It has to be college football season, because it was noticeably hotter today in the San Francisco Bay area and it is scheduled to warm up in the next week or so (meaning it might get to 80 degrees in the City!) as we move towards September, which is normal for the Bay area as Mark Twain has pointed out: “The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” As the August calendar comes to an end, the Bay area heats up for a month or so just in time for the start of college football season, and this year we have a Thursday night game to kick-off the season as Oregon State visits the Farm to play Jim Harbaugh and Stanford. Can the college football season really be here? Yes, and let’s kick this damn thing off!
With the college football season upon us, it is time for the Preseason Coaches Hot Seat Rankings, and at our recent retreat at Lake Tahoe we thought there was a good chance that there would be quite a bit of movement in the final Preseason Coaches Hot Seat Rankings. Not only was there a lot of movement in the Rankings, the long period between out last vote in March and now, has shown that a lot has gone on in the offseason to shape the way we view certain coaches. The ballots of the CHS members had wide differences, as is to be expected before a football play has been called, but there are a core group of coaches that we feel are most definitely on the Hot Seat, and then a second group of coaches that only have to trip-up once or twice to find their rear-ends heating up in a hurry.
Before we get to the Preseason Coaches Hot Seat Rankings, let us quickly review how we believe that college head football coach can find his way onto our Hot Seat. We here at Coaches Hot Seat rank coaches higher or lower on the Coaches Hot Seat Rankings based on the following criteria:
1. The amount of pressure on the coach from external (fans, alumni, boosters, the media) and internal (the pressure the coach puts on himself and the pressure from his immediate bosses: AD, college president, and school trustees) forces.
2. The expectations at the school, i.e., the expectations at Notre Dame are higher than they are than at a school like Vanderbilt. Expectations have a lot to do with the amount of pressure on a coach, and a coach’s position on our Coaches Hot Seat Rankings has a lot to do with expectations at the school he coaches at.
3. The coach’s record at his current school, in the conference, out of the conference, and against his school’s main rival(s).
If a coach is on the Hot Seat, then at least one of the following three things is true:
1. The coach on the Hot Seat is in danger of losing his job either during or after the current football season.
2. The internal and external forces at the school of the coach on the Hot Seat are putting tremendous pressure on the coach.
3. The coach on the Hot Seat is not meeting the expectations of the school that he is coaching at.
Now that you understand how the coaches are ranked and how coaches can get onto the Hot Seat, let’s get to the 2008 Preseason Coaches Hot Seat Rankings:
Let’s look at the Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat:
1. Tyrone Willingham, Washington– It seems that Ty Willingham has been on the Hot Seatsince he left Stanford for Notre Dame, but the Hot Seat he is on now is really smoking. With the toughest schedule in the country (who is making these schedules at Washington?), Willingham could actually put up a .500 record and proclaim he is making a lot of progress. Yes, the schedule is that difficult at UW in ’08. What does Willingham need in ‘08? At least a 6-6 record, and maybe 7-5. Can he and the Huskies get to 7 wins? If they do, it will be an incredible accomplishment after what Willingham took over at UW, and all that has gone on since Willingham got to Seattle.
2. Joe Glenn, Wyoming – Joe Glenn arrived in Laramie as one of the hottest coaches in the country after winning two I-AA titles at Montana, but entering his sixth season at Wyoming it is either win in ‘08 or go home. The MWC is not a walk in the park anymore and Glenn probably needs at least a .500 record in that tough conference to hold onto his job. Can he do it? In Glenn’s sixth year in Laramie a .500 record with this Wyoming schedule should be very doable.
3. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – We have been watching Kirk Ferentz closely in this past offseason, and the pressure of everything from the off-field problems at Iowa to the lack of wins is starting to wear on the man. Ferentz knows that something has changed with his football team from what he had going only a few years back with the Hawkeyes, but Ferentz can’t seem to quite put his finger on just what that “thing” is. To us, the problem is very obvious: Ferentz’s recent Iowa teams are not playing as hard, but why that is, is something that we cannot answer. Ferentz needs a least a 6-6 record in ’08 to show he has at least regained some control of his football team. Anything less, and the Ferentz era at Iowa will probably be brought to an end.
