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August 26, 2007

Coaching seats are heating up for some

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A lot of perks come with being a college football coach, but job security isn't among them.

As salaries have escalated, so have demands from fans and boosters who want quick returns on their investments. After all, shouldn't those six- and seven-figure contracts buy a bowl game every once in a while?

One losing season may be acceptable. Two could even be tolerable. But three? Even the most patient programs might have trouble with such a stretch.

After a scorching summer, the heat may actually rise this autumn in Pullman, Wash., Starkville, Miss., Lawrence, Kan. and several other college towns where kindling is collecting under coaches' chairs.

Which coaches are on the proverbial hot seat? Well, which teams haven't been winning or winning enough lately?

Coaches on the hot seat
1. Bill Doba, Washington State:
The Cougars like to point out that since 2001 they've posted 40 wins, which is more than any Pac-10 team except USC or Oregon. But only 15 of those have come in the last three years. Washington State boasted three consecutive 10-victory seasons from 2001 to 2003, with one of those coming in Doba's first year as head coach. Now, the streak is three seasons in a row without a winning record, though the Cougars did manage to break even a year ago. Still, boosters that grew accustomed to double-digit victory totals don't find much consolation in a 6-6 finish.
2. Al Groh, Virginia:
The Cavaliers went 9-5 in Groh's second season in Charlottesville, but now appear headed in the wrong direction. The seven wins in '05 were followed by seven losses in '06. Also, the Cavs were shut out in two of their last three games. Complicating matters is the fact they've lost their last three games to Virginia Tech. Losing streaks to state rivals are not good for job security.
3. Ed Orgeron, Mississippi:
The Rebels haven't suffered three consecutive losing seasons under the same head coach since 1980-82. Orgeron, who is hoping to avoid a similar trifecta, has recruited well - though it hasn't shown in the results. Ole Miss has posted records of 3-8 and 4-8 in his two seasons in Oxford. David Cutcliffe, Orgeron's predecessor, posted five winning seasons and then was canned after one bad year. How much more slack will Orgeron be given?
4. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State:
Yeah, it's hard to recruit top prospects to Starkville. Yeah, Mississippi State has a history of mediocrity. Yeah, the Bulldogs have had problems with injuries. But, no, another three-win season probably won't be acceptable. The Bulldogs have had some good moments under Croom, including victories over Florida in 2004 (Ron Zook was subsequently fired) and Alabama in 2006 (Mike Shula was subsequently fired). However, Mississippi State has managed just three victories in each of Croom's three seasons. No Mississippi State coach has survived four consecutive losing seasons.
5. Mark Mangino, Kansas:
Two bowl appearances in five seasons really is actually pretty impressive at Kansas, which had not played in a postseason game in six years before Mangino's arrival. But the Jayhawks have managed six or fewer wins in four of Mangino's seasons. Last year's 6-6 finish was more about breaking down than breaking even. They were outscored 19-0 in the fourth quarter in a 36-35 loss to Baylor, 14-0 in the fourth quarter in a 21-18 loss to Texas A&M and 42-18 in the second half in a 42-32 loss to Oklahoma State. They also lost in overtime to Toledo and Nebraska.
6. Greg Robinson, Syracuse:
History shows Syracuse boosters don't take losing lightly. The Orange has lost 13 of 14 Big East Conference games under Robinson. Paul Pasqualoni, whom Robinson replaced, only endured one losing season in 14 years. Pasqualoni was fired three seasons after directing the Orange to a 10-3 finish and a bowl appearance. Syracuse, which is 5-18 in Robinson's brief tenure, has never had a coach preside over three consecutive losing seasons. Perhaps the Orange progressed with four victories in 2006, but Syracuse still ranked 110th nationally in total offense and 107th in total defense.
7. Guy Morriss, Baylor:
A good Waco Baptist knows "patience is the fruit of the spirit," but Morriss' tenure has yet to bear much fruit. Overall, Morriss hasn't done that badly - a 15-31 record in four seasons. Baylor's two previous coaches managed only 13 victories in six seasons combined. Also on the positive side, last year the Bears did post three Big 12 victories the most in school history. But the fact remains Morriss' teams have endured four consecutive losing seasons. In 2006 Baylor fell short of its goal of qualifying for a bowl game because of losses to Washington State and Army.
