6 Coaches on the Hot Seat

October 21, 2019

The 2019 college football season is in full gear at this point and right now, we know of many of the teams that are competing for conference titles and the elusive College Football Playoff berth. On the opposite side of that coin, we also know of many teams that could possibly be looking for new coaches come January (or even earlier than that). 


College football can be a cruel, cruel world, especially for head coaches. Fans and boosters want to see results and if you don’t give them, you could find yourself out of a job. There are several coaches that already felt the warmth on their hot seat while others have not done much to cool the heat this season. 


Let’s take a look at six college football coaches that are on the hot seat and must do something quickly if they want to keep their job for the 2020 season. 


Willie Taggart, Florida State

Let’s start with the obvious. Willie Taggart’s seat has been hot ever since he got hired ahead of the 2018 season. After going 5-7 and missing a bowl for the first time in three decades last year and sitting at 3-4 in 2019, the Florida State Seminoles are starting to get antsy. The team is used to winning and just about five years ago, the team was one of the most feared in college football. 


Since Jimbo Fisher left for College Station and the Texas A&M job, the Seminoles have been left scrambling. The team has barely cracked the top 25 in recruiting, the team’s play has been lackluster at best and they have had multiple problems with players getting in trouble off the field. That can be traced back to the Taggart hire. 


You also have to mention the pretty dreadful start to the 2019 season. The team had a pitiful collapse against the Boise State Broncos in the season opener and then were just a missed PAT away from being upset by Louisiana-Monroe in overtime. The team is 3-4 on the year and has lost the last two games: a 45-7 blowout loss to Clemson, who has taken the Seminoles’ spot as the dynasty of the ACC, and a 22-20 loss to Wake Forest, who is now in the AP poll thanks to their big win. 


Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern


This one might pretty surprising considering the Northwestern Wildcats were in the Big Ten championship game just a season ago, but it is with merit that I present the case for Pat Fitzgerald being on the hot seat. Fitzgerald has been the head coach of the Wildcats since 2006 and has brought a modicum of success to Evanston, but it might be time for the team to move on if they are going to have any more progress. 


In 13 seasons, Fitzgerald racked up 96 wins and four bowl victories, including three straight in the last three seasons. However, it seems all the hard work Fitzgerald has done to make this team a perennial bowl team could be undone in 2019. The team made a bowl five straight years from 2008 to 2012 and has made a bowl the last four years, but at 1-5, they sit on the precipice of missing the postseason for the first time since 2014. 


Not only do they run the risk of missing a bowl game, they could be looking at their worst record since Fitzgerald’s first season in Evanston. The team has not lost more than seven games since 2006 when they went 4-8. With six games left and teams like Iowa, Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois still on the schedule, how many more times can the Wildcats really get in the win column for the rest of the year? 


Jim Harbaugh, Michigan


Of the six coaches on this list, Jim Harbaugh is the only one whose team has a winning record. So, why exactly is he here? Well, if you ask any Michigan Wolverine fan, they would tell you exactly why: they are tired of finishing second best. 


Going into each season, it seems like Michigan is a top ten preseason team and has one of the better recruiting classes in the country. However, the team does not seem able to deliver on the biggest stage against the biggest teams, despite the hype surrounding them. Quite frankly, Michigan fans are tired of seeing the team finish 10-3, which has happened three times in Harbaugh’s four seasons. There’s a good chance the team could finish with less than double-digit wins again this year and they will likely not be favored against Ohio State, a team they have not beaten since 2011 and have only beaten twice since 2003. 


While a 43-16 record over four and a half seasons with two New Year’s Six bowl appearances would be respectable for many coaches, this is Michigan football and fans expect more. You also can’t go winless against the Buckeyes and expect to keep a job in Ann Arbor. 


Lance Leipold, Buffalo


There is always a handful of Group of Five coaches that are on the hot seat simply because their teams have always been bad, but Lance Leipold of Buffalo is different. Just last year, many believed that Leipold could be the next big thing in coaching for taking the Bulls, a team that has traditionally been very bad, to the MAC title game and a ten-win season. 


Just a year later, however, the Bulls are back to being their old self, sitting at 3-4 and on the cusp of missing the postseason for the eighth time since 2009. The team’s record over the last few years is not the only reason why Buffalo could move on from Leipold this year. 


When he came to Buffalo, Lance Leipold was coming from Wisconsin-Whitewater, a freaking powerhouse in Division III football. In eight seasons with the Warhawks, Leipold led the team to seven championship game appearances, in which the team was 6-1 and only lost the first they appeared in in 2007. For a coach to have that much success and hype behind him only to come to a FBS team and put up a mediocre 26-31 record with just one bowl appearance in four and a half seasons is reason enough to land him ono the hot seat. 


Chip Kelly, UCLA


After a short and pretty unsuccessful run in the NFL, Chip Kelly finally made his way back to the college football realm, taking over the reins at UCLA in 2018. To say his second stint in the Pac-12 has not gone the way he would have hoped would be an understatement. I will give him the benefit of the doubt for last season as he inherited a Bruins team that had been all but decimated by Jim Mora Jr. 


Going 3-9 in his first year back in college football is excusable to some extent, but the 2-5 start they have right now is not at all. He has had over a year to work with his team and get the right staff in place and it seems Kelly will not be able to replicate the magic he had with the Oregon Ducks during the BCS era.


UCLA has five games left and their opponents are going to be favored in possibly every game. If things go the way sportsbooks would believe they are, UCLA would have double-digit losses, a feat that has not happened since the team went 0-11 in 1977. Chip Kelly needs to do something quickly if he wants to keep his job in Los Angeles. 


Chad Morris, Arkansas


While all these other coaches still have a chance to save their jobs, Chad Morris at Arkansas might just be waiting for his pink slip to come at this point. It is sad to think that Morris could be out of a job with the Razorbacks after just two years with the team, especially considering he built the SMU Mustangs into a contender in the AAC. (SMU is currently 7-0 in their second season after Morris left for Arkansas)


However, you can’t go 2-10 in the SEC and expect to keep a job. You also cannot do what the Razorbacks have done the last two years and expect to even survive two seasons. In 2018, Arkansas lost to Colorado State and North Texas, both low-tier Group of Five teams. So far in 2019, the team has lost to San Jose State, arguably the worst team in FBS, and just barely pulled out a win over the Portland State Vikings, a FCS team, Week 1. 


Of their last five games, the Razorbacks must play at Alabama, against Mississippi State and Western Kentucky, at LSU and against Missouri. Realistically, the Razorbacks might only be favored to win one of those games, but there is a good chance the Hilltoppers could win that game. Sorry Arkansas, it seems like you could be looking for a new coach sooner rather than later. 


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