This offseason had movement as it pertains to coaches changing post office boxes and “.edu” addresses. We always like to look at good coaching hires; Gene Chizik at Auburn or Howard Schnellenberger at Miami, many years ago, but how about the other side what schools have made bad hires. I do not think there is enough room to detail the bad hires throughout the history of college football, so I decided to take the ten worst hires of the last decade. I could put many coaches on this list and some you may agree with, while some you can make the argument that that they are too low or too high.
10. Dan Hawkins, Colorado. Hawkins took the job in Boulder after being labeled an offensive genius, while coaching Boise St. Hawk took the Colorado took his team skydiving and paragliding and wanted to show his team that there was nothing to fear. However the fear came for fans when the Buffs lined up against average Big-12 teams. It did not help that Hawk seemed to believe his son, Cody Hawkins, was the best option at quarterback, although Cody was really the height of an option quarterback in a high school offense. The debate of who should be the Buff’s starting signal caller raged for the final three years of Hawkins’s tenure which may have ultimately cost him his job. It could be argued that Boise St. coaches leave Boise and lose some magic.
9. Dirk Koetter, Arizona St. Speaking of former Boise St. coaches, here is another one on the list. Koetter was able to wow the ASU athletic director enough to allow him to coach a program that really should be a lot better than it perennially performs. No one can really put its finger on exactly why Arizona State is not consistently good, and Koetter was not able to put his finger on why as well. Arizona St. thought Koetter’s offensive mind would translate into more wins, more excitement, more fans and more ticket sales, but instead yielded a pedestrian record, sagging ticket sales, and general apathy in the Valley of the Sun.
8. Paul Wulff Washington St. Does anybody remember Washington St. playing in the Rose Bowl, being one of the better programs in the Pac-10, and being the best program in the Northwest? When Mike Price was coaching the scarlet and grey that was how the Cougs were perceived, then came Bill Doba who started the downturn where Washington State continues to drop under Paul Wulff to where Eastern Washington and Idaho are more desirable destinations. It speaks volumes that athletes from those schools want a crack at Washington St. and realistically believe they can beat them. Wulff has been at Washington St three years and has failed to win more than three games
7. Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville. Okay granted Bobby Petrino may have set a standard that was not sustainable at a school like Louisville. So initially, Kragthorpe walked into a situation where Louisville may have been rolling but realistically was not going to sustain that same level of success over time. So with that said Kragthorpe could have sustained a level where Louisville was at least competitive in the awful Big East Conference. 10-2 or 11-1 every year are unrealistic, but 7-5, 8-4 are very realistic.
6. John Mackovic, Arizona. Mackovic was brought in to replace legend in Dick Tomey. The thought was Mackovic was a great offensive mind and would bring excitement to Saturday evenings at Arizona Stadium which was in direct contrast to the “Desert swarm days” which were filled with defense, defense and more defense. Well it brought excitement to the program; players secretly meeting to discuss the verbal abuse from Mackovic, the program becoming the focus of an ESPN reality television show, and players coming out in the media and stating they have lost the love for the game. I am not sure if that is the excitement Arizona sought when they made that hire.
5. Mike Locksley New Mexico. New Mexico is not a good program, a good year for that program is 7-5 and a winning record in conference. Mike Locksley inherited a program that though was never a real threat to challenge for a conference title it was a program that could make things difficult for programs in the conference. Locksley went to New Mexico with recruiting pedigree and a plan, and realized what many before him realized. It is hard to recruit to New Mexico, the fan base is apathetic toward football, and there is virtually no instate talent base. The fan base has unrealistic expectations of what the program should be but will not support it enough to get it to that place.
4. Gary Crowton BYU. Okay he was succeeding a legend. Lavell Edwards could be considered the father of the modern passing game. He made BYU a national power, he made BYU a school that non-LDS athletes would consider to play receiver or Quarterback. Crowton took the job and finished his first season with a 12-2 record with mostly Edward’s recruits, then came the string of embarrassing losses and “un-BYU-like” records. Coincidentally at this time hated in-state rival Utah started to become relevant not only in the state but nationally. Utah’s move to the PAC-12 is a product of the upgrades to the facilities, money, fan support and performance, but the Utes need to send Gary Crowton a Christmas card every year and thank him because without those three subpar recruiting cycles at BYU, Utah would not have been able to land the good recruits in the area that did not want to play in the Pac-10, or at BYU.
3. Ty Willingham, Washington. Should he have been number one? You could argue it but I’ll give him a pass because of the way he was treated at Notre Dame. Willingham was not a bad hire by Notre Dame, but he was a bad hire by Washington. Say what you want, Willingham deserved one more year at Notre Dame, after all Charlie Wiess’ s lone BCS appearance was with Willingham’s recruits. But we are discussing why Willingham’s hiring at Washington was horrible. Willingham was probably a little burned out after coaching in the pressure cooker that is Notre Dame football and may have needed time away from the game. There were times during his tenure at Washington Willingham looked disinterested, and wanted to be as far away from Seattle as a guy could get. The Washington job is a good job and needed the right man for the job; Willingham was not that guy.
2. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame. I think it surprises no one that this hire would be somewhere near the top. Touchdown Grimace was a disaster at Notre Dame, if defense were a cake or a pie maybe “the ample one” would have taken an interest in it. Granted Notre Dame’s football program is not the program it would like to believe that it is, but it should be able to be better than it was under Weiss, and certainly should not be losing to Navy, Boston College, or having Stanford fans making signs that say “not our equal, in the classroom or on the field.”
1. Bill Callahan, Nebraska. Bill Callahan made his name by attaching himself to Jon Gruden. Callahan was an okay offensive coordinator but was only productive for one year as a head coach at the NFL level. Granted the NFL game is different but that does not mean that the college game is easier. There is the process of evaluating 17,18, 19 and 20 year olds, there is the process of developing schemes to fit your talent, and there is the process of keeping your boosters happy. Callahan failed at all three. It really does not make a lot of sense why Nebraska is good, no real recruiting base, no major media markets, and not a lot for college aged people to do but yet they were good for a long time, but Callahan was not able to maintain and advance the success of previous regimes.
Okay it is a list for discussion; for the record I know I will hear about Rich Rodriguez, or Ron Prince, but I actually believe both that both were let go a little early, so there is not a large enough sample size to warrant them being on this list, as well as the non football factors which existed in those jobs.