‘College Football Firings’
It started in Week 3-of the football season, and it has continued at break-neck speed, the firing of all these head coaches in College Football.
The only thing more stunning than the fact six coaches have been jettisoned in half a season, is the buyout factor on virtually all these coaches. Paying off contracts of anywhere 8M-to-18M to rid yourself of a bad hire or guys who lost control of their programs. Thank goodness the big cigars (boosters) are helping fund these buyouts.
Equally surprising, some of these firings came at schools that have been so stable and credible for years. And a few came after schools fired successful coaches only to see their new hire fall flat.
A look at the jobs open as of this hour: Courtesy of CBS.
Outside of Ohio State, no program in the Big Ten has won more consistently over the past 30 years than Wisconsin. Between 1998 and 2019, Wisconsin produced 16 AP Top 25 finishes, 12 double-digit win seasons and seven top 10 rankings. Gary Andersen left of his own accord after two years, but each of the last four coaches served at least seven years in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s rare to find a combination of historic success, strong administrative buy-in and patience, and a massive payday coming in the form of the Big Ten’s new television contract should only make the job more attractive. One complication heading forward could be whether the Badgers’ sweetheart division setup will go away with the introduction of UCLA and USC, but Wisconsin is a strong enough program to withstand the changes. Wisconsin isn’t a Tier 1 job, but it’s right at the top of Tier 2.
Auburn ranks as perhaps the most mercurial job in all of college football. It’s been proven there’s legitimate national championship upside at this program; the Tigers have appeared in a pair of national title game since 2010. Whomever takes over the program also must contend with Alabama and Georgia as their chief rivals — perhaps the most unwinnable scenario in college football — along with a terminally dysfunctional administration and booster corps. Texas and Oklahoma will join the SEC in the next three years, which will only make the Auburn job more difficult. However, the combination of money and upside in the SEC recruiting footprint ensures the job will be attractive. The question just remains: How attractive?
There are only eight consensus blue blood programs in college football, and the ‘Huskers are on the list. Unfortunately, Nebraska hasn’t played much like it since Frank Solich was fired in 2003. Bo Pelini finished No. 24 and 25 in the first two years in the Big Ten, but the post-Pelini years have featured a combined 36-51 record with zero bowl appearances since 2017. The good news is that Nebraska has all the money and investment a program could ever want, along with one of the most committed fanbases in the nation. The bad news is that a new coach has to completely rediscover a pathway to success at Nebraska in the modern era.
Arizona State is Rorscach Job. Some see a party school in a sunny city that should be able to recruit with ease. Others see a program without an outright conference championship since 1996 that has only strung together back-to-back bowl wins once since 1987. The difference in perspective makes the Arizona State job one of the most intriguing on the board. Two factors complicate the situation: Athletic director Ray Anderson was tied deeply with fired coach Herm Edwards, so it’s unclear whether Anderson will be the one making the next hire. Additionally, the somewhat tenuous position of the Pac-12 makes the future look murky. Still, the resources and upside are high enough to make this an intriguing job.
If the Geoff Collins era was any indication, sitting in the middle of downtown Atlanta and throwing Waffle House logos on merchandise isn’t enough to get recruits to campus. Georgia Tech compares more favorably to Stanford and Duke due to the academic prestige and requirements in order to get recruits into the school than the SEC and ACC programs in the Southeast it has to recruit against. The most successful period in recent memory came while running the triple-option under Paul Johnson and opting not to compete in the rough-and-tumble SEC recruiting footprint. Whomever takes over this job has their hands full trying to choose a long-term identity.
Colorado boasts a great campus right in one of the most beautiful areas in the country. Unfortunately, all the great attractions around Boulder manifest in tenuous, at best, football investment. Colorado ranked last among public schools in the Pac-12 in athletic spending during the 2020-21 school year. Just three years ago, the Buffaloes lost a coach to Michigan State after one season. There’s no proven recruiting grounds or pathway to success at Colorado, and that has been firmly reflected in the ability to acquire and retain coaching talent.