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.)

Middle Tennessee State brings back ex-Blue Raiders RB Shane Tucker as grad assistant

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There will be a very familiar face in the Middle Tennessee State football building when the Conference USA school reconvenes.

Memorial Day, Middle Tennessee State announced that Shane Tucker has been added to the extended football staff.  Specifically, Tucker will serve as a graduate assistant for Rick Stockstill.  Tucker will work on the offensive side of the ball for the Blue Raiders.

From 2013-2017, Tucker was a running back at MTSU.  And a wide receiver as well.

In 39 appearances, Tucker started 17 of those games.  He started contests in 2013 (three), 2014 (two), 2015 (four) and 2017 (eight).  The Memphis native’s 2016 season ended before it started because of an offseason injury.

During his time in Murfreesboro, Tucker ran for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns on 271 carries.  He also caught 67 passed for 869 yards and another seven touchdowns.

In 2014, Tucker earned honorable mention All-Conference USA honors.  As a fifth-year senior in 2017, he was named a permanent captain.

Middle Tennessee State is coming off a 4-8 2019 football campaign.  That was the program’s worst record since going 2-10 in 2011.  MTSU also saw its school-record streak of bowl appearances end at four in a row.

One of the players Tucker Will Likely work with?  Martell Pettaway.  The West Virginia running back transferred to the Conference USA school in January.

Ex-Georgia State RB Gerald Howse, 28, found dead in his home

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Georgia State is mourning the loss of a member of its football family.

Sunday, Georgia State announced the passing of former Panther football player Gerald Howse.  Howse was just 28.

According to one report, Howse was found dead at his home in Cookeville, Tenn.  A cause of death has not yet been released.

From GSU’s release:

Howse, from Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Siegel High School, lettered at running back for the Panthers in 2013-14 after transferring from NE Oklahoma A&M.

After graduating with his degree in sociology, he entered the coaching profession, beginning with stints at Oklahoma Baptist (2015) and NE Oklahoma A&M (2016-19). He was honored as the NJCAA Top Assistant Coach in 2017.

In January of 2020, Howse was named as the running backs coach at Tennessee Tech of the FCS.  The football program’s head coach, Dewayne Alexander, released a statement addressing his assistant’s passing as well.

Gerald was a first-class young man. He was highly thought of by so many people. His coaches at Siegel High School – Greg Wyatt and David Watson – always brought him up whenever we had positions come open. He displayed a very positive attitude. He was a man of character who lived out faith, family and football. He was so close to his family – his mom, dad and sister – that it was one of the biggest reasons he came here to Tennessee Tech: coach in the area, be back in Middle Tennessee and be close to his family. He was an outstanding coach and a man every coach would want on his staff. Gerald made a huge impact on our players in the short time he was here. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, as well as the Tennessee Tech football family. Anytime you lose a staff member, it affects a lot of people.

Pac-12 targets June 15 for return of players for voluntary in-person workouts

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The Pac-12 is the latest to contribute to the measured return of college football.

Last week, the NCAA announced that it would allow schools to bring its student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1. Friday, the SEC announced that it will allow players to return starting June 8.  That same day, the Big 12 announced its target date is June 15.

Monday, the Pac-12 followed the Big 12’s lead, with that Power Five confirming a return date of June 15 for voluntary in-person athletic workouts. The league came to its decision to allow student-athletes to return to campus following a meeting of the Pac-12 CEO Group earlier in the day.

The conference also made sure to note in its release that the universities will “determine whether and how to open its sporting facilities in accordance with relevant county and state guidelines.”

“As educational institutions, our highest obligation is to the health and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Pac-12 CEO Group Chair and University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano in a statement. “As we considered the pros and cons of taking steps that can pave a path to returning to play, those considerations were foremost, guided by the advice of our own medical experts along with public health officials.”

“The Pac-12 is committed to the well-being of our student-athletes, and the decision to allow for voluntary workouts, subject to a determination by each school, is guided by the advice of our medical experts and will be supported by the detailed protocols established by our medical advisory committee in concert with our campus’ own safety guidelines,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “As states have either already opened or begin to open up access to parks, gyms and other training facilities, student-athletes should have the option at this time to be in, what for many, will be a much safer environment on campus, where they can have access to the best available health, well-being and training support.”

The ACC and Big Ten are the only Power Fives to not announce a uniform plan for a return.  Both Ohio State and Illinois, though, will allow players to return June 8, for example.  Ditto for Clemson and Louisville as well.

Arizona’s leader in receiving yards underwent surgery on a fractured foot earlier this month

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A key piece of the passing game for Arizona football is recovering from a health issue.  Fortunately, it doesn’t appear it will impact his availability for the upcoming season.

Prior to Arizona shuttering spring football practice because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jamarye Joiner suffered a fractured left foot.  It was reported at the time that the wide receiver was “believed to have suffered a Jones fracture, which is a break between the base of the foot and the fifth metatarsal.”

According to The Athletic, Joiner underwent surgery to repair the damage May 12.  The procedure was delayed as elective surgeries were scuttled because of the pandemic.

The same website reported that the receiver will be sidelined for a period of 6-12 weeks.  Such a timeline would extend, at the long end, to early August.  Arizona is scheduled to open the 2020 football season Aug. 29 against Hawaii.

Joiner was a three-star member of the Arizona football Class of 2018.  The Tucson native was rated as the No. 6 prospect regardless of position in the state of Arizona.

Originally signing as a quarterback, Joiner completed three of his four pass attempts for 17 yards in two games a true freshman.  Playing in less than four games allowed Joiner to preserve a year of eligibility.

Prior to the start of summer camp, Joiner made the move from quarterback to wide receiver.  In his first season at the position, the redshirt freshman led the Wildcats in receiving yards with 552 and receiving touchdowns with five.  His 34 receptions were third on the team, while his 16.2 yards per catch was second among the nine players with at least 10 receptions.

Arizona head football coach Kevin Sumlin this month became one of a handful of coaches to take a pay cut.