As the 2018 season approaches, we thought we would get an early read on the Power 5 coaches that will begin the year on the hot seat. We’re fielding a short MaxDiff survey ranking the coaches below in terms of most to least likely to lose their jobs during the upcoming season. You can click here to take the survey. If you are unfamiliar with any of the coaches in the survey, feel free to read the short description below describing why each coach is on the hot seat.
David Beaty Kansas
- Tenure: 3 Seasons (2015 – 17)
- Kansas Record: 3 – 33
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: While no one was expecting Beaty to immediately right the ship in Lawrence, there has been zero progress in his three seasons at the helm. Everyone knows this is Kansas, but a 1 – 26 conference record isn’t going to cut it in any Power 5 head coaching position. The highlight of Beaty’s tenure has been that single conference win: a thrilling win over Texas in Austin.
Kliff Kingsbury Texas Tech
- Tenure: 5 Seasons (2013 – 17)
- Texas Tech Record: 30 – 33
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: Since taking over the helm in Lubbock, things have not gone fully as planned for Kliff Kingsbury. In 2013, he started his tenure with an 8-5 season. Since then, things have improved little, with Kingsbury racking up a paltry 16 – 29 Big 12 record. Laughably poor defensive play has almost become part of the Texas Tech identity, which has left some in Lubbock questioning the direction of the program under Kingsbury. The Red Raiders did improve some last season (at least on the defensive side of the ball), but if that progress does not continue into 2018, things may look grim for Kingsbury.
Lovie Smith Illinois
- Tenure: 2 Seasons (2016 – 2017)
- Illinois Record: 5 – 19
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: NFL veteran coach Lovie Smith was a curious hire to revitalize the Illini football program. However, we’re two seasons in now, and the experiment does not seem to be succeeding. Last year’s squad finished winless in Big 10 play, and Illinois was not even competitive in most of those games. Furthermore, Illinois has problems on both sides of the ball; in 2017 Illinois averaged only 15.4 points per game while giving up an average of 31.5 points per game.
Ed Orgeron LSU
- Tenure: 1.5 Seasons – (Took over midway 2016, All of 2017)
- LSU Record: 15 – 6
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: There were some dramatic highs and lows in Coach O’s first full season at the helm of Louisiana’s premier college football team. The high: a shocking comeback for the ages in which LSU scored 20 unanswered points to knock off division foe Auburn. The low: a humiliating loss to the Sunbelt’s Troy. At home. On Homecoming. The Tigers did, however, finish the season with a respectable 9 – 4 record. Coach O is in a tough position. The LSU fanbase has notoriously high standards, and the Tigers play in the toughest division in college football. Their 2018 schedule looks to be exceptionally difficult.
Kalani Sitake BYU
- Tenure: 2 Seasons (2016 – 17)
- BYU Record: 13 – 13
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: Following a good start with a 9 – 4 record in 2016, the BYU Cougars took a nosedive last season, regressing to 4 – 9 due to one of the most impotent offenses in all of Power 5. It also does not help matters for Sitake that successful Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo (a practicing Mormon) has shown interest in the BYU job going back to 2015.
Jim Harbaugh Michigan
- Tenure: 3 Seasons (2015 – 2017)
- Michigan Record: 28 – 11
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: It’s difficult to put Harbaugh on this list because he won’t be fired this year unless something completely unforeseen happens. Still, he earns a spot here for two reasons: his record versus Ohio State and his record versus Michigan State. The patience of many in Ann Arbor will continue to wane if those don’t improve in the next few seasons.
Larry Fedora UNC
- Tenure: 6 Seasons (2012 – 17)
- UNC Record: 43 – 34
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: In 2015, UNC had one of the best seasons in school history. Back then, they were one bad call away from defeating Clemson for the ACC Championship. Since then, however, it has been all down hill. The Tarheels took a step back in 2016, finishing 8 – 5, but had one of the more talented rosters in recent memory at UNC. The 2017 season was a true disaster. The Tarheels finished 3 – 9 overall with a 1 – 7 record in ACC play, firmly placing Fedora on the hot seat for 2018.
