USC coach Lane Kiffin tops Athlon's top 20 coaches on the hot seat for spring practice.
The start of spring practice for all 125 college football teams is a chance to start fresh and forget the bad results that came along with 2012. For a handful of coaches, spring practice is also the first opportunity to turn around a program and save their job for 2014.
While coaches at Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford and Texas A&M don’t have much to worry about in the way of job security, it’s different story for USC’s Lane Kiffin or Texas’ Mack Brown. USC and Texas are two of college football’s top-five jobs and neither program has met expectations in recent years. The Trojans were considered one of the top national contenders last season but finished with a 7-6 record. The Longhorns won nine games in 2012, but the jury is still out on whether or not Brown can get this team back in the national championship hunt.
Even though the 2013 season is still months away, it’s never too early to start thinking about which jobs might come open in December. Here’s a look at the top 20 coaches on the hot seat for 2013:
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013: Spring Practice Edition
1. Lane Kiffin, USC
Record at USC: 25-13
USC’s 2012 season has to be one of the most disappointing years from a BCS team in recent memory. The Trojans had national title aspirations but were physically dominated by Stanford in Week 3 and finished the year with losses in five out of their final six games. USC is still dealing with scholarship limitations from NCAA sanctions, so Kiffin doesn’t have a full complement of players and had to scale back tackling in practice to prevent injuries. And after last year’s disappointing mark, Kiffin shuffled the coaching staff, with Clancy Pendergast coming over from California to coordinate the defense. Despite the scholarship limitations, the pressure is still high on Kiffin to produce. The Trojans have enough talent to push UCLA and Arizona State for the Pac-12 South title in 2013. However, another 7-6 record could spell the end of Kiffin’s tenure in Los Angeles.
2. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Record at UNLV: 6-32
Hauck was a successful FCS coach at Montana, recording an 80-17 mark in seven seasons. Unfortunately for UNLV, that success hasn’t followed him to Sin City. The Rebels have won just three games in each of Hauck’s three seasons and lost to a FCS team in both 2011 and '12. As a program, UNLV has struggled to maintain success, but the Rebels have made little progress over the last few years. Hauck hired two new coordinators for 2013 and 16 returning starters are back, so there’s plenty of pressure to make a run at a winning record this fall.
3. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Record at Connecticut: 10-14
Pasqualoni was a strange hire and has done little to suggest he’s a long-term answer in Storrs. The Huskies had winning records in each of Randy Edsall’s last four years at Connecticut but have slipped to back-to-back 5-7 records. Considering the talent Pasqualoni inherited on defense, this program should not have missed a bowl in both seasons. However, a bad offense has been the primary culprit for this team’s struggles, as the Huskies have ranked 108th or worse nationally in Pasqualoni’s two seasons in offensive yards per game. Connecticut also has had its share of bad losses recently, losing to Western Michigan in back-to-back seasons, along with an overtime defeat to a rebuilding Temple team in 2012.
4. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
Record at Eastern Michigan: 10-38
Coaching in Ypsilanti is one of the toughest jobs in college football. Eastern Michigan has just one winning season since 1990, and the program has won two or fewer games seven times during that span. English is a respected coach, but the Eagles haven’t made much progress under his watch. Eastern Michigan peaked with a 6-6 mark in 2011 but won a total of just four games in English’s three other years combined.
5. Mack Brown, Texas
Record at Texas: 150-43
Texas is arguably the No. 1 job in college football, so three consecutive seasons of less than 10 victories isn’t acceptable in Austin. Under Brown’s watch, the Longhorns had at least 10 wins in every season from 2001-09, which included two national championship appearances. The program seems to have slipped in recent years, and Texas A&M’s rise in the SEC certainly hasn’t helped Texas feel too good about its 22-16 mark the last three years. Brown has built some goodwill with his run in the early 2000s, but a losing season or 7-6 record this fall could force the Longhorns to make a change.
