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Big Ten Coaching Hot Seats 2023 - Week 9 Edition

Brian Ferentz is committing crimes against college football

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Big Ten football coaching hot seats. In the three weeks since our last edition nobody has gotten fired, although several coaches are steadily moving in that direction. Perhaps nobody has grabbed the attention of college football fans for their coaching ineptitude more than Brian Ferentz.

Brian Ferentz was first hired onto the Iowa coaching staff for the 2012 season despite the hire breaching University of Iowa nepotism rules and guidelines. Brian technically works for the athletic director, but if we are being honest that’s just a paper workaround to skirt nepotism laws. Since 2012, he’s served in a variety of roles: O-line coach, running game coordinator, running backs coach, tight ends coach, quarterbacks coach, and most prominently the offensive coordinator for the past 7 seasons.

In 2020, Brian was accused of making racially insensitive comments and contributing to an unwelcoming program culture. Former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle ended up taking that bullet for Brian and was the one placed on administrative leave.

Beyond the obvious nepotism and the accusations from former players - which are bad enough on their own - Brian has shown himself incapable of running a successful college football offense resulting in him being handed a 25 points/game performance requirement this past offseason and being responsible for the creation of the Ferentz Line.

Despite this extremely low bar (25 points/game would put Iowa 75th in the country), Iowa has managed a paltry 19.5 points/game. That’s with a top 10 defense helping by scoring points of their own and gifting the offense great field position.

The offense has a miserable 56.4 plays/game (2nd worst in FBS). Their 4.12 yards/play ranks 3rd worst in FBS (just ahead of East Carolina’s 4.114 and Kent State’s 4.117). Yards per game is dead last at 232.4.

Unsurprisingly, the Hawkeyes have the least amount of first downs in FBS at just 94. They next lowest is Navy’s 101, but the Midshipmen have played one less game than Iowa! Third down conversion percentage is slightly more favorable for the Hawkeyes. At 26.4%, they beat out both Charlotte and Sam Houston State.

Things are so bad, Iowa is leading the nation in punt yards with a 600 yard cushion on 2nd place. Punter Tory Taylor has more punt yards than the entire Iowa offense yards gained.

I don’t know if Brian Ferentz will be fired. Although he works for the AD and not his father Kirk, Kirk could threaten to leave if the administration tries to force out Brian. At this point though, Iowa should call that bluff and promote Phil Parker if Kirk walks. Brian’s ineptitude is the a crime to college football. As much as we enjoy watching Iowa lose games because of it, it’s time to join the calls of Iowa games in asking for him to be replaced.

There’s been a shakeup in the rankings this week. That’s because you’ve complained and against my better judgment I’ve listened. Due to popular demand, interim coaches and assistants coaching under interim coaches will no longer be ranked unless the interim coach is expected to step into the full time role.

We continue ranking coordinators based on the likelihood that their performance gets them fired but not their head coaches axed.

**DISCLAIMER*** BoilerUp89 does not wish unemployment upon anyone most people 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 - Indiana Hoosier HC Tom Allen (previously 5)
7th season
salary: $4.9M/year
contract: runs through 2027 season
buyout at end of season: $20.8M

Syndication: The Herald-Times
This was taken during the Indiana-Rutgers game
Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Does anyone still think Tom Allen is the answer? Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer and South Alabama head coach Kane Wommack look like the main reasons for the Hoosier success of 2019-2020. So, if we are agreed that Tom is not the guy we are just arguing over timing and money.

The past weekend was homecoming weekend in Bloomington. Hoosier Hysteria occurred Friday night. All the clown stripe pants fans were in town. Attendance was still awful despite what should have been a game the Hoosiers could potentially win.

If Indiana waits another year to fire Tom Allen, they can save $13 million + a non-negligible amount they’ve committed to by making Rod Carey their next offensive coordinator midseason for no good reason. I’m not going to argue that the money is something the Hoosiers can just write off. I do have questions though. How badly will season ticket numbers fall next season? Especially when you don’t have Buckeye fans buying them just for the Ohio State game? How much in concession money will the Hoosiers lose? And perhaps most importantly, will the Hoosiers continue to lose basketball recruits to Kentucky because said recruits want to be able to watch a competitive football program on fall Saturdays.

If the last question had any basis in reality to it, Tom Allen would already be gone. Which tells me the money could be pulled together, it’s just a matter of donor priorities.

Next up: at Penn State, Wisconsin

2 - Illinois Fighting Illini OC Barry Lunney Jr. (previously 4)
2nd season
salary: $800K/year
contract: runs through 2025 season
buyout at end of season: $1.65M

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois has a better offense than Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. So, perhaps Lunney shouldn’t be so high on this list. Consider though that Indiana has already fired their OC, Michigan State and Northwestern have interim head coaches removing their OC’s from the rankings, Iowa has an nepotism hire, and Minnesota/Nebraska have 1st year coordinators.

