Previously on Big Ten coaching hot seats...
Scotty Frost was frozen out of the Nebraska athletic department. Erik Chinander refused to defend him or anybody really and followed him to the unemployment line the following week. Who will follow these illustrious coaches to the ranks of the best job ever (fired coach)? BoilerUp89 attempts to rank the hottest seats in the conference.
Before I launch into the updated rankings, let me take a moment to complain about Nebraska, their boosters, and the sorry excuse for corn they grow. Not only did the boosters spend extra money to fire Scott Frost three weeks early in the NIL era when you can use that money to pay your players, but they also fired defensive coordinator Erik Chinander the following week while I was out of town for business and unable to publish a hot seats article.
How inconsiderate do you have to be to fire someone before I can even get around to publishing the first of the season’s updated rankings (and yes, Chinander had earned himself a spot in the rankings). The Cornhuskers were going to lose to Indiana anyway. Shame on you, Cornhusker boosters.
**DISCLAIMER*** BoilerUp89 does not wish unemployment upon anyone and asks that you remember these coaches are real people with a family. Watching the performance of some of these coaches is inappropriate for young children, degenerate gamblers, and fans with addiction problems. All viewers watch these games at their own risk.
The Top 5
1 - Northwestern Wildcats DC Jim O’Neil (previously 2) - 2nd season, salary - PRIVATE SCHOOL DOLLARS, contract remaining - PRIVATE SCHOOL YEARS, buyout - PRIVATE SCHOOL DOLLARS
Rumors out of Evanston are that Pat Fitzgerald has started overseeing more of the defense only a few games into the season. I’m not really sure that is true (as the Wildcats lost to Miami of Ohio after I heard this), but the performance of the Wildcats defense is abysmal. Immediately after taking a 14-7 lead over the Redhawks of Miami, the Wildcats’ defense gave up a 66 yard run. Against a team with an incapable backup QB (who went 7 for 19 by the way), Jim O’Neil’s defense scheme was unable to stop the Miami run game which got 216 yards. How difficult was it to know that you can sell out to stop the run?
More bad news for Jim O’Neil this week as Northwestern has announced plans to build a fancy, new stadium. If Northwestern boosters have $80 million to spend on razing Ryan Field to the ground and building a stadium that gives better service routes for their butlers to wait on them, they have the money to #FireJimONeil.
2 - Michigan State Spartans DC Scottie Hazelton (previously not ranked) - 3rd season, salary - $1.1M, contract remaining - 2 years*, buyout - $2.56M.
Last season Michigan State couldn’t stop the pass. No big deal - they only played three QBs all season and managed to beat one of them. After giving up more passing yards/game than any other FBS team in 2021, Hazelton has actually improved to only the 29th worst passing defense three games into the 2022 season. Of course that includes blowouts against Akron and Western Michigan so there is plenty of time for Hazelton to repeat those 2021 numbers.
Two weeks ago, the Washington Husky Penix threw for 397 yards and 4 TDs. This past week Tanner Morgan went 23 of 26 for 268 yards and 3 TDs. Honestly that stat line would have been better had the Gophers needed to call a single passing play in the 4th quarter (they didn’t because they had jumped out to a 31-0 lead). Hazelton is a close friend of Mel Tucker, and Tucker has pretty great job security thanks to Kenneth Walker III so he might not get fired this year - but he certainly looks like he should be.
*A note on Hazelton’s contract: his contract actually runs thru March 31, 2025 (Sparty, why?). So at $1.1M a year, his buyout at the end of November (cause let’s face it, Sparty doesn’t look like they are going bowling right now) is the 2 and 1⁄3 year salary.
3 - Northwestern Wildcats OC Mike Bajakian (previously 4)- 3rd season, salary - PRIVATE SCHOOL DOLLARS, contract remaining - PRIVATE SCHOOL YEARS, buyout - PRIVATE SCHOOL DOLLARS
The only thing worse than giving up 200+ yards rushing to a MAC school is only putting up 14 points on a terrible MAC team. Northwestern has yet to play a good or even mediocre team this season. And they still can’t move the ball on offense.
The performances against Nebraska and Duke weren’t awful, but we should be grading on a scale here. Southern Illinois was a bigger red flag but maybe you could squint and say without the turnovers things would have been fine. Only scoring 14 points on Miami of Ohio though? Not great, Bob! Unless things turn around in a hurry, Bajakian, O’Neil, and a bunch of Wildcat assistants are probably going to be looking for new jobs come December.
4 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights OC Sean Gleeson (previously 4) - 3rd season, salary - $1.025M, contract remaining - 1 year, buyout - $1.05M (2023 salary)
Gleeson isn’t getting put here because the Knights only put up 10 points against Iowa. That’s not great, but Iowa’s defense is solid. Gleeson earned his spot in the hot seat rankings by only scoring 22 against Boston College and 16 against Temple. The games against Indiana, Michigan State, and Nebraska might give Gleeson an opportunity to make his offense look semi-effective but things haven’t clicked at all and this is year 3 of Gleeson running the offense. Rutgers is going to have to make a push for bowl eligibility for Gleeson to be sticking around.
5 - Iowa Hawkeyes OC Brian Ferentz (previously not ranked) - 6th season, salary - $900k, contract remaining - One pick up game with Dad in the driveway**, buyout - all you can eat at the Iowa head coach’s house**
Let’s get this out of the way now. Kirk isn’t going to fire his son. Neither is Gary Barta - the guy Brian technically works for - going to while Kirk is the head coach. But here’s the thing: Kirk could retire. He’s 67. He’s been the longest tenured head coach at a FBS program since 2017. He’s the all-time wins leader at Iowa. Brian isn’t ever going to inherit the program. That has to be obvious to everyone at this point. So what is Kirk hanging on for? If he attempts to force Brian on the Hawkeye fanbase as his successor, he’s going to risk his own legacy (let’s ignore the problematic parts of Kirk’s legacy for the moment). Kirk is signed thru 2029. Is he going to stick around that long?
