Even the 2007 CFB season’s coaching changes were especially memorable

Hello, it’s me, a millennial. That means I’m likely younger than you, and it also means I wasn’t that old when 2007 happened. I was 14 during the most unpredictable college football season ever. It’s one of the first seasons I remember from stem to stern across multiple conferences.

One of the things I didn’t remember was any of the coaching changes. I had never studied this year’s specific list or anything like it prior to this moment. Below are my thoughts, based on what we know now about what happened then.

2007 coaching changes

Air Force Fisher DeBerry Troy Calhoun
Alabama Mike Shula Nick Saban
Arizona State Dirk Koetter Dennis Erickson
Army Bobby Ross Stan Brock
Boston College Tom O'Brien Jeff Jagodzinkski
Central Michigan Brian Kelly Butch Jones
Cincinnati Mark Dantonio Brian Kelly
FIU Don Strock Mario Cristobal
Idaho Dennis Erickson Robb Akey
Indiana Terry Hoeppner Bill Lynch
Iowa State Dan McCarney Gene Chizik
Louisiana Tech Jack Bicknell Derek Dooley
Louisville Bobby Petrino Steve Kragthorpe
Miami (Fla.) Larry Coker Randy Shannon
Michigan State John L. Smith Mark Dantonio
Minnesota Glen Mason Tim Brewster
North Carolina John Bunting Butch Davis
North Carolina St. Chuck Amato Tom O'Brien
North Texas Darrell Dickey Todd Dodge
Rice Todd Graham David Bailiff
Stanford Walt Harris Jim Harbaugh
Tulane Chris Scelfo Bob Toledo
Tulsa Steve Kragthorpe Todd Graham
UAB Watson Brown Neil Callaway

In 2007, college football got all of its weirdness out before Alabama seized it by the throat.

That would start in 2008, when the Tide went to the SEC title game at 12-0. In 2007, the Tide lost to Louisiana-Monroe.

But there’s an alternate history in which Rich Rodriguez, who spent 2007 nearly leading West Virginia to the title game, is Alabama’s head coach. That history got derailed by Paul Finebaum, if you believe one theory:

The most popular theory, at least on the internet, is Rodriguez's wife, Rita, put the kibosh on moving to Tuscaloosa. The theory goes that Rita Rodriguez heard Finebaum making fun of her on his show and was turned off by the idea of having to deal with that on a consistent basis. Finebaum has long disputed the claim - he even addressed it in his book My Conference Can Beat Your Conference - and said it came from a rival radio host and message boards. [Ian] Rapoport, who had a source inside the proceedings, said Rodriguez's wife was absolutely on board.

"She was coming," he said. "They were all coming. He just changed his mind and stayed."

There’s also a jagged line you can make from Mike Shula leaving Alabama to end up with the Carolina Panthers. He’d become Cam Newton’s offensive coordinator in the pros, but only after Newton vanquished Saban’s Tide in one of more memorable Iron Bowls ever.

Indiana’s 2007 was about turning tragedy into a tribute.

On June 19, the Hoosiers experienced one of the worst things that can happen to a program: Head coach Terry Hoeppner passed away.

"Coach died due to complications from the brain tumor for which he had been treated surgically and therapeutically over the past 18 months," said team physician Larry Rink. "His family was at his side."

Hoeppner was a lifer in the game. He rose the old-fashioned way, with stops at the high school level before a coordinator job at his alma mater, Division III Franklin College. Hoeppner would begin a 19-year run at Miami (Ohio), the Cradle of Coaches. He spent his last six RedHawks seasons as head coach before getting to Indiana in 2005.

Hoeppner led the RedHawks to a 13-1 record and a MAC championship in 2003 with a team that had Ben Roethlisberger, who was by his old coach’s side in the week leading up to his death. Their bond had grown deeper after Big Ben went to the Steelers and Hoeppner moved on to Bloomington:

After Roethlisberger suffered multiple facial fractures in a June motorcycle accident and Hoeppner suffered a recurrence of a brain tumor, Don't Quit became a mantra for a quarterback and a coach both plagued by clouds of doubt. During one of many hospital visits, Roethlisberger and Hoeppner struck a pact: If one of them made it back onto the field, so would the other. "We talked about it a lot," Roethlisberger says. "We even called ourselves the Comeback Kids. We were going to return — together — and be successful together."

The Hoosiers would finish 2007 at 7-6, making a bowl for the first time since 1993. They fulfilled the goal of "playing 13," by making the postseason. It was a benchmark that Hoeppner had set for the program.

"I would say I mean, it is a big step for the program. We set our goal to Play 13 and we played 13," kicker Austin Starr said after the game. "Didn't come out the way we wanted, but, I mean, every single guy on our team battled and they never quit and that's what Coach Hoepp taught us, never quit."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter coached college football, and that was news to me.

Remember that I am a humble youth. Catching up on Koetter led me to two things.

Koetter finessed his way to the Arizona State job but hung out in the seven-to-nine-win range before getting canned at the end of 2006.

Jeff Jagodzinski led Boston College to a brief No. 2 ranking in 2007 ...

... but his tenure ended after Jagodzinski disobeyed orders to not interview for the Jets job.

Future Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio handed the Cincinnati job to Brian Kelly, who would be succeeded by Butch Jones by 2009.

Weirdly, the Kelly/Jones handoff happened at Central Michigan a few years earlier as well. Gotta be the most red-faced coaching change in the sport’s history.

Todd Graham began his personal coaching carousel when he left Rice in 2006.

Between 2006-2012, he would be the head coach of four different programs.

Mario Cristobal would take an 0-12 FIU to two consecutive bowls by 2011.

He would be fired after 2012 for reasons that still kinda don’t make sense, given the program’s place in the sport’s landscape.

Yep, that's the John L. Smith who'd later replace Petrino at Arkansas for exactly one season.


Dennis Erickson’s second stint at Idaho ended after one 4-8 season.

The offensive innovator and Larry Coker, who got fired from Miami in 2006, share the distinction of coaching Canes teams to national championships in spite of perceived head coaching skills.

The man Coker took over for at Miami, Butch Davis, returned to college in 2007 to coach UNC after flaming out with the Cleveland Browns.

2007 was the start of the Gene Chizik legend.

He went 3-9 that season at Iowa State, then 2-10 in 2008.

Then he got the Auburn job.

The Derek Dooley legend started in 2007, too.

He would have modest success, getting the Bulldogs to a bowl in 2008. After a 4-8 2009 season, he took the Tennessee job. He had the sweet pants.

He also had some nice hands.

What he didn’t have was many wins. He went 15-21 and was fired by the end of 2012.

Surely Bobby Petrino is still having a long and successful schematic marriage with Michael Vick in the NFL, right?

By the end, college football’s 2007 weirdness was even infecting the NFL during the middle of the pro season:

And why would Stanford hire some guy from San Diego?

That’s never gonna work. At least that was the prevailing sentiment by one columnist at the Mercury News:

For the past three seasons, Harbaugh has been the head coach at the University of San Diego, a I-AA school that does not offer scholarships. He has never coached at Stanford, never been a I-A assistant, never recruited I-A players, couldn’t get the Tulane job and a year ago was nailed for DUI.

So you might be asking yourself: Why is Harbaugh qualified to coach Stanford?

Well, I’ll tell you: Last month, San Diego lost to UC-Davis — Harbaugh is perfectly qualified for his new job!!!!

Months later, he beat eventual archrival Pete Carroll in the sport's biggest Vegas upset ever.

For all the wackiness of 2007, our wackiest coach getting his big break really is the icing on top.