CFB coaching carousel one-stop shop
Looking for one place with all the latest on the 2012 college football coaching changes, organized by conference and job? This is the place.
Looking for one place with all the latest on the 2012 college football coaching carousel, organized by conference and job? This is that place. Feel free to bookmark.
OUT: Joker Phillips, the hand-picked successor to Rich Brooks who took over a program coming off four consecutive bowl appearances (albeit a school-record four-straight bowl appearances) and in three seasons bottomed out with a 1-9, 0-7 SEC start in 2012. The last of those nine losses, a 40-0 drubbing at the hands of Vanderbilt, resulted in Phillips' firing with two games left in the season. Phillips coached through the end of the season, finishing 2-10 overall and 0-8 in league play.
IN: Mark Stoops, who took over a Florida State defense ranked 108th in the FBS in total defense and two seasons later had it inside the top five, an impressive feat that he repeated this season. Though Stoops has never been a head coach at any level, the Kentucky Wildcats can reasonably hope he has learned a few pointers from brothers Bob and Mike.
WHAT WE THINK: Aside from Kirby Smart or possibly Todd Grantham, was there a hotter up-and-coming defensive assistant in the country than Stoops? The Kentucky job is never going to be an easy sell (to say the least), so snagging a candidate who wouldn't have been that out of place at one of the other vacant SEC jobs -- is, say, Gus Malzahn's resume that much more impressive? -- is a major victory for athletic director Mitch Barnhart. Assuming Stoops can find a productive offensive coordinator (Texas Tech OC Neal Brown is rumored to be interested), this has all the makings of a terrific hire.
OUT: Derek Dooley, hired out of Louisiana Tech with a 17-20 record after Lane Kiffin's abrupt departure just before signing day 2010. A promising 6-7 debut for Dooley gave way to a 5-7 2011 season -- one capped by a loss to Kentucky, ending the Vols' 26-game streak vs. the Wildcats -- and a 4-7 mark in 2012 before he was fired the morning after losing to Vanderbilt 41-18. Dooley finished his Tennessee Volunteers tenure with a 4-19 SEC record.
IN: After an extended search that included serious courting of (at least) Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Louisville's Charlie Strong, Tennessee named Cincinnati's Butch Jones as the new Volunteers coach. Jones had been spinning through the coaching carousel himself, turning down offers at Colorado and Purdue before landing in Knoxville.
WHAT WE THINK: The Tennessee fans with their hearts set on a Jon Gruden are going to be disappointed with one of the few FBS coaches that Derek Dooley beat in his time with the Vols. But after being turned down by Gundy and Strong, Jones was arguably the "best available" candidate on the open market. After a disappointing 4-8 start in his first season replacing Brian Kelly at Cincinnati, Jones bounced back and led the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East titles in 2011-12. Few coaches currently shopping the market have that kind of recent success on the resume, so you have to think the Vols were happy to see him still available after failing to seal the deal twice this week. There is a lot of talent left on that Tennessee team, so Jones will have high expectations to continue his winning ways.
OUT: John L. Smith, fired less than eight months after he took the job. Smith was brought on as a one-year interim head coach following Arkansas Razorbacks ' dismissal of Bobby Petrino, and he did not do much during his time to convince the school he was the right man for the job. A very talented Arkansas team went 4-8 in 2012 under Smith, with losses at home to teams like Louisiana-Monroe.
IN: In the shocker of the 2012 coaching carousel so far, the Hogs hired Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, who took his Wisconsin Badgers to their third consecutive Rose Bowl (albeit this time with five losses in tow) after compiling a 68-24 record in his seven seasons in charge. The Badgers won 10 or more games or finished first or second in the Big Ten four of those seven seasons.
WHAT WE THINK: Hogs athletic director Jeff Long is, to put it politely, a badass. While most of the local media went on various wild goose chases, Long quietly went about hiring arguably the Big Ten's best head coach -- one who has not only won back-to-back league titles but done so with a minimum of four-star talent and massive coaching upheaval. There might be questions about whether Bielema's preferred ground-and-pound style will be as effective vs. teams like LSU and Alabama, well-versed in stopping it, but that's a quibble: for a school like Arkansas, this is as big a smash hire as smashes get.
Out: Gene Chizik was fired only two seasons after winning Auburn's first national championship since 1957. Since winning the national title following the 2010 season, Chizik's Auburn Tigers teams went 11-14 overall but with a more damning 4-12 mark in the SEC, including an 0-8 record this season. In his four seasons at Auburn, Chizik went 33-19.
