big East
The move to the Big 12 from the old Big East hasn’t been kind to West Virginia in general and Holgorsen specifically.  During his first season in the lesser football conference, Holgorsen’s Mountaineers won 10 games and put a 70-spot up on the scoreboard in the Orange Bowl romp over Clemson.  Since then?  The honeymoon is officially over.  A 7-6 record (4-5 conference) in the first year in the Big 12 gave way to an abysmal four-win season that saw the Mountaineers go just 2-7 in conference play, ahead of only woebegone Kansas.  It was the program’s worst record since 2001 and, more embarrassingly, WVU gave the Jayhawks their lone league win.  Then there’s this sobering statistic: in 38 games under Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia has lost nine of them by 21-plus points.  In 126 games under Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart, which spanned 10 years, the Mountaineers were beaten by 21 or more points a total of eight times.  Another sobering fact?  WVU was 15-3 in its first 18 games under Holgorsen, 6-14 since.  Were it not for a sizable buyout, Holgorsen very well could’ve lost his job last year; another season of subpar results, the size of the buyout won’t matter.

MIKE LONDON, VIRGINIA
2013 RECORD: 2-10
OVERALL RECORD AT UVA: 18-31 overall, 8-24 in ACC
London was the toast of Charlottesville in 2011, with the Cavaliers’ 8-5 mark coming after the program won just 12 games total the three previous years combined.  Then 2012 and 2013 happened.  UVa. won just six games total those two seasons, hitting rock-bottom with a 2-10 collapse in 2013 that was the school’s worst showing since 1982.  Take out the eight-win season, and the Cavaliers are just 10-26 under London.  Wholesale changes made to the coaching staff showed London realizes and understands just how tenuous his hold on the job is.  It was a miracle that London returned for a fifth year; it’ll take even more of a miracle for London & Company to navigate a scheduling gauntlet of death that includes UCLA, Louisville, BYU, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and Miami and come out on the other end with his job.  In other words, godspeed, Coach London.

TROY CALHOUN, AIR FORCE
2013 RECORD: 2-10
OVERALL RECORD AT AF: 49-41 overall, 29-27 in MWC
Three years ago, it would’ve been preposterous to put Calhoun on a list like this.  The Falcons were in the midst of a run that saw Calhoun start his coaching career at the service academy with a pair of nine-win seasons and a pair of eight-win years as well.  The bottom has, however, dropped out the past three years, with the win totals going from seven in 2011 to six to two in 2013.  The two wins last year represents the football program’s worst showing since 1980.  Add in the scandal that’s rocked the service academy to its core and is expected to result in a monumental shift in athletics at the academy, and Calhoun, who was a Falcons quarterback in the mid- to late-eighties, could find himself on the outside looking in come December if things aren’t turned around post-haste.

TIM BECKMAN, ILLINOIS
2013 RECORD: 4-8
OVERALL RECORD AT UI: 6-18 overall, 1-15 in Big Ten
Most times when a head coach sees his team double its win total from the year before, you’d say he did an outstanding job.  When the previous year was just a two-win season, however, questions concerning the coach’s ability to make it to a third season grow louder and more forceful.  That’s the situation Beckman finds himself in, one that includes an embarrassing one win in conference play in his two seasons with the Illini.  Beckman’s wins in non-conference play have come against teams from the MAC (twice), the AAC and a pair of FCS schools.  His lone conference win?  A four-point squeaker last season over a Purdue team that went 1-11.   If Beckman is unable to push the Illini above the .500 mark and into a bowl game, there’s a very good chance he won’t see another year in Champaign.

CHARLIE WEIS, KANSAS
2013 RECORD: 3-9
OVERALL RECORD AT KU: 4-20 overall, 1-17 in BIG 12
What we have here is arguably the worst Power Five conference football team in the country, although there were slight signs of improvement in 2013.  In 2012, Weis’ first season in Lawrence, the Jayhawks won just one game, the first time that had happened since 1988; in 2013, Weis tripled the win total to three, although the three wins did come at the expense of an FCS team as well as two teams that were a combined 8-16 (hello WVU, Louisiana Tech).  Weis is in the third year of a five-year contract, and it’s hard to gauge whether the KU administration would be willing to pull the plug on this experiment with two years remaining and a substantial buyout in the offing.  Here’s one thing I do know: the Jayhawks won 20 games over a two-year stretch with Mark Mangino in charge just a few years ago, so it is possible to have football success at a basketball school.  Whether Weis, who’s been an abject failure as a college coach by just about any measure, is the man to lead them back to respectability remains very much up in the air.

