College football coaches on the hot seat: Who's on borrowed time and who's under pressure?

·11-min read

Will it be a busy year on the coaching carousel in college football?

Last year saw some of the more shocking coaching movement in recent history, headlined by Lincoln Riley's stunning departure from Oklahoma to USC and Brian Kelly leaving his long-time perch at Notre Dame for the appeal of the SEC at LSU.

Which big jobs could open this time around? And which coaches aren't necessarily on the hot seat, but are under a lot of pressure to show progress in 2022?

Let's dive in.

Coaches on the hot seat

Scott Frost - Nebraska

Following a historic two-year stint at UCF, Scott Frost was expected to execute a major turnaround at Nebraska, his alma mater. Instead, the Huskers have struggled mightily over his four seasons in Lincoln.

Frost has a 15-27 record and no bowl appearances at Nebraska. In 2021, the Huskers went 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in Big Ten play. Remarkably, they went 0-8 in one-possession games and are 5-20 in one-possession games during Frost’s tenure. His teams have been marred by turnovers, a lack of discipline and exceptionally poor special teams play.

Despite the consistent losing, school leadership decided to bring Frost back for the 2022 season under a restructured contract that includes a significantly reduced buyout. Frost fired a big chunk of his staff and brought in Mark Whipple from Pitt to be his offensive coordinator. Additionally, longtime starting QB Adrian Martinez transferred to Kansas State and the Huskers added Casey Thompson from Texas.

Will those changes help the close losses flip into wins? The team’s 2022 schedule is very manageable. If Frost can’t at least get this team to a bowl, it’d be surprising if he wasn’t shown the door — especially with a much more manageable buyout that reduces on Oct. 1.

Herm Edwards - Arizona State

After Arizona State had a string of mediocre seasons under Todd Graham, Herm Edwards was hired off the ESPN set by ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, Edwards’ old agent. To put it nicely, the hire was looked at quizzically at the time. Five years later, it’s a surprise Edwards is still employed.

The win-loss results haven’t been terrible — 25-18 (17-14 Pac-12) in four seasons — but the Sun Devils haven’t competed for championships like Anderson envisioned. On the whole, ASU hasn’t elevated from the level of play it exhibited under Graham. Beyond that, the team has been an undisciplined, turnover and penalty-prone mess on the field and an even bigger mess off the field. Among the issues are an ongoing NCAA investigation, a mass exodus of coaches and players and lackluster recruiting.

It’s hard to envision the 68-year-old Edwards remaining at ASU beyond this season.

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards looks on before an NCAA college football game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards looks on before an NCAA college football game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Bryan Harsin - Auburn

There’s always a level of chaos when it comes to Auburn football. Bryan Harsin, after going 6-7 in his first season, is well aware of that now. Earlier in the offseason, there was non-stop speculation that he could be forced out after just one season, yet here he is preparing for Year 2.

The fit between Harsin (who came from Boise State and had no ties to the SEC) and Auburn always felt strange, and it is no secret that some people around that program aren’t fans of his. Both of his coordinators from last year are gone. Close to 20 players transferred and there were some outgoing players who were critical of Harsin’s approach. The staff’s recruiting efforts have been uninspiring.

But the negativity can all be pushed aside if the Tigers turn in a big season on the field. If Auburn turns in another subpar year, Harsin’s seat will get even hotter.

Geoff Collins - Georgia Tech

This feels like a do-or-die season for Geoff Collins.

Collins was hired to transition Georgia Tech out of option-style football and revitalize the program’s recruiting efforts. Such a transformation was always going to be a grind, but things have not gone according to plan. Georgia Tech is just 9-25 overall with a 7-18 mark in ACC play in Collins’ three seasons.

There have been few, if any, signs of tangible progress and the talent on the roster is lacking compared to the average Power Five program. The Yellow Jackets went 3-9 in 2021. It was a season that featured some close losses, but concluded with losses to Notre Dame and Georgia by a combined score of 100-0. Yes, 100-0.

Turning the page to 2022, Collins did a major shakeup on his staff, including adding Chip Long as offensive coordinator. There’s very little production returning and the team’s best player, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, transferred to Alabama. Gibbs was one of many contributors who left the program this offseason. The defense was hit particularly hard.

There’s a lot of skepticism that Collins can turn this around and save his job.

Scott Satterfield - Louisville

Scott Satterfield had a great five-year run at Appalachian State and got off to a great start at Louisville, winning eight games in his first year right after the trainwreck that was Bobby Petrino’s final season with the Cardinals.

But then things went sideways. UL took a big step backwards in 2020, finishing with just a 4-7 record. After the season, Satterfield had a major breach of trust with the fans and others in the Louisville community when he spoke with South Carolina about its coaching vacancy weeks after publicly denying interest in the job.

Louisville, which is no stranger to tumult, then went 6-7 in 2021 in a season that was capped off by an ugly 52-21 loss to rival Kentucky and then a bowl loss to Air Force. Now 18-19 overall, the heat is on Satterfield to make improvements on the field. Recruiting has been going quite well lately, but the athletic director who hired Satterfield is no longer at the school.

Dino Babers - Syracuse

Syracuse went 10-3 back in 2018 and that year is looking more and more like an anomaly. In the Orange’s five other seasons under Dino Babers, their combined record is 19-40 with a 9-33 mark in ACC play. That includes the Orange’s 1-10 record in 2020.

