“I’m concerned that by the end of the day there may be more coaching openings than bowl teams.”
– Stewart Mandel, November 2011
Canned Coachmas is upon us once more (presiding patron saint: Mike Leach). It’s the most wonderful time of the year – if your name’s Jimmy Sexton. There’s one very large piece of news this morning involving the vacant coaching position at Ohio State, which has been a foregone conclusion for some days now. Stewart Mandel has a fresh column up on Urban Meyer’s return to Buckeye country. Over here, however, we’ll be tracking goings rather than comings. Bookmark this page, if you’re into this sort of thing, as we catalog the firings, “retirements” and Actual Retirements throughout college football. This post will be refreshed as needed as news of more oustings breaks.
NB: For documenting purposes here, we’ll be sticking to news rather than conjecture, which means we won’t add new bodies until they’re officially defenestrated. To the already dismissed likes of Mike Stoops, Mike Locksley, Houston Nutt and Bob Toledo, and the slated-for-retirement Howard Schnellenberger, we can now add:
• [UPDATE 12/06] Greg McMackin, Hawaii: Following a rocky four-year tenure that concluded with a drop from 10 wins in 2010 to six in 2011 (to say nothing of the recent unpleasantness with points-shaving allegations), June Jones’ successor is hanging up his Warriors whistle. It’s probably time; how anybody can manage to lose to this year’s UNLV and Fresno State squads with Bryant Moniz as a quarterback, rampant injuries or no, is beyond comprehension.
• [UPDATE 12/05] Pat Hill, Fresno State: The magnificently mustachioed skipper of the Bulldogs for 15 years, Hill’s had a bad few seasons despite his overall winning record, and the party line from the AD is making it sound like ticket sales were the real culprit: “Our community was not responding any longer to the record that we had.” The 2011 team finished well out of bowl contention, with a nasty OOC schedule that included Cal, Nebraska and Boise State, but also dropped games to such FBS luminaries as Ole Miss, New Mexico State and San Jose State.
• [UPDATE 12/05] Steve Fairchild, Colorado State: They’re having a fire sale in Fort Collins, where everyone must go! Athletic director Paul Kowalczyk was fired late last week, former Rams quarterback Jack Graham brought on in his place, and Fairchild was cut loose on Sunday following four seasons in which he amassed a 16-33 record. 2011 marked the Rams’ third straight three-win season.
• [UPDATE 12/02] Mike Sherman, Texas A&M: The Aggies will enter the SEC with a new head coach and down a cool few million bucks, thanks to picking a perfectly awkward time in his contract to cut him loose:
Sherman, 25-25 in four seasons at A&M, had three years remaining on his contract and the buyout will be about $5.8 million. He was given a one-year extension to his original contract in July, but it was never executed.
Sherman is reportedly none too pleased with his ousting, and if it’s true that he really did get fired in the driveway of a recruit’s home, well, that’s pretty reasonable.
• [UPDATE 11/29] Paul Wulff, Washington State: After a strange couple of days up in Pullman in which it wasn’t always entirely clear who was pulling whose personnel strings in the Cougars’ athletic department, Wazzu released its head ballcoach following a four-year stint that left Wulff, infamously, with a 9-40 record. This year’s team showed some real promise, but a ludicrous series of quarterback injuries coupled with continual defensive problems, particularly in the secondary, doomed the Cougars to the dregs in the score-happy Pac-12 North.
• [UPDATE 11/28] Rick Neuheisel, UCLA: The administration in Westwood apparently thinks the upcoming Pac-12 title game is as much of a joke as Vegas does. Four years into his stewardship of his alma mater, Neuheisel is overboard, and the players apparently found out on television. Friday’s game will be his last. Hard to believe AD Dan Guerrero didn’t find a 6-6 team “winning” the division quite as funny as the rest of us did. One of the last telling passages in Neuheisel’s history with the Bruins will read thusly: “Neuheisel remained confident in his abilities until the end, saying last week that he thought UCLA had “closed the gap more” in its rivalry with USC. The Trojans then delivered the third-biggest blowout in the rivalry’s history, shutting out UCLA for the first time since 2001.”
• Dennis Erickson, Arizona State: The highest-profile changeup of the weekend was the last to break on Sunday. Erickson has coached the Sun Devils since 2007 following a one-year stint up at Idaho, his second turn with the Vandals. His tenure winds down with a whimper, as the Sun Devils parlayed a 6-2 start and Top 25 ranking into a 6-6 finish, featuring a truly wretched skid against such bedraggled programs as UCLA, Washington State and Arizona. If Brock Osweiler’s so tall, how come he didn’t see this coming, PAAAOWL?
• Ron Zook, Illinois: Somewhat notorious for bombast, the Zooker vacated the Illini skipper’s chair with almost serene resolution. He failed up to Illinois after being fired toward the end of his third season at Florida, and amassed a 34-51 record in seven seasons. His last in Champaign was something of a historical milestone, though not one Zook will be including on his résumé: The 2011 Fighting Illini are apparently the first FBS team to follow six consecutive wins with six consecutive losses in the regular season.
• Turner Gill, Kansas: Now, this is about where things start to get hinky. That Kansas has had a wretched season is not in dispute. The Jayhawks’ ineptitude has plumbed the depths of the national rankings this year. They have wallowed at or near the bottom of almost every major statistical category popularly measured. And yet. And yet — read the second sentence of the university press release announcing the dismissal: “Gill has coached the Jayhawks for two seasons after signing a five-year, $10 million contract in December 2009.” Were this a loathsome fashion publication, we’d start calling two years “The New Three Years!” Kansas athletics have been rife with upheaval recently, and there’s a new AD on the block, but still. That’s quite a trigger finger. The AD in question, Sheahon Zenger, has quite the way with backhanded turns of phrase: “I admired Turner Gill as a person going in, and I admire him more going out.”
• Rob Ianello, Akron: And speaking of the two-year turnaround: Rob Ianello is done with the Zips after recording two wins in as many seasons. Not much else to parse here, except that the apparent window of time for mounting a successful just-win campaign is once again surprisingly brief. Here’s another lively AD quote: “Ultimately, we need to win more games.” No kidding, sir. Making this firing even frostier: Ianello was let go while en route to his mother’s funeral. These are factors that will surely endear the program to promising replacement candidates.
• Larry Porter, Memphis: To quote Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News: “If you’re firing someone in C-USA after two years, the coach likely isn’t the biggest issue.” Our third two-year goner is Larry Porter, who racked up one more win than Ianello. Don’t forget that Porter is a Memphis alum, which has to be the equivalent of an outsider getting fired after his first season, right? The school’s athletic director is also slated to part ways with the Tigers, albeit on his own terms, so perhaps a wholesale sweep will put everything to rights. But it’s very, very difficult to imagine who could succeed in Memphis right now.
• Neil Callaway, UAB: And speaking of impossible situations: They’re letting Neil Callaway call this a resignation, which is maybe the first good break he’s enjoyed since taking the job. Though it might be the furthest gig off anybody’s radar, this is the one coaching search you’ll want to keep an eye on if you enjoy boardroom bitchery and administrative mayhem. Google Callaway, Jimbo Fisher and Paul Bryant Jr. to brush up on what happened the last time UAB had to hire a coach. This’ll be … not fun at all, really, but certainly captivating.