NORM CHOW, HAWAII
2013 RECORD: 1-11
OVERALL RECORD AT UH: 4-20 overall, 1-15 in MWC
What was supposed to be a dream job for Chow has turned into an utter nightmare.  After getting his tenure started off with a 3-9 record in 2012, Chow’s Rainbow Warriors plummeted to a one-win season in 2013, with that one win coming in the regular-season finale against three-win Army.  The single win was the least for the program since 1998.  The schedule this season doesn’t bode well for Chow and his future at the school, with the Rainbow Warriors staring back-to-back one-win seasons square in the face — and that’s provided UH can get past FCS Northern Iowa, which beat Iowa State in Ames last season.  A winless season with a loss to an FCS program would seal Chow’s fate in his first head-coaching job.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 staff taking 10-percent pay cut

Big 12
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Big 12 isn’t immune to the financial difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic.

On the first day of this month, Iowa State announced a one-year reduction in pay and bonuses for all of its coaches.  Athletic directors at Oregon (HERE) and Wyoming (HERE) are taking cuts in pay.  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who reportedly made north of $5 million a year ago, is taking a 20-percent pay cut.

Thursday, Scott’s Big 12 counterpart, Bob Bowlsby, confirmed that he will be taking a 10-percent cut in pay through the end of this year.  That pay cut will also apply to the other staff in the conference’s office.  The commissioner also highlighted other cost-saving initiatives the league will undertake.

“We’ve eliminated all year-end bonuses and are formulating a reduced scope of operation plan that saves quite a bit of money, but we’re a relatively small operation,” Bowlsby stated. “Most of our resources are passed through to our members.”

Related to the financial ramifications of the pandemic, Bowlsby also expressed concern about “whether or not we can have a full and robust season.”

“Virtually every program is highly reliant on football revenue,” the commissioner told ESPN.com. “We’re making lots of contingency plans, but if you don’t get the anticipated number of games in, you lose the donations, you lose the sponsorships, you lose the gate receipts and you lose the TV. It’s potentially very impactful.”

At this point, it’s decidedly uncertain — unless you’re Dabo Swinney or Mike Gundy — when the 2020 college football season will start.  Or if it will even start.  There’s chatter that it could start in October, although one Bay Area health official doesn’t expect sports to return until at least Thanksgiving.  January has been floated as a possibility as well.  So has the spring of next year.

The only certainty in all of this is that everyone involved in the sport will go to extreme lengths to ensure that a season is played in some form or fashion.

Florida, Michigan, Ole Miss among 20-plus schools to contact Mississippi State transfer who didn’t take kindly to Mike Leach tweet

Mississippi State football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Suffice to say, there’s a significant market for one soon-to-be-former Mississippi State football player.

In the wake of first-year head coach Mike Leach‘s much-discussed tweet, Fabien Lovett announced that he would be transferring out of the Mississippi State football program.  The defensive lineman’s father subsequently confirmed that the tweet played a role in his son’s decision.

Speaking to 247Sports.com, Lovett stated that he has been in contact with more than 20 schools since he tweeted he was entering the portal.  Among the Power Five programs who have reached out include Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Oregon, Ole Miss and Tennessee.  Houston is also a school with which Lovett confirmed contact.

Schools are now permitted to contact prospective transfers without receiving permission from the player’s current school.

At this point, it’s unclear when Lovett will make a decision.  Or to where he will transfer.  It should be noted that, during his first recruitment, he took official visits to Florida and Ole Miss.

Lovett did allow that he would prefer to make visits before he decides on a new college football home.  Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA has banned all in-person recruiting until at least May 31.  That would preclude Lovett from making a visit, official or otherwise, until June 1 at the earliest.

It’s thought that Lovett would have to sit out the 2020 season if he moves to another FBS program.  However, he is expected to file an appeal for an immediate eligibility waiver.  It’s believed that he will use the Leach tweet as the basis for his appeal.

