The coaching adage is a team improves the most from the first week to the second. If that’s the case, some coaches on the hot seat are hoping for a boost of huge proportions.
At one point, they were on top of the college football world, or showed the promise to get there. Now, they are trying to make believers, not only out of their program’s fans but more importantly their players.
Two of these five coaches managed victories in the first week, but they were wins that kept their boosters wanting much more. How they fare this week and by midseason will tell a lot about if they will be around next season.
1. Gene Chizik, Auburn
High point: Chizik’s 2010 team captured the national championship with a 14-0 record behind Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. That was only Chizik’s second year at Auburn following an 8-5 effort in 2009. His hire in 2008 raised eyebrows because he was 5-19 in two years as a head coach at Iowa State. The 2010 season seemed to validate the hire.
When Auburn won the BCS title, Chizik earned a base salary of $2.1 million plus bonuses worth an additional $1.1 million, including $500,000 for 13 wins, an SEC title, a BCS bowl appearance and winning the SEC Coach of the Year honor. He won an additional $600,000 for winning the BCS Championship Game
What has he done for them lately? Newton lasted one magical season before jumping to the NFL and things haven’t been quite the same. Auburn lost 26-19 in its season opener Sept. 1 to Clemson, a talented team, but one that is loaded with young players. Clemson has only 12 seniors, the smallest such class for the Tigers since 1999. Chizik, whose record without Newton is 16-11, lost to a Clemson team that is not a veteran bunch, especially on the offensive line, which lost three starters from last season. Clemson dominated Auburn’s defensive front to the tune of 320 rushing yards.
2. Jeff Tedford, Cal
High point: California had 10-win seasons in three out of Tedford’s first five seasons (2004 and 2006) in Berkeley. The Golden Bears achieved a share of the Pac-10 title in 2006, when they finished with a 7-2 conference record and 10-3 overall. They became co-champions for the first time since 1975 and Tedford was awarded with a $1.8 million annual salary. He is the highest paid state employee of California as of 2011, according to the Sacramento Bee.
What has he done for them lately? Starting with Cal’s collapse in 2007, Tedford has failed to coach the Golden Bears to the top of the Pac-10 and now Pac-12. Their highest finish in this stretch is fourth place in 2008. Cal has lost at least four games in five consecutive seasons. Tedford experienced his first losing season as a head coach in 2010 when Cal finished 5-7. The Golden Bears are 12-14 in their last three seasons, including an upset loss Sept. 1 to Nevada 31-24 in Cal’s renovated Memorial Stadium. A sellout crowd of 63,186 expected a much better outcome against a Mountain West opponent. Another .500 season or less and they will likely expect a new coach.
3. Mack Brown, Texas
High point: Brown won the national title in 2005 when the Longhorns finished 13-0. That was in the middle of a nine-year run in which Texas achieved double-digit victories each season. As recently as 2008 and 2009, Texas was a combined 25-2, winning the Fiesta Bowl and coming up short in the BCS championship game to Alabama in Pasadena, Calif. Brown, whose annual salary is $5.1 million, is 61 and in his 29th season as a head coach.
What has he done for them lately? After that nine-year run with at least 10 wins in a season, Texas dropped with a thud to 5-7 in 2010. It was the Longhorns’ first losing season since 1997. Brown was hired by Texas after that season to turn the program around. Has it come full circle? Texas showed signs of life last season, finishing 8-5 with a 21-10 victory over Cal in the Holiday Bowl. But the 12 defeats in 2010 and 2011 equaled the loss total from the 2003-2009 seasons combined. Texas opened its season Sept. 1 with a 37-17 victory over a visiting Wyoming team picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West. In years past, the Longhorns would romp in such games. Texas outscored Wyoming by only 13-8 in the second half. Texas hosts this weekend another Mountain West team, New Mexico, which is picked to finish last in that conference. It will be interesting to see if Texas comes out focused and executes like it should against Bob Davie’s team.
4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
High point: Ferentz coached the Hawkeyes to 11-2 and 10-2 seasons in 2002 and 2004, respectively, and showed good staying power with an 11-2 record and Orange Bowl victory in 2009. The Hawkeyes started 10-0 that season but an injury to quarterback Ricky Stanzi prevented him from playing the last two games, which Iowa lost to prevent it from the Rose Bowl. Ferentz signed a contract extension after that season through 2020, paying him $3.65 million annually.
What has he done for them lately? Iowa appeared to be a serious BCS title contender after the Orange Bowl victory, especially with many of their top players returning in 2010. Instead of challenging for the Big Ten title, the Hawkeyes became a second-level conference team that season. The Hawkeyes are just 16-11 since the Orange Bowl victory. They survived the season-opener Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois with an 18-17 victory in Chicago. The Hawkeyes needed nine fourth-quarter points for the comeback against Northern Illinois, which is one of the best Mid-American Conference teams. Iowa plays its next four games at home against Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan and Minnesota. Anything less than a 5-0 record heading to Michigan State on Oct. 13 will spell trouble.
5. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
High point: Spaziani has coached the Eagles in three bowl games, the first as an interim coach in 2006 at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. He was not retained for the permanent head coaching position. After resuming as the defensive coordinator with Boston College, he was given the interim head-coaching tag again following the 2008 season. Spaziani finally got his shot and he appeared to make the most of it taking Boston College to consecutive bowl trips in his first two seasons of 2009 and 2010. Spaziani received a contract extension through 2015 after those two bowls. In April, he received another extension through the 2019 season.
What has he done for them lately? The Eagles returned 16 starters for the 2012 season. They went 4-8 in 2011 but they won three out of their final five games. Despite the experience, Boston College fell apart after an early lead and lost its season opener 41-32 to Miami at home. The Eagles were ahead 14-0, which means they were outscored 41-18 over the last three quarters. Spaziani said his team played “sloppy” with three turnovers and missed tackles. Not the best start for a coach whose seat is so hot he can’t bear to sit.