IN: Gus Malzahn, Chizik's former offensive coordinator and Arkansas State head coach. Malzahn's up-tempo spread attack took Auburn from 104th to 16th in total offense the year he was hired, and a year later propelled Cam Newton to the Heisman and Auburn to the national title. In his single season at Arkansas State, Malzahn went 9-3 and won the school's second consecutive Sun Belt title.
WHAT WE THINK: With his close ties to the previous Auburn staff and the current Auburn roster, Malzahn won't be a "change of pace" or "breath of fresh air" for a program many would argue needs one. Hiring any coach without BCS-level head coaching experience is always something of a dice roll, too. But Malzahn's track record of success is undeniable: wins at the high school level, wins as a coordinator at the mid-major level, wins as a coordinator at the SEC level, wins as a head coach at the mid-major level. It's not a Bielema-style home run, but it's time that Malzahn got his shot and it's hard to blame Auburn for giving it to him.
OUT: Danny Hope, who was fired in spite of winning his last three games to get Purdue Boilermakers back to a bowl game for the second season in a row. However, according to GoldandBlack.com, Hope's fate was sealed after a 38-14 loss to Wisconsin in mid-October. In his four seasons in West Lafayette, Hope went 21-27 overall and 12-19 in the Big Ten.
IN: Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell, who took over the Kent State Golden Flashes in 2010 and took just two seasons to bring the team its first 11-win season, first MAC divisional title, and first bowl berth as an FBS program. Before arriving in Kent, Hazell spent seven seasons as an assistant coach under Jim Tressel at Ohio State.
WHAT WE THINK: The recent track record of coaches who have resurrected lost MAC programs is a bit spotty -- hi, Turner Gill and Tim Beckman -- but Hazell's defensive acumen and recruiting ties to Ohio should give him a solid foundation on which to build in West Lafayette, and Hazell is universally described as an impressive leader. It's hard to see how Purdue could have done any better.
OUT: Bret Bielema, who decamped for Arkansas only days after winning the Wisconsin Badgers ' third consecutive Big Ten title. Even putting aside his impressive track record of success (see the Arkansas note above), Bielema's decision will come as a true punch in the gut for a program that handpicked Bielema as the successor to Barry Alvarez, then watched him make it one of the nation's most consistent.
IN: Utah State head coach Gary Andersen, who leaves the Aggies after one of the biggest resurrection jobs in recent college football annals: from 13 consecutive losing seasons to 7-6 in 2011, 12-2 in 2012, and a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl title that stands as the only bowl win in team history aside from a 1993 Las Vegas Bowl title. Andersen also enjoyed four successful years as Utah's defensive coordinator, including the undefeated 2008 season.
WHAT WE THINK: Technically speaking, it remains to be seen if Andersen can succeed outside of big sky country -- save for a single season at Southeastern Louisiana way back in 1988, Andersen's entire coaching career has taken place in Idaho, Utah, and northern Arizona. But the talents that made Andersen such a success in Logan -- a fantastic eye for talent, disciplined coaching on both sides of the ball, a dynamic offense, and an impressive week-to-week focus that saw the Aggies post an FBS-best 11-1-1 record against-the-spread in 2012 -- will work anywhere. Andersen fits the mold of his hard-nosed Madison predecessors and should keep the Badgers directly in the Big Ten hunt.
OUT: Tommy Tuberville, who stunningly left for Cincinnati after compiling a 20-17 record in Lubbock. Despite arriving to much fanfare, Tuberville only reached eight wins once in three seasons -- a benchmark that predecessor Mike Leach matched in his final eight with the Texas Tech Red Raiders .
IN: Kliff Kingsbury, offensive coordinator for Kevin Sumlin's high-octane offenses both at Texas A&M and Houston before that. Kingsbury was also one of the most successful quarterbacks from Leach's Lubbock assembly line, finishing with 12,479 yards and seven FBS records before an abbreviated pro career led him to Sumlin's staff at Houston.
WHAT WE THINK: There was really only one choice for the Red Raiders, wasn't there? At just 33 years old, there are questions about how ready Kingsbury truly is to take the keys to a potential Big 12 contender, but with three top-3 finishes in total offense in four seasons, he's done his absolute best to answer them. He's got the energy; he's got the system that put Leach's Raiders on the map; he's got the understanding of what makes the program and the fanbase tick; he's got a unified school and administration behind him that even Leach never enjoyed. He might fail, but Tech couldn't have made a better choice for their program anyway.