Any serious review of Brian’s offensive coordinator abilities shows he’s awful at his job. The guy couldn’t figure out that Charlie Jones (41 catches thru 4 games - B1G record since 2000-, 7 TDs, 533 yards) was a capable WR. The play calling is so conservative, it would make absolute monarchs blush. The players aren’t developing. If Brian wasn’t on his dad’s staff, he would have been let go already. As it is, he takes the 5th spot for now as I currently rank the possibility of Kirk retiring hired than any of the below individuals getting let go. When that changes later in and Brian drops off the top 5, just know that it had nothing to do with his performance.
** I have no idea what Brian’s contract is beyond this year. Search results for Brian Ferentz’s contract get me way to many Kirk related articles. If someone wants to enlighten me in the comments section, please do so.
Indiana Hoosiers OC Walt Bell
I’m somewhat torn on how to grade Bell’s performance so far this year. On the one hand, the Hoosiers offense has gotten off to terrible starts in all 4 games this season. On the other hand, they’ve clearly made adjustments at halftime of games 2, 3, and 4 and the numbers don’t look completely terrible at a glance. Do I give Bell credit for making those adjustments? Or do I question why he doesn’t have his players ready to go coming out of the gates? Things get a bit harder for Indiana as the calendar turns to October but there are still opportunities for the the offense: Nebraska, Michigan State, and Rutgers all remain. This week is a big one for bowl eligibility which would likely ensure Bell’s return.
Purdue Boilermakers DC Ron English
I simply don’t understand the play calling. The announcers talked again and again about how Purdue was lining up against FAU (all single coverage with one safety) and despite Purdue getting beat in the passing game (as starting CBs are currently hurt) there were no adjustments. Add in the fact that English is a secondary coach and the secondary is getting burnt. Part of me also wants to keep co-DC and recruiter extraordinaire Mark Hagen happy. If Hagen wants the play calling duties, I don’t know that Jeff Brohm has seen enough from English so far this year to tell Hagen no.
Nebraska Cornhuskers OC Mark Whipple
Interim head coach Mickey Joseph is more blood thirsty than Parisians in 1793. He might just axe the whole staff before the end of October.
Indiana Hoosiers HC Tom Allen
The line between extension and wanting your coach fired can be so thin. Allen’s coordinator hires have been openly questioned by fans and while Indiana has a few more opportunities for wins this season and a shot at bowling, they struggled with the easy part of their schedule more than they should have. Allen should be fine, but until he picks up win #4 of the season (which could happen this week!) he will show up on this list. If you are wondering why Allen’s DC isn’t listed despite giving up 45 points to Cincinnati, here’s why: the Hoosiers held the Bearcats to just 40 yards rushing on 30 attempts. That impressed me considering how much of a makeover the defense needed following last season.
Northwestern Wildcats HC Pat Fitzgerald
Fitz is 6-15 in September games since 2016 (worst of any P5 team. Yes, even Kansas). Ireland-11 is a real possibility right now. I’ll look really dumb when Northwestern wins the West this year, but if we ignore the even year prophecy stuff, Fitz is starting to
piss off anger the Wildcat faithful. He’s going to have to make changes with his coordinators. So long as he does that, he should be back in 2023 with another opportunity to right the ship.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights HC Greg Schiano
Rutgers sold out their stadium following a 3-0 start to the season over bad teams. They treated those fans to a 27-10 loss to half of a football team. This is year 3 for Schiano 2.0 and at some point he’s got to start showing progress in conference play. I’m not going to overreact to one game, but after the early year 1 improvements from Chris Ash, Schiano seems to be stagnating as a 4-8/5-7 type program. Can he survive that until the divisions are eliminated for the 2024 season? Maybe. But laying an egg in front of a full house isn’t going to help with that. Rutgers hasn’t won a home conference game since 2017.
wisconsin Badgers OC Bobby Engram
Let’s keep an eye on this one. The Ohio State loss was meaningless. The lack of good O-line play in the other games is more concerning. I’m sure wisconsin will still run for 420 yards against Purdue this season, but this isn’t the dominant wisconsin run game we’ve all grown so accustomed to seeing.
Coaches that are safe for 2023
Iowa Hawkeyes HC Kirk Ferentz, DC Phil Parker
Penn State Nittany Lions HC James Franklin
The below win totals are the #s needed to be 100% safe for returning next season. They are a reflection of contracts, season expectations, and past performance. I would expect many of these coaches to return even if they don’t meet these thresholds, but if they fail to do so this is where we start talking about the realm of possibility barring off field stuff we don’t already know about.
Coaches needing three wins to be safe: Illinois Fighting Illini HC Bret Bielema (2/3), Mel Tucker (2/3)
Coaches needing four wins to be safe: Pat Fitzgerald (1/4)
Coaches needing five wins to be safe: Minnesota Gophers HC PJ Fleck (4/5), Paul Chryst (2/5), Tom Allen (3/5)
Coaches needing six wins to be safe: Jeff Brohm (2/6), Maryland Terrapins HC Mike Locksley (3/6), Greg Schiano (3/6), Michigan Wolverines HC Jim Harbaugh (4/6)
Coaches needing seven wins to be safe: Ohio State Buckeyes HC Ryan Day (4/7)
Oh no. I just realized. It’s another article on OTE where we didn’t talk about Maryland... Maybe next time