As Christmas shoppers around the country prepared for Cyber Monday, a few football programs decided to go shopping for a new football coach. Sunday alone, Illinois, Kansas, UAB and Memphis dumped their coaches and entered what is suddenly a bustling sellers' market. Mike Leach can only take one job, people!
Let's take a look at the programs that are hiring (or could be soon), along with some general program strength numbers.
(Some notes: Five-Year F/+ Avg was culled from the 2007-11 season using last week's not-yet-updated F/+ ratings as the current 2011 rating, and the stadium capacity figures below were borrowed from the great College Football Reference site.)
Five-Year F/+ Avg: +5.1% (43rd)
Five-Year Record: 30-32
All-Time Record: 569-533-49
Five-Year Attendance Average: 55,972 (Capacity: 60,600)
Illinois just couldn't sustain any momentum with Ron Zook; in a last-ditch effort to save his job in 2010, he brought in a boatload of new assistant coaches, and it worked -- the Illini went 7-6 and won the Texas Bowl, and Zook stayed in Champaign for 2011. A 6-0 start to 2011, however, crumbled to 6-6, and Illinois officially dumped the Zookster yesterday. Among other things, fading attendance (from an average of 61,707 in 2008 to 49,548 in 2011) was cited as a major factor.
Zook's relative recruiting success has made Illinois' foundation relatively interesting. The Illini have the best five-year F/+ average of any team currently in the market for a new coach, and they have a young quarterback, a feisty defense and Big Ten Network money around which to build. They are in good position to make a strong hire, though no new hire is a guaranteed success.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: +2.9% (49th)
Five-Year Record: 27-35
All-Time Record: 591-467-34
Five-Year Attendance Average: 54,172 (Capacity: 60,580)
This job has been open for a while. Though it may be difficult to remember at this exact moment, with Ole Miss' poor (to say the least) level of play in 2011, it wasn't that long ago that the Rebels were winning nine games and gaining buzz as a darkhorse national title contender. The foundation here is not barren and it appears a relatively well-defined (and semi-predictable) candidates list has emerged, including Sun Belt leaders Mark Hudspeth (UL-Lafayette) and Hugh Freeze (Arkansas State), Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora and Alabama assistant Kirby Smart (someone who seemingly gets mentioned for every job opening in the South every year). (Gus Malzahn, the offensive version of Kirby Smart, is evidently being seriously considered as well.) It will take quite a bit of ambition to turn around an Ole Miss program stuck in the toughest division in college football.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -4.8% (76th)
Five-Year Record: 30-32
All-Time Record: 514-545-54
Five-Year Attendance Average: 47,081 (Capacity: 50,071)
Like Ole Miss, Kansas's five-year numbers are propped up by less-recent seasons. The Jayhawks were great in 2007, good in 2008 and decent in 2009. Unfortunately, that has very little to do with the current product on the field. KU looks to finish worse than 110th for the second consecutive year in the F/+ ratings, and that might be a hindrance in their job search with so many other similar programs looking for new coaches. It hasn't taken long for Mike Leach to emerge as a popular candidate -- more popular than he knows, actually -- but if Kansas does go after him (which would be at least a bit awkward since Kansas' Mark Mangino was fired for similar conduct issues to the ones that got Leach fired), they will have competition. (And yes, we're going to ignore that the Lawrence Journal-World listed Boise State's Chris Petersen as an option. He is not.)
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -13.8% (104th)
Five-Year Record: 18-42
All-Time Record: 75-109
Five-Year Attendance Average: 17,737 (Capacity: 71,594)
Neil Callaway "resigned" this weekend after his Blazers showed little to no progress (and a 10 percent drop in attendance) in his fifth season in Birmingham. UAB is a program that plays for sparse crowds in a cavernous Legion Field and has been to one bowl in its 16-year FBS history. They will almost certainly have to go the "hire a young BCS conference assistant" route and hope for the best.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -14.5% (107th)
Five-Year Record: 25-36
All-Time Record: 41-55
Five-Year Attendance Average: 15,876 (Capacity: 20,450)
FAU has known for a while that Howard Schnellenberger would be retiring at the end of this season (which is good, because otherwise they'd have faced the awkward task of potentially having to fire the only coach they've ever had after an 0-10 start). They have a new stadium and obviously play in a fertile recruiting area, and they could be able to land a semi-exciting young assistant like, apparently, Houston offensive coordinator Jason Phillilps. This is an interesting job, even if the team itself is beyond poor at the moment.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -17.6% (114th)
Five-Year Record: 18-44
All-Time Record: 262-299-8
Five-Year Attendance Average: 24,893 (Capacity: 62,380)
Memphis has learned what happens when you enter Glen Mason Territory. Coach Tommy West led the Tigers to five bowls in six seasons but was dumped after a 6-7 campaign in 2009. They hired a young, up-and-comer (Larry Porter) to replace him and rejuvenate the program ... and the Tigers went 3-21 over the next two years. Now, instead of a middling program, they have a complete-and-total rebuilding job on their hands. There is no good solution when entering Glen Mason Territory, and Memphis has learned this lesson the hard way. As for Porter's replacement, a certain Right Reverend Nutt's name has been mentioned (via), and honestly, that would make some sense. If anyone has ties to the area, it is Houston Nutt, and he is still a more proven commodity than just about any other candidate.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -17.6% (115th)
Five-Year Record: 14-46
All-Time Record: 115-178-3
Five-Year Attendance Average: 14,724 (Capacity: 30,000)
There were quite a few awful hires made two years ago, huh? Turner Gill, Porter and Akron's Rob Ianello were all let go after just 24 games. Akron has upgraded its facilities in recent years, but the upgrades have not translated to anything resembling on-field quality. They could aim high with this hire, however, and there is a pretty interesting young coach in Columbus who will apparently be in the market for a head coaching job soon: Luke Fickell. Fickell did his best in a season as interim coach at Ohio State, but with Urban Meyer possibly set to take the reins, Fickell could be available.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -18.5% (119th)
Five-Year Record: 15-45
All-Time Record: 471-568-35
Five-Year Attendance Average: 23,391 (Capacity: 69,703)
Like UAB and Memphis, Tulane plays in a huge stadium that really isn't their own. Their attendance has been a hair better than a lot of the terrible teams on this list, but you can't tell in a two-thirds empty Superdome. An on-campus stadium has been a hot topic for decades, and it might be a requirement to make this job attractive. There are so many similar jobs open in the South right now, and Tulane will have to either hope that they hit the jackpot on a young assistant, or that quite a few teams pass on Mike Leach.
