Some coaches survived the firing cycle last winter, but aren’t in the clear yet. There are plenty of coaches who could be fired if their teams don’t show improvement this season. Here are coaches who are on the hot seat to start the 2018 college football season.
Syracuse: Dino Babers
Dino Babers had two great seasons at Bowling Green before getting the job at Syracuse. Coaching in upstate New York has never been an easy job and Babers has not done a lot to prove the doubters wrong. In his two seasons at Syracuse, he is 8-16. Normally coaches think they need four or five years to build a program, but they don’t always get that long of an opportunity.
Babers will have 14 returning starters, which will need to help him reach a bowl game in order to retain his position. The schedule won’t be easy so they’ll have to pull off an upset or two to get the job done. Wins should come more easily against Western Michigan, Wagner and Connecticut. They will have to edge out three more wins against North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Boston College or Wake Forest, or pull off a huge upset like they did last season against Clemson.
Illinois: Lovie Smith
The Lovie Smith hire created a lot of buzz because he has so much coaching experience in the NFL. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to build much at Illinois yet. Smith is 5-19 at Illinois and currently has a 10 game losing streak to overcome.
With a lot of returning experience and players from the sophomore class (Smith’s first full recruiting class), Smith has some tools to work with this season. They’ll have shots to win in games against Kent State, Western Illinois, South Florida, Rutgers and Minnesota. Illinois seems attached to Smith, but he needs to show a little improvement to feel comfortable.
Rutgers: Chris Ash
Ash was hired from Ohio State, but Rutgers has been in an uphill battle since joining the Big Ten. In his two seasons at Rutgers, he is 6-18. He did double his win total from year one to year two, but if there is any regression, the Scarlet Knights could want to move on.
He’ll have 12 starters coming back to work with and a few games they should be able to win. Texas State, Kansas, Buffalo, Indiana and Illinois are all games they could win. All of those games are in the front half of the schedule so if they can win those and get an upset in the back half of the schedule they’ll be bowl eligible. They need at least five wins for Ash to stay at the helm but if he is able to get to a bowl game he should feel very safe.
Kansas: David Beaty
This is almost assuredly Beaty’s last year at Kansas. He has managed to get only three wins in three years. To make matters worse for him, Kansas has just hired a new AD in Jeff Long. New ADs usually like to bring in their own head coaches, so Beaty will have to really impress to keep his job.
The good news for Beaty is that he returns almost all of his starters from last year, only losing three on each side of the ball. The bad news is that they ranked very low in most offensive and defensive categories. They have winnable games against Nicholls State, Central Michigan, Rutgers, Baylor and Texas Tech. Kansas will have to win all those games for Beaty to feel somewhat safe about his job.
Texas Tech: Kliff Kingsbury
Kingsbury has been on the hot seat for a few seasons now, as he hasn’t reached the .500 mark at Texas Tech for his career. He sits at 30-33 for his five seasons at his alma mater and we’ll need to edge closer to the 50% win mark to keep his job.
The nine returning starters on defense should help that unit improve from its 100th rated scoring defense last season. Kingsbury is an offensive-minded coach, but needs to find a quarterback and skill-position players to step up. They are capable of winning a lot of games on their schedule and need to get to at least seven regular-season wins for Kingsbury to feel safe. A bowl win wouldn’t hurt either.
Vanderbilt: Derek Mason
He took over for James Franklin and Mason has had his ups and downs at Vanderbilt. Overall, he is 18-31 through four seasons. He was close to reaching bowl eligibility last year, as the Commodores finished 5-7. Mason has gotten a fifth season, which is all a coach can really ask for these days, but needs to do a lot to keep his job.
With only 11 returning starters, Mason will have his work cut out for him. They have winnable games against MTSU, Nevada, Tennessee State and Arkansas. If they can win those and get wins over Kentucky, Tennessee and/or Ole Miss, Mason will be able to keep his job.
BYU: Kalani Sitake
Sitake took over when Bronco Mendenhall left BYU for Virginia. Things have taken a noticeable dropoff during Sitake’s two years, as the Cougars are 13-13 in his tenure. The BYU faithful are expecting more and Sitake will have to show he can do the job this season.
He has 11 returning starters, including quarterback Tanner Mangum. Their independent status has hurt more than it has probably helped, as they limped to a 4-9 record last season, their worst in decades. They’ll have to make a bowl game to save Sitake’s job. That means they’ll likely need to win games against McNeese State, Utah State, Hawaii, Northern Illinois, Massachusetts and New Mexico State. If they drop one of these games, they will have to pick up a win against a “Power Five” team or Boise State.
Group of 5 coaches on the hot seat
UNC-Charlotte: Brad Lambert
Ball State: Mike Neu
Bowling Green: Mike Jenks
Eastern Michigan: Chris Creighton
New Mexico: Bob Davie
UNLV: Tony Sanchez
Texas State: Everett Withers
ULM: Matt Viator
New Mexico State: Doug Martin