Jim Leonhard is in his seventh year at Wisconsin. The Badgers' new interim coach has seven games left this season to prove himself. At least that's what it looks like after Paul Chryst was fired Sunday.
If that sounds weird, welcome to now. The month of September (plus Sunday) has redefined the hot seat in college football.
Three of the eight coaches listed atopentering the 2022 season are already gone. Five Power Five coaches have been axed before Week 6 kicks off.
That's unprecedented. It also made CBS Sports' in-season Hot Seat Rankings update almost moot – almost. There's still enough chair warmth to go around.
In the case of Chryst, don't you have to be in trouble first before getting fired? Chryst runs an antiquated offense, sure, but it has mostly worked. He won 67 games in less than eight full seasons. The Badgers played in three New Year's Six games, including the 2020 Rose Bowl. Wisconsin also advanced to three Big Ten Championship Games, though it did not win one.
It's a strange time when coaches may be looking over their shoulders after winning 72% of their games and playing for a conference title every other year. We literally live in an era where heads can roll if the winning rate dips below .721.
Chryst and Wisconsin had a bad day against Illinois on Saturday. That antiquated offense rushed for all of 2 yards. There was immediate speculation Illini coach Bret Bielema would return for an encore at the place he coached for seven seasons. That's probably not going to happen. What did happen was Bielema maintaining his spot at the second all-time winningest Badgers coach with just one more victory than Chryst.
So now, what of Leonhard? His defense wasn't great, either. We're talking about a defensive expert having to show he can find and install a new offense in a seven-game period. We're talking about a coordinator having to recruit for a job he may not get with the early signing period creeping up on Dec. 21. We're talking about an interim coach needing to prove he can somewhat challenge Ohio State and Michigan.
Leonard is the same coach whose defense gave up 52 points last month at Ohio State. He's also the same coordinator who helped lead the Badgers to those three division titles. We're talking the first interim coach ever to be on the hot seat himself.
No, we're not going to place Leonhard on this list, but he could end up on it without ever becoming Wisconsin's coach. The implications are clear for a much-respected Badger. The job is his … if he doesn't screw it up. That doesn't answer the question of whether seven weeks is a large enough sample size.
Wisconsin's problems didn't develop over the last seven weeks or seven months. Athletic director Chris McIntosh thought about this. Planned it. Evaluated it. The landscape has changed. Wisconsin must be in the same orbit of Ohio State and Michigan, not just circling them.
Would Chryst still be coach had Wisconsin beaten Illinois by a touchdown, as it was so favored? Probably. McIntosh said it wasn't a knee-jerk decision … but it kind of was …
If that sounds weird, welcome to now.
Nebraska's Scott Frost and Arizona State's Herm Edwards topped our preseason Hot Seat Rankings. Both are now gone. Georgia Tech's Geoff Collins was one spot below them with Colorado's Karl Dorrell listed as a notable coach whose seat was "warming up." Adios to both. Chryst was the outlier, the surprise.
With that said, before we get to our Hot Seat Rankings updated just over one-third of the way into the season, a reminder of our ratings key. (You can also check out ourfor ratings of all 131 FBS coaches.)
- 5 -- Win or be fired
- 4 -- Start improving now
- 3 -- Pressure is mounting
- 2 -- All good ... for now
- 1 -- Safe and secure
- 0 -- Untouchable
And now ... a look at who is assuming the hottest seats in college football.
