The College Football Notebook

November 23, 2010 7:35 AM

Coaches On The Hot Seat

RRodUnderFire.jpgWe're coming up on the last game of the regular season and that means the rumors are heavy around a lot of coaches and their job security. We've already seen two midseason firings in Colorado's Dan Hawkins and Minnesota's Tim Brewster. Colorado has responded, won two straight and is actually playing for a bowl eligibility against Nebraska on Friday. But I think Minnesota's situation is more the norm and more instructive for athletic directors who have decisions to make.

Brewster was hired prior to the 2007 season even though Minnesota had become a reasonably consistent winner under Glen Mason. The Gophers were going to bowl games on an annual basis and they were producing top running games and NFL talent--Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber were each products of Mason's program. They hadn't broken through to the Big Ten's upper crust, but they were winning and with a new stadium on the way there was every reason to think Mason could get them to a January 1 bowl--and even if he couldn't, he was certainly succeeding to the level every Minnesota fan would have hoped when they hired him to rebuild a program that was in tatters. But that wasn't good enough for AD Joel Matsui who pushed Mason out the door and decided Brewster was the man to get his program "to the next level." Matsui got to the next level, although the elevator went in the wrong direction. What happened to Minnesota's football program is the consequence of impatient--an impatience that hasn't worked any better at Notre Dame than it has in the Twin Cities. With that in mind, let's take a look at some coaches on the hot seat.

*Rich Rodriguez (Michigan): He may be going to a bowl for the first time in his Michigan tenure, but is 7-5 really what the alums had in mind when they tapped him to replace Lloyd Carr? That's what they'll be if they lose at Ohio State on Saturday. Rich-Rod may need to at least win a bowl game to save his job. Michigan's another place that's paying for their impatience. Rodriguez inherited a program that Carr had on sound footing. He may have been struggling with Ohio State, but was beating everyone else, including a win over Florida in his final game in the Capital One Bowl following the 2007 season. R-Rod at least brought consistency--he struggles with everyone, not just Ohio State. But one burst of impatience won't be solved by another. I'd keep Rodriguez on for a fourth year and issue a public apology to Carr.

*Ron Zook (Illinois): Another one that's bowl eligible, but may be far from home free. His recruiting was supposed to save the day at Illinois, but they've gotten worse since the 2007 Rose Bowl team. My guess is he gets another year on the hot seat.

*Bill Lynch (Indiana): I'm not deliberately trying to make this a Big Ten coach review, but the conference has a lot of guys in flux right now. Lynch took over a program that was improving under Terry Hoeppner, before the latter passed away from brain cancer. I like Lynch and he seems like a good guy, but the results just haven't been there. I suspect he's gone.

*Dennis Erickson (Arizona State): I understand where Sun Devil fans might be a little impatient, as Erickson hasn't had a great run here in Tempe. But c'mon--this is a guy with two national championship rings on his finger from Miami (1989 & 1991) and has won everywhere he's been. Let him take his promising freshman quarterback Steven Threet and see what he can do the next couple years. Unless you think you're going to beckon Bill Belichick or Nick Saban to the desert, this is the best proven winner you're going to get.

*Paul Wulff (Washington State): WSU is showing some life here in November and it might be enough to save the job of their coach. I really don't have a strong opinion here. I do prefer patience, but Wulff's record does speak for itself and it would be hard to blame the Cougars if they went in another direction.

*Mark Richt (Georgia): The only instance I can think of where a team fired a consistent winner and got to the next level came at Georgia, after they canned Jim Donnan and replaced him with Richt, who's won two SEC titles in his tenure. But live by the sword and die by the sword. Richt is now under fire and from everything I'm reading will actually be gone. Somebody's going to pick up a terrific coach at Georgia's expense, and I doubt this change will work out as well as the last one did.

No one keeps track of how many coaching changes either completely blow up or keep teams running on the same Notre Dame-esque treadmill. Maybe it's time for AD's and alums to realize the grass isn't always greener. And if they are convinced a change is needed, watch the Big Ten Network--Glen Mason is still there waiting and would be a great hire for any program in need of rebuilding.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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