Yesterday, we looked at how Lane Kiffin will need to push the right buttons and create a winning mentality in the wake of a 2-year bowl ban. Despite the uphill battle, Kiffin’s job is secure. Recently, cbssports.com released their coach hot seat rankings. Let’s see how the coaches of the Pac-10 faired and how I think the situation shakes out. In parentheses are the ratings given by CBSSports.
King of the Hill
Chip Kelly, Oregon (Year 2, 10-3 ; Very Safe)
On the field, fans have to be pleased with the job Kelly has done. In his first season, he won the Pac-10 title, and made a Rose Bowl appearance. Off the field, Oregon players have been appearing in court rooms far too often and star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli–who stole a laptop from a fraternity house–will miss the 2010 season. In addition, star running back LaMichael James will miss one game after a domestic violence charge. Although his players have had a nose for trouble, these stories will quickly take a back seat if Kelly continues to run the potent offense and win games in Eugene. Regardless, Kelly is king in Oregon and does not have to worry about job security.
Jim Harbaugh, Stanford (Year 4, 17-20 ; Can’t be touched)
Don’t let the record fool you. Jim Harbaugh has this Stanford program rolling. In 2007, he orchestrated the biggest upset in the history of college football when he took down USC 24-23 at the LA Coliseum. In 2009, Stanford went 7-4 with Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart and went bowling for the first time since 2001. In 2010, Stanford will be led by perhaps the best quarterback in the Pac-10 in Andrew Luck. Harbaugh has become a hot commodity in the coaching world and he will continue to be as long as Stanford continues to rise. Despite his arrogant tactics and $50,000 bathroom in his office, Harbaugh’s winning has made him a hit on the Farm, and he will be welcome for years to come.
Mike Riley, Oregon State (Year 10, 64-47 ; Can’t be touched)
Riley is probably the best coach in the Pac-10, and he draws up some of the best game plans in the conference. When given two weeks to prepare, the coach is nearly unbeatable. He recruits players that the elite programs do not want and turns them in to high-achieving players. Consistently, Riley has been a thorn in USC’s side and has built a team that always seems to be near the top of the conference. Riley recently signed a lengthy contract extension that will keep him in Corvallis for a while. The people of Corvallis have nothing negative to say about Riley, and he is a fan favorite. He can stay in that town as long as he pleases.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington (Year 2, 5-7 ; Can’t be touched)
Sarkisian turned around the Washington program that failed to win a game in 2008 under Ty Willingham. With arguably the best quarterback in the country in senior Jake Locker, Washington has recaptured the eye of Seattle and is finally in Pac-10 title talks. With a 5 game turnaround in 2009, the sky is the limit in 2010, and fans are very pleased with the job Sarkisian is doing.
Mike Stoops, Arizona (Year 7, 33-39 ; Safe)
Mike Stoops appears to have Arizona going in the right direction. Despite getting throttled by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, Arizona had a very successful 8-5 season. The school has even bigger hopes for the 2010 season and Stoops has done a nice job of recruiting. In 2009, he secured a marquee win by beating USC at the LA Coliseum and will be looking to improve on their tie for second in the conference. With hopes high, Stoops can focus on coaching and not worry about getting a pink slip.
Lane Kiffin, USC (Year 1, 0-0 ; On the bubble of being on the hot seat)
Kiffin will lead the Trojans in to battle in 2010 for his first season. Reports have Kiffin making nearly $4 million a year. Although CBSSports says Kiffin is on the bubble, he appears to be in a relatively safe position. It would take a losing season–a real longshot– to even start up talk of a Kiffin firing. Even then, he probably should get a pass for two years because of the situation he has inherited. More importantly, athletic director Mike Garrett, if he is still around, is too arrogant to fire a coach after one season and admit to a mistake. It is truly amazing how many expect Kiffin to fail even though he has much more talent then he did at Tennessee where he went 7-5. He has yet to get a chance to prove himself at USC, and therefore should not even entertain thoughts of losing his job.
Jeff Tedford, California ( Year 9, 67-35 ; Safe)
Tedford deserves a huge pat on the back for making Cal football relevant again, especially at a school that seems somewhat disinterested. He took a 1-10 team in 2001 and turned it into a 7-5 team in 2002. Tedford has recruited well, bringing in the likes of Kyle Boller, Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson, and Jahvid Best while turning Cal from a cellar dweller to perennial title contender under Tedford. Most notably, the Bears won a share of the Pac-10 title in 2006. However, fans of the blue and gold are becoming impatient with Tedford, and rightfully so. The cerebral coach has failed to deliver a Rose Bowl appearance, a game that has eluded the Bears since 1959. In addition, Cal has wilted under the spotlight. In 2007, the #2 Bears were a win away from taking the #1 ranking before a clock management meltdown against Oregon State sent them into a tailspin as they lost 6 of their last 7. Without a doubt, Tedford has had an enormous impact on this program. However, some would argue Tedford isn’t the right coach to push Cal to the Rose Bowl. Because of this, the pressure is on him to win this season with a senior quarterback in Kevin Riley.
Rick Neuheisel, UCLA (Year 3, 11-14 ; Safe)
For two straight seasons, Neuheisel has had a losing season and an anemic offense. Year 3 will be an important one for Slick Rick as the pressure is now on him. His first two seasons brought top 15 recruiting classes and 2010 was no exception. With the stockpile of talent he is built, UCLA will be expected to be a serious contender in 2010. If not, Neuheisel will be in jeopardy of losing his job. His predecessor, Karl Dorrell was fired after 5 seasons with a 35-27 record for underachieving. That means in the next 3 seasons, Neuheisel will have to average an 8-4 record just to have the same record as Dorrell. More importantly, Rick needs to beat USC in 2010. UCLA takes on their cross-town rival at the Rose Bowl this season and needs to pull off the win to finally get Neuheisel a signature win. Even Dorrell was able to beat USC. Although it is unlikely Neuheisel will be fired after the 2010 season, he needs to start winning more games or he could find himself collecting unemployment checks.
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State (Year 4, 19-18 ; On the bubble of being on the hot seat)
Arizona State is regressing and their recruiting is taking a hit. Erickson has not done a nice job of steering the ship and the stands have been emptying at Sun Devil Stadium. Erickson must go bowling in 2010 to keep his job. Part of the reason Dennis is in trouble is due to the progress at Arizona. In Tucson, Arizona continues to improve while the Sun Devils are getting worse. It never helps your job security when your rivals are gaining ground on you. Erickson has had a nice run in college–most notably at Oregon State and Miami– but the time has come to retire.
Sitting on a Scalding Hot Seat
Paul Wulff, Washington State (Year 3, 3-22 ; On the hot seat–it’s time to win now)
Is Washington State even in the Pac-10? For the past two years, the Cougars have become a laughingstock in the Pac-10 and have failed to put up any semblance of a fight. Considering that Wulff has the worst winning percentage of any Washington State coach since 1893, he needs to start winning games and let the Pac-10 know that the team from Pullman isn’t just going to roll over. Colleges do not like to fire coaches midseason, so Wulff will probably make it through year 3. However, the program has run aground and needs a new head coach. Wulff will not be around when this list is complied in 2011.