Thursday, July 12, 2012
Pac-12 veteran coaches in danger in 2012
By Ted Miller
The longest-tenured coaches in the Pac-12 are on the hottest seats in 2012.
ESPN.com's coaching package continues today with a look at veteran coaches, and that's not necessarily a good -- or popular -- thing in the Pac-12.
While it might be a stretch to say California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley are facing "win-or-else" seasons, it wouldn't be ridiculous to say so, either. For one, Bears and Beavers fans saw four coaches get the can this season, and some big names were hired. And big contracts signed. There's a sense of transitioning up in the Pac-12, and with that comes a worry about getting left behind.
Tedford and Riley both took over programs that were mired in losing, and both built winners. But things have stalled of late. Memories aren't too long or terribly forgiving among fan bases these days.
Tedford, who enters his 11th season in Berkeley with a 79-48 record, was one of the hottest coaches in the nation in 2006 after posting his second 10-win season. He could have bolted for the Chicago Bears if he wanted. But Cal is just 21-24 in conference play since 2007. Bears fans quickly got used to winning, and seven or eight victories no longer impress them. A 12-13 record over the past two seasons particularly doesn't.
With a newly remodeled Memorial Stadium and substantially updated facilities, Tedford has finally received upgrades that he was promised when he was first hired in 2002. Some might say that it's impressive that he's won as much as he has with such dilapidated facilities. They could further point out that Tedford filled up Memorial Stadium with paying customers, thereby making facilities upgrades possible.
But others only see the recent struggles and the growing fortunes of Oregon and -- eeek! -- Stanford. Those folks are losing patience.
As for Riley, he enters his 12th season in Corvallis -- a tenure wrapped around an unhappy three years leading the San Diego Chargers -- with a 72-63 record and a .533 winning percentage. Just two seasons ago, he was the toast of the town. USC tried to lure him away before hiring Lane Kiffin. But after two losing seasons, some fans see not only a downturn, they also are no longer that impressed with the previous winning, writing it off as a misplaced satisfaction with only fair-to-middling results. And Riley's folksy charm no longer seems to hold much sway with his critics.
It doesn't help that Oregon has pushed into the nation's elite over the past three seasons. A rivalry that had been trending even is now owned by the Ducks.
It doesn't seem to matter to Riley's critics that the Beavers' all-time winning percentage is .481, which ranks 98th among FBS teams. They see that as the dusty past. And, again, if Oregon can do it, the Beavers believe they can, too.
After Tedford and Riley, only one other coach has been with his team five or more years: Utah's Kyle Whittingham. He's 66-25 in seven seasons, but, of course, six of those were in the Mountain West. He's about as secure and respected as a coach can be.
At least for now. They used to say that about Riley and Tedford.