Here are 25 decisions involving head coaches, ranked by how excited they would make me as a fan.
Coach rankings are taken from my November 24 edition of Potential New Coach Power Rankings, which can be found here.
1. Miami hires #4 Mark Richt
After firing Al Golden in the wake of a 58-0 calamity at the hands of Clemson that made the locals wistful for lesser tragedies like Hurricane Andrew, Miami scooped up former Hurricane Mark Richt. If I were a Miami fan, I would be beyond excited. Richt has been winning for over a decade in the SEC and has always recruited NFL talent. This is essentially Miami's version of Jim Harbaugh.
2. Houston extends #5 Tom Herman
Houston ponied up some major cash to keep Tom Herman with promises of facility upgrades as well. That they were able to lock him down in such a competitive market tells me that they have goals beyond winning the American. In his first year, Herman has led Houston to a 12-1 record and a Peach Bowl date with Florida State. Keeping this momentum going would position Houston to have a case to get into the Big 12 to rejoin some of the former Southwest Conference. I think Houston wants this and locking down an elite coach was a big step. Houston football might be a big deal again in a few years.
3. Virginia Tech hires #8 Justin Fuente, keeps #9 Bud Foster on as DC
Fuente rebuilt a program from the ground up at Memphis and will walk into a much better situation at Virginia Tech. Furthermore, longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster will stay on his staff. Virginia Tech had their cake and ate it too in the wake of Frank Beamer's retirement.
4. LSU doesn't fire #1 Les Miles, the winningest coach in their history
Apparently Les Miles won the internal power struggle. Either that or they couldn't get a commitment from Jimbo Fisher. Either way, this was a smart move by LSU. Not that making Miles disgruntled was a smart move...
5. Temple keeps #7 Matt Rhule
Matt Rhule was another coach that was linked to big time jobs but was secured by Temple for several more years. This isn't the flashiest way to secure the future but it is the most effective. Like Houston, Temple wants to keep this momentum going, and they have the coach that built this program.
6. Virginia hires Bronco Mendenhall away from BYU
This one seemingly came out of nowhere, but is indeed the truth. Bronco Mendenhall inherited a BYU team with 3 straight losing seasons and ended his tenure in Provo 99-43. He'll inherit a talented dumpster fire from Mike London that's had 4 straight losing seasons, but he's already hired former ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill on to his staff. More on him later.
7. Navy keeps #13 Ken Niumatalolo
With BYU looking for another coach, the Mormon head coach of Navy was rumored to be the man. However, he came out to make a statement that he will return to Navy, where he has won at least 8 games each of the last 4 years and has never lost to Army.
8. Iowa State hires #6 Matt Campbell
Iowa State hired one of the best coaches in the MAC in Matt Campbell, the true architect of Toledo's turnaround. He immediately hired top recruiter Alex Golesh away from Illinois, and with Toledo's defeat of Temple last night he has a lot going for him. He will build an offense-first program just like the Big XII likes it.
9. Syracuse hires #10 Dino Babers
The MAC champion Bowling Green Falcons were, according to reports, merely a stepping stone for Babers, who wanted to get to a Power 5 job, possibly an orange and blue job. He got one, but probably not the one he was expecting. Syracuse fans have to be pumped up to get an ambitious offensive coach into their dome. He even has experience recruiting areas such as East Central illinois, as evidenced by the fact that some Illini commits have Syracuse visits now.
Not that I'm bitter or anything.
10. Tulane hires #14 Willie Fritz
Tulane has been irrelevant for decades and decades since leaving the SEC. Willie Fritz brought Georgia Southern not only up to the FBS level but to an 8-win season in its first year there. As a smaller-conference program, Tulane would do well to adopt a system like the triple option Fritz ran at Georgia Southern. It may take a few years, but Tulane has a shot to resurge.
11. Maryland hires #12 DJ Durkin
Michigan's defensive coordinator lasted all of one season before being poached. As a demonstrably good defensive coach with some proven recruiting chops, he'll bring enough discipline and energy to Maryland that interceptions thrown by wrestlers won't doom their efforts. He's an ambitious guy with experience on successful coaching staffs and this is a solid hire.
12. Minnesota promotes Tracy Claeys to full-time head coach
With Jerry Kill's retirement, this was the best way to preserve and continue the program he brought to Minnesota. Claeys coached with Kill for 21 years prior to getting the nod to succeed him. If I were a Minnesota fan, I'd want a healthy Jerry Kill, but this is the closest thing available.
13. Georgia fires Mark Richt, hires #19 Kirby Smart
Time will tell if Nick Saban's longtime defensive coordinator is indeed the secret to winning the SEC. Georgia loses some points for firing Mark Richt for an assistant, but in their defense they hired one of the best assistant coaches in the country, and they had to fire Richt. They lost three whole games after their star RB went down for the year. Could you imagine having to live with losing three games?
14. Rutgers hires Chris Ash from Ohio State
Ash, whose entire football career has taken place in the Midwest, will continue to coach in the region as he heads up the team from the humble Midwestern state of New Jersey. As a disciple of Urban Meyer, Ash will prove to be more proficient at bending the rules than Kyle Flood was.
15. UCF hires Scott Frost
After UCF's inexplicable two-year journey from a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor to a winless season, the Knights hired Oregon OC Scott Frost. Like Mark Helfrich and Chip Kelly, the chicken/egg dilemma exists here as well (did Oregon really owe that much success to the OC?). Nevertheless, Nebraska fans will watch former Husker QB Frost's tenure at UCF with great interest.
