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Which big-time college football coaches are on the hot seat?

August 22, 2012
  • Derek Dooley is 11-14 as Tennessee's head coach.
Derek Dooley is 11-14 as Tennessee's head coach. (Amy Smotherman Burgess…)

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss which coaches have the most on the line entering the upcoming college football season. Feel free to join the conversation with a comment of your own.

Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

Somebody needs to get into Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly's face on the sideline and scream at him the way he chews his quarterbacks out. Kelly has to pick up his overall game. He's 16-10 after two years at the No.1 hot-rock Rockne spot in the nation. Bob Davie was 16-9 in the same span and ultimately got canned. Charlie Weis was 19-6 after two years and he's now coaching in Kansas. Tyrone Willingham had a better two-year winning percentage at 15-10 and was fired after Year 3.

Kelly might still be the answer, but he needs to answer some questions. He needs to find a quarterback who completes passes to HIS team. He needs to beat Navy in Dublin and navigate a schedule that includes trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC. Kelly probably won't be fired if he has a lousy third year because all Notre Dame coaches get five years to get the job done. Well, at least the coaches before, and after, Willingham did.

Other hot seats: Derek Dooley (11-14 his first two years at Tennessee), Randy Edsall (life hasn't been so merry at Maryland), Jeff Tedford (seems like only yesterday Cal beat USC in triple OT, but it was 2003), Mack Brown (just signed a contract extension at Texas with a clause that states he can never go 5-7, 8-5 again), Mark Richt (Georgia coach lucky he keeps missing LSU, Alabama and Arkansas on the regular-season schedule).

Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

We’ve yet to kick off the college football season and already several coaches are feeling the heat.

If there is a proverbial hot seat, Derek Dooley’s butt has been squarely fixed upon it. Since Dooley took over the Tennessee program in 2010, the Volunteers have gone 11-14 and finished no better than third in the East Division of the SEC. Hampered with injuries and transfers, it’s been very rocky on top of Rocky Top.

Meanwhile, you know things must be bad if a coach is on the hot seat after one season. That’s what happened to Maryland’s Randy Edsall, who finished 2-10 in his first season with the Terrapins. It got so bad that the only things fans were talking about with this team were it’s crazy uniforms. With 23 players lost to transfer and a starting quarterback lost for the season with an injury, things aren’t looking good for Edsall.

Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant

There’s no shortage of candidates that would make this list, including Boston College Coach Frank Spaziani and former UConn Coach Randy Edsall at Maryland and, perhaps, Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.

As tempting as it is to tap into the viability of all three for the top spot on the list we’re going to give the honor right now to Texas Coach Mack Brown because, well, everything is big in Texas and that includes the many sets of eyes that have been shocked at what’s happened in Austin under Brown’s watch lately.

The fans may love Mack but they love Longhorns football more.  In 2010, Texas, the second-winningest  Division I-A college football program of all time (858 wins, 37 behind Michigan), didn’t go bowling at all and last year, it had to fight back to win eight games. Texas is 13-12 in its last two seasons, played in the BCS national title game, lost, and hasn’t won the title since 2005.

Now, neighboring TCU and West Virginia come to the Big 12 hungry. The Mountaineers, just in from the Big East, were picked to finish second in the league’s preseason poll and rival Oklahoma was picked to win it. Texas is third.  Texas is third – but it’s 15th in the preseason AP poll. If the Longhorns finish there or better Brown should be OK. If not, his seat will be hot.

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

I’ll point to two – for totally different reasons.

Arkansas’ John L. Smith needs to win. Now. His contract runs a mere 10 months. In replacing the disgraced Bobby Petrino, Smith will have to hit it big with a Razorbacks team primed to compete for an SEC title because of studs Knile Davis and Tyler Wilson and a favorable schedule (Alabama and LSU at home).

The public won’t expect much out of Penn State, but alums will be restless if Bill O’Brien can’t win more than five or six games. He already has had nine players transfer, and they have another year to bolt without penalty. The pressure is on O’Brien to keep intact a recruiting class that ranks 53rd nationally, according to


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