Just when you were thinking there were would be a bunch of mulligans handed out to college football coaches this season amid COVID-19, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner beat everyone to igniting the silly season. Never mind the season is shortened, athletic budgets have been set on fire and players themselves have gotten that mulligan (an extra year of eligibility). Tanner couldn't keep Will Muschamp, who was fired Monday.
Muschamp had his shortcomings, sure, but is anyone safe now?
It may be time to reevaluate what looked like it would be a slow offseason for coaching changes. South Carolina is a middling SEC program. It will take at least $30 million commitment to pay off Muschamp and hire a new staff. How's that for belt tightening?
All of this happened just as we were set to update our Hot Seat Rankings. This is where we started with our annual offseason edition. Now we are taking a second look more than midway through this unique 2020 season.
Judging by South Carolina's actions, a mere pandemic won't keep schools from throwing good money after bad to get a new face in front of recruits. (Surprise, the beginning of the early signing period is a month from today!) It's always about recruiting.
Nearly one-fifth of the 130 FBS programs changed coaches (22) after the 2019 campaign, and most of them actually waited until the offseason to do it. A total of 67 coaches (52%) were rated 0 or 1 entering the 2020 season -- either "untouchable" or at least "safe and secure" in their roles. Check out the chart below.
The Hot Seat Rankings can be fickle: Nebraska's Scott Frost went from 0 to 5 and Texas' Tom Herman went from 1 to 4 ahead of the season. Such is the coaching life. They are far from alone, however, as there's always room on the Hot Seat.
Below is our ratings key. Here's how the 130 FBS coaches sorted out before the season began. There were 11 on the proverbial hot seat (rated 5 or 4) entering the season with another 12 starting to feel the heat (rated 3).
|Rating||What it means||Coaches|
Win or be fired
Start improving now
Pressure is mounting
All good ... for now
Safe and secure
That leads us to our updated Hot Seat Rankings. Here's how things are shaking out more than two months into the season. Take a look below.
|Jim Harbaugh||5|| Not to pile on but these seem to be the final for Harbaugh at Michigan. An excellent coach just hasn't lived up to expectations, some of them set by him. Every game from here on out is referendum on where Michigan and Harbaugh are headed. You know the numbers: The 1-3 record is the worst start since 1967. Harbaugh is 3-9 against Michigan State and Ohio State; 1-5 overall in the last six games; 14-11 after Nov. 1 at Michigan. If only life were one big satellite camp. Preseason rating: 3|
|Derek Mason||5||Derek Mason, Vanderbilt, 5: In 2010, Harbaugh hired a Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach at Stanford who showed promise. That was Harbaugh's last season before going to the 49ers, but Mason endured. New coach David Shaw made him defensive coordinator. That's where Mason made his bones as an elite defensive scheme. For the most part, he has not been able to replicate that expertise at Vandy. Pity. Forget coaches, Mason is one of my favorite people. Maybe COVID-19 and Vandy's budget keeps it from making a move, but an 0-6 start and 3-15 record over his last 18 games (1-13 SEC) isn't a good look. Gosh, it's hard competing in the SEC. Preseason rating: 5|
|Ed Orgeron||3||The Tigers weren't expected to repeat or even come close. Who would be after a 15-0 season? But this season has been a series of unfortunate events. The program couldn't stand the loss of all that talent and those coaches. The defense has been a sieve. Myles Brennan was hurt, then the quarterback job was opened up for competition. Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, well, he's no Dave Aranda. So far. Then there was USA Today's bombshell regarding allegations of ignored sexual abuse by players. It's hard to remember Coach O is the reigning national coach of the year. This was going to be a down year to begin with, but this down? Maybe an assumed bounce back in 2021 shouldn't be assumed. Preseason rating: 0|
|Les Miles||3||Despite an 0-6 record, it's not that dreary at KU. Basketball season is opening. OK, so it's bad in football. Real bad. There are QB problems. The Jayhawks have given up the second-most points in the country (339). Miles is charming and quirky. He's also 3-15 at KU in what is becoming a more competitive conference every day. Miles isn't going to get fired, but the folks who write the checks are getting restless. This is athletic director Jeff Long's hire. He will see it through for as long as he can. In Year 2 of Miles, fans don't want to be reminded this is a 4-5 year process, according to Long. The issue with KU football has always been that is must be good just enough not to draw unwarranted attention to a basketball school. Excuse the pun, but there are miles to go. Preseason rating: 2 |