8. Tommy Bowden, Clemson:
The Tigers have never endured a losing seasons under Bowden. But they've never won a championship, either. That's eight years of being good, but not good enough for a program that longs for a return to national significance. Last season was especially disappointing. Even with a double overtime loss to Boston College, the Tigers got off to a 7-1 start and were in good shape to contend for the ACC championship. But then they lost four of their final five, including 31-28 to rival South Carolina.
9. Tyrone Willingham, Washington:
Five victories in 2006 was a definite sign of progress, but Willingham likely cannot afford a step back. He's 7-16 in two years at the Washington helm, which is the identical record of his predecessor Keith Gilbertson - who was fired after two seasons. Washington, which once routinely produced 10-win seasons, has not endured three consecutive losing seasons since 1947-49. What will be the reaction if it happens again?
10. Mike Stoops, Arizona:
No doubt the Wildcats have shown progress in Stoops' three years. Cconsecutive three-win seasons were followed with six victories in 2006. However, Dick Tomey was fired in 2000 just two years after leading Arizona to a 12-1 finish, so history shows not much slack is given in Tucson. Optimism is high that this will be the year Stoops gets the Wildcats into a bowl game. But how will the locals handle the disappointment if the Wildcats come up short?
The Rivals Five:
Here's a look at five coaches who don't enter the season on the hot seat, but could get there if their teams falter.
1. Houston Nutt, Arkansas:
Arkansas has won or shared the SEC West championship three times since Nutt's arrival in 1998. Only Auburn, with four, has won more West Division championships in that span. But even after last year's 10-4 finish and West Division crown, the state is divided in its approval of Nutt. If the Razorbacks fail to reach at least nine victories he could be in trouble. However, a favorable schedule and a leading Heisman Trophy candidate in Darren McFadden makes 10 wins attainable.
2. Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M:
Coach Fran's critics were howling louder than coyotes on the Texas prairie last year, but were quieted with a nine-win regular season that included an upset of rival Texas in Austin. Then came a collapse in the Holiday Bowl, and the coyotes were at it again. Franchione needs another strong season to show that in his fifth year the A&M program is definitely on the upswing. Another bowl appearance would provide proof, but avoiding a blowout loss would also help.
3. Karl Dorrell, UCLA:
Dorrell's four-year tenure in Westwood has produced some positive results. The Bruins have been in four bowl games, managed 10 victories in 2005 and knocked off USC last year. Still, they've managed just six victories in each of the last two seasons and are 1-3 in bowl games. The feeling is that Dorrell's rebuilding project is almost complete, and this is the season the Bruins regain national prominence. If they falter, some hard questions must be asked about the program's direction.
4. Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee:
Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton is already on the record saying Fulmer's job is not in jeopardy - and it shouldn't be. In 14 seasons, Fulmer has a national championship (1998), eight seasons of double-digit victories and just one losing record. But he may be a victim of his own success. The populace of Rocky Top is very demanding, and hasn't forgotten a 5-6 stumble two years ago. Will Hamilton still be a staunch supporter in the unlikely event the Vols endure another losing season?
5. Ron Zook, Illinois:
There was no doubt Zook faced a major rebuilding task when he took over an Illinois program coming off three consecutive losing years. It was going to take time. But the Illini have muddled through consecutive two-win years under Zook, which raises the question of whether time is running out. Zook has recruited well, and maybe that will show up in the win-loss column this year. It needs to. The last two Illinois coaches to endure three consecutive losing seasons Gary Moeller and Ron Turner were both replaced. Turner's third losing season came after a Big Ten championship in 2001.

Olin Buchanan is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.
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