16. BYU hires Kalani Sitake
BYU gets ranked #16 only because it was widely rumored that Ken Niumatalolo was on his way. Having to choose from the small Mormon coaching pool, BYU went with Sitake, a self-professed lifelong BYU fan who nevertheless spent ten full seasons coaching at bitter rival Utah from 2005-2014. However, the Utes weren't too bad during that time. This is a hell of a wrinkle in this rivalry.
17. Missouri promotes Barry Odom to full-time head coach
Another tragic health-related retirement, another interim coach promoted to head coach. Odom previously spent 8 years coaching at Missouri before moving to Memphis under Justin Fuente. He returned to Columbia as the defensive coordinator for this year. There's a lot unknown about this coaching hire. He did go 14-8 as a high school head coach though.
18. USC promotes Clay Helton to full-time head coach
If I were a USC fan, I'd be somewhat torn about this one. On one hand, it's USC: what coach can't you get? Why not go out and land the biggest fish you can? On the other hand, their last two attempts to replace Pete Carroll with a splashy hire resulted in Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, both of whom were fired midseason. Perhaps some continuity would be nice. Helton won the PAC-12 South with this team, so maybe this will be a good change of pace.
19. Memphis hires Mike Norvell
At 34 years old, Norvell will be the youngest head coach in FBS football. He is the all-time receptions leader at Central Arkansas, and spent the last three years under Todd Graham at Arizona State as OC/QB coach.
20. Hawaii hires Nick Rolovich
The Hawaii alum coached Jeremiah Masoli at a junior college and has a number of ties to the Hawaii program. Frankly, if I were a Hawaii fan, I'd be excited about this hire because it means Hawaii football might continue.
21. South Carolina hires Will Muschamp
With most of a season to select the successor to the most successful coach in South Carolina history, the brass managed to land on Will Muschamp. He was seen as the next Texas head coach at one time and was a great young defensive coordinator. He followed up his 11-2 campaign in 2012 with a 4-8 season and then went 6-5 before being canned, finishing 28-21 overall at Florida. Considering he was handed Urban Meyer's program and only won more than seven games once, I fail to see what convinced South Carolina that this was the man for the job.
22. East Carolina fires Ruffin McNeill, hires Scottie Montgomery
This firing came as a shock to me. Ruffin McNeill was fired as ECU's head coach after going 5-7 in their second year in the American. McNeill was 42-34 at ECU and regularly harassed P5 teams (such as beating Virginia Tech this year). Furthermore, McNeill had to replace some of his staff this year after OC Lincoln Riley was hired away by Oklahoma.
Scottie Montgomery is a young guy who has experience coaching with the Steelers...and also Duke.
23. North Texas fires Dan McCarney midseason, fires his interim replacement at the end of the season, does nothing
WELL? WE'RE WAITING!
24. The powers that be put the CFP semifinals on New Year's Eve
Seriously. Why? Don't they realize that a lot of people do things on New Year's Eve? Why wouldn't they have the most important games of this bowl slate at some time when everyone would be able to watch them? People are working. People are out. People are partying. How much of my life do you need, football?
I hope the ratings suck and the powers that be realize this was a terrible idea.
25. Illinois hires Bill Cubit
It's not just that Illinois should have started over after Tim Beckman. It's not just that they held on to athletic director Mike Thomas for over 2 months after firing Beckman, only to fire him anyway...over Beckman. It's not just that the interim administration hired a middling-at-best MAC coach that was brought to Illinois by Tim Beckman. It's not that we once again have a coach whose teams perform poorly at his specialty (offensive coach with bad offense). It's not even necessarily about the fact that they made this announcement before the final game of the season.
No, the thing that lands Illinois' hiring of Bill Cubit firmly at the bottom is the fact that it's a two-year deal with the second year not even guaranteed that he hasn't even signed yet. This means we will go into the signing period without a long-term commitment to our head coach.
Nobody has ever done that in the history of college football because it is sheer insanity.
There are endless articles out there about why Bill Cubit isn't the man for the job, but ultimately what really makes this awful is the nature of the deal, the fact that this two year deal screams "interim" and that we're then supposed to recruit with that hanging over everyone's heads.
So, Who's Next?
Well, unfortunately, I'm invested in potential new coaches for another year, so expect my series on them to return. Here's the top 12 of my preseason rankings
1. Jeff Brohm, HC WKU. I can't believe nobody tapped Brohm. Western Kentucky won their bowl game to get their 12th win of the year. Please come back to Illinois.
2. Willie Taggart, HC USF. Ironically, the man who preceded Brohm at WKU and whose team lost to Brohm's Hilltoppers in the bowl game. USF flew a bit under the radar with an unimpressive start but really came on towards the end of the year, racking up a bunch of points against Temple.
3. Rod Carey, HC NIU. I think people want to see him run the program at least one more year. Still, his Huskies won the MAC West and have a bowl showdown with Boise State on tap.
4. Todd Monken, HC Southern Miss. Though WKU outclassed them in the C-USA Championship Game, Southern Miss is still a much better team than the 0-12 tire fire Monken inherited. The former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator has also flown a bit low during this turnaround, but he's on my radar.
5. PJ Fleck, HC WMU. Not unlike Rod Carey, people want to see what PJ Fleck can do with a little more experience. This guy has had tons of hype and has Western Michigan bowling. We'll see how his future unfolds as he ROWS THE BOAT ceaselessly towards the top of the MAC.
6. Brock Spack, HC Illinois State. Upset in the FCS Playoffs, Brock Spack's Redbirds nonetheless were impressive, winning the MVC. PURDUE, HIRE HIM NOW.
7. Brent Venables, DC Clemson
8. Lance Leipold, HC Buffalo
9. Trollin' Tommy Tuberville, HC Cincinnati
10. Bo Pellllllini, HC Youngstown State
11. Dave Aranda, DC Wisconsin
12. Lincoln Riley, OC Oklahoma