Pat Fitzgerald is out. The hazing scandal forced the Northwestern Wildcats to fire him, and one of the worst jobs in college football is open to fill. However, aspiring head coaches should think long and hard before taking that one. Here are the 10 worst head coaching jobs in the sport.
Deion Sanders may bring all the buzz to the Buffaloes right now, but history shows the program is only doing well when USC isn’t. It’s no secret that Colorado won the Big 12 in 2001 but then fell hard the next year, just as Pete Carroll returned the Trojans to a top 10 program. Colorado relies on poaching Southern California kids.
With Lincoln Riley at USC, it’s still going to be hard to poach such kids, so recruiting is in trouble. Meanwhile, the program is still mired in scandal that resulted in Gary Barnett being fired in 2005, something it still hasn’t recovered from. There’s just not a lot going for the place outside of Sanders’ name right now.
9. South Carolina
Two hall of fame head coaches led the Gamecocks back to back. Lou Holtz never did better than 9-3. Steve Spurrier did have a run where he won the East and then finished 11-2 three straight seasons. However, in 10 years, he averaged just over eight wins, and those four seasons were his only top 25 finishes.
Playing in the SEC is rough enough, but South Carolina also has to share the elite but limited talent in its state with Clemson. Given what Dabo Swinney has done, the Tigers are going to win those battles. Shane Beamer had a strong finish to last year, but this program wants to be on Clemson’s level, and it just can’t.
8. Arizona State
Ready for a crazy stat? Arizona State has fired each of its last eight head coaches dating back to 1991, seven of whom were coming off winning seasons and seven of whom were coming off bowl appearances. Six were coming off both, and all were coming off at least one one. They only have two Pac-12 titles during that time.
This is a state in the middle of the pack in terms of NFL talent produced, and it has to compete with the Arizona Wildcats for recruiting. Simply put, it’s not a great job, and the expectations are insane. Bruce Snyder was fired in 2000 two years after an 11-1 season. Herm Edwards was recently fired on the field after a game. It’s a toxic place.
7. Ole Miss
They play in the best state for NFL talent per capita, but the population isn’t that big, and Ole Miss has to compete with Mississippi State for that talent. Meanwhile, the Rebels haven’t won an SEC Championship since 1963. That hasn’t stopped them from expecting a lot.
Ole Miss has fired coaches such as Matt Luke, Houston Nutt and David Cutcliffe, the latter two of whom saw good success there. Simply put, they expect to be Alabama or even Auburn, but they aren’t. Defiantly embracing the Confederacy long after the SEC integrated didn’t help matters when it came to recruiting the players they needed.
Gary Pinkel maxed out what can be done at Missouri, and he did it when the Tigers were in the Big 12. Now, Mizzou is in the SEC, and they draw comparisons to Arkansas, but the Hogs can steal some talent out of Texas. The Tigers can do no such thing, which makes it much harder to win.
Still, they fired Barry Odom after he took over a disastrous situation, all because he finished 6-6 in a year that his team was on probation. Expectations like that are insane. Missouri should approach its program the way Kentucky does with Mark Stoops, but they are shooting higher. That’s a bad situation for a coach.
5. Texas Tech
Honestly, Texas Tech has proven it would rather be cheap than successful in college football. Remember when they fired Mike Leach over an abuse claim made by Craig James’ son? Many people in the program’s inner circle believe that was done to negate a contract extension he signed earlier that year when he was a hot commodity.
Since then, they have gone through Tommy Tuberville, Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Wells, the latter two of whom were fired too. While there is elite talent in Texas, it’s much further East than Lubbock, so they have to compete with Texas and Texas A&M to convince kids to come to a boring place in a lesser conference.
Although the leash is long at Vanderbilt, it’s still not a job worth taking. Sure, the Commodores were the springboard for James Franklin, but that was during a totally different time in a totally different SEC. It’s not the same anymore, and no matter what Clark Lea does, he won’t do enough to be a hot coaching prospect.
Vandy has academic standards that are way too strict. That alone isn’t a killer, as Duke and Stanford have those, but in Vanderbilt’s case it comes with coaching against an SEC schedule. There is simply no way you can succeed at that place, and the fan base is so pathetic you’ll never get the talent you want. Simply put, it’s a bad job.
Here’s a top 10 program in college football history with a fan base and administration that expects to return to that status. The problem is Nebraska is in the worst location of any top 25 historical program out there when it comes to recruiting, and now they are stuck in the Big Ten.
It’s a bad combination. Bill Callahan, Mike Riley and Scott Frost have all tried to bring new offensive approaches to the school in the post-triple option era, but they have failed. Maybe Matt Rhule will turn it around, but the program has to get creative beyond what anybody thinks they can do to right the ship.
Normally, this school wouldn’t be so high. However, you’re taking over for the most successful coach in the program’s recent history, and you’re doing it on the heels of a massive scandal. That’s a bad situation to walk into regardless of the program you’re at.
Add in the fact that the Wildcats play in the Big Ten and are the Vanderbilt of that conference in terms of academic standards, and you’re in a bad spot. Nobody would be smart to take this job right now, especially following Fitzgerald. There are too many negatives.
1. Notre Dame
Yes, Notre Dame is the WORST job in America. Like Nebraska, they have expectations of always being in the top 10. Unlike Nebraska, they also have academic standards on the level of Duke, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Stanford. Also unlike Nebraska, they still think tradition sells.
Ask a Notre Dame fan, and they’ll say their name brand allows them to recruit. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t Brian Kelly maxed out what can be done there this day in age, and that’s why he bolted for LSU. You can have more success than most other schools on here, but it’s impossible to reach the expectations of the program.