The college football coaches hot seat rankings for Week 12 reveal a new No. 1 as decision time nears for athletic directors across the country.
Five FBS coaches have left the hot seat for the worst possible reason: an in-season firing. Georgia State’s Trent Miles joined Les Miles (LSU), Darrell Hazell (Purdue), Ron Turner (Florida International) and Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State) on the coaching unemployment line. Still, this could be an offseason of unusual patience on college campuses, with a relatively small number of Power Five programs expected to make changes in a few weeks.
Which head coaches are fielding the most pressure to turn things around and improve plummeting job approval ratings as the regular season nears the end? We break down who’s sitting on the hottest seats entering Week 12 of the 2016 season.
10. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (Last Week – 10)
It’s a good thing the athletic department scheduled Austin Peay a week from now, because the Cats are going to need that game to become bowl-eligible. Just eight days ago, 5-5 Kentucky was in the SEC East race, but that was before it lost in the final seconds to Georgia and was then roughed up by Joshua Dobbs and Tennessee this past weekend. Handle the Governors and Stoops will be fine. Somehow lose that matchup before the rivalry game with Louisville and the administration might have no choice but to eat the rest of Stoops’ contract.
9. Jim Mora, UCLA (9)
The 4-6 Bruins briefly hit the pause button on their rancid 2016 campaign, beating lowly Oregon State to snap a four-game losing streak. UCLA used a pair of non-offensive touchdowns to get past the Beavers and remain alive for the postseason with two games remaining. Mora could catch a little slack for not having a healthy Josh Rosen all year, but there’s no denying he and his staff are underachieving, especially in games that could go either way. It would be a shock if Mora didn’t return in 2017, but equally shocking if his staff didn’t have a very different look.
8. Dave Doeren, NC State (8)
There’s no overstating the importance of the Week 11 win over Syracuse that put the brakes on a four-game losing streak that was really starting to dog Doeren and his staff. The Pack overcame an injury to quarterback Ryan Finley in the Carrier Dome with three rushing touchdowns from Matthew Dayes. And by getting back to .500 with games remaining against Miami and Carolina, NC State has a shot to qualify for a third consecutive bowl game, a key to dialing down the pressure on Doeren.
7. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (7)
This season cannot end soon enough for RichRod and his Wildcats, who’ve only beaten Grambling and Hawaii way back in September. This program has become unmoored under the current regime, going 4-12 since the middle of last October. And the talent is not very good compared to the rest of the Pac-12, something Rodriguez and his assistants are hoping to address with this upcoming recruiting class. The defense is a perennial problem in Tucson, and Rodriguez’s trademark offense has been stricken with injuries and poor execution.
6. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (4)
If Johnson is back on The Flats for a tenth season in 2017, Week 11 in Blacksburg could go down as the turning point. The Yellow Jackets absolutely crushed Coastal Division-leading Va Tech, and they did so with backup quarterback Matthew Jordan operating the offense. Plus, the upset ensures that Georgia Tech will be back in the postseason after missing out a year ago. The Jackets would still probably benefit from new leadership, but Saturday’s upset complicated things for new AD Todd Stansbury.
5. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (6)
The Commodores’ margin for error for copping a bowl bid is now gone, which could directly impact Mason’s future in Nashville. Vanderbilt fell to 4-6 with a 26-17 loss to Mizzou, a team that was winless in SEC play at the outset of the weekend. Mason has done good things with the Dores’ D, and his kids stunned Georgia Between the Hedges on Oct. 15. But he’s also 11-23 overall through almost three full seasons, unable to build upon what James Franklin started before taking the Penn State job.
4. Steve Addazio, Boston College (5)
A larger than normal audience got a chance to witness the continued decline of the Eagles under Addazio. BC fell to 4-6 with a 45-7 loss to Florida State on Friday night, marking the second straight week that the team was mauled by one of the ACC’s elite. In fact, against the league’s four top teams – Clemson, Louisville, FSU and Virginia Tech – Boston College has been outscored 202-24 this season. Even at a school with modest expectations, it’s hard to see that being acceptable for much longer.
3. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (3)
The 4-6 Fighting Irish took care of Army, 44-6, remaining mathematically alive for a bowl game while avoiding a second straight loss to a service academy. Whether or not Notre Dame can claw its way back to .500 and a meaningless bowl game is irrelevant at this point as it pertains to Kelly’s future in South Bend. It’s been a dreadful year regardless of how it ends. and it’ll be up to AD Jack Swarbrick to decide whether or not Kelly is still the right coach to guide ND back into national title contention.
2. Charlie Strong, Texas (1)
Coming up just short to West Virginia, 24-20, really hurts Strong, because it stunts the momentum of a team that was cresting entering Week 11. But despite three picks and another 100-yard day from RB D’Onta Foreman, Texas slipped back to .500. Now, the team needs to defeat Kansas this Saturday to ensure bowl-eligibility, as well as TCU on Nov. 25 to guarantee Strong’s first winning season in Austin. But will that be enough to warrant a fourth year at the helm?
1. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (2)
It’s getting harder and harder to make a case for Helfrich, whose Ducks became bowl-ineligible for the first time in a dozen years following Saturday’s loss to Stanford. It’s not just that 3-7 Oregon is losing, but also the way it’s losing, that has to be troubling for the administration and well-heeled backers, like Phil Knight. The Ducks were at least competing earlier in the year, but since Oct. 1 they’ve lost by 18 to Wazzu, 49 to Washington, 25 to USC and now 25 to the Cardinal. Changes are afoot in Eugene, and Helfrich might very well get swept up in them.