The burning passion and ultraviolet spotlight of college football burns with great intensity. For coaches, if you’re not winning — and winning regularly — you’re falling behind and wasting the precious time of a demanding fanbase. Each and every year, a cadre of coaches enter the season with warm rear ends thanks to a hot seat. This is this season’s group, for whom it’s win now or else.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
He’s a Red Raider through and through. He has charisma and Ryan Gosling looks. He was expected to be the savior in Lubbock and excelled in his first year (2013) with an 8-5 mark. Somewhere along the line, though, the hype train fell off the rails. Kingsbury is 30-33 overall and 16-29 in the Big 12. Texas Tech has made two bowl games and been mostly a non-factor on the national scale. This is not what the university hoped for when they brought in the shiny new toy. If he were an outsider, there’s reason to believe he’d already have been shown the door. Another lackluster year makes the rationalization project a little more difficult.
Ed Orgeron, LSU
Coach O has never been truly comfortable. After going 9-4 in his first full season as head honcho, he needs to — at the very least — replicate that record. The Tigers sputtered at the finish line and stumbled their toe on the recruiting trail. There is a bad vibe surrounding the state of things right now and Orgeron is the type of guy with a firm ceiling. This is bold, but I believe LSU could be looking at a six-loss season and a new man in charge come late-November.
David Beaty, Kansas
Look, when you’re 3-33 and 1-26 in conference, it is a blessing to have any seat at all. If there’s a silver lining for Beaty, it’s that things can’t really get much worse. New athletic director Jeff Long, a man familiar with the highest of college football heights, probably wants to see more than one victory per year. Honestly and somewhat depressingly, two this campaign may be enough to save Beaty and his long-term goal of fielding a real football team.
Lovie Smith, Illinois
Year Three is critical for Smith, who has a six-year, $29 million deal. This was always going to be a reclamation project but it’s time to start reclaiming some wins. The Illini are 2-16 in the Big Ten during Smith’s tenure and he’s managed only three soft non-conference victories. I do quibble with some other media members as to the intensity of this particular hot seat. Considering Illinois’ other options, and the lows of recent years, a scandal-free Smith and improved recruiting is a decent reality.
Bob Davie, New Mexico
Davie served an unpaid 30-day suspension over the winter. Football is under the microscope as the university cuts other sports programs. The Lobos are fresh off a 3-9 season after a bowl bid in 2016. The cost-benefit ledger is getting a little tough to look at.
Kalani Sitake, BYU
The Cougars turned a 9-4 record into a 4-9 record and did so while putting one of the nation’s worst offenses on the field. He severed ties with Ty Detmer. BYU has no less than six tough road games this year. With Navy’s Ken Niumatolo making waves about leaving, Sitake won’t be able to take a deep breath for a long time.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Four years in Nashville and not quite a shadow of James Franklin does not bode well. Winning in the SEC is difficult, but a 6-26 conference record stings. Mason’s once-staunch defense allowed a stunning 43.3 points/game in 2017 and is inexperienced for this campaign. My gut feeling? Only a bowl game will save him, and a 4-8 season would certainly spell doom.
Barry Odom, Missouri
Losing 13 of his first 18 games was not the best way to begin. Rallying to win six of the last seven allows him a much longer leash. Odom has Drew Lock at his disposal, but needs to figure out a way to win against quality sides. Needs a .500 year at minimum.
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
OK, so maybe it’s a bit premature to put the former Ohio State coach on this list after only one season. But the Bearcats were a disappointing 4-8 last year and have slipped out of the national conversation. The university has a strong track record of grabbing a rising star (Brian Kelly, Mark Dantonio) on the way up and riding him to success. How long will the leash be? Guessing we’ll find out in 2019 unless something disastrous happens.