OUT: Jeff Tedford, fired after 11 seasons in Berkeley and a solid 82-57 record. The Bears were the laughingstock of the Pac-12 when Tedford arrived, but a 10-2 season in 2004 and a 10-3 campaign in 2006 made the former Oregon offensive coordinator one of the hottest coaches in the country. The California Golden Bears ' momentum stalled, though, and a 3-9 mark in 2012 -- and 9-18 Pac-12 record over his final three seasons -- wasn't enough for a 12th year.
IN: Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, a Leach disciple who took over a program with three losing seasons in its last four and improved it all three seasons of his Ruston tenure -- from 5-7 to 8-5 to 2012's impressive 9-3 campaign, one in which Tech boasted the nation's No. 1 scoring offense.
WHAT WE THINK: Dykes won't be a stranger to the Pac-12, having arrived at Tech fresh from three seasons as Mike Stoops' offensive coordinator at Arizona. The bad news is that Dykes' offenses didn't set the conference on fire those three seasons -- the Wildcats finished seventh, fourth and sixth in the conference in total offense. So Dykes must both prove that he learned some new tricks in Ruston and hire a top-notch defensive staff to avoid being on the wrong end of a lot of shootouts -- both are possible and maybe even likely given Dykes' success at Tech, but this still seems like more a solid double than home run.
OUT: Jon Embree, who was given only two seasons in Boulder before being dismissed. During his two years at Colorado, Embree's Colorado Buffaloes went 4-21, including a 1-11 mark in 2012. Colorado went 3-15 in its first two seasons of Pac-12 play under Embree.
IN: San Jose State's Mike MacIntrye, who took over facing a total rebuild from the Spartans' 2-10 2009 season. In three years, he had them at 10-2 and the Top 25 -- the program's first ranking since 1975. MacIntyre had assistant coaching stops at Ole Miss, Duke and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Jets.
WHAT WE THINK: MacIntyre's 15-9 record over the past two seasons is already impressive enough considering the Spartans were 3-22 the two seasons before that. But it's even better considering the expectations set by Vegas; against-the-spread, SJSU went a stunning 18-6, the mark of a team that's performing well above its accepted baseline and doing it with remarkable consistency. MacIntyre might not have been Colorado's first choice, but it's entirely possible he'll prove to have been the best possible choice.
OUT: Chip Kelly, who everyone assumed was off to the NFL before he told his athletic director he was returning, only to stun the college football world two weeks later by accepting the Philadelphia Eagles' head coaching position. He leaves after four years as the Ducks' head coach having gone 4-for-4 in earning BCS bowl berths, having won 2 Pac-12 titles, and having posted a 46-7 overall record.
IN: To the surprise of absolutely no one who'd been paying attention, Mark Helfrich, Ducks offensive coordinator for all four seasons of Kelly's tenure and the closest thing Kelly had to a right-hand man on his staff. An Oregon alum and former quarterbacks coach at Boise State and Arizona State under Dirk Koetter, this is the 39-year-old Helfrich's first head-coaching job.
WHAT WE THINK: The following is a complete and comprehensive list of the reasons Oregon had to look outside the current Kelly-installed framework and start from scratch: [ ]. That being the case, Helfrich was always the most logical answer, and after four years studying under Kelly -- and several years as one of the West Coast's brightest up-and-comers before that -- he should be capable of maintaining the Ducks' current Pac-12 powerhouse status.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
OUT: Tom O'Brien, fired after six seasons and a 7-5 season in 2012. O'Brien led the NC State Wolfpack to three bowl games but never finished higher than second in the ACC's Atlantic Division while compiling a 40-35 record. His teams were only 22-26 in ACC play.
IN: Dave Doeren, who wasted no time accepting NCSU's offer after capping his Northern Illinois team's 11-1 season with his second straight MAC championship. Though his two seasons in DeKalb are his only two as a head coach after being hired from Wisconsin's defensive coordinator position, there's no arguing with the results: a 23-4 overall record, a 15-1 mark in MAC play, and two league titles in two tries at a school that hadn't won one since 1983.
