Obligatory Pre-Season Hot Seat Post
With the start of the 2008-2009 college football season looming head, I thought it time to post my obligatory list of those coaches who might find themselves without a job or under intense scrutiny this time next year. I broke it down by conference and I should preface this by saying this is a list of coaches I believe to be under pressure to win this season but won’t necessarily be canned for an unsuccessful ’09 campaign.
ACC – Bobby Bowden – Florida State
The Emerald and Music City Bowls are not where Florida State fans and boosters are accustomed to seeing their team in late December and early January, but following consecutive seven-win seasons that’s exactly where they’ve ended up.
Rocked by an academic scandal and a failure to compete in the talent-rich Sunshine State for recruits, Bobby Bowden finds himself coming into 2008 with a lot of pressure on his shoulders to win now, and a successor in Jimbo Fisher waiting in the wings.
Despite a three-year deal FSU signed with Fisher in 2007, Bowden said he has no immediate plans to retire but another mediocre season could have the ‘Noles nudging Bowden towards the door sooner than he’d like.
Big 12 – Bo Pelini – Nebraska
While the newly-hired Pelini is in no immediate danger of losing his job, Husker fans are rabid to see their once-proud program show signs of resurgance after showing signs of fallibility under Frank Solich and going totally comatose under Bill Callahan.
While many see Pelini as a return to the Osborne-esque roots, tough-nose roots of Nebraska, a less than stellar season in the relatively barren Big 12 North could have Husker Nation wondering if Pelini is, indeed, than one to lead them back to conference and national prominence.
Big Ten – Kirk Ferentz – Iowa
There’s not a whole lot to say about Ferentz that I haven’t already touched upon. The formula to Ferentz’s fall from grace is a relatively simple one: UNDERACHIEVING TEAM + ARRESTED PLAYERS, LOTS OF ARRESTED PLAYERS + BIG CONTRACT = RESERVED SPOT ON THE HOT SEAT.
Big East – Tie: Bill Stewart – West Virginia/Steve Kragthorpe – Louisville
While his office door may say HEAD COACH on it, I’m not convinced that anyone at West Virginia really believes that the 55-year-old Stewart is really the guy to lead this program long-term.
I think Stewart’s first year in the Big East as Mountaineers head coach will be a fruitful one given how watered down the Big East is and he coaches a team that, even without Steve Slaton, still features two of the most exciting offensive talents in college football in running back Noel Devine and quarterback Pat White.
After being jilted by RichRod, I still think some Mountaineer fans wanted to see the school go after a big name and were shocked when an 18-day search for the new head of West Virginia football ended with Martin, who led WVU to their surprise victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, was signed to a five-year deal.
I think anything short of another Big East title could put Stewart’s already tenuous future in Morgantown in doubt.
Fewer teams had more hype surrounding them going into last season than the Louisville Cardinals. Returning senior quarterback Brian Brohm and a talent corps of receivers including Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas, the Cardinals were thought to be serious contenders for the Big East title and even national championship contenders. Whoops.
After going 6-6 and even rumored to have been considered a jump to SMU, Steve Kragthorpe comes into ’08 under an intense amount of pressure, pressure that probably only exacerbated when he hired former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English in the off-season. For job preservation purposes, hiring your replacement probably isn’t a real great idea.
What Kragthorpe proved in his one season in the Derby City is that he may be a pretty good small-time coach (17-9 in two seasons at Tulsa) but he’s a pretty lousy coach in big games at big programs. Another 6-6 year and Kragthorpe will likely be out of a job.
SEC – Rich Brooks – Kentucky
Kentucky’s meteoric rise to SEC respectability was one of the most intriguing stories in all of college football last year but now Rich Brooks will have to prove that he can actually coach.
With the departure of senior quarterback Andre Woodson, wide receiver Keenan Burton, running back Rafael Little and tight end Jacob Tamme, Brooks will have to find a way to generate some offense with many of his playmakers reporting to NFL training camps and not to Lexington.
Defensively, the team returns Trevard Lindley, who’s one of the conference’s best shutdown corners but with an offense that, as of now, lacks a big-time playmaker and a murderous schedule that includes road trips to Tuscaloosa, Gainesville and Knoxville, Brooks could find himself back on the seat if the team fails to make a bowl game.
PAC-10 – Tyrone Willingham – Washington
I was certainly among those that thought Tyrone Willingham’s firing at Notre Dame was one of the more unjust things I’ve seen in popular sports and thought he would be the one to turn Washington around. Well, it appears that he has exactly one more season to do so after going 11-25 in three seasons as head coach.
Despite recruting well, Willingham has had a tough time translating victories in recruiting to victories on the field. He’ll be aided this year by the return of quarterback Jake Locker but another rough year could mean the end of the Willingham era in Washington.