4. Mike Stoops, Arizona – We have to admit that we like Mike Stoops, but liking a football coach does not “feed the bulldog.” If we were in a landing craft approaching Omaha Beach on D-Day 63 years ago and we looked back and the Stoops brothers (Bob, Mike, and Mark) were on there with us, we would certainly have liked our chances to take that beach, but storming Omaha beach does not ”feed the bulldog” either. What Mike Stoops needs is wins, and lots of them, and we believe that it is either 7 wins and a bowl trip in ’08, or the Stoops era at Arizona is done. The Wildcats have a tough schedule in ’08 and it will be very difficult to get to 7 wins, but it is doable, and maybe doable is all that Stoops and company need to get the Arizona football program back on track.
5. Greg Robinson, Syracuse – The Robinson era at Syracuse has been troubled from the start, and we don’t know quite why that is. Robinson has been a well-respected defensive coach for years now, but for whatever reason it never quite worked out for Robinson at Syracuse, and unless there is a major turnaround for The Orange in ’08, the Robinson era at Syracuse will be over come December. Can Robinson and Syracuse win 6 games in ’08? If they did, it would be one of the greatest surprises in college football history.
6. Chuck Long, San Diego State – Chuck Long had a great playing career as a QB at Iowa, and a nice run on the coaching staffs at Iowa and Oklahoma, but for whatever reason he has not moved the needle much with the San Diego State Aztecs. Now Chuck Long needs wins, and bunches of them, to not only prove he can put a winning product on the field, but also to generate some interest in the San Diego State football program in southern California. If San Diego State is more competitive on the field in ’08, then Long might be able to get away with a losing season, but improvement must be shown if Long hopes to hang onto his current head coaching gig in the land of sunny skies, beautiful beaches, and damn good looking women!
7. Mike Sanford, UNLV – Mike Sanford took over the UNLV program after leaving Utah at the same time that Urban Meyer went to Florida, but that is where the similarities between Sanford and Meyer and UNLV and Florida end. Sanford is 6-29 in three seasons at UNLV, and that is just not good enough for the Rebels’ fans and more importantly, for Sanford’s bosses. Like other Hot Seat coaches, Sanford needs wins, and lots of them, but the ’08 UNLV schedule is tough and we find it hard to believe that the Rebels can even come close to a .500 record. Can UNLV win 6 games in ’08? If they can, then we need to get down to Vegas and play some blackjack, because there would have to be a lot of luck flowing around The Strip for 6 wins to happen for the Rebels in ’08. If Mike Sanford does get 6 or more wins this season, just look for us at one of the Blackjack tables at the Mandalay Bay Resort Casino come December. (The House of Blues restaurant at the Mandalay Bay serves some mean ”Tennessee-style Baby Back Ribs!”)
8. Tim Brewster, Minnesota – Brewster talked a big game when he got to Minnesota, but a 1-11 record in ’07 has brought the Brewster-train (or is this a train wreck?) back down to reality. The biggest thing that Brewster has working against him is that the Big Ten hasn’t been this tough in about three decades, and it is going to be very hard for the Gophers to break out of the bottom quarter of their conference anytime soon. Brewster probably has at least this season and next to prove whether he can get the Minnesota program back to respectability, but the Gopher football team that Glen Mason left at Minnesota was in much better shape than it is in today. Brewster’s bosses must be getting mighty nervous after they gave Mason his walking papers and hired a guy in Brewster that rode into town and immediately put up a 1-11 record on his first go-round. Can Brewster turn the Gophers in ’08? If Brewster can get 5 wins in ’08, we will be mighty impressed.
