CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Coaching Hot Seat

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Like death and taxes, another certainty in life is that, somewhere, a college 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 very lucrative 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 anywhere from 15 to upwards of 25 of the nearly 130 head coaches who are on the FBS sidelines when the season begins won’t be there when the calendar flips to 2016.

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.

AL GOLDEN, MIAMI
2014 RECORD: 6-7
OVERALL RECORD: 28-22 overall, 16-16 in ACC
Last year at this time it was a coach from North Florida sitting at the top of this list; fast-forward 12 months, and one from South Florida claims the top spot.  And rightly so, actually — especially if you ask THIS former player or THIS one.  In his first three seasons with the Hurricanes, and in the midst of NCAA sanctions, Golden saw his win total go from six to seven to nine.  With expectations high for 2014, the bottomed dropped out in a seven-loss season, the most for the program since Randy Shannon‘s first season with the ‘Canes.  Speaking of Shannon, he was canned after going 28-22 overall and 16-16 in ACC play; look familiar, Coach Golden?  You get the feeling that anything short of at least a nine-win season will have Golden going the way of his predecessor Shannon.

TIM BECKMAN, ILLINOIS
2014 RECORD: 6-7
OVERALL RECORD: 12-25 overall, 4-20 in Big Ten
Were it not for the Illini slipping through the postseason backdoor and landing in a bowl, Beckman wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be included on this list as he already would’ve been out of a job.  As it is, he faces yet another win-or-else campaign.  To his credit, Beckman is overseeing a football program at a predominately basketball school, one that he has guided to two more wins in each of his three seasons: two in 2012 to four in 2013 to six in 2015.  On the flip side, eight of his wins 12 have comes against teams from the FCS (three), MAC (two), Sun Belt (one), Conference USA (one) and AAC (one).  If he can take the two-win step up like he did the last two seasons and get to eight wins in earning a second straight bowl bid, his job should be safe for another season — even amidst allegations of player abuse.   Should the Illini take a step or three back, and with the abuse cloud hanging over his head, he won’t be on the 2016 version of this list as he’ll — maybe — be a coordinator at another FBS program.

MIKE LONDON
2014 RECORD: 5-7
OVERALL RECORD: 23-38 overall, 11-29 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, 2013 and 2014 happened.  UVa. won just 11 games total those three seasons, hitting rock-bottom with a 2-10 collapse in 2013 that was the school’s worst showing since 1982; to London’s credit, though, that was followed by a five-win 2014 season.  Take out the eight-win season, and the Cavaliers are just 11-25 under London.  It was a miracle London not only returned for a fourth year after the two-win season but came back for a fifth; at bare minimum, it’ll take a bowl berth to make it to a sixth.  And, with a schedule that includes games against UCLA, Notre Dame, Boise State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Duke and Virginia Tech, good luck with that.

SCOTT SHAFER, SYRACUSE
2014 RECORD: 3-9
OVERALL RECORD: 10-15 overall, 5-11 in ACC
The third ACC coach of the four already placed on this list, Shafer actually began his time with the Orange on the uptick, guiding the ‘Cuse to its second of back-to-back bowl berths in his first season in 2013.  2014, however, was an abject failure, with the ‘Cuse plummeting to a 3-9 record that left those around the program calling for Shafer’s head after just two seasons.  Two of those three wins came against FCS Villanova (by one point) and the MAC’s Central Michigan.  To show just how far they have to go in the ACC, six of their seven conference losses came by at least 10 points, with those losses coming by an average of 18.5 losses per game.  It may not be a make or break year for Shafer, but it’s as close to it as you can get.

PAUL RHOADS, IOWA STATE
2014 RECORD: 2-10
OVERALL RECORD: 29-46 overall, 14-38 in Big 12
For a football program without much a successful history, Rhoads appeared to have the Cyclones on the right track toward turning that around.  Replacing Gene Chizik and his 5-19 record after he left for Auburn, Rhoads led ISU to 24 wins and three bowl berths in the four seasons from 2009-13. The victims in those 24 wins included Nebraska, Texas and, most famously, the upset of an Oklahoma State team that was unbeaten and ranked second in the country.  Since then, the wheels… and doors… and transmission have fallen off the Cyclones, winning just five games the past two seasons, including just two against Big 12 members — and one of those came against conference doormat Kansas in 2013, with the Jayhawks turning around and curb-stomping the Cyclones by 20 the following year.  Thanks to his passion, Rhoads is one of the more likable coaches at this level.  Unfortunately, it might be a time for a change in Ames, although his contract might give him another season on the sidelines regardless of how 2015 turns out.

KEVIN WILSON, INDIANA
2014 RECORD: 4-8
OVERALL RECORD: 14-34 overall, 6-26 in Big Ten
When your record includes win totals of just one, four, five and four your first four years at a school, especially one in a Power Five conference, you’re going to find yourself on this list.  And, obviously, this is the position in which Wilson finds himself: win and qualify for a bowl berth, or be prepared to look for an offensive coordinator job elsewhere.  Wilson’s predecessor, Bill Lynch, won 19 games in four years before being canned by athletic director Fred Glass; Wilson, Glass’ pick as successor, has won 14 in four years.  Wilson got Glass’ public vote of confidence last November, but here’s to guessing that, if this year’s like the last four, the only public statement being issued by Glass in November will be one that includes “… immediately launching a national search to find a replacement.”