|Clay Helton||5||To some USC fans, a 2-0 start has been the worst possible outcome. There is a portion the fanbase that has been openly rooting for short-term failure (yes, on dreaded social media) so USC can secure Urban Meyer long-term. As long as that shadow is cast (Meyer works a few miles away at Fox Sports), this will be uncomfortable union. Helton continues to produce in the clutch when it comes to job security. After an awful performance in the Holiday Bowl against Iowa, the Trojans have won the first two games of 2020, each in the final seconds. Helton has gotten votes of confidence at the end of the last two seasons from his ADs. This is one of the most complicated hot seat situations in the country. USC could win a Pac-12 title, but if Meyer snaps his fingers, could a coach who has a better winning percentage than Harbaugh and Florida's Dan Mullen be gone? Preseason rating: 5|
|Randy Edsall||5||In the land of the hot seat, the best thing UConn could do was not play football this fall. Edsall is 6-30 since 2017 in his second stint with UConn. Preseason rating: 5|
|Tom Herman||4||Holding steady is good news for Herman. After losses to TCU and Oklahoma, the walls were closing in. Since then, the winning streak will likely be four after this week's game against Kansas. The Longhorns (5-2) are still in contention for the Big 12 Championship Game. That's the biggest thing. As long as there is a chance Oklahoma's five-year stranglehold on the conference can be broken, Herman is safe. But if he loses once more between now and Dec. 19, all bets are off. Preseason rating: 4|
|Kevin Sumlin||4||We didn't hear much from Sumlin or the Wildcats in the offseason. They seem to be a bit better, but blowing one game to USC in the final seconds won't help. The current losing streak stands at eight. The recruiting class was rated the worst in the Pac-12 by 247Sports. Financially, though, AD David Heeke is in a box. He's paying lawyers in the ongoing basketball scandal. Rich Rodriguez collected $6.3 million in his buyout. Arizona would owe Sumlin a $7.5 million buyout. The is in the definition of a hot seat holding pattern. Preseason rating: 4 |
|Chip Kelly||4||A dominating win over Cal on Sunday was huge. For the first time in Kelly's three seasons, the Bruins are .500 (1-1). Kelly had been 7-17 in two seasons. The offense he had perfected had spread throughout the country. Scheme is no longer necessarily an advantage. Kelly just needs dudes at this point. He had them at Oregon. We'll see if he gets them at UCLA. Whatever happens in the future, it will be compared to what is going on across town at USC. New AD Martin Jarmond must choose his path wisely. Preseason rating: 5|
|Scott Frost||4||How bad did Frost need that win over Penn State? Bad. In a meeting of the winless, the Cornhuskers showed some spark with a new quarterback (Luke McCaffrey) and a scrappy defense. For now, things are looking up in Huskerland. Yes, Frost got a contract extension. So did Muschamp. No one wants to consider Nebraska in a mini-Harbaugh situation: A face-of-the-program legend who can't win enough. Go Big Frost! Preseason rating: 5 |
|Dana Dimel||4||After a 3-1 start, the Miners have slipped to 3-4. Still, that's a marked improvement for Dimel, who came into the season 2-22. The Miners have been impacted by COVID-19 as much as anybody, losing three games to postponement or cancellation during a four-week stretch. In a 52-21 loss to UTSA, Dimel was missing three starters in the secondary. Amazingly, there is no minimum roster standard for cancelling a game in Conference USA. Dimel is frustrated. "I don't like all these practices," he said. "We need to play." There's no doubt UTEP is improved. We just won't know how much during a pandemic-impacted season. Preseason rating: 5|
|Jimbo Fisher||2||The projection was that if Jimbo didn't show some improvement in 2020, he'd be under pressure if for no other reason he was earning a guaranteed $75 million over 10 years. Consider that improvement made. The Aggies have started are contending for a College Football Playoff spot. If not for COVID-19, they would control their own destiny for a 9-1 season. Preseason rating: 3 |
|Manny Diaz||2||All it took was importing a difference-making quarterback. Houston transfer D'Eriq King has been the difference in the Hurricanes going 7-1 and being in the chase for the ACC Championship Game. New offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee's name is likely to pop up for some jobs. Is Miami "back"? Absolutely not, but there is momentum coming off Diaz' 6-7 debut. Preseason rating: 4|
|Philip Montgomery||2||The Golden Hurricane have been surprisingly resilient. They've had three games postponed. Montgomery, an Art Briles discipline, has turned it around with defense. Coordinator Joseph Gillespie has improved his unit from seventh in total defense to second in the AAC despite losing two draft picks. Previous rating: 4|
|Kalani Sitake||1||Sitake has overseen a career and programmatic comeback. The former BYU fullback came into the season 27-25. At 8-0, the Cougars are tied with Notre Dame for best record in the country. Sitake has developed a roster of future pros, including Heisman Trophy candidate Zach Wilson at QB. This is arguably BYU's best squad since the 1984 national championship team. Sitake has restarted his career. A New Year's Six bowl is a possibility. Preseason rating: 3|