As we chug through the second half of the College Football season, we’ve begun to get a clearer picture as to which head coaches are currently residing on scalding-hot seats. Five in particular should be worried about their job security as it pertains to next year:
Jim Mora: UCLA
Jim Mora’s time in Westwood can be categorized in two specific chunks. Upon taking over the program in 2012, he led UCLA to its most successful three-year period in program history. This included one South Division title, back-to-back 10-win seasons, and three wins over crosstown rival USC. With a renewed sense of toughness, UCLA was on the cusp of shedding the dreaded ‘sleeping giant’ moniker.
However, Mora’s second stanza in charge of the program hasn’t been good — or even passable. UCLA is 12-17 in its last 29 games. The conference record over the last 23 is a staggering 9-14. The team consistently is plagued by depth issues along the offensive line, as well as horrible discipline penalty-wise. Mora has failed to beat Stanford, and has only upended Oregon once during his tenure.
Perhaps the most damning bit of evidence has been the handling of Josh Rosen. The signal-caller out of Manhattan Beach is a once-in-a-generation type of talent — and certainly the type of player UCLA rarely gets at the quarterback position. He likely is the most talented gunslinger to play at UCLA since the days of Troy Aikman. With that said, Mora’s done little to help him. The offensive line play has been abysmal — as Rosen routinely has been battered and bruised. He’ll likely leave UCLA after this year with a nondescript career, and little in the way of a marquee performance. This is an utter travesty considering his talent level.
There are plenty of inherent advantages which point to UCLA being a potentially very good job. The location, academic prestige, and the sparkling new football facility are all selling points. Here’s the real question: Will AD Dan Guerrero make a move with his potential retirement impending? He may leave that to the next Athletic Director — infuriating the fan base even further.
Larry Fedora: North Carolina
It’s been an up-and-down tenure for Fedora in Chapel Hill. Though he’s led the Tar Heels to four winning seasons, UNC has only been ranked once (2015) at the conclusion of any season. Fedora’s best year came in ’15 — as North Carolina won 11 games. Since then, the team has failed to crack the eight-win mark.
This year has been truly disappointing. As it currently stands, North Carolina is 1-8 with an 0-6 record in conference play. The head coach has accrued a 41-33 record since coming over from Southern Miss. Suffice it to say, but the pressure on Fedora is palpable. Throughout his tenure, Fedora-led teams have struggled versus ranked opponents. Despite that, Fedora was recently given a contract extension through the 2022 season. He’s being paid roughly $2.7 million per year.
Though he may appear safe on the surface, ACC talent — particularly Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, NC State — is rising. Couple that with heavyweights Florida State, Louisville and Clemson, and North Carolina could find themselves towards the bottom of the conference for the foreseeable future. As such, a move might be required at this point.
Butch Jones: Tennessee
The faithful rocking white and orange expect Tennessee to annually compete for National Championships. Jones was brought over from Cincinnati as a stabilizing force of sorts. Rooted in positivity and togetherness, he helped in reestablishing Tennessee as a true recruiting juggernaut. The Vols consistently finish with top-20 recruiting classes, and there have been a number of occasions in which UT nabbed classes within the top-10.
With talent not being a problem, it is rather perplexing to see Tennessee not win anything of consequence over the past five years — especially with South Carolina, Florida and Georgia all in transition. Jones led the program to a combined 12-13 record his first two years in Knoxville. Year three and four showed some improvement — as Tennessee won nine games in back-to-back years.
However, they’ve yet to get over the proverbial hump. As opposed to trending upwards, Tennessee is heading the opposite direction. The team is currently 3-5, and winless (0-5) in conference play. Jones has a penchant for grossly utilizing coach speak, catch-phrases, and clichés. It seems as if this act is wearing thin — as many are pining for the likes of Chip Kelly or Jon Gruden to take over. A more realistic and feasible target would likely be Mississippi State head man Dan Mullen.
Mike Riley: Nebraska
Riley surprised many when he left Oregon State for Nebraska in 2015. He was thought to be a lifer in Corvallis — though the allure of such a prestigious program proved to be too much. His tenure started rocky — as the Cornhuskers went 6-7 in his inaugural year. It was followed up with a solid 9-4 season, though many in Lincoln were dismayed by a lack of defensive prowess across the board.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the Cornhuskers are immensely mediocre. Nebraska got trounced at home by both Ohio State and Wisconsin, and lost very winnable games to Oregon and Northern Illinois. Riley may be recruiting the state of California well, but Nebraska certainly isn’t resembling the brilliance of yesteryear. It’s a proud University and fan base, with pressure — unrealistic or not — mounting by the day.
Riley was hired by then-Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. However, Eichorst was fired in September over a lack of on-field success. In his place came former Washington State AD Bill Moos. Moos recently went on a local radio station, and effusively praised UCF head coach Scott Frost. Remember, Frost led Nebraska as a quarterback to a 24-2 record. This included a share of the 1997 national title. He currently has the No. 15 Knights sitting with a 7-0 record.
In other words, this isn’t a good sign for Riley’s longterm future in Lincoln.
Bret Bielema: Arkansas
The SEC is as competitive a conference as there is in College Football. It came as a bit of a surprise when Bielema left his cushy job at Wisconsin in order to coach in what is likely the best division in the sport. Arkansas routinely must compete versus the likes of Alabama, Auburn, and LSU — not to mention recruit against the entire SEC.
He went from a virtual 10-win lock in Madison to struggling for dear life in Fayetteville. Bielema’s career record at Wisconsin was 68-24. Currently in his fifth year with the Razorbacks, Bielema is 28-31 — including an 11-26 conference record. Since being hired, Arkansas has lost nine games by 20 points or more.
Bielema has a very outspoken nature. It’s helped Arkansas garner some success on the recruiting trails — though it still pales in comparison to others within the SEC West. His boisterous personality has rubbed some people — and coaches — the wrong way, especially with the lack of tangible success on the field.
His buyout is reportedly at $5.9 million, which isn’t as big as previously thought. It will be fascinating to see what Bielema’s future holds with the program.
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