It’s an epidemic, and it might not be over.
We’re not even 10 weeks into the regular season, and yet there are already eight — count ’em: eight — FBS head coaching vacancies, due to a plethora of unconventional midseason firings and retirements.
Illinois got the ball rolling by firing Tim Beckman just one week before the 2015 opener, North Texas fired Dan McCarney after getting embarrassed by an FCS program, Maryland relieved Randy Edsall after a 2-4 start, USC parted ways with Steve Sarkisian so that he could focus on his “off-field issues,” and Miami let go of Al Golden following the worst loss in program history. Sprinkle in Steve Spurrier, George O’Leary, and Jerry Kill — who all, surprisingly, have announced retirements (though Kill made the decision against his will and for his health) — and you have one of the weirdest years in college football coaching carousel history.
Something tells me that it won’t go in hiding until the offseason, either. So who’s next?
According to CoachesHotSeat.com, Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell is No. 1 when it comes to the hottest hot seat. Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads sits at No. 2, while New Mexico State’s Doug Martin, Hawaii’s Norm Chow, and Indiana’s Kevin Wilson rounds out the top 5. Other notables are: Dana Holgersen (6), Mike London (8), Frank Beamer (10), Butch Jones (12), Gus Malzahn (13), Mike Riley (14), Mark Richt (15), Bret Bielema (19), and Kevin Sumlin (20).
Hazell enters Week 10 with a 5-26 (1-18 Big Ten) record in two-and-a-half seasons with Purdue. Since the Boilermakers have started 1-6 (0-3), it’s unrealistic to expect a bowl appearance in 2015, which was by all means the expectation in West Lafayette this preseason. Purdue has lost three games by 10 points or less this year and has shown signs of improvement, but every sign points to either a one- or two-win campaign — an unacceptable result for a coach in Year 3 at a Power Five program.
If Purdue loses its next two games — winnable home contests against Nebraska (3-5) and Illinois (4-3) — there’s a chance that Hazell doesn’t make the Week 12 trip to Northwestern.
With a healthy roster and plenty of experience returning, Iowa State was a sexy pick to get over the hump and make its first bowl game since 2012. However, the Cyclones have struggled mightily, holding a 2-5 (1-3 Big 12), losing five games by an average of 19.6 points. Their only two wins have come against FCS Northern Illinois and Kansas, which has yet to win a game.
Rhoads is now 31-51 (15-41) since taking over Iowa State in 2009, and is 7-24 (3-19) since the start of the 2013 season. Technically speaking, a bowl game is still within reach, and thanks to a frontloaded schedule, the Cyclones have a small chance of winning four of their next five to reach the postseason. But a loss to Texas at home on Halloween night would all but ensure a third straight year with no extra games on the schedule, and could send Rhoads packing.
New Mexico State head coach Doug Martin is 4-27 (1-10 Sun Belt) since taking over the Aggies’ program pre-2014, but in reality, this is a program that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1961 and has had one winning season (2002) over the last 16 years. An 0-7 start has guaranteed that statistic won’t change anytime soon, but here, an assured Year 3 — and lots of patience — should be written in bold all over the contract.
The June Jones and Colt Brennan days at Hawaii are long gone, and Norm Chow has not been able to get the Rainbow Warriors anywhere close to returning to form as a quality Group of Five program. Chow is 10-35 (4-24 MWC) since being hired before the 2012 season, and was expected to get his team to a bowl game in Year 4.
Hawaii (2-6, 0-4) beat Colorado in the opener, but has lost six of its last seven games — the last three to San Diego State, New Mexico, and Nevada by a combined 25 points. Though there are still a few chances for wins left of the table, it’s unlikely that the Rainbow Warriors improve from their 4-9 mark in 2014, and that could spell trouble for Chow and his coaching staff.
Kevin Wilson has been on the proverbial hot seat for some time now, failing to get Indiana to the postseason, despite clear progression and several opportunities. In 2013, Indiana missed bowl eligibility by one game with a 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten) record, suffering a 42-39 November loss to Minnesota. In 2014, the Hoosiers started 3-2 and beat No. 18 Missouri on the road — which went on to play in the SEC Championship Game — only to lose six of seven to finish 4-8 (1-7).
It’s a similar look for the 2015 Indiana product, which started the season 4-0 but has lost four straight. Wilson, who holds an 18-38 (6-30) record in over four seasons, plays No. 10 Iowa and No. 15 Michigan at home before finishing the regular season with road games against Maryland and Purdue. Suffice to say, unless the Hoosiers pull off a big-time upset in the next few weeks, Wilson will need to beat the Terrapins and Boilermakers to save his job.
Out of all those listed from 6-20, you’d have to imagine that Virginia head coach Mike London is in position to lose his position before the regular season ends. London led the Cavaliers to an 8-5 (5-3 ACC) record during his second season in 2011, but is 13-30 (6-21) since, including a 2-5 (1-2) start in 2015.
It was a surprise in itself that Virginia retained London following the 2014 season that featured no bowl game for the third straight season, so clearly the motto was “bowl-or-bust” for the coaching staff this year. A heartbreaking seven-point loss to Notre Dame in Week 2 was promising, but things quickly went south two weeks later when the Cavs were embarrassed by Boise State at home, 56-14. With Georgia Tech, Miami, Louisville, Duke, and Virginia Tech remaining on the schedule, there’s no room for error.
Unfortunately for London, it’s not looking good. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) predicts Virginia will lose the rest of its games — and it’s not even close. The Cavs’ best chance for another win this season comes in a Week 13 home contest against No. 22 Duke … where the Blue Devils hold overwhelming odds (71.2 percent chance to win).
You can make the case for any coach listed to be the next man out; but with the wackiness that has come with an enigma of a 2015 season to date, good luck trying to figure out which one it will be.