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2018 college football coach hiring *and* firing grades, updated

Let’s keep track as the coaching carousel spins or whatever.

Dollar General Bowl - Buffalo v Troy Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Below, brief notes on each FBS head coaching change, along with an INSTA GRADE. The difference: let’s also grade the firing part as well. Why should only hirings get graded? Onward.

Note: I’m not factoring buyouts or salaries here. You’re probably paying him too much to leave/arrive. That’s your boosters’ problem, not mine.


  • Terry Bowden firing grade: C. He led two of Akron’s three bowl trips and only bowl win, and a four-win base line is basically Akron’s historical norm. It sounds like everyone just got tired of things.
  • Tom Arth hiring grade: B-. Really interesting. His 9-13 record at Chattanooga wasn’t much, but he went 40-8 at previously mediocre John Carroll in Division III, where he also played. He’s only 37, but has spent almost all of his life within about an hour of Akron.

Appalachian State

  • Scott Satterfield left for Louisville.
  • Eli Drinkwitz hiring grade: A (be advised I’m handing out lots of As). The NC State OC ran a good group in Raleigh, has a good rep among coaches, and has experience in the state (obviously) and Sun Belt.

Bowling Green

  • Mike Jinks firing grade: A. At some MAC schools, you might as well just stick with whoever you have. But BGSU had won under four straight coaches before its former AD reportedly Googled his way to a poor fit.
  • Scot Loeffler hiring grade: D. He’s only been an OC, so let’s look at his offenses. As he’s coached four different schools, his offenses have ranked Nos. 32, 73, 91, 94, 72, 124, 101, and 95 in opponent-adjusted S&P+. The old joke about the majority of his resume being “was Tom Brady’s position coach at Michigan” seems to still apply.

Central Michigan

  • John Bonamego firing grade: B. CMU wasn’t supposed to be good this year, and he led three solid seasons, but — well — this was the worst season in program history. Considering how hard it is to hire well in the MAC, I think I would’ve given him a chance to prove this was a fluke, but I get it.
  • Jim McElwain hiring grade: B. Hey, you got a two-time recent SEC East champ in the MAC! Nevermind how strangely his Florida tenure ended. Also nevermind how bad the SEC East was. He’s since spent time making connections as a Michigan assistant and has coached at Michigan State before.



  • Mike MacIntyre firing grade: C+. Building 10-win teams at San Jose State and Colorado is hard ... but what’s he done over the last decade if you take out those two years? CU’s good year didn’t feel sustainable, considering how senior-heavy that team was.
  • Mel Tucker hiring grade: B. Well, the Georgia DC led one of college football’s best units for three years and was in demand, being considered for jobs like UNC’s. There’s the question of how his experience will translate to the West, in a state where a former UGA coordinator is struggling at Colorado State. But there’s no particular reason to doubt he can build decent teams.

East Carolina

Georgia Tech



  • David Beaty firing grade: B+. KU improved during the first-time head coach’s four years, but not much. More importantly, things don’t look that much better going forward than they did when he showed up.
  • Les Miles hiring grade: C+ for now, because the expectations matter greatly. Is Miles’ task to stabilize the program and set it up for a young innovator? In a weird way, his beloved gritball might be an underdog tactic in the wide-open Big 12 (see: some of Kansas State’s best recent teams), but he must be willing to evolve his Schembechler-ian tendencies.

Kansas State





North Carolina

Northern Illinois

  • Rod Carey left for Temple.
  • Thomas Hammock hiring grade: C+? Hiring a first-time head coach is risky, but so is being in the MAC! The former NIU RB coached some good backs in the Big Ten before becoming the Ravens RB coach.

Ohio State

  • Urban Meyer retired.
  • Ryan Day hiring grade: B. The Ohio State OC’s side of the ball was the reason the Buckeyes won the Big Ten. He’s only 39, and this is one of the biggest jobs in football, but it appears he led the team capably during Meyer’s three-game suspension. Continuity is nice, as long as he’s ready to make significant staff changes on defense (he since has).

Temple, round one

  • Geoff Collins left for Georgia Tech.
  • Manny Diaz hiring grade: A. He was responsible for the only thing the Canes were good at, has been a smart and elite defensive coordinator for years, and should be able to bring some Florida athletes to Philly. My only real concern as Temple would be the Miami head job possibly opening in the next few years, but that’s down the road (I wrote this sentence before Richt retired, so it stays).

Temple, round two

  • Manny Diaz left for Miami.
  • Rod Carey hiring grade: B. It felt like NIU fans were often frustrated with Dave Doeren’s replacement, but Carey ended up with two MAC titles, two more MAC West titles, four wins over Big Ten teams, and five winning seasons in six years. Philly’s a little east of his stomping grounds, but not far. I will update shortly when he leaves for the Miami job. That’s a joke among friends.

Texas State

  • Everett Withers firing grade: B. Wins had yet to arrive, with only seven in his three years at a school that joined FBS in 2012, and Withers’ personality wasn’t a great fit, but at least recruiting was going well.
  • Jake Spavital hiring grade: B+. Lots of relevant experience in the area and air raid roots that should be popular in Texas and stand out somewhat in the Sun Belt.

Texas Tech

  • Kliff Kingsbury firing grade: A. Yeah, five straight years of losing the same way and producing .500-ish seasons at a school that would prefer its Mike Leach records is gonna get a person fired. Both parties should better succeed apart (I wrote this before he ended up BEING NAMED AN NFL HEAD COACH, so it definitely stays).
  • Matt Wells hiring grade: A. The geographic fit isn’t perfect, but other than that? Wells was head coach or coordinator for Utah State’s three best seasons since the 1960s, and could’ve had even more than that if not for rotten injury luck. Per Steven Godfrey in the offseason, other coaches believed Wells would get it turned back around.


  • Neal Brown left for West Virginia.
  • Chip Lindsey hiring grade: I’ve been keeping up this post for about two months now, and I’m running out of opinions. A review of the record suggests the former Auburn OC is a B+ hire.


  • Mark Whipple firing grade: A. Five years with nothing better than 4-8? Amid significant roster turnover, this sets up as a fresh rebuild.
  • Walt Bell hiring grade: C+. The former Arkansas State, Maryland, and Florida State OC has minimal ties to the Northeast and is only 34, but will strive to oversee an offense more creative than FSU had in 2018.

Utah State

  • Matt Wells left for Texas Tech.
  • Gary Andersen hiring grade: Well, A, I guess! Worked out great the last time.

West Virginia

  • Dana Holgorsen left for Houston.
  • Neal Brown hiring grade: Lemme slap an A on that one. He just led the three best teams in Troy’s FBS history, including wins at LSU and Nebraska, and he has Appalachian familiarity, hailing from Kentucky.

Western Kentucky

  • Mike Sanford firing grade: C. A 9-16 record is a clear step down from Jeff Brohm’s three straight bowl wins. But canning a previously up-and-coming coach after two years at a school that’s still a C-USA newbie suggests he was way in over his head. Do four one-score losses in 2018 and two comfortable wins to finish the season support that? Hard to say from afar.
  • Tyson Helton hiring grade: C. Basically the same resume as Sanford and wasn’t exactly on the rise at Tennessee. If there’s a secret reason he’s a significantly better choice than Sanford, tremendous.

This post will be updated after each FBS head coaching move.