There have been offseasons with more head coaching changes in the FCS, but the way the carousel has spun recently, this is one of the wilder rides.
The subdivision has had changes at 16 schools, including five that finished in the Top 25. Among the coaching losses are two who won national titles in the last decade, Eastern Washington’s Beau Baldwin (Cal offensive coordinator) and Villanova’s Andy Talley (retirement).
But new head coaches bring renewed energy to programs, so their campuses are anticipating the 2017 season already.
Here’s a quick assessment of the coaching changes:
Most High-Profile Hire: Danny Rocco, Delaware
Rocco made the rare jump by a head coach across a conference, going from to Richmond to Delaware in CAA Football. He led Richmond to the national semifinals (2015) and quarterfinals (2016) in the last two seasons, but he left the Spiders after five seasons when Delaware made him one of the higher-paid coaches in the FCS. He’s charged with reviving the Blue Hens’ once-elite program.
Best Hire: Russ Huesman, Richmond
It took a mere 24 hours for Richmond to replace Rocco with Huesman. The 56-year-old had turned Chattanooga into a national power, with three Southern Conference titles and three playoff appearances over the last four years. He has nearly 20 years of coaching experience in the CAA, including five years as Richmond’s defensive coordinator, with the final one resulting in the Spiders winning the 2008 FCS title.
Biggest Loss: Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern
It was going to be difficult for Big South program Charleston Southern to keep up-and-coming Chadwell much longer, but it still stung when he departed to become associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Coastal Carolina, an intrastate rival that is rising to the FBS level next season. He went 35-14 with two conference titles and two playoff appearances in four seasons after the Buccaneers won only eight games in the three seasons prior to his arrival.
Most Underrated Hire: Adam Dorrel, Abilene Christian
Abilene Christian has been on the FCS level only four years, but the Southland Conference program is on the upswing under Dorrel. He just wrapped up a six-year run at Northwest Missouri State in which he won three of the last four Division II national titles and posted a 76-8 (.905) record. He became Abilene Christian’s first coach with previous collegiate head coaching experience, and the program dates to 1919. What a way to get started as the Wildcats will debut a new on-campus stadium in September.
Most Surprising Hire: Mike London, Howard
If Lane Kiffin can move to Florida Atlantic then London (above, right) can move to a MEAC program. London guided Richmond to the 2008 FCS title and turned his success there into the job at Virginia, where he went 27-46 in six seasons from 2010-15. He served as the associate head coach and defensive line coach at Maryland this past season. At Howard, he will try to lift a program that finished 2-9 this past season.
Best First-Time Hire: Clay Hendrix, Furman
Hendrix was probably overdue to become a head coach, but the wait was worthwhile as he’s returned home to his alma mater, Furman in the Southern Conference. He spent the last 10 seasons at Air Force, including seven as offensive coordinator. A former offensive lineman at Furman from 1982-85, he coached the position with the Paladins for 19 seasons from 1988-2006. During that time, they won 1988 FCS title and were the national runner-up in 2001.
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Top photo by Northwest Missouri State Athletics)