November 12, 2009

Which coach is next to be fired?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask members of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Memphis and Western Kentucky announced this week that they are firing their coaches. Which school will be the next to fire its coach?

I think we will see an announcement from Louisville. Steve Kragthorpe entered the season under intense pressure after posting an 11-13 mark in his first two seasons. The Cardinals are 3-6 overall, 0-4 in the Big East and going nowhere quickly in Kragthorpe's third season in Derby City. Two of the Cardinals' wins this year have come against Indiana State and Arkansas State. A visit from Syracuse this Saturday offers the last good chance for a victory, as Louisville finishes the year at USF and against Rutgers. Of all the jobs that figure to open after this season, this position may be the most attractive. Louisville has great facilities, good resources and terrific fan support while playing in a Big Six league that isn't that difficult to win.


This is never pleasant speculation, but the guess here is that Louisville's Steve Kragthorpe is next to go. This is his third season on the job, and the Cardinals haven't posted a winning record - and don't figure to do so this season, either. At this point, Kragthorpe's record at Louisville is 14-19 and six of the wins were over FCS or Sun Belt Conference opponents. That's not good. And it's made worse by Louisville winning 12 times the season before his arrival. Three games remain, and perhaps a strong finish will buy Kragthorpe another season. But the guess here is that Louisville loses two out of three and finishes 4-8. At least part of the problem this season is an offense that's one of the most anemic in the nation. The Cardinals have scored fewer than 20 points in four games. That kind of futility won't be accepted, especially when coaches like Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn are available.


Though I would place a bet Virginia will let Al Groh go after this season, I don't think the Cavaliers will make the move during the season. If there's a school that will start looking for a new coach before the end of the season, it will be Louisville. On Saturday, Louisville faces Syracuse, a team that has won the past two meetings in the series. If the Orange win a third in a row, I don't see any way Kragthorpe stays. Even if Louisville wins, the Cardinals still could lose to USF and Rutgers to end the season 4-8. Louisville has invested too much in its stadium and facilities in recent seasons to go on losing. The Cardinals are in a position where they need to be aggressive to get an elite coach. It might be too costly for Louisville to wait until the end of the season to make a change.


I think Louisville A.D. Tom Jurich will pull the plug on Steve Kragthorpe before the season ends. To me, if a coach is going to be let go, it's smarter to do it sooner rather than later to let possible replacements know what's out there. Quite simply, firing a coach during the season lets an A.D. get a jump on who he's going to hire next. Firing a coach during the season might seem, well, unseemly, but don't feel sorry for guys who were making upward of $1.5 million per season.


I don't know if he's going to get fired or not, but I could envision Virginia coach Al Groh resigning under pressure sometime before the Cavaliers' Nov. 28 game with Virginia Tech. Virginia seems headed toward its third losing record in the past four seasons. The Cavaliers were one of only two ACC teams that failed to reach a bowl last season. They've lost to Duke each of the past two seasons and opened this season with a loss to FCS program William & Mary. Each of Virginia's past two seasons has followed a similar pattern: The Cavaliers start slowly, have a midseason surge, then tail off again down the stretch. Virginia likely needs a fresh start to change that pattern.

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