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College Football Hot Seat Watch: What's Next for Louisville and Other Coaching Situations to Watch

Scott Satterfield, Louisiville Cardinals Football

A few years ago I came up with the term “Anxiety Bowl,” which applied to any regular season game in which both coaching staffs needed to win to keep their jobs, or at least avoid the beginning of the end. These games usually take place closer to Thanksgiving than Labor Day, but thanks to the occasional hiccups of Week 1 conference play, an Anxiety Bowl sneaked past us on Saturday, and it provided the worst kind of result: Syracuse demolished Louisville 31-7, a result that leaves little doubt as to the state of Scott Satterfield’s Cardinal program.

Both coaching staffs needed this one. Dino Babers is 30-43 starting his seventh season with the Orange. That overall record is lackluster, and even then it’s hiding the truth: Babers guided Syracuse to a 10-3 season in 2018, and hasn’t broken past five wins a season before or after. Because Syracuse is a private school, details of Babers’ deal aren't public, but the consensus in the agent community is that his buyout would be around the $8-10 million mark if he was terminated after this season.

Smacking the Cardinals puts Babers halfway towards meeting his entire conference win total last season (Cuse hasn’t won more than two ACC games in a season since that 10-3 ‘18 run), while things just look worse and worse for the Cards. Satterfield is 18-20 at Louisville with one winning season (his first), an 8-5 campaign in 2019.

Worse than his record, Satterfield has been caught trying to play the Cardinals for a better contract in the job market. In 2020 he bungled a flirtation with South Carolina by interviewing with the Gamecocks after declaring he wasn’t interested, all while keeping UL leaders in the dark. Some sources felt like Satterfield was trying to push for a better deal, some thought he was legitimately fleeing a city and culture he didn’t connect with. Either way, Satterfield hasn’t won enough for UL to get over it.

Complicating matters slightly is the ‘Ville’s sudden and somewhat unexpected success in recruiting the 2023 class. Despite the malaise on the field, Satterfield’s staff has 14 commits for ‘23, ranking them third in the ACC and 17th nationally by 247Sports. And hey, that’s great, but this isn’t 10 years ago. The consensus among those in the hiring and firing world is that a good future signing class is no longer the equity it once was for a struggling staff. In the transfer portal era and with early signing day, programs can mitigate the risk of Louisville’s ‘23 class falling apart with a new coach.

Related: Complete Recap for Week 1 of the 2022 Season

A List Emerges, Not Yet Hot

Even in the seemingly lawless construct of modern college football, it’s still insane to compile a hot seat list after Week 1 that’s more than a few names. But that doesn’t mean some noticeable targets can’t be identified.

Scott Frost, Nebraska: Hey, they didn’t lose! The Huskers even shut out North Dakota in the fourth quarter! Up next is a rebuilding Georgia Southern before Oklahoma and conference play determines Frost’s fate.

Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets’ new offense was… noticeable… against Clemson, but the fact of the matter remains: This is a brutally hard schedule (non-conference games against UCF, Ole Miss, and Georgia) that likely won’t give Collins enough to survive.

Bryan Harsin, Auburn: Enjoy an Auburn-free existence for another two weeks! Then Penn State comes to town and Harsin’s job status is a daily development. Or he could lose this weekend to San Jose State, but I doubt it.

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy: A surprise addition here, no doubt. The Midshipmen dropped a stunner at home to FCS Delaware, and it’s evident now that this program is in a swoon. After last year’s standoff between athletic director Chet Gladchuck and the staff over offensive coordinator Ivan Jasper, could Coach Niu be considering a change? It still feels impossible that Navy would pink-slip a coach who has won 105 games and ran a decade winning streak over Army.

Mike Bloomgren, Rice: With the Owls heading to the American Athletic Conference, Bloomgren is 11-32 and there’s no sign of consistent development. This program is considered almost unwinnable among coaches, but that won’t stop the school from making a change eventually. The "Stanford-in-Texas" plan hasn’t worked at all.

Jake Spavital, Texas State: If you’re looking for a true Sicko’s delight on Saturday, tune into Texas State vs. FIU: The rebuilding Panthers barely beat Bryant last week under first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre. This is a must-win for Spavital, now 9-28 in San Marcos and famous solely for his choice to sign no high school player in Texas during one of his recruiting cycles.

Will Healy, Charlotte: Healy has brushed with national fame before, even being considered for openings at South Carolina and Vanderbilt, but is now struggling to maintain a nascent 49ers program. They were walloped by FCS William & Mary after losing to FIU and are in a must-win mode to salvage the season and Healy’s trajectory.

You can hear more from Steven Godfrey at Split Zone Duo, or watch his work at Secret Base. He’s on Instagram and Twitter at @38Godfrey.

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