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Wednesday, August 6, 2008
It's a make-or-break season for a handful of coaches

By Mark Schlabach

Over the past two seasons, more than one-third of the 119 teams in Division I-A football changed coaches.

Traditional powers such as Michigan, Nebraska and Texas A&M have new bosses this season. And you might have heard that West Virginia has a new coach.

Heading into the 2008 season, more than a few coaches need good results to keep their jobs.

Here's a closer look at coaches under fire heading into the 2008 season:


Brent Guy, Utah State
Brent Guy
Brent Guy hasn't improved one of the nation's worst teams in Utah State.
Guy inherited the worst program in Division I-A football and hasn't made it much better. The Aggies were 6-29 in his first three seasons, including a 5-19 record in WAC play. They open the season with road games at UNLV and Oregon, and host Utah and BYU early in the season. At least Utah State has momentum after closing 2007 with victories over New Mexico State and Idaho.

Greg Robinson, Syracuse
The former NFL and Texas defensive coordinator has won only 20 percent of his games (7-28) in three seasons at Syracuse. Talk about taking the air out of the Carrier Dome. With quarterback Andrew Robinson coming back and running backs Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley returning from injuries, there's actually hope in Syracuse. The Orange really need to win their first two games -- at Northwestern on Aug. 30 and home against Akron on Sept. 6 -- or things could get ugly quickly.

Mike Sanford, UNLV
Sanford has struggled to get the Rebels out of the Mountain West cellar. UNLV hasn't played in a bowl game since 2000, and its postseason prospects don't look good in 2008. Sanford has a 6-29 record in three seasons, including a woeful 2-10 mark in 2007. The Rebels open the season against Utah State, but then play consecutive road games at Utah and Arizona State. The season might be over before it really begins.

Mike Stoops, Arizona
Stoops suggested rival Arizona State's admissions standards were like those at a junior college. Stoops' football team has played at a juco level since he arrived. If Stoops is going to return to Tucson for a fifth season, there will have to be improvement across the board. With a 17-29 record in four seasons, Stoops probably needs to lead Arizona to a bowl game to keep his job. For the first time during his tenure, the offense might be ahead of the defense. Only three starters are back on defense, which isn't a good thing in the Pac-10.

Tyrone Willingham, Washington
The Huskies seemed ready to fire the former Notre Dame coach after a 4-9 record in 2007. Willingham must produce in his fourth season -- and a 6-6 record might not be good enough to save his job. Quarterback Jake Locker leads a talented offense, but Washington's defense must improve drastically. With a schedule that includes nonconference games against BYU, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, the Huskies -- and Willingham -- face an uphill climb.


Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Kirk Ferentz
Once a golden boy bound for the NFL, Kirk Ferentz hasn't more than seven games in three seasons.
Ferentz was once considered a future NFL head coach, but his Iowa program has sputtered in the past few seasons. Worse, an ugly off-field incident has drawn the attention of the school's board of trustees. The Hawkeyes went 6-6 in 2007 and have serious concerns on offense heading into 2008. Iowa's schedule gives it a chance for a fast start -- it opens the season against Division I-AA Maine, Florida International and Iowa State.

Joe Glenn, Wyoming
Glenn has a somewhat respectable 26-33 record in five seasons at Wyoming, but late collapses soiled each of the past two seasons. He hired Bob Cole to revamp a sputtering offense that finished last in total offense (322.8) in the Mountain West in 2007. The Cowboys also turned the ball over 31 times last season. Cole will rely heavily on the running game in an attempt to cut down on turnovers and mistakes.

Chuck Long, San Diego State
Remember when Marshall Faulk was leading San Diego State to big wins? It seems like decades ago. Long has a 7-17 record in two seasons, which probably isn't a fair window to judge his talents as a head coach. But the Aztecs were 4-8 in 2007 and three of their players were selected in the NFL draft. The Aztecs continue to supply talented players to the NFL draft, but they're the only Mountain West team that hasn't played in a bowl game since the league was formed.

Hal Mumme, New Mexico State
The Aggies have broken dozens of school records during Mumme's three seasons, but his record is only 8-29. With quarterback Chase Holbrook and receivers Chris Williams and A.J. Harris coming back for their senior seasons, this might be a make-it-or-break-it year for Mumme. New Mexico State hasn't played in a bowl game in 47 seasons. The offense is good enough to lead the Aggies to the postseason. Will the defense do its part?

Mike Price, UTEP
Price was considered a miracle worker at UTEP after he led the Miners to bowl games in each of his first two seasons. But consecutive losing seasons have turned up the heat on him. UTEP went 4-8 in 2007, and its defense struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone. Former New Mexico defensive coordinator Osia Lewis was hired to fix the problem, and he hopes a 3-3-5 scheme will make his defense more effective.

Ron Prince, Kansas State
Prince ended the Wildcats' two-year bowl drought in his first season as a head coach in 2006, leading them to a 7-6 record and an appearance in the Texas Bowl. But Kansas State slipped to 5-7 in 2007 and finished the season with a four-game losing streak. In February Prince signed 19 juco transfers, which seemed like a sign of desperation. The Wildcats play four of their first six Big 12 games on the road.


Tom Amstutz, Toledo
Toledo Tom's 55-32 record in seven seasons keeps him out of serious trouble, but the Rockets need to improve after consecutive 5-7 seasons. It's hard to find a more popular figure in the Glass City than Amstutz, who has lived in Toledo his entire life and coached at his alma mater for more than 25 seasons. But after winning the MAC West four times in his first five seasons, Amstutz needs to prove he hasn't lost his grip on the program.

Doug Martin, Kent State
The Golden Flashes might be talented enough to go from worst to first in the MAC East. Kent State brings back quarterback Julian Edelman and tailback Eugene Jarvis, the top returning rusher in the country. But the Golden Flashes allowed nearly 30 points per game last season, a big reason why they closed 2007 with a seven-game losing streak. If the defense doesn't improve, Martin might face more pressure. He has a 15-31 record in four seasons.

Ralph Friedgen, Maryland
Fans are getting restless after the Terrapins finished with a losing record for the third time in four seasons. Friedgen was Maryland's favorite son after he guided his alma mater to an ACC championship in 2001 and 31 victories in his first three seasons. But the Terps have won more than six games only once in the past four seasons, and the offense, which is Friedgen's specialty, has looked rather mediocre.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for You can contact him at