College football coaching carousel
MAJOR CONFERENCE JOBS
In: Rich Rodriguez, had been CBS Sports Network analyst. Hired Nov. 21.
About the job: Arizona is the only Pac-12 program (not including newcomers Utah and Colorado) that hasn’t played in the Rose Bowl. Stoops led the Wildcats to three consecutive postseason appearances from 2008-10, but the Wildcats fell to the back of the pack this season. The state of Arizona produces only a handful of four- and five-star recruits each year, and both in-state Pac-12 programs have had trouble keeping those prospects home.
Buzz on the new coach: With his version of the spread offense, Rodriguez led West Virginia to the brink of the national championship game in 2007. In his final three seasons at his alma mater, he went 33-5. His success didn’t translate at Michigan, where he went 15-22 in three seasons; he had good offenses but horrible defenses. The Arizona job obviously has less prestige than Michigan, but Rodriguez seems a much better fit in Tucson. Rodriguez’s hires will be critical; he needs to find a high-level defensive coordinator and recruiters familiar with the Pac-12.
More on Arizona from Rivals.com: GOAZCATS.com | Talk with fans
In: Todd Graham, Pittsburgh coach. Hired Dec. 14 after going 6-6 in one season.
About the job: The Sun Devils have struggled with consistency. Arizona State has had only one top-15 finish since it went to the Rose Bowl following the 1996 season. With a new coach at Arizona, both programs in the state are starting from scratch. Arizona State has some advantages over archrival Arizona: It’s a football-first school with a more impressive gridiron history.
Buzz on the new coach: After nearly hiring SMU’s June Jones, Arizona State backed off, then hired Pitt’s Todd Graham a week later. The hire caught more than a few people by surprise. Pittsburgh is 6-6 this season, including 4-3 in the Big East, and the players seemed to have a tough time adjusting to Graham’s version of the spread. In four seasons at Tulsa, Graham went 35-17 while helping launch the careers of offensive coordinators Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris. He has two one-year head-coaching stints (at Rice and Pitt) in a six-year career; he’ll have to answer for that on the recruiting trail.
More on Arizona State from Rivals.com: ASUDevils.com | Talk with fans
In: Tim Beckman, Toledo coach. Hired Dec. 9.
About the job: Illinois is in better shape than when Zook arrived in 2005, but the program has lacked consistency; the Illini went to the Rose Bowl after the 2007 season but were 3-9 two seasons later. Zook proved that you can lure top high school talent to Illinois, but the program always will have difficulty competing with the Big Ten’s top tier on an annual basis.
Buzz on the new coach: In his first head-coaching job, Beckman turned Toledo around after several lackluster seasons. Beckman has guided the Rockets to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2004-05. He has a defensive background as a coordinator at Oklahoma State (2007-08) and Bowling Green (1998-04) and cornerback coach at Ohio State (2005-06), but his Toledo teams scored a ton of points. One question is whether he will bring offensive coordinator Matt Campbell with him to Illinois.
More on Illinois from Rivals.com: OrangeandBlueNews.com | Talk with fans
In: Charlie Weis, Florida offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 8.
About the job: The Turner Gill experiment failed miserably, as the Jayhawks were among the worst teams nationally in his two seasons. Kansas isn’t a great job, but the program should be better than five wins in two seasons. Despite a lack of tradition, a limited recruiting base and the shadow of the basketball program, former coaches Mark Mangino and Glen Mason proved the Jayhawks can at least contend for bowl games and even 10-win seasons with the right coach.
Buzz on the new coach: Weis is a risky hire, for certain. His tenure at Notre Dame lasted only five seasons and the Irish went 35-27 under his watch. Notre Dame’s 3-9 season in 2007 was the worst in South Bend since 1963. Moreover, Florida’s offense this season was dismal. That said, he’s considered a solid recruiter and his offense was good enough for two BCS bowls in his first two years with the Irish. In his last gig in the NFL, as coordinator in Kansas City, the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing in 2010. Before being hired at Notre Dame, he won three Super Bowl rings as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.
More on Kansas from Rivals.com: JayhawkSlant.com | Talk with fans
In: Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State coach. Hired Dec. 5.