The Illini can’t pass the ball despite bringing in a transfer quarterback this offseason. Being this one-dimensional in year 2 under an offensive coordinator is a good recipe for getting said coordinator canned. The good news for Lunney is that he still has time to turn things around and secure a 3rd season running the Illini offense. Minnesota, Indiana, and Northwestern remain on the schedule and could be cures for what has ailed the Illini.

Next up: bye week, at Minnesota

3 - Iowa Hawkeyes OC Brian Ferentz (previously watchlist)
7th season
salary: $850k/year
contract: runs through June 30, 2024
buyout at end of season: N/A

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
The Ferentz Line will go down in history similar to the Mendoza Line.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

If the stats in the introduction weren’t enough for you, let’s review the Hawkeyes offensive drives in the second half against Minnesota:

  • 3 plays, 0 yards, punt
  • 2 plays, -6 yards, fumble
  • 3 plays, 3 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 3 yards, punt (no that’s not a duplicate)
  • 3 plays, -18 yards, punt
  • 7 plays (huzzah!), 27 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, -7 yards, interception

In total, the Hawkeyes ran 24 second half offensive plays on 7 drives. Those 7 drives resulted in 5 punts, 2 turnovers, and 0 points. They netted 2 yards for the entirety of the half. Brian Ferentz should stay away from The Hague if he wants to avoid being charged with crimes against humanity.

Perhaps Kirk keeps Brian as OC for another year. It seems more likely that he will be asked to either arrange for a new coaching job for Brian or the new athletic director will have the opportunity to become the most popular person in Iowa.

Next up: bye week, Northwestern

4 - Nebraska Cornhuskers OC Marcus Satterfield (previously 3)
1st season
salary: $1.4M/year
contract: runs through 2025 season
buyout at end of season: $2.8M

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Nebraska
Howard scored more points against Northwestern than Nebraska
Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

The Cornhuskers are averaging 13.5 points a game against Big Ten opponents. Not scoring against Michigan is one thing. Northwestern scored 31 points in regulation compared to Nebraska’s 10 against the Gophers defense though. The Illini have given up the second most points in Big Ten play but Nebraska managed just 20 against them. FCS Howard outscored Nebraska against the Wildcats (20 - there was a missed 2 point conversion for the Bison - v. Nebraska’s 17).

Rhule probably won’t face too much pressure to replace any assistants if Nebraska can eke out a bowl appearance this year as it has been awhile. This week’s game against Purdue will be critical towards that goal though. Regardless of team success this season though, if Rhule wants to rebuild the Nebraska program, Satterfield doesn’t appear that he’s going to get it done.

Next up: Purdue, at Michigan State

5 - Indiana Hoosiers DC Chad Wilt (previously unranked)
2nd season
salary: $550k/year
contract: runs through 2023 season
buyout at end of season: N/A

Rutgers v Indiana
Indiana gave up 276 yards rushing to Rutgers.
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Ok, I don’t think Chad Wilt is the problem with Indiana football right now. I don’t think anyone anywhere believes Wilt is the problem with Indiana football right now. That doesn’t change the fact that the Hoosiers have given up 150 points through 4 Big Ten games. The next highest team is the Illini at 143 points but the Illini have played 5 conference games.

Although the Indiana offense is putting the defense is awful positions and giving up scores of their own. the fact remains that opponents are scoring too often on the Hoosiers defense. If Indiana isn’t going to fire Tom Allen (and signs point to the Hoosiers not firing him) and they’ve already fired the offensive coordinator midseason, what are they going to do to convince fans that next season will be better than the second half of this year?

Replacing Chad Wilt seems like the potential marketing solution to Indiana’s lack of financial commitment to football. That’s not fair to Wilt, but life isn’t fair sometimes and it’s not like you can’t make the argument that Indiana can’t upgrade at DC. I mean they just lost to a team that had 39 passing yards.

Next up: at Penn State, Wisconsin


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 UTSA at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Minnesota Gophers OC Greg Harbaugh Jr.

The Gophers scored four field goals to free Floyd from his prison in Iowa City. There is no shame in struggling to score points against Iowa, but the offense has struggled to move the ball against everyone not named Northwestern or Louisiana. Harbaugh Jr. isn’t off to a good start as an offensive play caller in Minnesota.

Next up: Michigan State, Illinois

Purdue Boilermakers OC Graham Harrell

Purdue fans have been disappointed in Harrell’s offense this season. That’s fair. They should note however that the Boilermakers have scored more points/Big Ten game than 8 other league members (Rutgers and Illinois have scored more points, but have played an additional game). With the offensive line injuries piling up and a lack of depth to work with there, there are reasons to think that things won’t get too much better as the season winds down. The incoming recruiting class is excellent though, and I expect Harrell to get another opportunity to show why Walters hired him unless things go off the rails and recruits start to bail.

