Celebrating those who escape the Coaches Hot Seat Top 10 is a double-edged sword. For those, like Indiana’s Kevin Wilson and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, escaping the countdown is a blessing. It means they have helped their respective programs turn corners and find themselves in far better position of not only surviving the season, but also enjoying strong campaigns.
Pinkel’s Tigers are now off to a 5-0 start by virtue of handing Vanderbilt a beating in Nashville on Saturday. Missouri certainly looks like it’s for real this season. The threshold coming into the season seemed to be Pinkel needing at least six wins to salvage his job – if not seven. The Tigers need just two more to reach that higher mark. Getting into the meat of the SEC schedule means Mizzou will face tougher challenges – starting next week at Georgia. Still, a 5-0 start has Pinkel in great position to put Missouri into a respectable bowl game.
Indiana actually served as one of Missouri’s non-conference victims earlier this season. The Hoosiers still seemed to have Wilson in trouble after a 2-2 non-conference slate (that included a loss to Navy), but they bounced back in a big way with a dominant 44-24 victory over Penn State. With a Big Ten win under Indiana’s belt, a bowl appearance suddenly seems possible – a feat that would almost certainly earn Wilson another year if not a few more.
Conversely, Lane Kiffin and Paul Pasqualoni also fall off the list this week. Both received pink slips from their programs – Kiffin at USC and Pasqualoni at UConn – because of disappointing starts. Kiffin needs some career rehabilitation. Some have suggested a stint in the NFL rather than remaining in the college ranks. Pasqualoni, on the other hand, is at an age where his stint at UConn may very well be his final stop as a head coach of a BCS-conference program.
This list does not celebrate or take joy in the turbulent times of coaches’ careers. Rather, the Hot Seat Top 10 is designed as a gauge for which coaches find themselves in the most trouble.
For the first time since this list started last season, there seems to be a remarkable shortage of candidates. That’s a good thing because it means there aren’t many coaches in position to lose their jobs.
That being said, this is the “Coaches Hot Seat Top 10” – not the “Coaches Hot Seat Top (Number TBD)” or “Coaches Hot Seat Top 3.” We still try to determine which 10 coaches from BCS conference programs find themselves on the hottest seats – even if they aren’t all that hot.
Keep that in mind as you read this week. Just because a coach is on the list doesn’t mean he is in immediate danger of being released. Truthfully, after the top five, the list takes a significant drop depending on how you feel about Nebraska coach Bo Pelini’s chances.
Here is your Week 6 Hot Seat Top 10.
(Already fired: Lane Kiffin, USC (9/29), Paul Pasqualoni, UConn (9/30).)
1. Mack Brown, Texas (Last Week: 3); Won at Iowa State, 31-30
Style points matter for Brown at this stage, but not as much as bottom-line results. Winning ugly – with the help of a Hail Mary and a fumble call that wasn’t – in Ames meant sparing Brown yet another embarrassment. Texas (3-2, 2-0) looked far more like the team that went 5-7 in 2010 than the one that finished one game away from a national championship the year before. Immediate response after the game had fans wondering if the Longhorns’ win over a bad Iowa State team meant anything different for Brown. That Brown tops the countdown this week says it doesn’t, but it still certainly beats a loss that would have likely sealed his fate. For now, Brown still has a fighting chance against a Big 12 lineup devoid of depth. Next up: vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas).
2. Charlie Weis, Kansas (Last Week: 6); Lost to Texas Tech, 54-16
For the first quarter-plus, Weis looked like he might manage to tumble far down this list rather than climb. Kansas, which hasn’t won a Big 12 game since beating Colorado (now of the Pac-12) in 2010, jumped out to a 10-0 lead on the Red Raiders. However, Texas Tech answered with 54 consecutive points to not only defeat the Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1), but humiliate them on their own home field – with two true freshmen quarterbacks to boot. Kansas fans likely won’t be able to help but look at Texas Tech’s hire of Kliff Kingsbury and dream about what might have been. Instead, they are stuck with Weis, whose arrogance and lack of steady results is mirrored only by Lane Kiffin. Nearing the one-and-a-half season mark for Weis, the former Notre Dame coach has managed three wins – two against FCS opponents and one against Louisiana Tech. Oh, and Weis has on his ledger a pair of losses to Rice. So there’s that. The only true saving grace for Weis might end up being how quickly predecessor Turner Gill got fired (at the end of Year 2). Kansas not wanting to fire a second consecutive coach after two years would be understandable – even if this one appears less and less likely to turn things around. Next up: at TCU.
