Commentary

Which coaches have the hottest seats?

Originally Published: August 11, 2011
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Nearly two dozen NCAA FBS schools made coaching changes after the 2010 season.

There are new coaches at Miami (Florida) and Miami (Ohio).

Pittsburgh fired Dave Wannstedt and Michael Haywood, and West Virginia made coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen wait about six months.

Ohio State's Jim Tressel was forced to resign in late May; the Mountaineers fired coach Bill Stewart in June; and North Carolina fired Butch Davis about two weeks ago.

Which coaches enter the 2011 season on the hot seat?

The list may include more than you think:

Scorching

[+] EnlargePaul Wulff
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireWashington State coach Paul Wulff has won two conference games in three seasons.
1. Paul Wulff, Washington State
The Cougars went 5-32 in Wulff's first three seasons, including a dismal 2-25 record against Pac-10 foes. Washington State is picked to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12 North in 2011, but Wulff feels that momentum is finally building in his program. The Cougars open the season against FCS foe Idaho State and UNLV at home. Wulff could really use a fast start to build some job security.

2. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
If New Mexico's athletics department weren't struggling financially, Locksley might have been out of a job after the 2010 season. His teams went 2-22 in his first two seasons, and his tenure has been marred by off-the-field problems, including an incident in which he allegedly punched an assistant. The school also settled with a former secretary who claimed she was sexually harassed and discriminated against because of her age. UNM renegotiated Locksley's contract during the offseason, decreasing his buyout to around $450,000 if he's fired.

3. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
The Bruins hoped USC's NCAA probation would give them a leg up in L.A. Instead, the Bruins limped to a 15-22 record in Neuheisel's first three seasons coaching his alma mater. He brought in five new assistants, including two coordinators, during the offseason. It might be a last-ditch effort to save his job.

4. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
The Aggies won only five games in Walker's first two seasons, but at least they weren't as bad as rival New Mexico. New Mexico State beat the Lobos in each of the past two seasons, which probably gives Walker a little more job security than Locksley. The Aggies bring back eight starters on defense and nine on offense. Walker's team needs to start showing improvement.

5. Bob Toledo, Tulane
Toledo kept his job after Tulane president Scott Cowen and athletic director Rick Dickson completed an intense performance review of the football program in December. Toledo, who has a 13-35 record in four seasons, was given a one-year contract extension and school option for 2013. The Green Wave have had only two winning seasons since 2000, but a 7-6 finish against a soft schedule might be the minimum standard for Toledo to return for a sixth season in 2012.

Hot

1. Steve Fairchild, Colorado State
After back-to-back 3-9 seasons, Fairchild might need to lead his alma mater to a bowl game in 2011 to feel safe about his job. He led the Rams to a bowl game in his first season as a head coach in 2008, but little has gone right for the program since. Fairchild, a former NFL offensive coordinator, plans to spend more time working with the defense this season. The Rams' early-season schedule is soft -- against New Mexico, FCS foe Northern Colorado, Colorado, Utah State and San Jose State -- so they have a chance to build equity.

2. Mike Price, UTEP
The Miners lost six of their last seven games in 2010, including a 52-24 loss to BYU in the New Mexico Bowl. Price has a 40-45 record in seven seasons at UTEP, and his teams haven't won more than six games in each of the past five seasons. His contract at UTEP runs through 2012, but lagging attendance -- the Miners' average home attendance was 29,350 in 2010, a 38.7 percent drop from 2005 -- has sounded alarms.

3. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
Since a 10-3 finish in 2007, very little has gone right for Erickson at Arizona State. His last three teams combined to win only 15 games, including a 6-6 finish in 2010. The Sun Devils head into the 2011 season with 20 returning starters and 30 seniors, making them a popular favorite in the Pac-12 South. If Erickson doesn't deliver a winner this season, he might not get another chance to do it.

4. Neil Callaway, UAB
Callaway has taken one of the country's worst programs and at least made the Blazers competitive while compiling a 15-33 record in four seasons. UAB had chances to upset Tennessee and Mississippi State last season and defeated Southern Miss, 50-49, in overtime on the road. The Blazers lost four games by five points or fewer and finished 4-8. Callaway hired former Clemson and Memphis coach Tommy West to revamp his team's defense this coming season.

[+] EnlargeDanny Hope
AP Photo/Al GoldisPurdue coach Danny Hope was forced to use a patchwork lineup because of injuries last season.

5. Danny Hope, Purdue
Hope was former Purdue coach Joe Tiller's handpicked successor, but Hope hasn't come close to matching his predecessor's success. Tiller guided the Boilermakers to 10 bowl games in 12 seasons, but Hope has failed to produce a winning record in his first two seasons. Hope has a 9-15 record in two years, after Purdue lost its last six games to finish 4-8 in 2010.

6. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
English inherited perhaps the worst program in the country two years ago; the Eagles have won 10 games the past five seasons combined. English has a 2-22 record in two years, going 0-12 in 2009 and 2-10 in 2010. With seven starters coming back on both offense and defense, EMU needs to start showing some progress. The Eagles will have a good chance to surpass last year's win total after opening the season against FCS foes Howard and Alabama State.

