Sometimes a coach inherits a bad team. In some cases, through recruiting, game plan and inspiration, that coach can turn a bad team into a good or even great team. The guys on this list are not those coaches. Here are the 20 worst coaching tenures in the past 50 years of college football.
20. Terry Shea, Rutgers (12–43, 1996-2000)
Shea inherited a program that had averaged a semi-respectable 5.2 wins over the final five seasons of the Doug Graber era. Shea quickly ended any positive momentum, winning a total of two games in his first two seasons.
Lowlight: The Scarlet Knights lost 48–14 at home to Temple in 2000.
19. Jim Hofher, Buffalo (8–49, 2001-05)
To be fair, Hofher inherited a program that was only in its third season in the Division I-A ranks, but eight wins in five years is pretty dismal under any circumstances. His teams went 5–35 in the MAC.
Lowlight: The Bulls opened the 2005 season by scoring seven points or less in five of their first six games.
18. Stan Parrish, Ball State (6–19, 2009-10)
Twenty years after getting fired at Kansas State, Parrish resurfaced as the head coach at Ball State, inheriting a 12-win team from his former boss, Brady Hoke. The Cardinals stumbled to 2–10 his first full season and won four more games last season.
Lowlight: Ball State lost at home to FCS foe Liberty, 27–23, in Week 2 of the 2010 season. It was the second straight season that Parrish lost to an FCS team at home.
17. Rod Dowhower, Vanderbilt (4-18, 1995-96)
Dowhower was hired from the NFL ranks to inject some life into the Vanderbilt offense, but the Commodores scored 10 points or less in 14 of his 22 games.
Lowlight: The Dores picked up a meager 82 yards of total offense in a 27–0 loss at home to South Carolina in 1996.
16. Paul Wulff, Washington State (9–40, 2008-11)
Wulff “rallied” late to win four games in his final season, but his first three years at his alma mater were a complete disaster. From 2008-10, the Cougars won only three games against FBS competition, and one came against a Washington team that failed to win a game that season.
Lowlight: The Cougs lost to USC and Stanford in consecutive games in 2008 by a combined score of 127–0.
15. Bobby Wallace, Temple (19–71, 1998-2005)
The Owls were kicked out of the Big East during Wallace’s watch due to their inability to compete with the rest of the league. His teams went 10–39 in the Big East in seven seasons.
Lowlight: In Week 5 of what turned out to be a winless 2005 season, the Owls lost at Bowling Green, 70–7.
14. Mike Knoll, New Mexico State (4–40, 1986-89)
Knoll was hired off of Jimmy Johnson’s staff at Miami, but the winning ways didn’t follow him to Las Cruces. In four seasons at New Mexico State, Knoll’s teams were outscored by an average of 20 points per game.
Lowlight: The Knoll era began with a 20–14 loss at home to Angelo State, a Division II school.
13. Kevin Steele, Baylor (9–36, 1999-2002)
Baylor was without a doubt the worst team in the nation relative to its conference during Steele’s four years in Waco. The Bears went 1–31 in the Big 12 play, with the lone win coming in 2002 by three points over a Kansas team that went 0–8 in the conference.
Lowlight: In Steele’s second game, the Bears lost at home to UNLV, 27–24, on a 99-yard fumble return on the final play from scrimmage. All Baylor needed to do was down the ball, but Steele opted to go for the score “to create attitude.” Instead, he created a loss.
12. Bill Michael, UTEP (5–43, 1977-81)
Michael coached for four-plus seasons at El Paso and only won more than one game once — he won two in 1979. The Miners suffered through two separate 10-game losing streaks during his tenure.
Lowlight: The Miners were shut out four times in a five-game span in the 1978 season.
11. Carl Franks, Duke (7–45, 1999-2003)
Duke was hoping to land the next Steve Spurrier when they plucked Franks off of the Florida staff to succeed Fred Goldsmith. Didn’t work out. After a decent start — the Devils went 3–4 in their first seven ACC games in ‘99 — Franks lost his final 29 conference games.