WHAT WE THINK: Doeren doesn't have any ties to the area or the ACC -- his entire career has taken place in the Midwest -- and for all his MAC success, his limited attempts to "play up" at NIU (a 49-7 loss to Wisconsin in 2011, the 1-point defeat to Iowa this year) didn't end well. But no team in college football has dominated its conference the way Doeren's has the past two seasons, not only winning 15 of its 16 MAC games but routinely winning by huge margins with an entertaining up-tempo style. If Doeren can recreate anything like his Chandler Harnish/ Jordan Lynch -led offenses (and big-play defenses) at NCSU, the Wolfpack should make some real noise in the ACC.
OUT: Frank Spaziani, promoted to the head job in 2009 after 10 years as the Boston College Eagles ' defensive coordinator. But after taking over a program coming off back-to-back ACC Championship Game appearances under Jeff Jagodzinski, Spaziani leaves with a 22-29 mark and a declining record all four years of his tenure: 8-5 to 7-6 to 4-8 to 2012's 2-10 disaster.
IN: Steve Addazio, the Temple head coach and six-year Florida assistant under Urban Meyer, hired after posting a 13-11 mark in two seasons with the Owls. A Connecticut native and graduate of Central Connecticut State, Addazio is the rare SEC-seasoned coach with Northeast roots.
WHAT WE THINK: Addazio's record in Philadelphia doesn't exactly jump off the page, so it might not be fair to expect miracles upon his arrival in Chestnut Hill. But that record might also be better than it looks -- in 2011, the Owls went 9-4, won their first bowl since 1979, and saw three of those losses come by a combined 11 points. The 2012 team was a near-total rebuild and still managed a 4-7 mark thanks to upsets of South Florida and UConn. Add those results to Addaizo's trademark recruiting energy, and it's enough to suggest he can make the Eagles relevant again -- though returning them to their Matt Ryan glory days might be asking too much.
OUT: Doug Marrone, who returned to the NFL as the Buffalo Bills head coach after restoring the Syracuse Orange to respectability in the wake of the catastrophic Greg Robinson tenure. Marrone went 25-25 in four seasons and won two Pinstripe Bowl titles.
IN: Scott Shafer, promoted to head coach after serving as Marrone's defensive coordinator for all four years of his tenure. After ranking 11th and 102nd in total defense the two seasons before his arrival, Shafer's defense finished 37th in his first season before vaulting all the way to seventh in 2010.
WHAT WE THINK: Marrone's surprising -- and late -- departure left the Orange with few options, but Shafer seems like the best of them. Despite a statistical backslide the last two seasons, Shafer's defenses remain aggressive and productive, and like Kyle Flood at Rutgers (another assistant who took over the Scarlet Knights when Greg Schiano bolted for the NFL) he stands a good shot of maintaining or even building upon Marrone's foundation. Coaches with ties to Jim Harbaugh (Shafer spent a single season at Stanford) haven't fared too poorly of late, either.
OUT: Skip Holtz, who arrived in Tampa from East Carolina with a reputation as a steady hand who would steady the erratic South Florida Bulls . Not so much: Holtz leaves USF after three seasons with a 16-21 overall record, going from 8-5 his first season to 5-7 to 3-9. Holtz went a dreadful 5-16 in Big East play, losing 10 of the 13 conference games in which his team was favored.
IN: Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky coach and Harbaugh disciple, who took the FBS fledgling Hilltoppers from an 0-12 season the year before his arrival to back-to-back winning seasons in 2011 and 2012. Taggart is also a local product, having played for Tampa-area Manatee High School.
WHAT WE THINK: At midseason, Taggart looked destined for an even bigger job than the Bulls' -- the Hilltoppers were 5-1 with the only loss coming at Alabama and road wins over Kentucky, Troy and Arkansas State. But a 2-4 finish robbed Taggart of some of his momentum and likely landed USF one of the steals of the carousel. Taggart is a relentless recruiter, gives his team a clear (Harbaugh-borrowed, Stanfordesque) offensive identity and found a succession of under-recruited defensive stars while in Bowling Green. Add in his Tampa ties and, assuming those late-season slip-ups were a fluke rather than a trend, this seems like a decisive win for USF.
OUT: Steve Addazio, who won the Boston College job after his initial two seasons as a head coach -- one largely successful, one moderately so -- with the Temple Owls . He leaves behind a team that finished 2-5 and in seventh place in its return to the Big East, albeit with a rebuilding roster.
IN: Matt Rhule, New York Giants assistant offensive line coach and longtime Temple assistant, one who served as Al Golden's offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2010. Rhule is a Pennsylvania native who played linebacker for Penn State from 1994 to 1997.
