Hot Seat Rankings: Nine college football coaches with their jobs on the line in 2019
These college football coaches better watch their backs throughout the 2019 season
It figures to be a slow season for turnover. More than one-fifth of the 130 FBS programs changed coaches (27) … and most of them actually waited until the offseason to do it. That doesn't mean there won't be turnover, just less than we have experienced as of late.
The nine coaches listed below are either in a "win now" situation … or they are getting close to it. They range from a college football superpower in USC to a humble program in Ball State. Winning still trumps all, particularly in these days of unprecedented spending (and at times unprecedented debt).
Below is our ratings key. Here's how the 130 FBS coaches sort out. There are nine on the proverbial hot seat entering the season with another 12 starting to feel the heat.
|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 the annual Hot Seat Rankings and the eight of Power Five coaches that need to figure out a way to cool things down before 2019 comes to a close. Check out our complete set of 2019 Hot Seat Rankings for ratings of all 130 FBS coaches entering the season.
|Lovie Smith||5||The amount of love for Lovie surprised me when I had him on this list last year. There were plenty of folks in Smith's corner. There was progress, they said. There was the contract extension, they said. There was improvement in Year 3 to 4-8, they said. But the buyout has been reduced, and the Big Ten isn't getting easier. That Team Up North (Northwestern) played for the conference title last season. Smith has become his own defensive coordinator. He'd better be good.|
|Chris Ash||5||OK, let's get the jokes out of the way. Have you heard the one about the first Rutgers team – from 150 years ago -- being more competitive than today's group? It's an ironic anniversary for college football. Rutgers played in the first college football game (1896) but sits last in the Big Ten. It's hard to remember Ash was a co-defensive coordinator at mighty Ohio State. His Rutgers teams are 7-29 through three seasons. The Scarlet Knights last beat an FBS team in 2016. As bad as Rutgers has been, it's not a good sign the program cratered in Year 3 under Ash at 1-11. Just getting through November may be a challenge -- Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State end the season.|
|Bob Davie||5||Davie may have been saved by the possibility that New Mexico simply cannot afford to fire him. The New Mexico administration has been in upheaval for years. Red ink has flowed. Sports have been cut. Meanwhile, since a 9-4 season in 2016, Davie has coached consecutive 3-9 campaigns. New Mexico football is at a nadir. Davie has had his own off-field issues. This is not a terrible job. Ask Rocky Long and Brian Urlacher. There will be a weird sort of homecoming on Sept. 14 when New Mexico visits Notre Dame.|
|Clay Helton||4||I'll say it again: I feel sorry for Helton. The man is a son of a coach. Believe it or not, he has been at USC for a decade. Last year's 5-7 record was the Trojans' first losing mark since before Pete Carroll was in charge. That's a big deal in Troy. But so is AD Lynn Swann, who called out his coach in a letter of "support" to fans. Helton is under pressure to win this season, but so is Swann. If Helton doesn't make it, what history does Swann have of hiring Power Five head football coaches? If you guessed none, go to the head of the line with USC's anxiety. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are already advocating for Urban Meyer. That little drama has the potential of being played weekly as the three share a desk on Fox's pregame show. Meanwhile, Helton is all in on the Air Raid. That seems incongruous at the place where Student Body Right and Left was invented.|
|Willie Taggart||4||Whatever your level of support for Taggart, it cannot be denied the program is at a crossroads in 2019. In a few short years, Clemson has taken off and separated itself from the ACC (and the rest of college football for that matter). The schools used to be the cream of the conference. There was plenty of blame handed out after the 36-year bowl streak was broken. Still, Taggart has to turn things around in a hurry. Athletic director Dave Coburn is saying all the right things, but the pressure will be on him, too, if the Noles go bowless again.|
|Randy Edsall||4||Edsall's second stint at UConn has not gone well. Try to ignore -- for a moment -- the 4-20 record in the two seasons since he returned. The administration basically set football adrift when it moved to the Big East in every other sport. That happened without a clear direction for the football program. In a weird way, that might work in Edsall's favor. The athletic department is swimming in red sink. The administration has clearly shown it favors basketball. That might buy Edsall some time. It's a shame. When UConn lost the 2011 Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma, it not only lost a game, it lost prestige and any momentum it had to getting to Power Five status.|
|Tony Sanchez||4||Sanchez is under pressure not only for his 16-32 record in four seasons but a construction project across town. UNLV will share the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium, scheduled to open in 2020. There is potential there for Rebels football to take off -- with the right coach. AD Desiree Reed-Francois is one of the most innovative administrators in the country. She wants a front-facing coach for that stadium debut. Sanchez, the former coach at Las Vegas Gorman High School, must deliver this season.|
|Mike Neu||4||Neu is as Cardinal as it gets, but the former MAC co-offensive player of the year (1993) is 10-26 in three seasons at his alma mater. Ball State is 2-6 during that span in games decided by eight points or less. Neu has 17 returning starters, but both his starting quarterback and running back transferred. Money doesn't flow like wine in the MAC as it does in the Power Five. That always works in favor of coaches in Neu's situation. Ball State is building a new $15 million practice facility. Can it afford to replace an entire staff after this season as well?|
|Brent Brennan||4||Despite a myriad of financial and resource restraints, it's possible to win at San Jose State. Mike MacIntyre did it. The late Dick Tomey did it. It's definitely hard to sustain winning, but Brennan's 3-22 record after two seasons stands out in the wrong ways. It's the worst record in a two-year stretch for one coach in program history. (McIntyre and Tomey were a combined 3-22 in 2009-10.) Brennan may get some slack since he was an assistant for both McIntyre and Tomey, but patience is not a virtue in modern college football. If the Spartans don't beat Northern Colorado and/or Tulsa at home to start the season, a winless 2019 seems like a possibility. |
Check out the full set of 2019 Hot Seat Rankings for all 130 FBS programs.
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