Lowlight: The Blue Devils’ opened the 2000 season with a 38–0 loss at home to East Carolina.
10. Ted Roof, Duke (6–45, 2003-07)
Roof secured the top job at Duke after leading the Devils to a 2–2 record in four ACC games as the interim head coach at the end of the 2003 season. That turned out to be the highpoint of his tenure. Duke went 1–33 in the ACC in Roof’s four full seasons.
Lowlight: In September 2006, the Devils went 0–4 and were outscored 100–13.
9. Ron Dickerson, Temple (8–47, 1993-1997)
Temple was only two years removed from a winning season when Dickerson took over in 1993. He won two games or fewer in four of his five seasons.
Lowlight: Temple lost to California 58–0 in the first home game of the Dickerson era, beginning a stretch of five straight games in which the Owls gave up at least 50 points.
8. Joe Avezzano, Oregon State (6–47–2, 1980-84)
Avezzano was the second of four straight coaches who failed to produce a winning season at Oregon State. Of that group, his tenure was the least successful, producing only six wins overall and just two vs. Pac-10 competition.
Lowlight: The Beavers lost 41–22 at Idaho, then a Division I-AA school (coached by Dennis Erickson), in September 1984.
7. Doug Weaver, Kansas State (8–60–1, 1960-66)
Kansas State had been bad for decades, but the Wildcats took a turn for the worse under Weaver’s (lack of) guidance. K-State went winless three times in his seven seasons and scored less than 10 points in 52 of his 69 games as the head coach.
Lowlight: The Wildcats were shut out in four consecutive games during one stretch of the 1964 season.
6. Greg Robinson, Syracuse (10–37, 2005-08)
Robinson’s overall record isn’t as bad as others on this list, but he gets low marks for destroying what was a solid Syracuse program. The Orangemen (as they used to be called) only had one losing season from 1987-2004. Robinson had four losing season in four years, with a high-water mark of 4–8 in 2006.
Lowlight: Syracuse lost its 2008 home opener to Akron, 42–28.
5. Todd Berry, Army (5–35, 2000-03)
Berry’s success at the FCS level (19–7 in his final two seasons at Illinois State) didn’t translate to West Point. He scrapped the option for a wide-open passing attack. The results weren’t good.
Lowlight: The Black Knights went nine straight quarters without scoring a point early in the 2003 season.
4. Larry Porter, Memphis (3–21, 2010-11)
Porter, a running back at Memphis in the early 1990s, was regarded as an outstanding recruiter while serving as the running backs coach at both Oklahoma State and LSU. His two-year run as the boss at Memphis was an absolute debacle. The Tigers ranked 117th and 116th in the nation in total offense and 115th and 117th in total defense in his two seasons.
Lowlight: Memphis managed only 139 total yards in a 42–0 loss at home to SMU before a sparse (to put it kindly) crowd at the Liberty Bowl last September.
3. Mike Locksley, New Mexico (2-26, 2009-11)
The Lobos were alarmingly uncompetitive in Locksley’s two-plus seasons in Albuquerque, with 16 of their 26 losses coming by 24 points or more.
Lowlight: On the same day that New Mexico lost at home to Sam Houston State, a teenager who was reported to be a UNM football recruit was arrested for a DUI while driving a car that was registered to Locksley’s wife and son. Locksley was fired the next day.
2. Stan Parrish, Kansas State (2–30–1, 1986-88)
The Stanimal set the table for Bill Snyder’s amazing turnaround at K-State by losing 91 percent of his games. He went 1–19–1 in Big Eight games, with the lone win and tie both coming against rival Kansas.
Lowlight: In consecutive weeks in October 1987, the Wildcats lost to Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State by a combined score of 171–20.
1. Rick Venturi, Northwestern (1–31–1, 1978-80)
The three-year Venturi era was the epicenter of the Wildcats’ astounding run of incompetence. Venturi, only 32 when he coached his first game at Northwestern, did not win a single Big Ten game in his three years.
Lowlight: The Wildcats lost at home to Ohio State 63–0 on Oct. 11, 1980.
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