6. Mike London, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 16-21
Just one season ago, London was considered one of the rising stars in the ACC. The Cavaliers were coming off of an 8-5 season and made an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn. What a difference one year can make. Virginia was one of the ACC’s biggest disappointments last year, finishing 4-8 and just 2-6 in conference play. London revamped his coaching staff for 2013, which now includes veteran assistants in former NC State head coach Tom O’Brien and defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. The Cavaliers have a challenging schedule in 2013, which features non-conference games against BYU and Oregon, along with road trips to Miami, North Carolina and Pittsburgh in conference play. London isn’t necessarily facing a make-or-break season but another 4-8 record certainly wouldn’t sit well.
7. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 100-74
Thanks to his hefty contract, Ferentz isn’t in any real danger of getting fired. However, that doesn’t preclude him from a top-10 spot on the hot seat. Iowa has watched its win total decline in every season since 2009, and it missed out on a bowl appearance last season for the first time since 2007. Ferentz also made a strange decision to hire Greg Davis as his offensive coordinator, which ended up as a disaster on the final stat sheet (111th-ranked scoring offense). Iowa has surprised when under the radar in previous years, but the Hawkeyes have a lot of question marks entering 2013, so Ferentz won’t get any relief from the fan base if he has another losing record.
8. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 2-10
Disaster is really the only way to sum up Beckman’s debut at Illinois. After a successful stint at Toledo, Beckman appeared to be the right coach to elevate the program after Ron Zook’s tenure. Instead of moving forward, the Fighting Illini took a huge step back. Illinois’ only victories came against Western Michigan and Charleston Southern and seven of its losses were by 20 or more points. As if those numbers weren’t bad enough, the Fighting Illini failed to win a conference game for the first time since 2005, and the school had to report a secondary violation to the NCAA after Beckman was caught chewing tobacco on the sidelines during a game. Beckman hit the JUCO ranks to upgrade Illinois’ talent level, but the Fighting Illini could have trouble escaping the Big Ten cellar in 2013.
9. Tony Levine, Houston
Record at Houston: 6-7
With no head coaching or coordinator experience on his resume, Levine was a strange hire for Houston. His career started off on a high note, as Houston blasted Penn State 30-14 in the TicketCity Bowl. But the Cougars opened 2013 with an 0-3 record, including a loss to FBS newcomer Texas State. Houston rebounded to finish with a 5-7 mark, but Levine’s first year fell short of expectations. The Cougars have moved from Conference USA to the Big East, so there’s an increase in competition. Combine the tougher schedule with a new on-campus stadium opening in 2014, and it’s easy to see why Levine needs to build some momentum and show the program is on track this fall.
10. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Record at Missouri: 90-61
Pinkel led Missouri to three seasons of 10 or more wins from 2007-10, so it may seem strange to even place his name on the hot seat. However, with Missouri’s move to the SEC, the pressure on Pinkel is even greater than it was before. The Tigers have gone from a top-five program in the Big 12 to fighting with Vanderbilt and Tennessee for fourth place in the SEC East. Considering the Tigers had injuries to quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey last season, it’s unfair to judge Pinkel and his staff based upon one year in college football’s No. 1 conference. However, if Missouri fails to get into a bowl game in 2013, a coaching change wouldn’t come as a complete shock. The Tigers simply can’t afford to fall too far behind in the SEC.
11. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Record at Buffalo: 9-27
Has Buffalo turned a corner under Quinn? The Bulls have increased their win total by one game in each of the last three years and finished 2012 by winning three out of their final four games. Buffalo also had a good showing in the loss to Georgia in the season opener, while it lost to Connecticut by just a touchdown and Pittsburgh by 13 points. With 15 returning starters and some momentum from the 2012 finish, the Bulls are poised to make a run at a winning record. If Quinn can get Buffalo to 4-8 or 5-7, he should be safe for another year.
12. Doc Holliday, Marshall
Record at Marshall: 17-20
After recording 11 seasons of 10 or more wins from 1991-2002, Marshall has not won more than eight games since 2003. The Thundering Herd has struggled to become a consistent contender in Conference USA, although there were signs of promise after Holliday led the program to a 7-6 mark in 2011. However, outside of 2011, Marshall has two 5-7 seasons under Holliday’s watch, and the Thundering Herd fielded a defense that allowed 43.1 points a game last year. Holliday has upgraded Marshall’s talent level but needs to produce on the field. With 15 starters back – including first-team All-C-USA quarterback Rakeem Cato – the Thundering Herd should be one of the top contenders this year in the revamped 14-team Conference USA.