3. Mike London, Virginia (Last Week: 10); Lost to Ball State, 48-27
London, now in Year 4, likely needs to make a bowl game in order to continue coaching in Charlottesville. Those aspirations took a significant hit Saturday when the Cavaliers lost at home by three touchdowns to Ball State. Now Virginia stands at 2-3 overall having played (and lost) just one conference game. Fortunately for London and the Cavs, the ACC has some bad teams at the bottom of the league. Perhaps Virginia can steal enough wins to get into a bottom-rung bowl game and keep London’s hopes of turning around the program alive. That could start next week against a staggering Maryland team that has plenty of talent but might need more than a week to recover from the 63-0 beating it took from Florida State. Still, this week had to be a tremendous disappointment for Virginia, which was tied with Ball State midway through the third quarter before the defense imploded to the tune of allowing 24 points in the span of 12 minutes. Next up: at Maryland.
4. June Jones, SMU (Last Week: 7); Lost to Rutgers, 55-52 (3OT)
Despite QB Garrett Gilbert’s 7-TD performance, SMU fell to Rutgers on Saturday, 55-52 in three overtimes. The reason Jones ranks this high on the list isn’t because the Mustangs (1-4, 0-1) lost respectably to one of the better teams in the AAC. It’s because nobody seems to care about SMU football. The program paid Jones the money it did to make the Mustangs matter around Dallas again. Take one look at the shots of a largely empty Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Saturday and it’s plain to see interest simply isn’t there. Part of that can be blamed on Jones’ shortcomings in Conference-USA. SMU never lived up to potential in that league before moving up to what remains of the Big East. Attendance can read 19,436 all it wants. The television images told a different, more Miami Marlins story. That can’t continue to be for Jones at his current salary. Next up: Bye week.
5. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (Last Week: 5); Beat North Carolina State, 28-13
A home win over North Carolina State gives Grobe some hope to extend his stay in Winston-Salem. He still needs to find ways to win a few more games and likely reach a bowl game. The Demon Deacons (3-3, 1-2) have lost seven games or more in each of their last four seasons and having already lost to Boston College doesn’t help their odds ending that streak in 2013. At least QB Tanner Price performed more in line with expectations on Saturday, throwing for 268 yards and 3 TDs with just one INT. Price also rushed for a team-best 82 yards – that the other rushers combined for 32 yards further accentuates the point that Wake Forest’s run game leaves much to be desired – and another score. Grobe has been the most successful coach in Wake Forest history. That doesn’t say much. How much the program wants to win will determine the length of Grobe’s leash. Next up: Bye week.
6. Bo Pelini, Nebraska (Last Week: 4); Beat Illinois, 39-19
Where Pelini belongs on this list depends entirely on how much impact one thinks his secretly recorded, 2-year-old comments have with the fan base. As long as Pelini continues to win, he should be in fine shape. He can’t, however, allow Nebraska to get humiliated any more, as it was in a home loss to UCLA a few weeks ago. Pelini’s place on this list has far less to do with wins and losses than it does with the intangibles. And, for the record, crushing teams Big Red fans expect to crush – such as Illinois, 39-19 – goes a long way toward helping. Winning will cure all and the Cornhuskers (4-1, 1-0) just started an easy stretch. Don’t be surprised to see Pelini fall off this list altogether in the coming weeks, though he could reemerge with poor outings against Northwestern and/or Michigan late in the season. Next up: at Purdue.
7. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (Last Week: NR); Lost at Baylor, 73-42
Granted, West Virginia hired Holgorsen for his offensive prowess, but allowing a Big 12-record 864 yards of total offense can’t be tolerated. Forget stopping Baylor. West Virginia couldn’t even slow it down. The Bears ran over, around and past the Mountaineers on their way to 73 points. Only window-dressing touchdowns late in the game made the score appear closer than it really should have. Baylor led 66-21 entering the fourth quarter. Holgorsen’s offense hasn’t even been stout for much of the season. Switching to QB Clint Trickett looked wise for a week, but he followed the upset win over Oklahoma State by going 9 of 28 for 161 yards, a TD and an INT. Holgorsen might not be in any immediate danger, but West Virginia (3-3, 1-2) is not known as a program with much tolerance. The fans are loyal and want to be rewarded for their patronage. Holgorsen did early – with a Big East crown and a huge win in the Orange Bowl. Since his players have come into the spotlight, though, Holgorsen hasn’t been able to win big on the Big 12 stage. Next up: Bye week.
8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (Last Week: NR); Lost to Michigan State, 26-14
Just when Ferentz seemed to be moving in the right direction, his Hawkeyes got drummed by a Michigan State team that still has no clue about its offensive identity. Iowa (4-2, 1-1) was supposed to be able to lean on a strong run game this season. It managed just 23 rushing yards – 15 on 11 carries from RBs Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman – in the loss. Ferentz also falls in the “not in that much trouble” class because his team still has a reasonable chance to make a bowl game (an automatic save) and because of the guarantees in his contract. His situation still warrants monitoring until the Hawkeyes start returning to the form that earned Ferentz the enormous contract that makes him difficult to fire. Next up: Bye week.
9. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (Last Week: NR); Lost at Miami, 45-30
So much for Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2) contending for the ACC Coastal Division this season. The Yellow Jackets haven’t technically been eliminated from the divisional race, but losing to Virginia Tech and Miami in consecutive weeks doesn’t help. They are now two games back in the loss column against both the Hokies and Hurricanes, both of whom own tie-breakers over Georgia Tech. Johnson has returned the Yellow Jackets to relevance during his time in Atlanta. They have even won a conference championship under his tutelage. However, the window for Georgia Tech to become a national power on the same level as Florida State and Clemson might have come and gone. Dan Radakovich, the AD who hired Johnson, is now across the league at Clemson. How much does new AD Mike Bobinski – a basketball guy from his days at Xavier, though his early career was spent at Notre Dame – value being able to bring in his own hire to run the football program? Next up: at BYU.
10. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati (Last Week: NR); Lost at South Florida, 26-20
Perhaps this is the generous side for Tuberville getting a raw deal at Auburn, but he has now taken on two reasonably good jobs and sent the programs spiraling immediately. Tuberville likely would have ranked highly on this list had he stayed at Texas Tech and continued to post mediocre results. Instead, he got out before he could get fired, leaving for Cincinnati. Neither move made much sense for Tuberville, who far prefers warm weather to what he finds late in the year in Cincinnati or Lubbock. The Tuberville era got off to a great start with a 42-7 win over Purdue that likely says far more about the Boilermakers than about the Bearcats (3-2, 0-1). However, Tuberville has now followed with a blowout loss at Illinois, an FCS win, an uninspired 14-0 win over Miami (OH) and a humiliating loss to a horrendous South Florida team. Considering what Brian Kelly and Butch Jones did before Tuberville, it’s difficult to imagine the administration putting up with much failure. Tuberville is in no danger of getting fired this year – it would take a total collapse for that to even seem plausible – but results such as the one on Saturday are unacceptable. Next up: Temple.
Feeling heat: Matt Rhule (Temple), Kevin Wilson (Indiana), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Tim Beckman (Illinois), Darrell Hazell (Purdue), Scott Shafer (Syracuse), Willie Taggart (South Florida), Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Jerry Kill (Minnesota).
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