WHAT WE THINK: There's no doubt that Rhule understands the challenges at Temple and at the age of just 37, has the energy to take them head-on. But the history of coaches moving from on an NFL position-coaching job (or assistant position coaching job, in this case) to head college gigs is spotty, and though Rhule's coordinating experience is a plus, the Owls' finishes in total offense those three seasons -- 107th, 92nd, and 89th -- don't exactly scream "schematic miracle-worker." This can work, but Rhule will need to make solid coordinating hires and huge inroads on the recruiting trail.
OUT: After entertaining offers from Purdue and Colorado, Butch Jones finally agreed to become the new coach at Tennessee. Jones just wrapped up his second straight Big East title season with the Cincinnati Bearcats , giving Cincinnati four conference championships in the last five years. The school was reportedly working with Jones to get a new deal done at Cincinnati but instead had to replace the 2011 Big East Coach of the Year.
IN: Tommy Tuberville, easily the biggest name to ever take over the Bearcats' coaching position. The former Miami defensive coordinator and Ole Miss coach enjoyed a highly successful 10-year run as Auburn's coach, finishing with an 85-40 mark and an undefeated SEC championship season in 2004. But Tuberville left Auburn under acrimonious circumstances after a 5-7 2008 season and failed to win more than seven games in any of his three regular seasons at Texas Tech.
WHAT WE THINK: It's impossible to blame the Bearcats for biting on a candidate who brings the kind of experience, name-recognition and instant respect (not to mention defensive acumen) that an SEC veteran like Tuberville does. But Tuberville has never coached anywhere farther north than Arkansas, never been a head coach at an urban school, never coached a team with this low a traditional national profile. Cincy has made its name with a succession of hungry up-and-comers; if Tubby still has the same hunger that the likes of Jones and Kelly did, this is a slam-dunk, but for now that's a big "if."
OUT: Robb Akey, who took the Idaho Vandals to a surprising Humanitarian Bowl berth (and victory) in his third season in 2009 but could never regain that momentum. On Oct. 21, he became the 2012 season's first coaching casualty after losing 70-28 at Louisiana Tech. (An unhappy Akey claimed he was let go prematurely to avoid being paid $105,000 due at the end of the season.) Akey went 3-17 in his final two seasons and left Moscow with a 20-50 overall record.
IN: Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, a former Vandals assistant who returns to Moscow after successful stops as an assistant -- mostly alongside brother Bobby -- at Louisville, Illinois and Arkansas. Though Petrino has been an assistant coach at one program or another since 1998, he is just 45 years old.
WHAT WE THINK: Considering the difficulties of the job awaiting Petrino -- independence, three wins in two years, one of the toughest recruiting sells in the country -- Vandal AD Rob Spear deserves a wealth of plaudits for hiring not only a BCS-level coordinator, but one with a recognizable name and a track record of high-level production. Paul will have to prove he can still provide offensive fireworks without Bobby's help (though his first season at Illinois suggests he can), but it's hard to see how Spear could have done any better than this.
OUT: Dave Doeren, who guided the Northern Illinois Huskies to two MAC titles, an Orange Bowl berth, and a 23-4 record in his two years in DeKalb before leaving for the NC State job (see above).
IN: Rod Carey, promoted to the head coaching position after two seasons as the Huskies' offensive line coach and one moonlighting as the team's offensive coordinator. A former North Dakota State assistant, Carey's offensive lines played a major role in NIU finishing sixth and fourth in the FBS the past two seasons in yards per carry.
WHAT WE THINK: What NIU has going clearly ain't broken, so why fix it? Carey's 2012 coaching performance was nothing short of outstanding -- after losing four multiyear starters on the offensive line and record-setting quarterback Chandler Harnish, Carey's line tutelage and adept play-calling somehow resulted in an even better offensive season than in 2011. Toledo proved under Matt Campbell that promoting a young up-and-comer from within can work in the MAC, and it won't be surprising to see Carey have similar results with the Huskies.
OUT: Bill Cubit, who went 51-47 in his eight seasons at Western Michigan and led the Western Michigan Broncos to three of the five bowl games in program history. Unfortunately for Cubit, the fact that he never won a conference championship meant his solid record wasn't enough to survive a 4-8 season that saw his team finish the season with a loss against lowly Eastern Michigan.