About the job: “The Grove” has one of college football’s best pregame atmospheres, but this is one of the four toughest SEC jobs. The state of Mississippi has its share of top-notch recruits, but academic issues and poaching by other SEC schools usually hurt Ole Miss’ recruiting efforts. The two most recent coaches, Nutt and Ed Orgeron, rolled the dice on academic risks and transfers, and those decisions backfired more often than not.
Buzz on the new coach: Freeze is the first coach from the Sun Belt to make the jump to a bigger job. Freeze has at least some familiarity with the territory but not much success when he was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator here under Orgeron. Freeze is only two seasons removed from coaching in the NAIA, but he was 10-2 in his only season at Arkansas State. He had a reputation of an offensive mastermind back when he coached at Memphis Briarcrest Christian School before landing at Ole Miss, with his star player, Michael Oher.
More on Ole Miss from Rivals.com: RebelGrove.com | Talk with fans
In: Larry Fedora, Southern Miss coach. Hired Dec. 9.
About the job: North Carolina has been one of the greatest underachievers in ACC history. The program hasn’t exceeded eight wins in a season (a span of four coaches) since Mack Brown left in 1997 despite elite talent on defense at times. The Tar Heels have excellent facilities and a good recruiting base. But the new coach could have difficulties with NCAA sanctions looming.
Buzz on the new coach: This season, his fourth in Hattiesburg, Fedora led Southern Miss to its first double-digit wins total since 1988 and first Conference USA title since 2003. He’s a high-energy coach with a background in offense, and his Southern Miss teams never finished worse than fourth in C-USA in total offense. This is Fedora’s first coaching job in this part of the country, but he is a former coordinator at Florida and Middle Tennessee. He also was coordinator at Oklahoma State before he was hired by Southern Miss.
More on North Carolina from Rivals.com: TarHeelIllustrated.com | Talk with fans
In: Urban Meyer, former Florida coach. Hired Nov. 28.
About the job: NCAA sanctions or not, Ohio State is one of the top five jobs in the country. Jim Tressel led the Buckeyes to seven top-five finishes, three national championship games and the 2002 national title. The Big Ten is tougher with the addition of Nebraska and a title game, not to mention momentum at rival Michigan. Opposing coaches will use Ohio State’s upcoming NCAA sanctions, which almost certainly will include scholarship limitations, against the Buckeyes, but Ohio State should continue to recruit at a high level despite what may come.
Buzz on the new coach: Meyer is a former Ohio State assistant under Earle Bruce, and Buckeyes faithful hope he can duplicate his results at Florida, where he led the Gators to the 2006 and ’08 national championships. Meyer is an Ohio native and has recruiting credibility in Florida. His past staffs have been full of future head coaches, so his hires will merit watching.
More on Ohio State from Rivals.com: BuckeyeGrove.com | Talk with fans
In: Bill O’Brien, New England Patriots offensive coordinator. Hired Jan. 6.
About the job: Penn State hasn’t needed to hire a coach since 1966 and hasn’t needed hire a coach from outside the program since 1950. With its tradition, it should be one of the 10 most attractive jobs in college football. But the Jerry Sandusky scandal has thrown the entire university into disarray. This job has so much negativity around it that finding a top-level coach willing to take the challenge may be tough.
More on Penn State from Rivals.com: BlueWhiteIllustrated.com | Talk with fans
In: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 21.
About the job: Pittsburgh is making its third coaching hire in the past year. Pitt first hired Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood to replace Dave Wannstedt, but he was fired less than three weeks after he was hired following a domestic violence arrest. Graham then was hired to replace Haywood. Pittsburgh has had trouble maintaining consistency since the late 1970s. But the Panthers’ move to the ACC may make the job more attractive than it has been as a Big East member.
More on Pittsburgh from Rivals.com: Panther-Lair.com | Talk with fans
In: Kevin Sumlin, Houston coach. Hired Dec. 10.
