The college football coaches hot seat rankings for Week 10 mark the departure of Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, who began the year with shrinking job security.
Will LSU’s Les Miles be the only SEC coach fired this cycle? That’s becoming a likely scenario as the 2016 campaign reaches its final full month of action. Not long ago, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was in the doghouse, but five consecutive wins later he’s now a Coach of the Year candidate. Ditto Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, whose team remains in the East Division race. Even Vandy’s Derek Mason has cooled off after getting to 4-4.
The SEC coach feeling the most heat to stop the bleeding in November? Yeah, that just might be Tennessee’s Butch Jones, as the bottom has started falling out in Knoxville.
Which head coaches are fielding the most pressure to turn things around and improve sinking job approval ratings? We break down who’s sitting on the hottest seats entering Week 10 of the 2016 season.
10. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (Last Week – 5)
If Stoops is back in 2017, and that’s looking increasingly likely, Week 9 could go down as the turning point in his Wildcat career. Kentucky blasted Mizzou in Columbia behind a huge day from the offense, namely backs Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benjamin Snell Jr. With the Cats one win away from bowl eligibility, and still very much alive in the SEC East, Stoops would probably have to lose the four remaining with Georgia, Tennessee, Austin Peay and Louisville to be out of work in December.
9. Jim Mora, UCLA (9)
Mora is in the midst of his toughest stretch as the Bruin head coach. His team, a Pac-12 South contender when the season began, is 3-5 and 4-8 dating back to the middle of last November. While the program has an abundance of talent, thanks to Mora and the staff, the product on the field has been regressing. Here’s the rub: No amount of meltdown in remaining games with Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Cal changes the fact that parting with Mora will be extremely costly. And there’s no guarantee that the next coach won’t be another Bob Toledo or Karl Dorrell or Rick Neuheisel.
8. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (7)
The likelihood RichRod is relieved of his duties in a month: less than 50/50. He’s liked by the university, has been saddled with injuries this season and is assembling a historically good recruiting class in Tucson. Still, there’s no ignoring the decline of this program over the past two seasons. Since beating rival ASU at the end of the 2014 regular season, the Cats are 9-14, and with Saturday’s loss to Stanford the team is one more defeat from bowl extinction. At a minimum, Rodriguez starts 2017 on strict probation, with a win or else edict.
7. Dave Doeren, NC State (NR)
Well, welcome back, coach. After a brief hiatus, Doeren has returned to the hot seat now that his Pack has lost three straight to slip back to .500 overall. And with four tough games left, this team that should have beaten Clemson will need multiple upsets to become bowl-eligible. Doeren is 22-24 in his fourth season in Raleigh, including 4-21 versus FBS opponents with a winning record. This past weekend’s home loss to Boston College was a terrible effort that could haunt the entire staff when decisions about the future are made.
6. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (8)
Mason and his Commodores are feeling pretty good right now, back-to-back wins over Georgia and Tennessee State followed by a much-needed bye week to recharge. Vanderbilt is 4-4, but this next stretch of four games could define what the leadership team looks like in 2017. Win two in upcoming games with Auburn, Mizzou, Ole Miss and Tennessee to become bowl-eligible and Mason might be in line for an extension. Slump to the finish line to finish 4-8 for a second straight year and the administration will have a tough decision to ponder.
5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (6)
Not a lot that happens on the field in the final month will change Kelly’s status in South Bend. If the administration feels he’s the right guy to lead a rebound, he’ll be back in 2017. If not, athletic director Jack Swarbrick will put out feelers for replacements. So, yeah, beating Miami to end a two-game losing streak will allow everyone, from Kelly to his players, to exhale entering November. But it’s unlikely that a specific record at the end of the regular season will tip the scales on the coach in one direction or another.
4. Steve Addazio, Boston College (4)
Does beating NC State in Raleigh to snap a 14-game losing streak help? You bet. How much? Well, that will depend on where the Eagles go from here in the last four games with Louisville, Florida State, UConn and Wake Forest. The final two games are within reach, which would result in bowl-eligibility and the probable return of Addazio for a fifth year. However, at, say, 5-7, the administration will need to determine whether patience or a new direction is in the best interest of the program.
3. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (3)
Johnson and his Yellow Jackets averted disaster Saturday against Duke, squandering a three-touchdown lead before pulling the game out on a late Justin Thomas touchdown pass. The victory moved Tech to 5-3, needing one more win to secure a spot in the postseason. But the team is about to enter its nastiest stretch of the year, including a visit from Virginia and trips to Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia. It’s in November when Johnson will either pass or fail in the judgment of new AD Todd Stansbury.
2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (2)
Thank you, Justin Herbert. The Ducks’ true freshman quarterback threw for 489 yards and four scores to lead the team to its first victory since Sept. 10. Beating Arizona State to remain in the hunt for a bowl berth takes a little bit of the heat off Helfrich, at least for the moment. But it also provides the coach with an intriguing talking point, that he not only recruited and signed Herbert, but he’s also the best coach to maximize the kid’s potential in his sophomore year and beyond.
1. Charlie Strong, Texas (1)
It helps. No doubt. But how much? Probably not enough, but handing No. 8 Baylor its first loss of 2016 is cause for celebration at Texas. As has always been the case with Strong during his brief Longhorn tenure, he must use a seminal win as a launching point to prolonged success. And he has the schedule to do just that over the next month. Texas, now 4-4, plays just one more team with a winning record, West Virginia in Austin on Nov. 12. If Strong can somehow get to 8-4, the decision about 2017 becomes more complicated.