Heading into this Saturday, some coaches will again be fighting for their jobs. In the two weeks since my last update, the man that owned the top spot is done fighting (for now). The man I pegged to place into my top spot (Houston Nutt) has already sealed his fate with the Rebels. Their decision to can him at the end of the year is the right one. Now, they can choose their favorite SEC Coordinator and start over.
Here is my list, one through ten, hope you enjoy:
1. Paul Wulff, Washington State: It is looking more and more like Wulff will end his fourth season in Pullman with eight wins. In the last edition, I quickly chronicled his eight wins. Now it will take three straight to save his job. I cannot imagine any other scenario in which he keeps his job. If Washington State has an interest in building a winning football program, they must get a new Head Coach. This week they play Arizona State, and I’m sure ASU won’t botch this game like they did last week’s UCLA debacle. Athletic Director Bill Moos has been with the Cougars since 2010. He has given Wulff two full seasons to show what he can do, I fully expect that Moos, a former offensive lineman at WSU, to fire Wulff before the season is over. Moos worked at Oregon before Washington State, and something tells me Mike Bellotti will be tapped to turn around Washington State.
2. Neil Callaway, UAB: Last time Callaway was ranked at #3, a spot behind Wulff. He moves up and still stays behind Wulff. Mainly because winning at UAB is difficult. Since they have moved to the FBS level, they’ve made one bowl game and have had two other winning seasons. None of those have been under Callaway, who led the team to their worst season in program history in ’07 (2-10). Now it was his first year, but years two through five haven’t been much better. 2011 is shaping up to be ‘the’ worst. Currently the team is 1-8, so the post-season is already off the table. This week they play Memphis in the “Battle for the Bones,” an annual rivalry started back in ’98. UAB has won the rack of ribs trophy nine times to Memphis’ four. That statistic is meaningless in the big picture, seeing as Memphis is a bad football team. UAB will end this season at best with a 2-10 record. Callaway must go, and this time, they have to pick the right man for the job.
3. Frank Spaziani, Boston College: Boston College is currently 2-7, with one of those wins coming against an FCS opponent. This week they play N.C. State, followed by back-to-back road games with Notre Dame and Miami. So I will safely say that BC will win 2 games in 2011. That will drop his record at BC below .500, since he took over for Jeff Jagodzinski. Three seasons, two decent years that ended with bowl losses, and one pitiful season. The Eagles have definitely had talent since Spaz has been in charge, but the team struggles to score and compete against the better teams in the ACC. They also have been prone to upsets, like losing to Central Florida and Duke this season. If history tells us anything, those are two schools BC should be better than. To get back to the level Tom O’Brien and Jeff Jag had BC at, they need a new Head Coach.
4. Steve Fairchild, Colorado State: I will go out on a limb and say the Rams won’t be getting to six wins this season. A 3-5 record is okay, and is already as many wins as the team had in ’09 and ’10. But games against San Diego State, TCU, and Air Force look like losses. Wyoming, the team’s final game of the year, doesn’t look like a cakewalk either. Thus a third straight 3-9 could be in store for Fairchild and the CSU faithful. That would have to be unacceptable to any football program, especially when you cannot even beat opponents like San Jose State and UNLV. Look at two of their wins this season for further proof that a change is needed: They needed overtime to beat Utah State, a game the Aggies handed to CSU. And they opened the year with a four point, come-from-behind win over New Mexico, who is looking like they are heading for a 0-12 defeated season. Fairchild has to go, plain and simple.
5. Everett Withers, North Carolina: The interim Head Coach following Butch Davis firing amidst an NCAA investigation, Withers did not inherit a great situation. However, the Tar Heels might be in a need for a fresh start, even if Withers can lead the team to bowl eligibility. The team already has six wins, but one was against an FCS opponent. So they will need to beat Virginia Tech and/or Duke to guarantee a bowl bid. UNC had the talent last year to make a run at an ACC Championship. To get back to that level, they need a top notch recruiter. It would be best if they do that now, even if Withers is a good coach, he isn’t a Head Coach, at least not at a school of UNC’s level. North Carolina could woo a big time coach, and they would be smart to pull a Notre Dame: reject the bowl bid and get a head start on the coaching search.
6. Turner Gill, Kansas: Okay, Kansas is awful. They seem to be heading for a 2 win season, one of those wins being a shootout, three point victory over Northern Illinois. Gill came in when Mangino resigned and I still believe that Gill is a very good coach. He isn’t in a great situation, as it is always difficult to step in following an investigation that led to a winning coach losing his job. Even so, Gill’s teams haven’t played well, but I think playcalling can be to blame. They had chances to beat Texas Tech and Iowa State and I think they threw away both games with bad decisions. As a basketball school, Mangino showed the football team can win, but many are questioning if Gill is the guy. I still think he will get another year, as two years are not enough to really get a clear evaluation. Kansas should think about firing both coordinators and give Gill one more year. But an impatient fan base might ring loud and clear, so Gill’s seat remains hot this season.
7. Todd Berry, UL-Monroe: What I am about to say goes against what I just said about Gill, and that is why Berry is ranked 7th and not 1st or 2nd. But Berry has only been at UL-Monroe for two seasons, and while two seasons isn’t enough to evaluate a coach’s job, I think it is enough with Berry. The team has lost three straight against Western Kentucky (31-28 OT), North Texas (38-21), and rival Lafayette (36-35). Last year UL-Lafayette went out and got Mark Hudspeth, who has won eight games in his first year with the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Warhawks have three winnable games to end the season, but I think what is going on at ULL should be eye-opening. If ULM loses the next three to end 2011 on a six game losing streak, then I think it is enough for Berry to exit. They need to find the right guy and start to rebuild now, because Berry isn’t the answer.
8. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA: Still on the list even after two impressive wins against Cal. and Arizona State. The win over the Sun Devils was an upset, the win over the Golden Bears was impressive only because it followed a bad loss and included multiple suspensions. It seems the pistol has finally gotten some success for the Bruins, who now control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South. Owning a win over ASU, they now travel to Salt Lake City trying to get bowl eligible. It shouldn’t be a problem with Colorado a week later, but I still have to wonder if all of this is enough to keep Neu’s job. Another loss to USC would mean he hasn’t beaten the Trojans, and it could also keep UCLA out of the Pac-12 Championship Game. Another December bowl game shouldn’t be enough to keep his job, but the Athletic Department seems behind the always optimistic Slick Rick.
9. Tied The ninth spot should really belong to the coach who loses the Oregon State-California game this Saturday. Although Mike Riley seems more vulnerable, his contract is more of a problem to handle. Still two wins and a loss to Sacramento State are not good marks, and another year without making a bowl might start to wear on the Beaver’s fanbase. Jeff Tedford is also looking at leading his team to another year without a bowl game. Even though Cal. is 5-4 and a win away, one of those wins is against Presbyterian. Cal. probably won’t take the Axe away from Stanford, so a lot rides on the Oregon State game. Tedford has had success at Cal., just like Riley, but recent troubles might be enough to show him the door.
10. Luke Fickell, Ohio State: Ohio State has won three straight and is about to head into November 26, the team’s showdown with Michigan, riding a five game win streak. The turmoil surrounding Penn State might turn into players rallying around Bradley and finishing the season strong. Or, floundering and leaving the door open for Ohio State to think about a Leaders Division title. Since they beat Wisconsin, they own tie breakers on the Badgers and control their own destiny if Penn State fades. I don’t think Fickell is the answer to replace the vest, but as a Michigan fan, I hope they lock him down for the next decade. Part of me expects the University to fire or demote Fickell and hire a big name to be the team’s Head Coach.