About the job: The Aggies are looking for a fresh start as they enter the SEC next season. Texas A&M’s descent from a preseason top-10 team to 6-6 likely sealed Sherman’s fate. The Aggies are not an elite program on par with Alabama or LSU, but there’s no reason A&M can’t be in the second tier in the SEC. The Aggies are in prime recruiting territory, and now they can use the SEC as a selling point. A passionate fan base is hungry for the program to escape the doldrums of the past decade or so. Texas A&M has one top-25 finish since 1999.
Buzz on the new coach: Sumlin arrives at Texas A&M after a 35-17 run in four years at Houston. He was one of the most popular names in this year’s coaching changes after leading the Cougars to a 12-0 start this season with record-setting quarterback Case Keenum. At 47, he’s a well-traveled assistant who has done stints at Oklahoma (2003-07), Texas A&M (2001-02), Purdue (1998-2000) and Minnesota (1993-97). The only question is how he’ll fare without his star quarterback. Houston was 30-10 in Keenum’s full seasons under Sumlin and 5-7 without him in 2010.
More on Texas A&M from Rivals.com: AggieYell.com | Talk with fans
In: Jim Mora Jr., former Seattle Seahawks coach. Hired Dec. 10.
About the job: UCLA failed to take advantage of the turmoil caused by NCAA issues at crosstown rival USC. Yes, the Bruins won the Pac-12 South this season, but that comes with a huge asterisk - USC won it on the field but was ineligible for the title. The Bruins haven’t played in the Rose Bowl game since the 1998 season and have finished in the top 25 just once in the ensuing 12 seasons. That’s just sad. The right coach should be able to return UCLA to contender status in the Pac-12 - but Bruins officials haven’t made that type of hire in a long time.
Buzz on the new coach: UCLA will hope Mora is the Bruins’ version of Pete Carroll, a former NFL coach who struggled in the pros but flourished in the program. With two franchises, Mora’s win total decreased every season from 11-5 to 8-8 to 7-9 with the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-06 and finally to 5-11 with the Seahawks in 2009. This is Mora’s first true job in college football. The Washington alum was a graduate assistant with the Huskies in 1984 before an NFL coaching career.
More on UCLA from Rivals.com: BruinBlitz.com | Talk with fans
In: Mike Leach, former Texas Tech coach. Hired Nov. 30.
About the job: At 4-8 in 2011, Washington State started to make strides under Wulff - but not enough. Wulff inherited a program with off-field and academic issues, not to mention a talent deficit compared to the rest of the league. The new coach will take over a program with fewer problems plus a solid passing attack keyed by WR Marquess Wilson. The Pac-12 North is the tougher division right now, especially with three new coaches in the South for 2012. The job in Pullman, though, is the most difficult in the league.
About the new coach: Leach would seem to be a good fit in the Pac-12, a league known for its prolific passing offenses. Washington State has a history of good passers, from Drew Bledsoe to Ryan Leaf to Jason Gesser. Leach, who was one of the coaches who popularized pass-happy spread offenses, inherits good offensive talent in Pullman. The Cougars also hope he can add some long-needed consistency to the program. Leach led Texas Tech to 10 bowl games and never had a losing season in 10 seasons with the Red Raiders.
More on Washington State from Rivals.com: CougZone.com | Talk with fans
In: Terry Bowden, North Alabama coach. Hired Dec. 21.
About the job: Akron was one of the worst teams in the FBS ranks under Ianello, winning only one MAC game in two seasons. The Zips have had only six winning seasons and one bowl appearance since joining the MAC in 1992, but expectations have been raised since the opening of InfoCision Stadium in 2009. The state of Ohio has only two major-conference teams (and one of those is Cincinnati), but MAC programs such as Toledo, Ohio, Miami and Bowling Green have been much more consistent in attracting MAC-level recruits.
In: Gus Malzahn, Auburn offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 14.
About the job: The Hugh Freeze era was fun while it lasted this season, Freeze led the Red Wolves to a Sun Belt title. Now, Arkansas State is in the unenviable position of having to hire a coach for the second consecutive offseason. As with all the Sun Belt programs, the Red Wolves are picking over second- and third-tier recruits. It’s much easier to do that in other Sun Belt states – such as Florida, Alabama and Louisiana – than it is in Arkansas.
