March 3, 2010

Several coaches will feel the heat in 2010

As spring drills begin to heat up this month, Alabama's Nick Saban, Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Boise State's Chris Petersen, Oregon's Chip Kelly and Texas' Mack Brown, among others, are thinking national championship.

But other coaches are thinking of survival.

Following is a look at coaches who will be feeling the heat -- at varying temperatures -- going into the season.


Ralph Friedgen, Maryland: "The Fridge" almost was deep-sixed after last season's 2-10 debacle. That was a dubious bookend to his 10-2 debut in 2001. In between, Friedgen -- who won 31 games in his first three seasons, with an ACC crown -- has offered a mixed bag of mostly middling results. Since 2004, he has had four losing seasons and only two winning records.

Dan Hawkins, Colorado: He was close to losing his job after going 3-9 last season. His saving grace? Colorado lacked the funds to buy him out. It's hard to imagine the school crying "poor" again if Hawkins fails to deliver a bowl. This isn't intramurals. It also isn't a charity. For the record, Hawkins has yet to post a winning record in four seasons (16-33 overall, 10-22 in the Big 12) and has one bowl appearance.

Rich Rodriguez, Michigan: You don't want to be RichRod. In two seasons, Rodriguez has posted the school's first losing record since 1967 (3-9 in 2008), gone 8-16 overall (and 3-13 in the Big Ten) and lost twice to Ohio State by a combined 63-17. In addition, an NCAA investigation found that his staff flouted rules pertaining to practice time limits. Oh, and RichRod will be working for a new boss this year in athletic director David Brandon.

Ron Zook, Illinois: It's almost impossible to detect any remaining glow from the Fighting Illini's 9-4 Rose Bowl season in 2007. Since then, Illinois has gone 5-7 in '08 and 3-9 in '09. Add it all up, and Zook is 21-39 overall and 12-28 in the Big Ten in five seasons in Champaign. Some thought Zook was going to be fired after last season, but the school opted to retain him and instead had Zook shake-up his staff. It's do-or-die time.


Tim Brewster, Minnesota: Yes, he received a contract extension this winter that pushes his deal through 2013. But the extension includes a smaller buyout (half of his remaining $400,000 base salary; before, it was the full base amount) and Brewster didn't receive a raise from his $1 million annual total package. But there are more bonus opportunities. Regardless, the bottom line is that Brewster is 14-23 in three seasons (6-18 in the Big Ten) with two middling bowl trips, no marquee wins and no conference finish higher than sixth.

Dennis Erickson, Arizona State: This icon is teetering. Erickson hit Tempe with a bang in 2007, going 10-3, tying for the Pac-10 title and playing in the Holiday Bowl. But the past two seasons have produced a combined 9-15 record and the first back-to-back losing seasons in Erickson's college coaching career. The rise of Arizona also hurts his cause. If Erickson can fix a horrid offense, though, all will be well.

Bill Lynch, Indiana: Lynch is trying. After Terry Hoeppner died in 2007, Lynch took over and delivered on Hoeppner's vow to "play 13," leading the Hoosiers to a 7-6 record and their first bowl since 1994. The IU brass took the "interim" off Lynch's title, though some wondered at the time if it was an emotional decision in the wake of an emotional season. Well, since then, Indiana is 7-17 overall and 2-14 in the Big Ten.

Les Miles, LSU: You have to pity the "Mad Hatter." Miles is 51-14 in five seasons at LSU and won the national title in 2007. Still, he never seemingly has been embraced because, well, he isn't Saban. But it is difficult to ignore this: The past two seasons, LSU has lost a combined nine games. In his first three seasons in Baton Rouge, he lost a combined six. And Miles is just 8-8 in SEC play in the past two seasons. Compounding matters is that the SEC West is the best division in college football. Forget about catching Alabama. Miles needs to worry about fighting off Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss.


Mark Richt, Georgia: His nine-season record of 90-27 is sterling. Richt also has won two SEC titles and played in three league title games. But are the Bulldogs any closer to catching Florida? Richt is 2-7 vs. the Gators -- losing the past two by a combined 90-27. Georgia's 8-5 record in 2009 was its worst under Richt. And the program's 4-4 SEC mark last fall was its second .500 league finish in four seasons. Richt -- who hasn't been to the SEC title game since 2005 -- didn't stand pat, shaking up his defensive staff. Here's hoping the changes bring results for one of college football's good guys.

Mike Sherman, Texas A&M: It's difficult to argue with Sherman's NFL pedigree, but it hasn't translated into success in College Station. Sherman has gone 10-15 in two seasons (5-11 in the Big 12) with one bowl. The former "Wrecking Crew" defense has been more like a "wreck" under Sherman, ranking 12th in the league last season (426.3 ypg) and 11th in 2008 (461.9). An overhauled defensive staff led by new coordinator Tim DeRuyter must change that fast.

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: The magic is gone from Spurrier's visor. Five years into his Gamecocks tenure, Spurrier is 35-28 overall and 18-22 in the SEC, and he has yet to have a breakthrough season. The one-time offensive genius has been left muttering to himself as he struggles to duplicate the explosive attacks that defined his Florida tenure (1990-2001). Aside from a consistently moribund offense, Spurrier's three biggest problems in Columbia: Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. It's time to win big or hit the golf course.

Paul Wulff, Washington State: Go ahead, take a swing. Everyone else has. Some of the beatdowns in 2008 were horrific: 63-14 to Oregon, 66-13 at Oregon State, 69-0 vs. USC, 58-0 at Stanford and 59-28 vs. Arizona. The whippings weren't as bad last season. Still, Wulff is 3-22 overall and 1-17 in the Pac-10 in two seasons in Pullman. We know he inherited a tough situation from Bill Doba. But it's time to show at least modicum of progress.


Here's a list of the non-Big Six coaches on the hottest seats, listed alphabetically:

Rickey Bustle, Louisiana-Lafayette
Neil Callaway, UAB
Todd Dodge, North Texas
Doug Martin, Kent State
Mike Price, UTEP
Steve Roberts, Arkansas State
Bob Toledo, Tulane

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for He can be reached at

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