Dana Holgerson West Virginia
- Tenure: 7 Seasons (2011 – 17)
- WVU Record: 53 – 37
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: When I hear Mountaineer fans give their opinions on Dana Holgerson, it reminds me of UGA fans’ opinions on Mark Richt around 2014 – 2015. There is a consensus that he’s a good coach, but there are doubts that he’s the great coach capable of taking the program to the next level. Last season, WVU’s best player, quarterback Will Grier, went down with injury in the Mountaineers final home game of the season. WVU never recovered after the loss of Grier, as the Mountaineers were blown out by Oklahoma in the final game of the regular season and were then humiliated in the Heart of Dallas Bowl 30 – 14 by Utah to finish the season with a 7 – 6 record. The Mountaineers will have plenty of opportunity to improve on 2017’s mediocre record due to the return of Grier and All-American receiver David Sills V. If we see another lackluster season in 2018, Holgerson will start 2019 on the hot seat if the Mountaineers don’t decide to go in a new direction even sooner.
Barry Odom Missouri
- Tenure: 2 Seasons (2016 – 17)
- Missouri Record: 11 – 14
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: Last season, the Missouri Tigers started 1 – 5, but rallied back with a six game winning streak to become bowl eligible, sitting at a 7 – 5 record before losing to Texas in its bowl game. This six game win streak resulted in Odom receiving a two year contract extension, which was somewhat surprising considering his lack of sustained success in his two seasons at Mizzou. The two year extension gives Odom and his staff a little more wiggle room for 2018, but if the Tigers take a nose dive like they did at the beginning of last season, expect for there to be calls to relieve Odom.
Chris Ash Rutgers
- Tenure: 2 Seasons (2016 – 17)
- Rutgers Record: 6 – 18
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: After going 2 – 10 and winless in Big 10 play in 2016, Rutgers improved last season to 4 – 8, with three conference victories over Big 10 foes Illinois, Purdue, and Maryland. Rutgers has always been a tough place to win football games. It doesn’t look like it will get any easier for the Scarlet Knights in 2018, as Rutgers faces a murderer’s row of Big 10 opponents in Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State. That’s a brutal stretch for any program.
Bobby Petrino Louisville
- Tenure: 8 Seasons (2003 – 2006, 2014 – 17)
- Louisville Record: 75 – 27
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: Petrino’s first tenure at UL was wildly successful leading to Petrino’s hiring by Arkansas. Following Petrino’s firing from that program for an inappropriate extramarital affair with a school employee, Louisville brought Petrino back for a second tenure. Petrino’s second tenure at Louisville has been somewhat less successful than his first, as the Cardinals have posted better than 5 – 3 in conference play only once in four seasons. Taking that into account with the multitude of off-field issues at Louisville puts Petrino on the hot seat for 2018.
Gus Malzahn Auburn
- Tenure: 5 Seasons (2013 – 17)
- Auburn Record: 45 – 22
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: 2017 was an up and down season for the Auburn Tigers. They opened up with a loss to eventual ACC Champion Clemson, and also dropped a disappointing loss to LSU before rallying to achieve wins over eventual National Runner-up Georgia and eventual National Champion Alabama. This put Auburn one game away from becoming the first two-loss team to make The Playoff. Things went downhill from there as the Tigers eventually lost their rematch with UGA in the SEC Championship Game and were then humbled by UCF in the Peach Bowl in a 34 – 27 loss. No one is ever safe in the Auburn head coaching position. Remember when Gene Chizik was fired less than two seasons removed from a national championship? Paradoxically, it seems like the Tigers are always in Playoff contention, yet Malzahn is always on the hot seat. Their opener versus Washington, which many are speculating may end up being a knock out game for The Playoff, is a make or break game for Malzahn in 2018.
Matt Rhule Baylor
- Tenure: 1 Season (2017)
- Baylor Record: 1 – 11
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: Matt Rhule was in a very tough spot when he took over the helm for the Baylor Bears. Still, posting a 1 – 11 record, featuring a humiliating home loss to the FCS’s Liberty is going to put any Power 5 coach on the hot seat moving forward.
Derek Mason Vanderbilt
- Tenure: 4 Seasons (2014 – 17)
- Vanderbilt Record: 18 – 31
- Why he’s on the Hot Seat: The Vanderbilt job is another tough position on this list. Balancing the requirements for an elite academic institution with the demands of playing in arguably the toughest conference in college football is no easy task. In four seasons, Mason has accumulated an 18 – 31 record with a paltry 6 – 16 SEC record. What’s troubling for Mason is that there is little precedent for an SEC coach having five losing seasons and keeping his job. So it looks like Mason needs to post at least a 6 – 6 regular season record and make it to a bowl game for him to keep his job.
Click here to take the MaxDiff survey, in which you will rank the coaches above in terms of most to least likely to lose their job in the 2018 season!