Lovett was a three-star 2018 signee.  He was rated as the No. 7 player regardless of position in the state of Mississippi.

The past two seasons, Lovett appeared in 15 games.  13 of those appearances came in 2019.  A year ago, the defensive end was credited with 19 tackles, 2½ tackles for loss and a sack.

Because he appeared in four or fewer games in 2018, Lovett was able to take a redshirt for that season.  Depending on how the waiver appeal turns out, Lovett would have either three years of eligibility starting in 2020 or two starting in 2021.

Baylor DE transfer Deonte Williams commits to Florida State

Florida State football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A loss for Baylor will turn into a gain for the Florida State football program.

Earlier this offseason, Deonte Williams signaled his intention to leave Waco by entering the NCAA transfer database. Monday, Williams indicated on Twitter that he received a scholarship offer from FSU. Two days later, on the same social media service, the defensive end announced that he has committed to the Florida State football team.

Williams has a familial connection to Florida State as his father, Alphonso, played his college football for the Seminoles. His father played with Odell Haggins, the longtime FSU assistant who was retained by new head coach Mike Norvell.

During the 2018 season, Williams suffered a significant fracture in his arm. Williams sat out the 2019 season after “[m]e and my dad decided to take the medical DQ to have time to think about my future moving forward,” he told 247Sports.com. A few months later, he entered the portal.

A three-star 2016 signee, Williams was rated as the No. 37 outside linebacker in the country. The Plano, Tex., product took a redshirt as a true freshman. He started four of the nine games in which he played in 2017, then played in the first seven games the following season before the arm injury in a game against Texas.

Nov. 3, Florida State announced that Willie Taggart was out as the program’s head football coach. A month later, Norvell was hired away from Memphis as Taggart’s replacement.

Including Williams, Norvell has added five Power Five transfers since he arrived at FSU, which is coming off back-to-back sub-.500 seasons for the first time since 1975-76.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history

college football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on April 9, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Alabama, Oklahoma announce future home-and-home
THE SYNOPSIS: You’ll have to wait a while for this matchup of college football bluebloods, though.  The Crimson Tide will travel to Norman Sept. 11, 2032. Then, the Sooners will make the trek to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 10 of the following season.  The last regular-season meeting came in 2003.  Their last two games (2014, 2018)came in the College Football Playoffs.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Kobe Bryant given No. 24 USC football jersey by Clay Helton
THE SYNOPSIS: Nearly two years later, the 41-year-old NBA Hall of Famer, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Report: Ole Miss blocking Shea Patterson’s appeal for immediate eligibility at Michigan
THE SYNOPSIS: Ole Miss’ petulance lasted nearly through the month of April.  In the end, however, the quarterback was granted a waiver by the NCAA.  In two seasons with the Wolverines, Patterson threw for 5,661 yards, 45 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Yet another Oklahoma quarterback arrested for public intoxication
THE SYNOPSIS: Chris Robison was the second Sooners signal-caller popped for being drunk in public.  The first?  Future Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Dabo Swinney names a favorite to replace QB Deshaun Watson out of spring game
THE SYNOPSIS: Kelly Bryant did indeed take over for Watson at Clemson.  That hold on the job lasted one season as, after the emergence of Trevor Lawrence, Bryant transferred to Missouri in December of 2018.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Report: UNLV considering building football stadium near the Strip
THE SYNOPSIS: Two years later, it was confirmed that the new home of the NFL’s Raiders will also serve as the college football Rebels’ new digs.  That stadium in Las Vegas is still set to open this year.

2014

THE HEADLINE: NCAA football attendance topped 50 million in 2013
THE SYNOPSIS: The exact figure was 50,291,275, including bowl attendance of 1.7 million fans.  By 2018, FBS attendance had dipped to 36,707,511.  The NCAA has yet to release its attendance figures for the 2019 season.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Report: ‘Noles-Irish game set for 2014
THE SYNOPSIS: That game came to fruition, with Florida State claiming a 31-27 win.  Notre Dame whipped FSU 42-13 in the next meeting in South Bend.

2012

THE HEADLINE: Officer report: ‘I do not know Jessica Dorrell and I have never met her’
THE SYNOPSIS: Pinocchio Petrino just kept stepping into it deeper and deeper.