The college football coaches hot seat rankings for Week 13 reveal an impending shakeup on sidelines in Austin and throughout the state of Texas.
Decision time is looming for athletic directors across the college landscape. Whether to stand pat or overhaul the leadership, that is the question that will affect the careers of so many coaches, both head guys and their staff of assistants.
Winning makes life so simple for ADs. Kentucky is bowl-eligible and Georgia Tech is 7-4, so Mark Stoops and Paul Johnson, respectively, have left this conversation for the first time all year. And then there’s the state of Texas, with Austin at the epicenter. The Lone Star State is ablaze from the hot seats popping in places like Waco, College Station and even Lubbock.
Which head coaches are fielding the most pressure to turn things around and improve plummeting job approval ratings as the regular season nears its end? We break down who’s sitting on the hottest seats entering Week 13 of the 2016 season.
10. Jim Mora, UCLA (Last Week – 9)
Mora figures to survive and coach another day in Pasadena, in part because of his ability to recruit and in part because his agent crafted a contract with a lucrative, eight-digit buyout. But he’ll start 2017, likely QB Josh Rosen’s amateur finale, needing to rebound with authority. The Bruins aren’t just 4-7 this season, fresh off a loss to rival USC. They also closed 2015 by going 1-3, including another lopsided loss to the Trojans. And there’s a growing concern that Mora might be able to elevate this program only so high under his watch.
9. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (NR)
For the fourth straight year, the Aggies are mired in a second-half swoon. And even after rising as high as No. 6 in the polls, it’s beginning to catch up to Sumlin. True, A&M handled UTSA Saturday, 23-10, but the Aggies have lost three straight SEC games. Plus, since 2013, Sumlin is just 7-14 versus Power Five opponents after the middle of October. This decision could come down to Tom Herman. If the Houston coach can be lured to College Station, Sumlin could be out after five up-and-down seasons.
8. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (5)
Mason and his Commodores have done some nice things in 2016, such as defeating Georgia on homecoming and routing Ole Miss Saturday night to move within a victory of bowl-eligibility. If Vanderbilt gets to 6-6 by beating rival Tennessee in Nashville Saturday, the uncertainty ends. Mason will be back, possibly with an extension. If Vandy loses, well, Mason probably still returns for Year 4, though at 12-22 overall he’d likely need to move up that next rung to finally silence hot seat speculation.
7. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (7)
Just end already. Few teams are more eager to put 2016 into permanent storage than the Wildcats, who are the undisputed worst Pac-12 team of the year. The Cats faced another bottom feeder, Oregon State, on Saturday and were throttled, 42-17. Arizona hasn’t won a game since beating Hawaii on Sept. 17. Things could actually get worse this Friday night. What happens if the Wildcats are not only schooled again, but also against hated rival Arizona State … in front of a half-empty home crowd that can’t bear to witness to how far this program has sunk under RichRod?
6. Steve Addazio, Boston College (4)
The Eagles haven’t quit on the 2016 season, and that could bode well for Addazio when his future on The Heights is discussed. Boston College moved to within a game of .500—and bowl-eligibility—with a 30-0 blanking of Northeast rival UConn. Neither offense was sharp, but the BC defense was lights out, scoring a touchdown, picking off three passes and holding the Huskies to minus rushing yards. If the Eagles win in Winston-Salem this Saturday, cutting ties with Addazio becomes a lot more complicated.
5. Dave Doeren, NC State (8)
The Wolfpack administration has to be thinking that it can do better than Doeren, who has elevated the talent level in Raleigh but has been unable to achieve consistency on the field. At the tail end of his fourth season, the coach is 23-26 after losing to Miami at Carter-Finley, 27-13. And his mark against quality opponents has been awful. While there’s no guarantee 5-6 NC State will upgrade by looking in a new direction, the program has clearly flat-lined with Doeren in charge.
4. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (3)
What a disaster this has been in South Bend, guaranteeing the program its first losing season in nine years. Even when the Irish seemingly play well enough to pick up a quality win, they find a way to blow a game. Saturday versus Virginia Tech, for instance. Notre Dame led throughout, including by 10 points to start the final quarter, yet allowed the final 13 points in a 34-31 loss that mathematically ended bowl hopes. Kelly will either be on a rigid probation in 2017, or some yet-to-be-determined successor will spend the offseason rebuilding the shattered confidence of a team that’s played poorly from the season’s opening game.
3. Jim Grobe, Baylor (NR)
Grobe was never really seen as a permanent hire, rather a veteran stopgap for 2016 after Art Briles was released in late May. However, it’s not as if the administration was shutting the door on a longer relationship if things went well in the fall. And at 6-0, the future looked promising for Grobe. What a long time ago that was. Four consecutive losses ago, the latest coming at the hands of Kansas State, 42-21. Baylor doesn’t figure to retain Grobe, opting instead to zero in on a pair of AAC coaches, Houston’s Tom Herman and SMU’s Chad Morris.
2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (1)
Say one thing about Helfrich and his Ducks—they have not quit on the season, despite the fact that pride is all that’s been on the line in recent weeks. Oregon, a heavy underdog at Rice-Eccles Stadium, dealt a sucker punch to Utah’s Pac-12 South hopes with a thrilling comeback win in the final seconds. The victory might help Helfrich’s cause, as could the fact that the program used a mess of underclassmen who are liable to benefit from staff continuity in 2017.
1. Charlie Strong, Texas (2)
Reports surfaced prior to Saturday’s Kansas game that well-heeled boosters were pushing for Strong to be sacked and bags of cash to be hurled at Tom Herman. And then Strong’s Longhorns went out and blew a lead to the Jayhawks, which began the weekend on a 19-game Big 12 losing streak. It was also Kansas’ first victory over Texas since 1938. Nineteen thirty-eight. Just when it looked like Strong might be making a case for a fourth year, he goes out and suffers a loss that’ll wind up on the opponent’s timeline of memorable moments. If the Horns beat TCU on Friday to become bowl-eligible, an interim coach will likely be on the sideline for that game. It’s now just a matter of when the administration elects to end this partnership, which never quite got airborne.