(Overall records are for the respective coaches’ current schools only.)

Lane Kiffin confirmed ex-Florida State QB Deondre Francois won’t be transferring to FAU

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As expected, Deondre Francois’ winding college football journey won’t be leading him to one Conference USA school as his next stop.

In late May, it was reported that Francois would be walking on at Florida Atlantic and playing for Lane Kiffin‘s Owls; a month later, it was reported that Francois likely wouldn’t be joining the Owls as a walk-on, scholarship player or otherwise.  In officially putting this particular subject to bed, Kiffin confirmed late last week that the quarterback will not be transferring into his FAU program.

Instead, it’s still expected that Francois will continue his playing career at the FCS level, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Earlier this offseason, Florida State announced that Francois had been dismissed from the football program after a social media post brought to light an alleged domestic incident between the quarterback and his ex-girlfriend. A day later, the alleged victim in that incident posted an apology on her Instagram account, stating that the release “of the video was to scare him” and that she was seeking “closure and attention from him after we broke up but I couldn’t get it from him. The only way to get his attention was through Instagram and spiteful actions.”

Not long after that apology was released, however, the alleged victim’s Instagram account was deleted. Shortly after that, the woman’s sister took to the same social media site and claimed that her sibling’s Instagram account had been hacked, intimating that the apology that was posted was fake.

The Tallahassee Police Department subsequently determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue domestic-violence charges against Francois.  The one-time starting quarterback for the Seminoles went on to enter his name into the NCAA transfer database not long after his dismissal was confirmed.

After winning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2016, Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury against Alabama the following year.  Francois was the starter for the vast majority of the 2018 season, missing one game in early November because of a concussion.  In his 11 starts as a redshirt junior, he completed just over 57 percent of his passes for 2,2731 yards, 15 touchdowns and a dozen interceptions.
After considering leaving FSU for the draft in December — but only if the NFL evaluations weren’t favorable — it was confirmed the following month that Francois would remain at the collegiate level.

Mike Gundy delivered all-time line to son about how he’ll be coached at Oklahoma State

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Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy can drop some good zingers at any given moment. But his son, Gunnar Gundy, was on the receiving end of one of the all-time lines that is incredibly difficult to respond to.

When asked about the possibility of coaching his son at Oklahoma State, the head coach of the Cowboys stressed he would coach Gunnar just as he would any other player in the program. That means no preferential treatment even though there is a family bond in place. That is when Riley took the idea to another level.

As transcribed by The Oklahoman;

“When asked how he would coach his son, Gunnar, if the situation arose: “I told him, if you come to Oklahoma State, I’ll coach you like I do everybody else… If you’re the best player, you’ll play. If not, you won’t play — even though I’m sleeping with your mom.”

That is quite the classic recruiting sales pitch from the head coach of the Pokes. It’s certainly not a recruiting pitch that would work any other recruit. Or is it? We’ll stray from traveling down that path for now.

Gunnar Gundy is entering his senior year of high school football. As you would probably suspect, Oklahoma State is considered to be one of the favorites to land the quarterback. Gunnar could potentially follow in his father’s footsteps in Stillwater, as the current head coach is also a former quarterback for Oklahoma State.

Helmet sticker to Pistols Firing.

Matt Rhule doesn’t let stolen truck stop him from sticking to his schedule

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Baylor head coach Matt Rhule had a rough weekend. The head coach of the Bears had his truck stolen from the parking lot of a hotel. But rest assured, Rhule made it known that would not prevent him from getting to where he needed to be.

Rhule took to Twitter with a message to the party responsible for his stolen truck, confirming he would still find a way to attend an event organized by the Texas High School Coaches Association at Rice University.

As promised by Rhule, he made it to the event in Houston.

But it wasn’t just a truck that was stolen from Rhule either. Inside the truck was a set of golf clubs that didn’t belong to him, as noted by Baylor assistant coach Joey McGuire.

There is no indication at this time if the truck has or will be recovered. The same goes for the golf clubs. In the meantime, Rhule will have to keep on going about his business as he prepares for a new college football season with Baylor.

DJ Durkin resurfaces at Atlanta Falcons training camp

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DJ Durkin has rarely been seen, at least in the football sense, since Halloween, when he was fired by Maryland’s board one day after being reinstated. He briefly appeared as a consultant at Alabama, a move Nick Saban was forced to immediately defend, and not a peep has been heard from Durkin sense.

Until Monday.

The Atlanta Falcons have brought the disgraced coach aboard as a guest coach for training camp, the team has announced.

Durkin and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn worked together at Florida, where the latter was Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator and Durkin the special teams coordinator. Quinn coached with Durkin in 2011-12 before leaving for the same job with the Seattle Seahawks; Durkin was promoted to serve as Quinn’s replacement.

Asked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution if he had any reservations about brining in Durkin, Quinn said, “I didn’t probably because I know who the person is having coached with him before. So, I knew his background as a defensive coach and special teams. By doing our due diligence from there. … An unfortunate situation, of course, but as far as eyes to look at the defense to help us, I definitely knew the advantage of that.”

The team said Durkin will watch practice for 10 days and consult with the Falcons’ coaching staff; he will not have any direct interaction with players.

“I know DJ first hand,” Quinn said. “I know what he is as a coach. I know what his character is. We did all of our due diligence, calling everybody at Maryland and had our own follow up.”