IN: Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant P.J. Fleck, a former Northern Illinois receiving star and Huskies assistant who spent the last three seasons on Schiano's staff -- first at Rutgers, then in Tampa. Fleck, who won't turn 33 until next November, is now the youngest head coach in the FBS.
WHAT WE THINK: Fleck's age isn't an issue, but his lack of higher-end coaching experience might be; unlike fellow wunderkinds Matt Campbell and Kliff Kingsbury, he has yet to serve in any position above wide receivers coach after turning down the NIU play-calling job last offseason. That Fleck was offered that position by Doeren at all (not to mention Schiano's willingness to take him along to the Bucs) speaks to his vast potential as a coach -- the only question is if he's ready to make good on it this soon. It's worth a shot from the Broncos' perspective, but there might have been safer options.
OUT: Mike Price, who led the Texas-El Paso Miners to matching 8-4 records and a pair of bowl games in his first two years in El Paso but failed to post another winning season in his remaining seven. He retires with a 176-182 career mark, two Rose Bowl apperances with Washington State that look even more impressive in hindsight, and his bizarre 2003 drinking-binge firing at Alabama without coaching a game.
IN: It's not official yet, but multiple reports have UTEP hiring former Miners lineman and current Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler. He was a member of the UTEP staff from 1993 to 2000 and has been in the NFL since -- with one notable season on the 2006 Boise State Fiesta Bowl-winning staff.
WHAT WE THINK: The track record of NFL position coaches taking over college programs is not promising -- think Sylvester Croom, Tim Brewster, Karl Dorrell -- but the exception to that rule has been Syracuse's Marrone. He, like Kugler, happened to be taking over his alma mater. The UTEP job is a uniquely challenging one (there's a reason the school went to one bowl between 1967 and 2000). Finding a coach with a resume like Kugler's with a genuine understanding of (and enthusiasm for) the job can't be easy. Top-notch assistants are probably a must, but Kugler should give UTEP as much of a boost as any candidate in their pool.
OUT: Bill Curry, who retired after three seasons as the only coach in the fledgling Panthers program's history. Hired in 2008 to guide GSU from scratch to the FBS -- they join the Sun Belt as an official member next summer -- Curry finished 10-23 overall in Atlanta and a disappointing 1-10 in 2012. But he does have some outstanding lip syncing skills to keep him warm in retirement.
IN: FCS Indiana State head coach Trent Miles, who in 2008 took over a Sycamores program that had gone 1-32 the three seasons before his arrival and led it to three consecutive winning seasons from 2010 through 2012. Miles was a key assistant under Tyrone Willingham at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington.
WHAT WE THINK: Say this much for Miles: after salvaging what looked like an entirely lost cause at Indiana State, he won't be intimidated by the challenge of bringing the Panthers up to FBS speed. Miles might not have brought a splashy name to Atlanta, but the Panthers need someone to lay their FBS foundation first and foremost, and Miles would seem to fit the bill.
OUT: Ellis Johnson, who lasted just one season in Hattiesburg after taking over Larry Fedora's 12-2 team -- a program coming off 18 consecutive winning seasons -- and somehow leading it to an 0-12 season that ranks, hands-down, as the worst in program history. With a failed stint as The Citadel's head coach already on his resume, too, the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles cut their losses sooner rather than later.
IN: For the third time in four coaching hires, the Eagles selected Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator, with Todd Monken following in the highly successful footsteps of Jeff Bower and Larry Fedora. A former LSU and Jacksonville Jaguars assistant, Monken was handed the keys to Mike Gundy's offense in 2011 and didn't disappoint, leading the Cowboys to No. 3 and No. 5 finishes in total offense.
WHAT WE THINK: Compare Monken's resume to Oklahoma State predecessor Dana Holgorsen's and there's not a lot of difference -- a run of offensive assistant jobs followed by a few years of highly successful play-calling and then the leap to a head coaching job. But Holgorsen reeled in the West Virginia gig, which should give you some idea of the kind of quality hire the Golden Eagles have made with Monken. When this particular well has already proven so deep, why not go right back to it?
OUT: Gus Malzahn, who left for Auburn and became the second coach in as many seasons to turn one good year in Jonesboro into an SEC head coaching position, following in the footsteps of current Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. At least, like Freeze, Malzahn made that season count: he went 9-3 and won the Sun Belt.
IN: Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin will leave the Longhorns and accept the job as Arkansas State's next head coach. Harsin leaves Austin after just two years on Mack Brown's staff, which followed a 10-year stint as an offensive assistant at his alma mater, Boise State. Despite inconsistencies at the quarterback position, Texas ranked No. 24 nationally averaging 36.1 points per game.