Next up: at Nebraska, at Michigan

Illinois Fighting Illini DC Aaron Henry

The Illini lost a lot from last year’s defense and were expected to take a step back. Not this far of a step back though. The Illini have now given up 222 points on the season and 143 in conference play. That’s good enough for worst and second worst in the Big Ten in those two categories. This is the result despite playing in the Big Ten West which does not have good offenses. Henry is just 34 years old and this is his first season as a defensive coordinator. It appears that he needs more seasoning and isn’t ready for the role yet.

Next up: bye week, at Minnesota

Interim Situations

  • Northwestern Wildcats interim HC David Braun - Braun hasn’t done anything wrong since taking over as head coach, but that doesn’t mean he’s fixed the problems plaguing the Wildcats on the field either. Add in the fact that most administrators would be looking to wipe the slate completely clean and it’s hard to imagine Braun coming back next year with the interim tag removed. Should Northwestern win a couple more games though, Braun has a chance.
  • Northwestern Wildcats OC Mike Bajakian - Northwestern managed 257 total yards of offense against Nebraska this past week and failed to find the endzone even once. Bajakian should be fired for many reasons.
  • Michigan State Spartans interim HC Harlon Barnett - Sparty has lost 5 in a row since Barnett took over for Tucker and appear on the verge of giving up. Barring some shocking victories over Ohio State and Penn State, I don’t see any way for Barnett to get the full time nod.
  • Michigan State Spartans OC Jay Johnson - Michigan State has scored just 8 more points than Indiana in Big Ten play. Sparty has yet to play Ohio State or Penn State while Indiana is only missing Penn State from the trio of death. Johnson would be at the top of the hot seat rankings if his head coach was still around.
  • Michigan State Spartans DC Scottie Hazelton - The Michigan State defense has been awful. They just gave up 49 points to their rival.

Off the rankings/watchlist

former Michigan State HC Mel Tucker - FIRED September 27

former Indiana OC Walt Bell - FIRED October 1

Coaches that should be safe for 2023

Syndication: The Record
Ciarrocca is in line for a pay raise
Kevin R. Wexler/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

We welcome our first two coordinators to the safe list as well as four additional head coaches who have met their win total requirements.

Maryland Terrapins HC Mike Locksley

Iowa Hawkeyes HC Kirk Ferentz

Iowa Hawkeyes DC Phil Parker

Purdue Boilermakers HC Ryan Walters

Wisconsin Badgers HC Luke Fickell

Nebraska Cornhuskers HC Matt Rhule

Rutgers Scarlet Knights HC Greg Schiano

Rutgers Scarlet Knights OC Kirk Ciarrocca

Michigan Wolverines HC [and cheater] Jim Harbaugh

Safety Levels

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa
PJ talking to Kirk about Floyd’s new living arrangements. Freeing Floyd will turn down the heat on Fleck’s seat.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The win totals each head coach needs to reach to be safe for next season (barring off field issues). These reflect coach’s tenure, season expectations, and contract. Note these are the win totals needed to be completed safe - most coaches would return anyway with less wins than these levels.

Coordinators can be let go regardless of record, so you won’t see them with a win requirement. Instead they will move to the safe category in the second half of the season when their unit has accomplished enough.

Need 4 wins: Illinois Fighting Illini HC Bret Bielema

Need 5 wins: Indiana Hoosiers HC Tom Allen

Need 6 wins: Minnesota Gophers HC P.J. Fleck

Need 7 wins: Michigan State Spartans interim HC Harlon Barnett

Need 8 wins: Northwestern Wildcats interim HC David Braun (assuming cleared of having knowledge of the program’s cultural issues), Penn State Nittany Lions HC James Franklin

Need 9 wins: Ohio State Buckeyes HC Ryan Day

Who do you think will be fired? Who am I completely off on? What creative ways have you come up with to jettison your underperforming coordinators? Sound off in the comments and make your predictions for who gets fired next.


Who should be fired next?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Tom Allen
    (92 votes)
  • 2%
    Barry Lunney Jr.
    (10 votes)
  • 69%
    Brian Ferentz
    (285 votes)
  • 1%
    Marcus Satterfield
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Aaron Henry
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    (12 votes)
410 votes total Vote Now


Who will be fired next?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Tom Allen
    (194 votes)
  • 7%
    Barry Lunney Jr.
    (23 votes)
  • 4%
    Marcus Satterfield
    (13 votes)
  • 9%
    Chad Wilt
    (29 votes)
  • 2%
    Aaron Henry
    (7 votes)
  • 11%
    (33 votes)
299 votes total Vote Now