9 & 10. Bobby Bowden, Florida State and Joe Paterno, Penn State – Yes, that’s right, we have two living legends on the Hot Seat. Both Bowden and Paterno must know that they are under tremendous pressure as they enter the ’08 season if they hope to coach in 2009, and both coaches seems to hinting that they would love to come back for another season after this one. There is only one game separating Bowden and Paterno in all-time wins, with Bowden have a 1 game lead, and that is just going to put that much more pressure on their teams to really perform in each game during the upcoming season. After talking to people around both the Florida State and Penn State programs, we believe that both coaches need at least 7 wins, but probably 8 wins in the regular season, in order for them to make a good argument that they should return in ’09. We believe that both Florida State and Penn State would like both coaches to retire after the end of the upcoming season, and how fitting would it be if Paterno won 1 more game than Bowden in ’08, which would leave the two coaches tied for the all-time wins record. If that did happen, then it would be nice to see the college football bowl/postseason folks come together to set-up a bowl game match-up between Bowden and Paterno, so that they could settle the all-time wins record mano-a-mano, with the winner of the bowl game getting all the spoils and of course the record. Now that would be entertaining television, with two living legends in Bowden and Paterno facing off for a record that both men want very badly. Now that is a football game we would pay to see! Will it happen? Who knows, but there is one thing that we do believe, both Bowden and Paterno enter the ’08 season under pressure and on the Hot Seat, and both men want to put up a lot of wins to prove that they are still very relevant in the game of college football. Good Luck to both Coach Bowden and Coach Paterno in ’08, and thanks for your incredible coaching careers up to this point, that have etched indelible college football memories for all of us here at Coaches Hot Seat.
Well, there you have the Top 10 Coaches on the Preseason Coaches Hot Seat Rankings, and now let’s look at some other major moves in the Rankings:
Al Groh, Virginia– Al Groh has been off of our Hot Seatsince about the middle of the ’07 season, but with the USC Trojans visiting Charlottesville in week 1 and Groh determined to follow-up a modestly successful ’07 with another good season in ’08, the pressure is starting to be turned up on Coach Groh. Can Al Groh win another handful of close games and take the Cavs to another bowl? Who knows, but Groh’s teams sure are fun to watch! Now let’s see what UVA can do against the mighty Trojans!
Tommy Bowden, Clemson– Tommy Bowden does not look well, but the heat in the South in August and a Clemson football team that supposed to ring up an ACC title in ’08 can make any man look worn out. Bowden surely knows the pressure is really on him and his Tigers football team in ’08, and the opening game against Alabama even turns the heat up that much higher. Clemson will be on a big stage come Saturday night, and we are about to find out if Tommy Bowden and his team are pretenders, or if they can beat an Alabama team that they should handle fairly easily. The pressure is on Tommy Bowden, maybe even more than in recent years, because there are no excuses with the amount of talent on this Clemson football team to not win a title in ’08.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina – Yep, that’s right! The Ol’ Ball Coach has moved up to the Edge of Hot Seatcategory, mainly because we know Coach Spurrier can do a lot better than what he has done so far in Columbia. We don’t know anything about this Beecher fellow that Spurrier is going to start under center, but it is time for a quarterback to step up at South Carolina and start tossin’ the ball around. We hear that Ellis Johnson has the Gamecock defense raring to go, and it is time for Coach Spurrier and his offense to put some points up on the board. Memo to Beecher: Pay attention to the Ol’ Ball Coach and just say, “Yes, Coach,” to whatever he asks of you. If the Ball Coach starts yelling at you, just take it in stride and go back out and try to do better the next time. Coach Spurrier knows what he’s doing, and there is a method to apparent madness. It’s is time for the Ol’ Ball Coach and the Gamecocks to start throwing the ball around the ballpark and lay some points on their opponents. Hey, Coach Spurrier is not a youngin’ anymore, and we are getting damn tired of telling our kids about the great offenses that the Ball Coach was running at Florida (Our kids are starting to not believe our stories about Steve Spurrier’s offenses at Florida). Hey Coach, how about doing it at South Carolina as well?
Well, there you have it, the Top 10 Coaches in our Preseason Coaches Hot Seat Rankings, and a few coaches that are starting to feel some heat on their derrière’s.
It is time for college football, or as Alan Shepherd said sitting atop Freedom 7, a 10-story 33 ton Redstone rocket, at Cape Kennedy on May 5, 1961:
“Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?”
It is time to “LIGHT THE CANDLE” of the 2008 college football season!