Monday, September 24, 2012
Living on the Edge: Coaches on Hot Seat
The smell of something burning as you walk outside? It's not an early winter, nor is it another bonfire. It's the smell of hot seats already getting much, much hotter after just four weeks into the college football season.
While the potential crop of coaches seems to be fairly thin, these are the 10 names right now that are stuck in quicksand and scrambling desperately to find a way out. I'll start with the hottest seat and the situation surrounding it and then move my way down the list.
1) John L. Smith, Arkansas (1-3)
There's no doubt that 2012 hasn't been the year of the boar. While we all know what happened with Bobby Petrino, the past four weeks have drawn three conclusions. First, Petrino still deserves the bulk of the blame as he could've prevented such horror by not hiring his mistress. Second, attitude clearly reflects leadership and Smith's attitude says 1-3 with no clue to fix things. Finally, being a "player's coach" does not work in the SEC. Those types are chewed up and spit out in that league.
John L. Smith was brought in to guide this program through massive adversity. So far, the results couldn't have been uglier. Smith seems completely over his head. Whether it is his quirky antics that haven't gone over at all with the Razorback faithful, or his filing bankruptcy earlier this year, Smith just doesn't seem to have anything together. Even after the humiliating loss to Alabama, it was QB Tyler Wilson, not Smith, who showed the emotion and anger that Arkansas fans mirrored.
During one of his earlier press conferences, Smith mentioned how he liked to stand back and let his coordinators coordinate. When you have a taskmaster like Bobby Petrino as your offensive coordinator, like he did at Louisville, that plan becomes successful. When you have two coordinators that aren't nearly the taskmasters and have no head coaching experience trying to run a program in the SEC West, that spells eminent disaster.
So, Smith's exit seems almost a certainty and it puts Arkansas AD Jeff Long in one pressure cooker of a situation. Granted, it's hard to find any coach in April, but clearly Smith was the wrong answer, so the onus is on Long to find a big name coach and soon. The good news? Arkansas has loads of cash, solid facilities, and Petrino showed it's a place where you can win. If I was Long, I'd have a short list in hand and be working the phones quietly behind the scenes. This will be the hire he is remembered for in Fayetteville.
2) Joker Phillips, Kentucky (1-3)
Kentucky is a basketball school. Period. To succeed in football in the bluegrass state is a challenge. So, you feel a little for Joker Phillips as he has struggled to lay a winning foundation in Lexington. However, with a 12-17 mark currently after the beatdown by Florida and no sight of success looming soon, the end of the road is in sight, barring an abrupt Wildcat surge.
3) Robb Akey, Idaho (0-4)
Akey got off to a great start in Moscow, giving the Vandals some swagger and grabbing a bowl victory along the way. Since then, it's been quiet times in the Kibbie Dome. Having a 19-47 record will not keep you safe anywhere and in this case, the heat is on for Akey to find the magic that seems to have been lost.
4) John Embree, Colorado (1-3)
Yes, it might just be the second year of the Embree tenure, but Colorado has not shown any signs of improvement from the Dan Hawkins era. Despite winning their conference opener last week, the Buffs have looked abysmal in losing to Colorado State, Sacramento State and in a massacre, to Fresno State. Unless Colorado can keep their winning ways, they could be staring at another long season. Four wins in 23 games sends a red flag for a pink slip.
5) Gene Chizik, Auburn (1-3)
On the one hand, he won a national title. On the other hand, what has he done during any season in which Cam Newton did not play? On one hand, he did win a national title. On the other hand, if you think Auburn will sit around and watch Alabama win title after title while they struggle to reach .500, think again. And yes, that goes for coaches with title rings.
6) Jeff Tedford, California (1-3)
It wasn't long ago when Tedford was one of the hottest names in college football. However, the wave of success seems to be fading. Tedford, in his 10th season, has struggled to reach the top rungs of the Pac-12 ladder in recent years and the fans are growing quite restless. The first week loss against Nevada really fueled the fire under his seat.
7) Bobby Hauck, UNLV (1-3)
Hauck has lost 12 of his last 15 games in Vegas and things don't look any better for the Rebel this year. Hauck, who was wildly successful at Montana, is 5-24 currently at UNLV. It seems as though the fit was wrong, plus Hauck needs to steer clear of what's happening at Montana right now. Whether he has anything to do with it or not, it's best to stay away and try to quickly fix the problems he's had.
8) Randy Edsall, Maryland (2-2)
It's very simple. When a team has more uniforms than wins in your tenure, you're on the hot seat. Edsall has already matched his win total from last season and the Terps didn't look too bad in their loss to West Virginia. However, Edsall is still on a tight leash. He has to make some noise in the ACC or people will really start questioning what's happening with Maryland. Edsall, who succeeded in building the UConn program up, needs to make this a quicker project.
9) Mike Price, UTEP (1-3)
The Miners have been patient with Price, who is in his eighth season with the school. UTEP's losses to Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Wisconsin doesn't look all that shabby. However, Price has failed to meet expectations in El Paso and the pressure is on to get UTEP back in the bowl picture and winning those games against BCS conference teams.
10) Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (2-2)
This one is based off of what Iowa's getting for their money right now. Ferentz is one of college football's highest paid coaches, earning $3.8 million a year at Iowa. However, since 2011, he is just 9-8 with the Hawkeyes, including losses this year to Iowa State and Central Michigan. Ferentz has been in Iowa City for 14 seasons and has some success to his name. However, when you're paid as high as he is, the situation becomes more of a "what have you done for me lately" scenario and right now, 9 wins in the last 17 games doesn't sounds pretty costly.