WHAT WE THINK: According to CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, Arkansas State interviewed Harsin as well as Florida State special teams and associate head coach Eddie Gran and current interim coach John Thompson. Bobby Petrino was once a long-shot for this job, but Red Wolves fans should be happy to finish the day with the Longhorns' offensive coordinator. Harsin is well-known for his creative play-calling, and the Sun Belt is the perfect place for a talented offensive coordinator to find success while gaining much-needed head coaching experience.
OUT: Darrell Hazell, who arrived from Jim Tressel's Ohio State staff and took the long-long-suffering Kent State Golden Flashes to the MAC title game and an 11-2 record in just his seacond season on the job. He left for the Purdue job.
IN: Kent State alumnus and ex-Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, hired despite a difficult single season in Fayetteville after honing his resume alongside Hazell and Tressel at Ohio State. He served as the Buckeyes' co-defensive coordinator in 2011 after six years in Columbus.
WHAT WE THINK: Hazell proved that it's possible to succeed at Kent State with the right background, and Haynes's is much the same: a defensive assistant under Tressel, an excellent recruiter, a clear understanding of Ohio and the MAC landscape. Lightning's perfectly capable of striking twice if Haynes can continue Hazell's good work on the recruiting trail and find quality assistants like Hazell play-caller Brian Rock.
OUT: In the biggest head-scratcher this side of Bielema-to-Arkansas, the Panthers fired Mario Cristobal after a 3-9 2012 season and 27-47 six-year record -- but a record that also includes Florida International Golden Panthers 's first Sun Belt championship and back-to-back bowl appearances after Cristobal took over an 0-12 program in 2007.
IN: In another surprise, the Panthers hired Ron Turner, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' quarterbacks coach and former Illinois head coach. Turner's NFL resume includes two separate stints as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator and several seasons as a successful QB coach, but Illini fans will be quick to point out his 35-57 record -- and eventual firing -- in eight seasons in Champaign.
WHAT WE THINK: Turner's NFL experience means he's not quite as baffling a choice as he's been made out to be in some quarters, and maybe he learned enough from his time at Illinois (and in the intervening years) to improve on his failure there. But the bottom line is that FIU fired a coach nearly everyone would describe as an unqualified success to hire one that nearly everyone would describe as an unqualified disaster. At first glance, this is the worst firing-and-hiring decision of the 2012 carousel.
OUT: Sonny Dykes, off to Cal after winning a WAC title in 2011 and posting a 9-3 record in 2012. Dykes' Air Raid scheme made Louisiana Tech Bulldogs one of the nation's highest-scoring offenses and helped his team to an improved record all three years of his tenure.
IN: Skip Holtz? Skip Holtz, hired in spite of a South Florida tenure that went from 8-5 to 5-7 to a disastrous 3-9 in his three seasons there. Holtz did have plenty of success prior to arriving in Tampa, helping set the stage for UConn's move to the FBS with a successful five-season FCS stint in Storrs and then a five-season stay at East Carolina that ended in back-to-back Conference USA titles.
WHAT WE THINK: That C-USA success is no doubt the biggest selling point in Holtz's favor, given that Tech is set to move to that league next season. But even so, Holtz still hit a ceiling at ECU -- he never lost fewer than five games in a season -- that suggests this season's Bulldogs' dark-horse run at a BCS berth is beyond him. And if the ceiling is low, Holtz's USF debacle shows the floor certainly is, too. Holtz didn't forget how to coach in Tampa and the Bulldogs won't be an embarrassment, but rolling the dice with another up-and-coming offensive mind -- Larry Fedora assistant Blake Anderson, maybe? -- might have produced a bigger payoff.
OUT: Willie Taggart, the WKU alumnus who took over after the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers ' 0-12 FBS debut after three years on Jim Harbaugh's Stanford staff and earned back-to-back 7-5 seasons in 2011 and 2012. Taggart accepted the USF job.
IN: None other than Bobby Petrino, the exiled former Arkansas and Louisville head coach whose 75-26 lifetime record and pair of BCS bowl berths make him almost certainly the most accomplished coach in Sun Belt history.