7. Larry Porter, Memphis
It's hard to imagine a coach being on the hot seat after only one season, but the Tigers were dreadful in Porter's first season in 2010. Memphis ranked No. 119 in points scored (14.4 per game) and No. 117 in points allowed (39.8). Porter revamped his offensive coaching staff during the offseason and installed a spread offense. At least four projected starters transferred to other schools.

8. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
Nutt's tenure at Ole Miss has been kind of like drinking a cheap beer. The first couple of sips weren't bad, but then the beer tasted pretty flat. After Nutt guided the Rebels to nine wins and the Cotton Bowl in each of his first two seasons, they fell to 4-8 in 2010. Nutt's best safety net: his contract, which runs through the 2012 season. The school would owe him $5 million if he's fired without cause with two years left in the deal.

9. Mark Richt, Georgia
Few coaches have accomplished more at the start of their coaching careers. In 10 seasons at UGA, Richt has guided the Bulldogs to two SEC championships and three SEC East titles, and his 96-34 record is fourth-best among active coaches. Richt is one of only seven coaches in NCAA history to win 80 games in his first eight seasons and 90 in his first nine. But UGA lost momentum with a 14-12 record in the past two seasons. Richt needs a good year to quiet his critics, but his job is probably safe for now. The school would owe him at least $4.5 million if he's fired after the 2011 season.

10. David Bailiff, Rice
Since leading the Owls to a 10-3 record and their first bowl victory in 54 years in 2008, Bailiff's teams have won six games since. Injuries derailed Rice's season in 2010, but patience is beginning to wear thin in Houston. Bailiff has a five-year contract that runs through 2013, so he doesn't seem to be in immediate danger.

Warm

1. Gary Andersen, Utah State
The Aggies were another team that was undone by injuries in 2010. But after an 8-16 record in two seasons, Andersen's team needs to start showing marked improvement. A former defensive coordinator at Utah, Andersen will take over the Aggies' defensive play calling this season and installed a 3-4 scheme.

2. Ron Zook, Illinois
Is Zook never on the hot seat? He saved his job after the Illini went 7-6 and defeated Baylor 38-14 in the Texas Bowl, their first bowl victory in 12 years. But with a new chancellor and athletic director coming to Illinois, can a coach with a 28-45 record in six seasons really feel safe?

3. Jeff Tedford, California
Tedford's resurrection of the Cal program still ranks among the best rebuilding jobs in recent college football history. Last season's 5-7, in which the Bears scored 14 points or fewer in six of seven losses, was ugly. The Bears missed a bowl game for the first time in eight seasons. Tedford hired four new coaches to improve what had become a pretty stale offense.

4. Lane Kiffin, USC
Kiffin's first USC team went 8-5, dropping his record as a head coach to 15-11 in two seasons. He wasn't hired by current athletic director Pat Haden, so another poor season or two might put Kiffin in danger. The NCAA's investigation of his tenure at Tennessee certainly didn't help him.

5. Joe Paterno, Penn State
The Nittany Lions' iconic coach is undoubtedly going to retire when he wants. Paterno, 84, reached the 400-win plateau last season and will retire as the winningest FBS coach in history. But another 7-6 finish will put more pressure on the PSU administration to force him out.

Lukewarm

[+] EnlargeBobby Hauck
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesIt's still early in Bobby Hauck's UNLV tenure, but some wins would help ease any concern.
1. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Hauck lost only 17 games in seven seasons as coach at FCS power Montana. He lost 11 games in his first season at UNLV, which is more of an indictment of Mike Sanford, the Rebels' former coach. The Rebels played 14 true freshmen last season, and they will be one of the most youthful teams in the country this year.

2. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
Clawson's first Bowling Green team went 7-6 and played in a bowl game in 2009. His second team went 2-10. But there's little panic at Bowling Green because the Falcons were so young last season. Still, Clawson's teams need to start winning games again.

3. Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Schiano gets a pass for last season's 4-8 finish, after Rutgers player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle against Army. The Scarlet Knights never recovered emotionally and lost their last six games. But Schiano's program was losing momentum before the tragedy, and he needs to get it back quickly.

4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Swinney is only two seasons removed from leading the Tigers to an ACC championship game, but his 19-15 record in two-plus seasons leaves something to be desired. The Tigers went 6-7 last season, their first losing campaign since 1999. They also lost to rival South Carolina in consecutive seasons for the first time in 40 years. Another bad season -- or even another loss to USC -- might put Swinney firmly on the hot seat.

5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Holgorsen hasn't yet coached a game, but given the resistance he faced while working as former coach Bill Stewart's offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting this spring and summer, anything seems possible at West Virginia.

6. Chip Kelly, Oregon
Kelly has guided the Ducks to a 22-4 record in two seasons and a 22-19 loss to Auburn in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. But an ongoing NCAA investigation into the Ducks' recruiting practices has at least raised questions at Oregon.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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