A chance to coach college football at the top level of the game for a living should make any man on the sideline to be thankful.
Some should be more thankful than others this year, though, to be coaching major college football this season.
Whether they’re thankful for their health, thankful for a second chance or thankful to be gainfully employed despite the results, here is our list of coaches who should be extra thankful to be wearing a headset this Thanksgiving:
Mack Brown, Texas
With four consecutive wins, the Longhorns have their act back together after an embarrassing 63-21 loss to Oklahoma and close calls against Baylor and Kansas. Texas is 8-2 and could be in the discussion for a BCS bid, especially if the Longhorns manage to upset Kansas State in Manhattan. Brown wasn’t the most popular man in Austin back in September, but he could have Texas back at 10 wins for the first time since 2009.
Norm Chow, Hawaii
The former offensive coordinator, whose star has fallen quite a bit since he coached Heisman winners at USC in the early 2000s, is thankful to have finally landed his first head coaching job at Hawaii. After starting 1-9, Chow eventually might be thankful to keep his job for however long he hangs onto it.
Bob Davie, New Mexico
Hiring a man whose last coaching job was the first of three ill-fated tenures at Notre Dame more than a decade ago would be a tough sell for most fanbases. Davie, though, is thankful for New Mexico rolling the dice on a 58-year-old coach who spent more time in the broadcast booth than on the sideline the last 11 years. New Mexico won’t go to a bowl game, but the Lobos have won more games in Davie’s first season than they did during all of Mike Locksley’s three years.
Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Kill has dealt with occasionally frightening health issues for several years now, including a suffering a seizure on the field during a game against New Mexico State last year and in the locker room after a loss to Northwestern this season. Few will savor Minnesota’s return to a bowl game more than Kill, one of the nation’s most underrated coaches.
Mike Leach, Washington State, and Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
On the same day in November, Leach and his staff were accused of player mistreatment by his former star wide receiver, and Tuberville was caught on camera swatting the headset off the head of a graduate assistant during the game. Leach had the backing of his athletic director, though an investigation by the Pac-12 is in progress. Tuberville has since apologized and received a public reprimand. Considering the history -- Leach losing his job over player mistreatment accusations at Texas Tech and Tuberville coaching at Tech where basketball coach Billy Gillispie also received such allegations -- both may be thankful when these issues fade away with out serious repercussions.
Will Muschamp, Florida
It’s better to be lucky than good. At least on offense for Florida. The Gators are indeed a charmed one-loss bunch. A blocked punt for a touchdown in the final minute salvaged a win against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 10. Before that, four Missouri interceptions covered up a lackluster performance against Missouri. And then there’s South Carolina. Poor South Carolina, who fumbled twice around its own goal line and had a field goal blocked in the loss to Florida. The Gators may not be too much better than the group that went 7-6 last season, but they sure are luckier.
Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Penn State’s football program will take an inevitable dive as NCAA sanctions start to take hold in the coming years. For now, though, O’Brien is enjoying a 7-4 season, including 5-2 in the Big Ten. Not bad, considering the season started with a 24-17 loss to Ohio and a missed-kick-fest against Virginia. The hire of O’Brien, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator, was not universally applauded, but the no-nonsense coach and Penn State should be thankful he’s a good fit in State College.
Mark Richt, Georgia
Before the season, Richt had reason to be thankful for a schedule that dodged Alabama and LSU. Richt is thankful for much more. For the second consecutive season, Georgia lost to South Carolina but will win the SEC East anyway. The fortuitous bounces in Florida’s favor against the Gamecocks knocked Carolina down in the East standings and put Georgia back in contention. Then, the Gators’ turnovers against Georgia in Jacksonville put the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat for the SEC title game. After Kansas State and Oregon both lost Saturday, a win in the SEC championship game could send Georgia to the national title game despite being outclassed in a 35-7 loss to South Carolina.
John L. Smith, Arkansas
The coach who urged reporters to “smile” likely won’t need any reminders to be thankful. It’s been a tough year for Smith off the field with the passing of his brother in addition to the coach dealing with financial problems. Arkansas football won’t reach a bowl game this season, but Smith may be the first to say that coaching college football as a profession is worthy of gratitude no matter the on-field results.
Charlie Weis, Kansas
Weis went 19-6 in his first two seasons at Notre Dame, but his college results since then have been less than stellar: 16-21 at Notre Dame and a putrid offense at Florida with Weis as coordinator. Weis has reason to be thankful to be a coach in any major conference, even if its the toughest job in the Big 12.