13. Rich Ellerson, Army
Record at Army: 17-31
Ellerson seemed like the perfect fit at Army when he was hired prior to the 2009 season, and the Black Knights went 12-13 in his first two years. However, Army is just 5-18 over the last two seasons, and the program does not have a win over Navy since 2001. It’s hard to place the blame squarely on Ellerson’s shoulders, especially when Army has only four winning records since 1990. The 2013 schedule isn’t easy, but the Black Knights should be able to push for four victories, which is probably enough for Ellerson to stick around for another season.
14. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Record at Central Michigan: 13-24
The good: Central Michigan returned to the postseason after a two-year absence, beating Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The bad: While the victory at Iowa was impressive, the Chippewas' other regular-season wins came at the expense of Akron, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and UMass – teams that went a combined 8-40 in 2012. Enos was rewarded with a contract extension, but the schedule is more challenging in 2013, and he needs to prove he can lead Central Michigan to wins against some of the top teams in the MAC on a consistent basis.
15. Charlie Weis, Kansas
Record at Kansas: 1-11
Weis didn’t inherit a great situation at Kansas, so he deserves some time to turn things around in Lawrence. However, he wasn’t the most popular hire and had a mediocre 35-27 mark during five seasons at Notre Dame. Weis hit the JUCO ranks hard this offseason and landed a couple of key transfers, including former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, which should provide Kansas some hope for a quick turnaround. The Jayhawks haven’t won a Big 12 game in two years, so winning one conference matchup would help bolster Weis’ rebuilding project.
16. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
Record at Wyoming: 22-27
The Cowboys have alternated winning and losing seasons during Christensen’s first four years, so if that trend holds true, Wyoming should be in line for a bowl game in 2013. While Christensen has two winning records and a 1-1 record in bowls at Wyoming, the Cowboys slipped to 4-8 last season and he was suspended for one game after an embarrassing postgame confrontation with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. Christensen is a good coach and has the pieces in place to have a winning record in 2013. However, another losing season, especially after how 2012 transpired, could mark the end of his tenure in Laramie.
17. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
Record at Washington: 26-25
Sarkisian arrived at Washington with a lot of promise, but the Huskies opened his tenure with a 5-7 record and have recorded three consecutive 7-6 seasons. There’s no question Sarkisian and his staff has done a good job at elevating the talent level, but the Huskies need to turn the success on the recruiting trail into wins. With a schedule that features games against Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State in 2013, winning more than eight games will be a challenge for Washington.
18. Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio)
Record at Miami (Ohio): 8-16
As a former Miami player and assistant coach, Treadwell certainly knows what it takes to win in Oxford. Despite his background and experience with the school, the RedHawks are just 8-16 in Treadwell’s two seasons. Miami was 4-4 heading into the final month of last season, but closed with a four-game losing streak. The RedHawks’ cupboard isn’t bare for 2013, but quarterback Zac Dysert must be replaced. Even if Treadwell goes 4-8 again, he will probably return for 2014. However, with Marshall, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Illinois to open the 2013 season, Treadwell could start 0-4, which obviously won’t sit well in Oxford.
19. Norm Chow, Hawaii
Record at Hawaii: 3-9
Chow is just coming off of his first season at Hawaii and isn’t really in danger of losing his job this fall. While job security isn’t something Chow has to worry much about, he does need to show Hawaii is moving in the right direction. The Warriors lost by 30 or more points six times last season and scored victories over Lamar (FCS) and UNLV and South Alabama – who went a combined 4-22.
20. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Record at Maryland: 6-18
After a disastrous debut, Edsall seems to have Maryland moving in the right direction. Despite a rash of quarterback injuries, the Terrapins went 4-8 last season, which doubled their win total from 2011. Edsall still has a lot of work to do, as Maryland needs to rebuild its defense in 2013, along with finding a No. 1 running back. Making a bowl game is a realistic expectation for Edsall and the Terrapins this fall.
Related College Football Content
Ranking All 125 College Football Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013
College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles to Watch
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013
ACC 2013 Spring Preview and Storylines