Buzz on the new coach: Malzahn has been on the fast track since Houston Nutt hired him from Springdale (Ark.) High in 2006 to be his offensive coordinator at Arkansas. After a falling out in Fayetteville, he landed at Tulsa, where his up-tempo spread led the nation in total offense in both of his seasons there. At Auburn, he coached Heisman winner Cam Newton. Malzhan’s name has made the rounds for head-coaching jobs before, including Vanderbilt’s vacancy last season, so his decision to work at a Sun Belt school with just one winning season since 1990 is a surprise.
In: Jim McElwain, Alabama offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 13.
About the job: Fairchild went 7-6 in his first season, but it was all downhill after that. Sonny Lubick led Colorado State to nine bowl games and three top-25 finishes, but that may be a reflection on Lubick rather than the program itself. Colorado does not produce many FBS recruits, but the flagship program in the state, Colorado, isn’t in much better shape than the Rams. The new hire likely will need to be able to recruit the West and unearth talent to succeed at a difficult job in the Mountain West.
Buzz on the new coach: In a time where some offensive coordinators are rock stars with no-huddle spread attacks, McElwain has run a throw-back offense with Alabama. The power run game with the Tide has yielded a Heisman winner in Mark Ingram and a Heisman finalist in Trent Richardson, not to mention two national title game appearances. McElwain makes his first trip back west since serving as offensive coordinator at Fresno State in 2007.
More on Colorado State from Rivals.com: GoldandGreenNews.com | Talk with fans
In: Carl Pelini, Nebraska defensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 5.
About the job: Despite a dismal season in 2011, FAU is a success story. Schnellenberger, who led Miami to its first national title in 1983, built the program from the ground up. The program started on the FCS level in 2001; the Owls went to back-to-back bowls in 2007-08 and won a Sun Belt title in 2007. The Owls are in fertile recruiting territory, too, able to find the bulk of their players within a two-hour drive of the campus in Boca Raton. One immediate hurdle is catching up with Sun Belt rival Florida International, which has an entrenched coach and has had back-to-back winning seasons. The opening of an on-campus stadium this season was one of Schnellenberger’s key goals from Day One.
Buzz on the new coach: Pelini spent the last four seasons as defensive coordinator under his brother Bo at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers had a top-15 defense in 2009-10, but injuries contributed to a lackluster defensive season in 2011. Pelini was a high school coach in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio before landing on Frank Solich’s staff at Ohio in 2008. He is known for a fiery personality similar to his brother’s.
More on Florida Atlantic from Rivals.com: OwlsBurrow.com | Talk with fans
In: Tim DeRuyter, Texas A&M defensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 14.
About the job: Hill built Fresno State into one of the most consistent programs outside the major conferences with 11 bowl trips in 12 years. The best mark was an 11-3 season in 2001 led by Heisman finalist David Carr. Fresno State never reached that point again as the Bulldogs went 40-41 since 2005. Fresno State is moving into the Mountain West next season, which only slightly improves the Bulldogs’ conference profile. Fresno State still has serious budgetary concerns which could impact the pool of candidates for the job. It is worth noting Hill volunteered for pay cuts to help alleviate some of the school’s financial burden.
Buzz on the new coach: DeRuyter was a well-regarded defensive coordinator at Air Force, utilizing a 4-2-5 alignment. In his first season at Texas A&M in 2010, he turned around a defense that was the worst in the Big 12 in 2009. But the defense had issues this season, especially against the pass, and that led to the firing of coach Mike Sherman earlier this month. DeRuyter is a first-time head coach, and following in Hill’s footsteps is going to be difficult unless he wins right away.
More on Fresno State from Rivals.com: TheBulldogReport.com | Talk with fans
In: Norm Chow, Utah offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 21.
About the job: June Jones made Hawaii relevant, a tradition McMackin continued to a small degree. The Warriors went to two bowls in four seasons under McMackin. Hawaii has continued to use the run-and-shoot offense, but quarterback play has been inconsistent since Jones left because of injuries and other issues. Hawaii is readying for a move from the WAC to the Mountain West, which should help recruiting a bit. Hawaii is the main sports draw on the island, and there is pressure to win – or at least finish the season in the Hawaii Bowl. Hawaii has relied heavily on junior college transfers over the years, and it’s a perennial challenge to put together a roster.