The high-paced offense Babers was known for at previous stops has slowly been phased out with last year’s team going with a run-heavy approach led by QB Garrett Shrader and RB Sean Tucker. The offense could change again in 2022 with Babers’ hire of former BYU and Virginia offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

This team is going to have to get creative to score points, and Anae could prove to be a shrewd hire for Babers. Still, Shrader struggles throwing the ball and there’s not much talent in the trenches — particularly on defense.

Syracuse is a tough place to recruit to and doesn’t get talked about enough as being a very difficult job. Still, this feels like it could be the final stand for Babers.

Other FBS coaches on the hot seat: Marcus Arroyo (UNLV), Seth Littrell (North Texas), Scot Loeffler (Bowling Green), Jeff Scott (USF), Jake Spavital (Texas State)

Which coaches are under pressure?

Steve Sarkisian - Texas

It’s just Steve Sarkisian’s second season in Austin, but his Longhorns need to show significant improvement after a 5-7 record in 2021. You’ve got Quinn Ewers, Bijan Robinson and Xavier Worthy with Arch Manning in the pipeline. Expectations are outsized among the fanbase yet again. Yes, it’s a pressure-cooker job but this roster is good enough to post a much better record. Tom Herman was fired after going 32-18 in four seasons. Sark’s got to at least reach a bowl in Year 2, right?

Mike Norvell - Florida State

Willie Taggart had a 9-12 record and hadn’t finished his second season when he was fired by Florida State. Mike Norvell has coached the same number of games and is 8-13 overall, so it’s time to get going and win some games. FSU played much better down the stretch in 2021, so this shouldn’t really be characterized as a “hot seat” situation unless things really fall off a cliff. If the Seminoles manage to get to seven or eight wins, that should stem the tide for Norvell — even with the Deion Sanders talk looming in the background.

Jimbo Fisher - Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher isn’t going to get fired, but the A&M faithful are not going to be satisfied with another 8-4 season. The pressure is going to be turned up this year, especially on the heels of his offseason spat with Nick Saban. The Aggies went 4-4 in SEC play last year with a triumphant win over Alabama but losses to Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and LSU. Ask any A&M fan and they’ll tell you those are the teams the Aggies should beat. A&M needs improved quarterback play and a more explosive offense in general. That’s supposed to be Fisher’s forte.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher addresses a new conference in Destin, Fla., Wednesday, June, 01, 2022. A jovial Fisher said repeatedly on Wednesday he was “moving on” from the war of words between he and his former boss that sprinkled soap-opera drama on the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings this week. (AP Photo/Ralph Russo)
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher addresses a new conference in Destin, Fla., Wednesday, June, 01, 2022. A jovial Fisher said repeatedly on Wednesday he was “moving on” from the war of words between he and his former boss that sprinkled soap-opera drama on the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings this week. (AP Photo/Ralph Russo)

Mack Brown - North Carolina

UNC was one of the most disappointing teams in the country in 2021. Expectations were sky-high and the Tar Heels were looked at by some as a sleeper playoff contender. Instead, they went 6-7 and lost to South Carolina in the Mayo Bowl. Brown, 70, is now 21-17 (14-12 ACC) since his return to Chapel Hill. His teams have shown flashes of promise, but week-to-week consistency has been a huge issue. It’s fair to wonder how long he’ll stick around.

David Shaw - Stanford

In an era filled with transfers and early enrollees, there are even more challenges than usual for an academically inclined program like Stanford. Still, the program’s fall in recent years has been pretty stunning. There was a 4-2 record during the COVID year, but that was sandwiched between a 4-8 season in 2019 and a 3-9 effort in 2021. When you watch the Cardinal, it feels like they play an antiquated style of football. It’s time for David Shaw, now in his 12th season, to make some adjustments.

Stanford head coach David Shaw watches during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Stanford head coach David Shaw watches during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Neal Brown - West Virginia

"Underwhelming" is a good word to describe Neal Brown’s three seasons at WVU. The Mountaineers are 17-18 overall with an 11-15 record in Big 12 play during that span. The offense really struggled last year, so Brown brought in Graham Harrell — an offensive coordinator who comes from the Air Raid tree. The addition of JT Daniels at quarterback could provide a boost, but his injury history is a concern. A win over Pitt in the opener could go a long way for Brown.

Karl Dorrell - Colorado

Karl Dorrell took the CU job late in the cycle after Mel Tucker left for Michigan State. The Buffs were 4-2, much better than expected, during the COVID year. Last year, they really struggled on offense and went 4-8 and could be quite bad again in 2022. There’s been a lot of turnover on the roster and staff already. Dorrell could quickly find himself on shaky ground.

Justin Wilcox - Cal

Justin Wilcox reportedly nearly got the Oregon job but instead he’s back at Cal for his sixth season. Wilcox has a 26-28 (15-25 Pac-12) record with the Golden Bears, yet he was given a new contract through 2027. His teams have been competitive but consistently unimaginative on offense.

Ryan Silverfield - Memphis

This is one of the more coveted Group of Five jobs and Ryan Silverfield is just 14-10 (8-8 AAC) since taking over for Mike Norvell.

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