We’re going to stop short of calling these men the worst college football coaches of all time, because when things get this bad, there are multiple fires contributing to the disaster. And besides, a lot of these guys went on to have long careers as NFL assistants.
Some guys just aren’t cut out for college, and some just aren’t cut out to be head coaches.
Still, nobody in college football history has had a worse go of it than these 10 men.
Robert McNeish, Virginia Tech Hokies, 1948-50
This was so long ago that Virginia Tech was called VPI (Virginia Polytechnic Institute) and the mascot was the Gobblers.
Anyway, the lone highlight in the McNeish era came in the second-to-last game of the 1949 season, when the Gobblers beat lowly Richmond 28-13 on the road, then used the momentum from that day to tie VMI 28-28 on the last day of the year.
McNeish went 1-0-2 in his final three games of the 1949 season, and that was enough for the Gobblers to bring him back again for 1950. But they lost every game by at least 20 points and McNeish was replaced by Frank Moseley, who went 54-42-2 in 10 seasons at VPI, including six top-three finishes in the Southern Conference.
Stan Parrish, Kansas State Wildcats, 1986-88
Stan Parrish forever goes down as the last man to try winning at Kansas State before Bill Snyder actually did it. K-State at the time was universally regarded as the worst program in the country, and its 1987 game against Kansas, a depressing 17-17 tie, is lovingly remembered as the “Toilet Bowl.”
As always, there was reason to think Parrish might work out. In 1984, he had led Marshall to its first winning season since the plane crash, then backed it up with a 7-3-1 record in 1985.
Granted, Marshall was playing in Division I-AA (FCS), but wins are wins and K-State gave it a shot.
After beating Kansas in 1986, Parrish went 0-26-1. Remarkably, this did not kill his coaching career. For most of the next two decades, he was an assistant at Rutgers, Michigan, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ball State, before getting another chance to be a head coach at Ball State in 2008.
Then he went 6-19 and got fired after two years.
David Beaty, Kansas Jayhawks, 2015-present
David Beaty’s three wins at Kansas have come over:
- Rhode Island
- Southeast Missouri
You can’t explain that.
Kansas lost its first game this season to FCS Nicholls State, and the local newspaper’s editorial board has called for Beaty to be fired immediately. The first-year athletics director, Jeff Long, says the evaluation process is ongoing, but we all know what’s going to happen.
Beaty is either going to get fired fast, or he’s going to leave Kansas with a record of 3-45 over four seasons, which would be the worst record ever in the history of major-college football.
Frank Lauterbur, Iowa Hawkeyes, 1971-73
Like Parrish, Lauterbur had been a head coach before Iowa hired him in 1971. He was the coach and AD at Toledo for most of the 60s and had a lousy record until 1967, when he went 9-1 and won the MAC, then had back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1969 and 1970.
Lauterbur was hired at Iowa on the basis of his excellent defenses at Toledo, but that never translated from the MAC to the Big Ten. Iowa had a winless 1973 season, and the fans and athletics director wanted him to fire his defensive coordinator.
He refused, and got himself fired instead.
That was the end of Lauterbur’s career as a head coach and as a college coach. He spent the remainder of his career as an assistant in the NFL and USFL.
Rick Venturi, Northwestern Wildcats, 1978-80
Rick Venturi was just 32 when he took over at Northwestern in 1978. It was his third job in coaching, following four years as an assistant and Purdue and one as the defensive backs coach at Illinois.
His lone win came in the second week of his second season, when Northwestern beat Wyoming 27-22. It was the first of two times the Wildcats topped 20 points that year.
Amazingly, Northwestern played No. 11 Michigan to within a touchdown in 1980, but wasn’t close to winning any other game. Venturi went on to have a long career as an NFL assistant, and went 2-17 in two different stints as an interim coach for the Colts and Saints.