The 2016 college football season is over. Here are 16 coaches who look like they may be on the “hot seat” entering 2017.
Brian Kelly [Notre Dame] Notre Dame finished 4-8. Brian Kelly threw everyone under the bus. NCAA sanctions tacked onto a myriad of off-the-field issues. Reports suggested Kelly was interested in leaving. Notre Dame may have been interested in letting him. It’s hard to see this situation being tenable without a big turnaround.
Dave Doeren [N.C. State] The Wolfpack hired Doeren to shift into a gear Tom O’Brien did not have. He put N.C. State into neutral and let them roll down the hill. There were moments in 2016. The Wolfpack beat North Carolina. They came close to beating Clemson. They are also 9-23 in the ACC after four seasons.
Steve Addazio [Boston College] BC’s offense is putrid. The Eagles did win their final two games to reach bowl play, whatever that is worth. But, they lost by 38 or more to every good team on their schedule. They have lost 14 of their last 16 ACC games. Addazio may need a breakthrough to stay on after next year.
Mark Dantonio [Michigan State] Mark Dantonio is the best coach in modern MSU history. The Spartans went to the playoff in 2015. Still, MSU lost 10 of their last 12 vs. FBS, with wins over Notre Dame and Rutgers. Michigan State needs an overhaul on both sides of the ball. Their best player is leaving for the NFL Draft. There’s no guarantee the Spartans get better. While it’s hard to see Dantonio getting fired, who can survive two ugly seasons in modern college football?
Lovie Smith [Illinois] Illinois invested heavily in Lovie Smith last year, a 57-year-old NFL coach who had been out of college football since 1995. The Illini got worse, going 2-9 vs. FBS with wins over MSU and Rutgers. Smith will get time, if only because it will take a while to whittle down his buyout.
Chris Ash [Rutgers] Rutgers went 1-10 vs. FBS with a win over New Mexico in Ash’s first season. Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State outscored the Scarlet Knights 165-0. They lost 49-0 to Michigan State. Not even the student section was spared. 2016 was the nightmare scenario for a Rutgers down year in the B1G. The good news is there’s nowhere to go but up.
Kliff Kingsbury [Texas Tech] Kingsbury is 13-23 in the Big 12 after four years. The Red Raiders defense remains atrocious. It’s hard to overlook losing 66-10 to a 3-9 Iowa State team. Texas Tech has been and should expect to be a lot better. It’s hard to see the school’s patience with Kingsbury lasting beyond next season.
David Beaty [Kansas] Kansas improved significantly in Beaty’s second season. The Jayhawks went 1-10 vs. FBS instead of 0-11. Beaty should have to show some progress in the W-L column in year three. He will be much cheaper than Charlie Weis to get rid of if he does not.
Jim L. Mora [UCLA] Mora has lost nine of his last 14 against Power 5 teams. Even when the Bruins were going well under Mora a couple seasons ago, they weren’t going that well. Quite often, his team just has not looked well coached. If Mora can’t get it done next season with Josh Rosen as a junior, UCLA will have a decision to make.
Sonny Dykes [Cal] If Davis Webb gets drafted, Dykes will have more quarterbacks drafted than bowl game appearances after four years in Berkeley. This is a program that has been competent in the past and made a significant investment in facilities to get better at football. Moving on may be best for both parties. One can see that happening after next year.
Rich Rodriguez [Arizona] It looked like Arizona would struggle to keep Rich Rod after winning 10 games and reaching the Pac 12 title game in 2014. But, now, the Wildcats are on a 4-15 stretch in their past 19 games vs. Power 5 teams. The 2016 iteration resembled Rodriguez’ Michigan teams: productive but inefficient offense and awful defense.
Todd Graham [Arizona State] Similar situation to Mora and Rodriguez. Graham was coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2014. Since then, he has gone 6-12 in Pac 12 play. The Sun Devils lost seven of eight, with a narrow win over UCLA. If Arizona State was stealing signals, the knowledge was not helping much.
Butch Jones [Tennessee] Everything was laid out this season for a strong Tennessee season. The Vols lost the East. They should have lost the opener to Appalachian State. They missed out on the Sugar Bowl because they could not beat South Carolina and Vandy to close the season. It’s hard to argue why Jones should not be on the hot seat.
Kevin Sumlin [Texas A&M] Texas A&M was 6-0. The Swag Copter was aloft. Sumlin’s seat was ice cold. Then the Aggies lost their last four SEC games to finish 8-4 and fall outside the Top 25, the sort of the collapse they have every year. Doing just enough got Sumlin through 2016. It won’t get him through 2017.
Hugh Freeze [Ole Miss] After a Top 10 finish in 2015, Ole Miss took a tumble to 5-7. They lost by three touchdowns to Vanderbilt and by 35 against then 4-win Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Significant NCAA sanctions could be coming down this offseason. Even with the young quarterback, things aren’t looking great.
Bret Bielema [Arkansas] Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas to compete in the SEC. He has his moments, but the consistency has not been there. Arkansas is 21-25 vs. FBS and 10-22 in the SEC after four seasons. Just one .500 or better conference season. Blowing a 24-7 halftime lead against Missouri to close the regular season left a sour taste.