Pressure weighs down on college football coaches in this era more than any other time in the sport's history. Roster building is a challenge that most wouldn't wish upon their worst enemy, keeping a full roster intact is an enormous challenge in the new world of name, image and likeness, and the money that is being devoted to winning at the highest level seems to be comparable to the gross domestic product of a medium-sized country.
However, as the old saying goes, "pressure is a privilege." Whether it's coaching to stay employed or coaching to stay in the national title hunt, these seven coaches have the weight of the world on their shoulders entering the 2023 season.
A reminder: These are not coaches on the hot seat. Some of them may land there eventually, but some of them may not.
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Make no mistake ... Fisher is on the hot seat. He is 39-21 (.650) through five seasons in College Station, Texas, which is worse than his predecessor, Kevin Sumlin, who was 44-21 (.679) over the same span. What's even more concerning is that he reeled in the best recruiting class of all time in 2022, promptly went 5-7 and saw a mass exodus of players this offseason -- many of whom were from that class. His $95 million fully-guaranteed contract extension moved the meter when he signed it prior to the 2021 season; however, the SEC's massive television contract that kicks in prior to the 2024 season will make it much easier to get rid of Fisher if the program continues to decline.
Ryan Day, Ohio State
Day is in one of the most unique situations in this era. He has lost back-to-back games to rival Michigan, which is simply unacceptable to the Buckeye faithful. However, they have been in the national championship hunt in both of those seasons and came within one missed field goal at the gun away from making the College Football Playoff National Championship last year. His status is utterly bizarre. The Michigan conundrum has to be solved. But, if history repeats itself and the Buckeyes stay in the title hunt, that will certainly give the fan base hope -- especially considering the CFP will expand to 12 teams next season.
Billy Napier, Florida
Napier posted a losing record (6-7) in his first season with the Gators despite having a quarterback in Anthony Richardson who (surprisingly) will be drafted in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft. What's more, it doesn't seem like rival and back-to-back national champion Georgia will be taking a step back anytime soon. Simply put, Napier needs to prove to the Florida faithful that he is closing that gap. He isn't on the hot seat this season. But, another losing season could put him in hot water going into the 2024 season.
Mario Cristobal, Miami
The former Hurricane was hired prior to last season to bring "The U" back to national prominence. His first season at his alma mater didn't go as planned. Miami went 6-7 and was as far from contending for the ACC Coastal title as a snow storm in South Florida. Granted, injuries had a little bit to do with that, but lack of success with its NIL program should (and did) instill a "win now" mentality. Cristobal is in a similar situation as Napier. A lackluster season in 2023 could make his seat in 2024 incredibly hot.
Steve Sarkisian, Texas
The joke "Texas is back" has been around since the Longhorns lost the 2009 national title to Alabama, but Sarkisian gave fans hope after an 8-5 season, transfer portal success and Quinn Ewers. He has to build off of that success and contend for the Big 12 title. They'll take a step up to the SEC in 2024, so this season will show if Sarkisian is ready for one of the biggest challenges in Texas' storied history.-- or even the nation -- in 2023 under redshirt sophomore quarterback
Neal Brown, West Virginia
Brown was in danger of being canned after last season, but the new administration decided to keep him on board for a fifth season at West Virginia. Back-to-back sub-.500 seasons have made Mountaineer fans restless, and the fact that Brown hasn't been in the Big 12 title race in any of his four seasons has made things even worse. The Mountaineers have fallen behind in the NIL age, and Brown hasn't taken advantage of the transfer portal in a way that will keep them relevant -- even in the new era of Big 12 football.
Brent Venables, Oklahoma
The second-year Sooners coach is essentially in the same boat as Napier and Cristobal. The 6-7 record is the first sub-.500 record is the program's worst since 1998 (5-6), which came before many players on the roster were born. To make matters worse, the Sooners defense -- which is supposed to be Venables' bread and butter -- was the second-worst defense in the conference. Venables doesn't necessarily have to lead his team to the Big 12 title game this season. However, the Sooners will jump to the SEC in 2024. If he doesn't instill hope for the future, their first season in the SEC could get a little spicy for Venables.