WHAT WE THINK: Well, no one will accuse Petrino of being in for the long haul at WKU. Likewise, it's hard to see him doing much on the recruiting trail or building much of a foundation for the future. But should the Hilltoppers care? Taggart's excellent recruiting leaves behind a talented roster that should contend for a Sun Belt title and maybe even think about an NIU-style BCS run with the right coaching. The coaching that Petrino offers should be miles beyond whatever any other candidate could do. Any successful Hilltoppers coach would be out the door at the first opportunity, anyway, as Taggart proved; WKU might as well hire the coach with the chance to be the most successful of all.
SAN JOSE STATE
OUT: Mike MacIntyre, who took over Dick Tomey's reeling program, absorbed a 1-12 first season while playing a bevy of underclassmen and then posted four- and five-win improvements to leave the San Jose State Spartans with a 10-2 record and top-25 ranking. He takes over the rebuilding job at Colorado.
IN: Ron Caragher, head coach at FCS San Diego for the past six seasons, where he posted a 44-22 record after succeeding Jim Harbaugh. He also has position coaching stops at Kentucky and UCLA, where he graduated in 1990.
WHAT WE THINK: Maybe the most under-the-radar new head coach on the entire carousel, Caragher nonetheless arrives with an impressive tenure at USD, one that ended with shares of the Pioneer League title in three of those six seasons at a school where (Harbaugh's tenure excepted) it hasn't always been easy to win. Still, Caragher's record isn't a smashing one, either; after MacIntyre's success, was Caragher really the biggest name the Spartans could land?
OUT: Gary Andersen, who after four years (and despite assurances he would remain in Logan) bolted for Wisconsin after back-to-back winning seasons, the first for the Aggies since 1997.
IN: The Aggies wasted no time in promoting 39-year-old offensive coordinator Matt Wells, whose only season as the USU play-caller finished with the Aggies seventh in the FBS in yards per-play. A USU alumnus and former Aggie quarterback, Wells arrived in Logan in 2011 as the quarterbacks coach after stints at Tulsa, New Mexico, and Louisville.
WHAT WE THINK: Wells doesn't have an awful lot of experience, with just the one season spent above the level of position coach. But Wells comes with Andersen's seal of approval, and it's easy to see why USU moved so quickly: he understands the job, he already has a built-in connection with the (highly successful) Aggie players, and his offense (and quarterback coaching) has been highly productive during his current tenure. Thanks to Andersen, the Aggies don't need someone who can reinvent their wheel for them as much as someone who can simply continue doing the things Andersen did that made them great. It's hard to see how USU would have found anyone better-suited for that task than Wells.
OUT: The man synonymous with Nevada Wolf Pack football and the godfather of the pistol offense, Chris Ault, who stunningly retired from the Wolf Pack Dec. 28 with a 233-109-1 career record. Though 66, Ault hadn't yet lost his edge -- his teams had finished with winning records each of the last five seasons, including the record-breaking 13-1 Mountain West championship season in 2010.
IN: Brian Polian, the 38-year-old Texas A&M tight ends and special teams coach. Polian came to College Station after stops at Stanford, Notre Dame, Central Florida and Buffalo, where he coached either defensive position groups or running backs. He also served as Stanford's recruiting coordinator.
WHAT WE THINK: It's true that at 38, Polian will bring a good deal of energy to a job that needs it, and he's coached as part of some of the biggest and most successful programs in the country. But he's also never risen above the role of position coach, has a limited background in Nevada's trademark Pistol offense and little experience recruiting in the Nevada area or the Mountain West. If the Wolfpack were going to hire a position coach-level assistant, it's possible they'd have been better served grabbing one of the multiple candidates across the country that learned under Ault -- the Nevada job isn't an easy one, despite Ault's success, and familiarity with it might be more important than with most.
NEW MEXICO STATE
OUT: Dewayne Walker, who abandoned the seemingly endless task of rebuilding the Aggies after four seasons and only a 10-40 record to show for it. NMSU went 1-11 in 2012 and posted an 0-6 mark in the final season of the WAC before the Aggies move on to independence in 2013. Walker will join the staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
POSSIBILITIES FOR "IN": Sources told Bruce Feldman that the Aggies are likely to promote current NMSU offensive coordinator Doug Martin, the former Kent State head coach. Martin was unable to get the Golden Flashes over the hump in his seven seasons (it fell to Darrell Hazell to get the program its first bowl bid), but with only days remaining until signing day, the candidate pool entirely dry, and independence only making what was already one of FBS' most difficult jobs appear that much more difficult, Martin may be the Aggie's best option all the same.
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