Buzz on the new coach: Chow long has been considered a potential head coach, but his stock has fallen a bit since he was offensive coordinator at USC in 2004. That’s partly because of undistinguished stints with the Tennessee Titans and at UCLA and Utah, although some circumstances at those stops were out of his control. He’s one of the most respected offensive minds in the game and a noted quarterback tutor. Working in his favor at Hawaii – he was born in Honolulu. His age (65), though, likely will be used against him on the recruiting trail.
In: Tony Levine, promoted from inside receivers coach/special teams coordinator.
About the job: Sumlin and his predecessor Art Briles have led a renaissance of Houston football in the last six seasons. The Cougars have three 10-win seasons in that span. The trademark for the program, as it was in the late ’80s is a high-flying offense. Although it’s a commuter school, Houston is in good shape as a football program with its move to the new, far-flung Big East and an $80-85 million new stadium project schedule to begin in the next year. Still, the Cougars are fighting for second- and third-tier recruits within its own state, which in Texas can still form the foundation of a solid program.
Buzz on the new coach: With the promotion of Levine, Houston hopes continuity will help the Cougars maintain the recent winning tradition built by Briles and Sumlin. Levine, 39, has been at Houston since 2008 and worked at Louisville under Bobby Petrino. Levine, a first-time head coach, also spent two seasons as an assistant with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (assistant special teams and assistant strength and conditioning coach). Levine was a wide receiver in college at Minnesota from 1991-95.
More on Houston from Rivals.com: CougarsDen.com | Talk with fans
In: Charley Molnar, Notre Dame offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 8.
About the job: UMass is moving from the FCS ranks into the MAC in 2012, so this is a critical hire. (UMass is one of four programs making the move from FCS to the FBS ranks, joining South Alabama, Texas State and UT San Antonio.) This has been a mediocre FCS program, but the administration says the new coach will have a salary that is competitive with others in the MAC. The average salary in the league is a bit less than $380,000.
Buzz on the new coach: Molnar had been an assistant under Brian Kelly since 2006 at Central Michigan. Though Molnar carried the label of offensive coordinator, Kelly was the primary play-caller. Molnar, though, has a background that might serve him well at a fledgling FBS program – he has spent a good portion of his career in the FCS and the MAC, but he got a taste of the big time at Notre Dame.
In: Justin Fuente, TCU co-offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 8.
About the job: Since a run of five bowl games in six seasons from 2003-08, Memphis has been of the nation’s worst programs, going 5-31 in the past three seasons. This program needs more than just the right coach. The fan base is far more interested in the basketball program, the facilities are lacking and the football team plays in a never-filled off-campus stadium. But the recruiting base is decent, so the next coach has an opportunity to increase the talent level.
Buzz on the new coach: Before Fuente took over the offense, TCU was a defensive power but an offensive liability at times. Under Fuente and quarterback Andy Dalton in 2010, TCU set handful of school records including touchdowns, points scored and total offense. After Dalton went on to be a first-round draft pick, Fuente tutored first-year starter Casey Pachall to a 10-2 season. Fuente’s most extensive experience in this part of the country came as a former assistant at Illinois State and quarterback at Murray State.
More on Memphis from Rivals.com: TigerSportsReport.com | Talk with fans
In: Bob Davie, former Notre Dame coach. Hired Nov. 16.
About the job: New Mexico hardly is a hotbed of high school talent, but the Lobos went to bowl games under Dennis Franchione and Rocky Long. The key is strong recruiting in junior colleges and in California and Texas high schools. The Lobos may never be a perennial Mountain West contender, but the path may be clearer with TCU, BYU, Utah and possibly Boise State and San Diego State leaving.
Buzz on the new coach: After Locksley’s disastrous tenure, New Mexico took another risk in hiring Davie. He has been out of college coaching for a decade, and his coaching tenure at Notre Dame was the first of three undistinguished coaching hires for the Irish. Before that, he was a solid defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and Texas A&M.
