The college football fan relationship with their favorite team’s head coach is highly volatile. Characterized by sharp autumnal mood swings and overreactions, it’s a bit like the Brangelina marriage – filled with drama.
With the 2016 season in the books, this seems like an apt time to check in on every fan-coach relationship in FBS. What follows is a Fan Satisfaction Index, appraising where every coach stands with his constituency, based on the following scale:
5 – Build the statue.
4 – Extend the contract.
3 – Stay the course.
2 – Fire the coordinators.
1 – Call the moving trucks.
Arizona: Rich Rodriguez (36-29 at Arizona, 19-27 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 2. The Wildcats’ competitiveness within the conference has tumbled, from winning the Pac-12 South in 2014 to 3-6 in ’15 to 1-8 in ’16. Arizona’s three wins last season were the school’s fewest since 2005. With a new athletic director coming in, a 2017 rebound is critical. Rodriguez could well be coaching for his job.
Arizona State: Todd Graham (39-26 at Arizona State, 25-21 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 2. Like its in-state rival, the Sun Devils are trending downward. The 6-7 of 2015 was followed by a 5-7 mark in ’16, a rebuilding season that ended in a six-game losing streak – five of them routs. Rock bottom arrived in the finale against Arizona, when ASU allowed 511 rushing yards to a bad team. That led to Phil Bennett’s hire as defensive coordinator this month. The head coach’s job will be at stake in ’17.
California: Justin Wilcox, newly hired. Honeymoon period.
Colorado: Mike MacIntyre (20-31 at Colorado, 10-26 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 4. The consensus national Coach of the Year had a three-year extension through 2021 finalized this month, following the Buffaloes’ breakout from a decade of terrible football. Losing coordinator Jim Leavitt and a bunch of seniors hurts the defense for 2017, but the Buffs could be better offensively. A second straight division title may not happen, but Colorado isn’t going back to the 2-10 days anytime soon.
Oregon: Willie Taggart, newly hired. Honeymoon period.
Oregon State: Gary Andersen (6-18 at Oregon State, 3-15 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 3. He got the one win he needed most last season, beating rival Oregon for the first time since 2007. That achievement, part of a three-win improvement in conference play, should leave fans feeling like the rebuilding job is on track. Seven of the Beavers’ 2016 losses were to teams that won eight or more games, and four of those were by single digits. They weren’t outmanned – but the offense must improve.
Stanford: David Shaw (64-17 at Stanford, 45-12 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 3. The Pac-12 began divisional play in 2011, and this was the first time the Cardinal didn’t finish first or second in the North. Replacing four-year starting QB Kevin Hogan was harder than anticipated, and 2015 Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey was less explosive in ’16. Still: when 10-3 is a down year, your program is really good. Shaw is an ideal fit at Stanford.
UCLA: Jim Mora (41-24 at UCLA, 25-21 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 2. Mora is one season away from squandering prize quarterback Josh Rosen, the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. Rosen’s mid-season injury helped scuttle 2016 for the Bruins, but even when he was healthy UCLA was nothing special. Mora’s teams have annually failed to fulfill expectations, have never lost fewer than three Pac-12 games in a season, and have been blown out twice in a row by USC. He needs a good year.
USC: Clay Helton (16-7 at USC, 12-4 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 4. Things got a lot better for Helton after the 2016 opening humiliating against Alabama and a 1-3 start. He got the right quarterback in the lineup (Sam Darnold) and nine straight victories flowed from there, capped by an epic Rose Bowl triumph. If the Trojans can now perform in 2017 with top-five expectations, Helton can prove himself a worthy heir to one of the nation’s best jobs.
Utah: Kyle Whittingham (103-50 at Utah, 25-25 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 3. The Utes had their third straight season with a winning Pac-12 record and nine or more total victories. In the very fluid South Division, Utah has become reliably competitive. The next goal is hitting a high note and playing in the league title game, something the other five South members all have done. Continued offensive evolution will help.
Washington: Chris Petersen (27-14 at Washington, 16-11 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 4. In year three, Petersen shattered the Stanford-Oregon ceiling in the North and has a chance to establish his program as the league’s new kingpin. Petersen’s in-game coaching, gameplanning, player development and eye for talent rank among the best in the game. And Washington is a snug fit for him.
Washington State: Mike Leach (29-34 at Washington State, 20-25 in Pac-12). Satisfaction rating: 4. Lost the first two and last three of the 2016 season, but the eight games in between were great. He’s just the third coach in school history to win eight or more games in consecutive seasons, and his iconoclast nature works better on the remote Palouse than it would in other league locales.