Will Probably Be Hiring Soon
Five-Year F/+ Avg: +15.0% (12th)
Five-Year Record: 47-17
All-Time Record: 805-352-37
Five-Year Attendance Average: 105,968 (Capacity: 107,282)
Assuming Tom Bradley is not retained in his interim position, Penn State could instantly become the most successful, biggest program on the "Now Hiring" list (assuming Ohio State makes its hire soon). This is a really strange situation in that a) the program has all the money and history in the world to make a huge hire, and b) the Jerry Sandusky scandal is going to scare away a lot of strong candidates. I have no idea what to think about this one.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: +7.3% (35th)
Five-Year Record: 35-28
All-Time Record: 602-470-48
Five-Year Attendance Average: 57,065 (Capacity: 60,000)
Depending on who you trust, either Gus Malzahn (Bruce Feldman) or Skip Holtz (Charles Robinson) is emerging as a serious candidate to fill the slot that will open when interim coach Everett Withers is almost certainly not retained.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: +4.4% (44th)
Five-Year Record: 31-30
All-Time Record: 515-312-18
Five-Year Attendance Average: 56,444 (Capacity: 71,706)
Attendance shrank from 63,387 per game in 2008 to 47,943 in 2010, but something almost worse has happened to Dennis Erickson in 2011: people started paying attention again. Attendance jumped to 59,007 in anticipation of a great season, and a late-season fade to 6-6 will likely get him fired. There is a potentially solid foundation here, and this is an attractive job for any number of reasons. Expect Houston's Kevin Sumlin to evidently get a strong look. It will be interesting to see if Mike Leach gets one, too. This is a more attractive job than that of Washington State and Kansas, and if ASU wants Leach, they would probably get him.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -0.7% (62nd)
Five-Year Record: 27-35
All-Time Record: 533-342-31
Five-Year Attendance Average: 66,148 (Capacity: 92,542)
Assuming UCLA doesn't pull an epic upset of Oregon in Eugene in this Saturday's Pac-12 title game, Rick Neuheisel will probably be fired after another mediocre season. Like Arizona State, UCLA could be a very attractive job, but unlike the last two hires, the Bruins might want to think outside of the UCLA box this time (both Neuheisel and predecessor Karl Dorrell are UCLA alums). Sumlin could get a look, though it is possible that they will aim even higher, at a coach like Boise State's Chris Petersen.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -16.0% (110th)
Five-Year Record: 14-47
All-Time Record: 424-480-38
Five-Year Attendance Average: 28,599 (Capacity: 35,117)
It is assumed that Paul Wulff will be fired at some point soon, though it is a bit surprising that it hasn't happened yet. If or when Wulff is let go, expect them to enter the Mike Leach Sweepstakes with all their might.
These programs are not necessarily in the "Soon" stage yet, but it wouldn't be all that surprising if their coach did not survive the next week or two with his job intact.
Five-Year F/+ Avg: +6.2% (40th)
Five-Year Record: 39-27
All-Time Record: 460-342-14
Five-Year Attendance Average: 38,618 (Capacity: 44,500)
Five-Year F/+ Avg: +3.2% (47th)
Five-Year Record: 32-31
All-Time Record: 658-437-44
Five-Year Attendance Average: 82,123 (Capacity: 83,002)
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -10.1% (94th)
Five-Year Record: 24-37
All-Time Record: 303-480-18
Five-Year Attendance Average: 31,744 (Capacity: 52,000)
Five-Year F/+ Avg: -11.6% (96th)
Five-Year Record: 28-33
All-Time Record: 69-84
Five-Year Attendance Average: 19,341 (Capacity: 31,000)