|ESPN.com: NCF Nation||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
If Clemson somehow manages to trip over itself en route to the program's best chance at the ACC title since 1991, there's a very good chance Tigers fans will feel like tossing themselves down the Hill in frustration instead of running down it like a champ.
But odds are Tommy Bowden, regardless of what happens, will still be king of it because of his latest contract extension.
The hot seat is the one that has finally been removed in the ACC's game of musical coaching chairs, and stability has replaced turnover -- at least for 2008.
The turmoil came in 2006 when North Carolina coach John Bunting was fired before the season was over, Miami's Larry Coker was fired at the end, Tom O'Brien left NC State and Jeff Jagodzinski replaced him. Last season, Georgia Tech fired Chan Gailey.
Some coaches will be scrutinized more than others this season -- including both Bowdens -- but not to the point where they should have to worry about finding a "For Sale" sign in their front yards. It's not like a contract extension equals guaranteed job security, but Tommy Bowden has come right out and said the bull's-eye is on his players this year, not him. And it would have to be an absolute miserable season for Bobby Bowden to leave after this year, and there is too much talent on his roster for that.
There is margin for error at Miami, where Randy Shannon is still trying to build the program his way and with his players, but another season with just two conference wins won't fly for long at the U.
Just having David Cutcliffe in Durham is an improvement, and any reasonable person would give him at least four years to make a difference there.
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has had three losing seasons in the past four years, but he's also been to bowl games five times in seven seasons and raised the expectations of the program. Part of the recent slump can be attributed to Friedgen assuming the dual role of offensive coordinator and head coach the past two seasons, which turned out to be too much last year. Prior to that, the play-calling was too conservative under former coordinator Charlie Taaffe. The Terps should see improvement with James Franklin calling the plays this year.
The only other coach who might not be getting any love letters from fans this year would be Virginia's Al Groh. Some were questioning the length of his stay in Charlottesville just a week ago when two more of his players got into trouble. But Groh, the ACC's 2007 Coach of the Year, is coming off a 9-4 season and has a defense that should win him a few more this year.
Who has the most to lose this season? Clemson fans, not their coach.