More on New Mexico from Rivals.com: LoboLand.com | Talk with fans
In: Ellis Johnson, South Carolina defensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 20.
About the job: Southern Miss has been one of the nation’s most consistent programs, if not always elite in Conference USA, under the past two coaches. The Golden Eagles have not had a losing season since 1993 and could be one of the last standing powers in C-USA once Houston, SMU and UCF join the Big East. Mississippi produces its share of FBS talent, but academic concerns for in-state prospects continues to be an issue not only for Southern Miss, but for Ole Miss and Mississippi State as well.
Buzz on the new coach: Johnson, 59, is one of the top 10 or so defensive coordinators in the nation, and he has head-coaching experience at Gardner-Webb (now a FCS program, but an NAIA program when Johnson was there) and The Citadel (FCS). He also is a former defensive coordinator at Southern Miss (1988-89) and Mississippi State (2004-07), which gives him a working knowledge of the high schools – and junior colleges – in the state. He replaces the offense-minded Fedora, and Johnson’s pick as offensive coordinator is something to keep an eye on.
More on Southern Miss from Rivals.com: BigGoldNation.com | Talk with fans
In: Matt Campbell, Toledo offensive coordinator. Hired Dec. 12.
About the job: Toledo returned to MAC contender status in the last two seasons, though the Rockets never played for the MAC championship game. Toledo went 16-9 in the last two seasons, ending a run of four consecutive losing seasons. This is one of the better jobs in the MAC as Gary Pinkel and Tom Amstutz led the Rockets to three double-digit win seasons between 1995-2001.
Buzz on the new coach: At 32, Campbell is the youngest coach in the Bowl Subdivision. He was the coordinator and offensive line coach for a unit that ranked eighth nationally in total offense and scoring offense in 2011 and 16th in total offense last season. He’s one of the MAC’s top recruiters and spent his college days at legendary Division III program Mount Union.
In: Curtis Johnson, New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach. Hired Dec. 5.
About the job: Tulane is one of the toughest jobs in Conference USA. Though Louisiana produces a lot of top-flight recruits, the Green Wave’s lack of recent success and higher academic requirements make the Tulane job a tall order. Beyond the shadow of LSU, which is a big one, Tulane has three other FBS programs to contend with in-state. Some good news: Tulane has plans for a 30,000-seat on-campus stadium that would open in 2014. That would get the Green Wave out of the Superdome, where Tulane plays in front of sparse crowds.
Buzz on the new coach: Johnson has spent the past five seasons with the Saints, but has college experience. At Miami, he coached Andre Johnson, Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne and was a part of the staff that led the Hurricanes to the 2001 national championship. He also is credited with recruiting Marshall Faulk - a New Orleans native - to San Diego State when he was an assistant there from 1989-93. Johnson never has been even a coordinator, but it’s expected that his New Orleans roots will serve him well at Tulane.
More on Tulane from Rivals.com: TheWaveReport.com | Talk with fans
In: Garrick McGee, Arkansas offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. Hired Dec. 3.
About the job: UAB is the worst job in Conference USA - and that’s saying something. UAB has made one bowl game in its history. Despite being located in football-crazed Birmingham, all that attention goes to Alabama and Auburn. Attendance at aging Legion Field remains embarrassing, and will continue to be so after the University of Alabama System board of trustees ended any plans for an on-campus stadium. A bad job likely gets even more difficult with South Alabama moving up to the FBS ranks next season (USA will be in the Sun Belt); that’s a development that may limit UAB’s access to Mobile-area recruits.
Buzz on the new coach: UAB returned to familiar territory in hiring another SEC offensive coordinator to take over the program. As an assistant, McGee coached quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Ryan Mallett at Arkansas and C.J. Bacher at Northwestern. He also spent time as a quality control assistant in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. An Oklahoma alum and Tulsa native, McGee recruited Big 12 territory (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas) for the Razorbacks.
More on UAB from Rivals.com: BlazerSportsReport.com | Talk with fans