2022 Hot Seat Rankings, updated
|Bryan Harsin||4||Unfortunately, Harsin is a veteran of this space. He was third behind Frost and Edwards on the initial list. At some point, being the Auburn coach becomes less about the job you're doing and more about those shadowy rich dudes in who decide your fate. Harsin did himself no favors in a 29-point loss to Penn State. Then that clunky game against Missouri almost felt like a loss. A home loss against LSU certainly did not help. The next two are at Georgia and red-hot Ole Miss. This is painful to say: Harsin might not make it to Halloween of Year 2. Preseason rating: 4|
|Andy Avalos||4||Didn't you used to be Boise? Oregon's former defensive coordinator was thought to be an ideal choice when Harsin left for Auburn. Avalos played for Dan Hawkins and spent seven years as a Boise assistant. But the Broncos have lost their brand, their swagger and their way. What do they do well other than defense (No. 3 nationally, limiting opponents to 229 yards per game)? There's no flash, no Statues of Liberty, no excitement. Last year's 7-5 record was Boise's worst since 1998. This year, the Broncos have beaten only New Mexico and UT-Martin. Offensive coordinator Tim Plough has been fired. QB Hank Bachmeier is transferring. Would Harsin come back? Preseason rating: 2|
|Scott Satterfield||4||You don't even have to watch Malik Cunningham close to realize he has a lot of Lamar Jackson in him. Given that, shouldn't Louisville be better? The pressure was ratcheted up after a loss to Boston College. Cunningham's injury status is unknown, but the Cardinal still gave up 449 yards to the ACC's worst offense. After an 8-5 start, he's 14-20 over his last two-plus seasons with four ranked teams (Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, Kentucky) ahead. That should provide some clarity. Preseason rating: 3|
|Willie Taggart||4||Lane Kiffin's success in Boca Raton has faded. Taggart has presided over mediocrity in his three seasons, going 12-15. Only 10 of those wins are against FBS schools. Taggart is 2-8 in his last 10 games. During the summer, he settled with a former Oregon player who had to be hospitalized due to the drills run in practice with Taggart was coach there. Before this season, Taggart hadn't held a job for more than two years since 2015. In his career, he is nine games below .500. What's the appeal? Preseason rating: 4|
|Jake Spavital||4||Spavital made headlines last year when he went with an all-transfer portal approach in recruiting. It worked to a degree with the wins doubling from two to four, but the Bobcats haven't had a winning season since 2014 and are off to a terrible start in 2022 while the rest of the Sun Belt has gotten a whole bunch better. Against it's three worthy opponents, Texas State has lost 38-14 (Nevada), 42-7 (Baylor) and 40-13 (James Madison). Preseason rating: 4|
|Jimbo Fisher||3||No, Jimbo is not going to be fired in 2022. Even the big cigars at Texas A&M must think twice about paying the remainder of a guaranteed contract that has nine years remaining after this season. But that's $9 million a year for a coach who lost to Appalachian State and got blown out by Mississippi State. That's $9 million a year for a QB whisperer whose best QB whispering was done at his prior job, Florida State. Jimbo's best job security is that historic No. 1 recruiting class in 2022 that will begin contributing in 2023. Until then, can the big cigars tolerate a 7-5 season? This is Fisher's first rating other than 0 or 1 since he took over at TAMU. Preseason rating: 0|
|Jeff Scott||3||Scott has beaten one FBS team (4-22). He is 0-14 on the road. Clemson's former co-offensive coordinator needs to win now in a Group of Five powerhouse conference that has become unforgiving (the American). USF did play Florida tough, but that was more about the Gators' struggles at the time. The Bulls have lost 50-21 (at BYU) and 41-3 (at Louisville, whose coach is on this list) already this season. Scott got a two-year extension in January to 2026. When CBS Sports contacted him before the season, AD Mike Kelly was adamant Scott was safe for at least the next two years. Scott's transfer class was among the best in the country. A new indoor facility and (planned) on-campus stadium also helps. Preseason rating: 3|
|Dino Babers||3||The Orange are off to a 5-0 start, including wins over Purdue (32-29) and Louisville (31-7). The road is far tougher ahead with NC State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Florida State, Wake Forest and Boston College still on the schedule. However, Babers has Syracuse ranked in Year 7, and even with the tough upcoming schedule, the Orange are just one win away from being bowl-eligible for the first time since 2018. Preseason rating: 4|
|Mike Norvell||2||Norvell's seat was certainly getting warmer after a 8-13 start in his first two seasons. However, the Seminoles started a convincing 4-0 with a win over LSU -- that got them ranked -- and raced out to a lead against ranked Wake Forest before falling apart. The schedule gets much tougher from here with NC State, Clemson, Miami and Florida ahead, but FSU seems to be buying into Norvell's work ethic and positive outlook. He's done an admirable job trying to restore the culture, and FSU isn't in any mood to make a change after quickly turning on Taggart. Norvell went heavy into the transfer portal and put all his faith in QB Jordan Travis, which is paying off. Preseason rating: 3|