By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With spring practice kicking off across college football, it's never too early to start thinking about the coaches on the hot seat for 2012. Athlon's editors recently met to vote on their top 20 coaches on the hot seat as preseason workouts begin, with Boston College's Frank Spaziani topping the first release for 2012. Stay tuned to AthlonSports.com as we will update the hot seat watch during the offseason and throughout the regular season.
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat Ranking: Spring Practice Edition
1. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (20-19, 3 years)
Spaziani’s win total has been on a steady decline over the last three years, and the Eagles got off to a miserable 1-6 start in 2011. An injury to running back Montel Harris hampered the offense, but the team also didn’t get much improvement from quarterback Chase Rettig. The Eagles return 16 starters for 2012 and finished last season by winning three out of the final five games. With the ACC moving to 14 teams, Boston College can’t afford to watch the program slip too far.
2. Mike Price, UTEP (45-52, 8 years)
The Miners returned only nine starters and were picked to finish last in Conference USA’s West Division last season. However, UTEP showed some signs of life and escaped the cellar of the division with a 5-7 record. Although Price has a successful resume, the Miners have not won more than six games since posting eight in 2005. Price’s tenure started off well, as UTEP posted 16 wins in his first two years in El Paso. However, the program seems to have leveled off and considering Price will be 66 when the 2012 season kicks off, it may be time for a change.
3. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (11-14, 2 years)
Phillips may have bought himself some time with the 10-7 victory over Tennessee in the season finale. However, the win total has declined over the last two years and with some heavy personnel losses and question marks, the Wildcats will struggle to reach a bowl game in 2012. With Vanderbilt on the rise in the SEC East, Kentucky fans have to be feeling a little restless about the future of the program.
4. Derek Dooley, Tennessee (11-14, 2 years)
Although Dooley has been on the job only two years in Knoxville, he will have one of the hottest seats in college football in 2012. After posting four double-digit win seasons from 2001-07 under Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee has not won more than seven games in each of the last four years. Dooley didn’t inherit a full cupboard, but losing to Kentucky in the season finale raised the pressure on him going into next season. Assuming the Volunteers can win eight games and reach the postseason, Dooley should be safe for 2013. However, another 5-7 or 6-6 season could be enough for new athletic director Dave Hart to make a change.
5. George O’Leary, UCF (50-51, 8 years)
With UCF moving to the Big East next season, 2012 is going to be an important season for O’Leary. If the Knights slump to 5-7 again, the program will likely make a coaching switch to build some momentum for the change in conferences. O’Leary’s teams have been inconsistent throughout his tenure, and the team failed to build off the momentum from the 11-3 season in 2010.
6. David Bailiff, Rice (23-38, 5 years)
Outside of winning 11 games with Texas State in 2005 and 10 with Rice in 2008, Bailiff has never won more than five games in any of his six other seasons as a head coach. Winning at Rice is not an easy task, but the Owls should be able to reach the postseason more frequently in Conference USA. Another mediocre 4-8 year will probably spell the end of Bailiff’s tenure at Rice.
7. Randy Edsall, Maryland (2-10, 1 year)
There’s really only one word to describe Edsall’s first year in College Park: Disaster. The Terrapins won only one contest in conference play and finished the season on an eight-game losing streak. Edsall does not seem to be well-liked by the players, and his handling of Danny O’Brien’s transfer was a public relations nightmare. Edsall did a good job at Connecticut, but another 2-10 or 3-9 debacle will be tough to take.
8. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech (13-12, 2 years)
In 17 years as a FBS head coach, Tuberville has recorded only four losing seasons and odds are in his favor that the Red Raiders will bounce back in 2012. Last season’s 5-7 record didn’t sit well in Lubbock, especially since Texas Tech missed out on a postseason appearance for the first time since 1999. The defense has been a disaster through Tuberville’s first two years, and the Red Raiders are on their third defensive coordinator in three seasons. While it may turn out to be nothing, Tuberville is part of a group that is being sued for investment fraud. Although Tuberville may be cleared, it's a distraction for a team that needs all of its focus on the field in 2012.
9. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (6-18, 2 years)
The Chippewas won three MAC titles under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, but have posted just six wins over the last two years. Enos is regarded as a good recruiter, and the Chippewas have some promising talent returning in 2012. However, Central Michigan needs to win more than three games next season for Enos to stick around in 2013.
10. Jeff Tedford, California (79-48, 10 years)
After posting 28 victories from 2004-06, hopes were high in Berkeley that the Golden Bears were ready to emerge as a national power. While California has posted at least seven victories in four out of the last five years, the program is danger of getting passed by Washington in the pecking order of Pac-12 North powers and hasn’t been a factor the last two years in the conference title race. A renovated stadium and the defection of assistant Tosh Lupoi to Washington has only ratcheted up the pressure on Tedford going into 2012.
11. Robb Akey, Idaho (19-43, 5 years)
Akey led the Vandals to 14 wins in 2009-10, but has just five victories in his three other seasons.
12. Rick Stockstill, MTSU (35-40, 6 years)
After winning 10 games in 2009, the Blue Raiders have posted just eight wins in their last two seasons. The two victories posted by MTSU are the program’s worst since 1980. Stockstill needs to show this team is back on track in 2012.
13. Bobby Hauck, UNLV (4-21, 2 years)
Hauck inherited a difficult situation, but the Rebels haven’t shown much progress over his first two years.
14. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (96-66, 13 years)
Ferentz has a solid record and has built up some job security after taking the Hawkeyes to 10 bowl appearances. However, Iowa’s win total has slipped the last two years and there are concerns from the fanbase that the program has gone stale.
15. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State (9-29, 3 years)
The Aggies have only two winning seasons since 1999 and with the future of the WAC uncertain, this program needs to turn things around to make it more attractive for a spot in the Sun Belt or the Mountain West/Conference USA merger.
16. Todd Berry, UL Monroe (9-15 (2 years)
Coming off a 5-7 season and with 14 starters back, expectations were a bowl game for the Warhawks in 2012. However, ULM regressed to 4-8, leaving Berry’s career record at a dismal 38-74.
17. Dabo Swinney, Clemson (29-19, 3 years)
Swinney has led Clemson to two ACC Atlantic titles and is coming off a solid 10-4 season. With two of college football’s highest-paid coordinators – Chad Morris and Brent Venables – there’s no excuse for the Tigers to win seven games in 2012.
18. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (5-19, 2 years)
The Bulls improved their win total by one game in Quinn’s second year, but he has yet to continue the momentum Turner Gill established during his four seasons in Buffalo.
19. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green (14-23, 3 years)
Clawson opened his tenure at Bowling Green with a bang, finishing 7-6 with an appearance in the Humanitarian Bowl. The Falcons won only two games in 2010, but bounced back with five victories last year. Bowling Green seems to be back on the right track and should be in contention for the MAC West title. However, another 2-10 season may make it difficult for Clawson to keep his job.
20. David Cutcliffe, Duke (15-33, 4 years)
It’s not easy winning at Duke, but Cutcliffe is still looking to get the Blue Devils back to the postseason. After winning nine games in his first two years in Durham, Cutcliffe has led Duke to just six wins over the last two seasons.
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