Okay, Coaching Carousel is back.
Sorry, I'm busy, easily distracted, and thoroughly despondent over the direction of Alabama's season. In the interim, the countdown has ended and the carousel has begun a-spinnin'. For the time being, we're going to continue to concentrate on BCS conference jobs. So if you're looking for information on that coveted North Texas coaching gig, you'll have to go elsewhere.
Let's start by acknowledging those that have gone on to a better place and where their erstwhile teams go from here...
OUT: Tim Brewster
2010 Record: 1-6
Record at Minnesota: 15-30 overall, 6-21 conference
Tim Brewster was a prime candidate to get axed coming into this season and did little to help himself through the first month of the season, yet he somehow evaded my first roundup of coaches on the hot seat. Pure negligence on my part. And now he's gone. Brewster had never been so much as a coordinator at the college level, nor a head coach at any level, when Minnesota tabbed him to be their head coach in 2007. Apparently they had grown dissatisfied with Glen Mason's consistent ability to get the Gophers to a bowl game (5 in a row at the time of his ouster, 7 bowls in 10 seasons overall), but not much else, and decided a guy with no experience whatsoever held the key to taking UM to the next level. And it was a disaster. Despite some favorable scheduling allowing the Gophers to sneak into back to back Insight Bowls, it was clear the program was regressing all the while, ultimately bottoming out in this miserable season. Brewster leaves Minnesota never having beaten any of the school's chief rivals and never winning a single one of those 1,001 trophies they have in the Big 10.
Potential Candidates: Everyone from Tony Dungy, Phil Fulmer, and Mike Leach has had their name attached to this job. Obviously none of those guys are realistic candidates. I talked a bit about this already in this week's Big 10 Q&A, so I'll reiterate that the best, and in my opinion most likely, candidates are successful non-BCS head coaches like Kevin Sumlin from Houston and Al Golden from Temple. Sumlin previously spent some time at Minnesota as an assistant. This is not a great job, but it's not a bad one either. They can get a good coach, but they're not going to get the big names (like Jim Harbaugh) or the elite assistants (like Gus Malzahn).
OUT: Dan Hawkins
2010 Record: 3-6
Record at Colorado: 19-39 overall, 10-27 conference
In their last season in the Big 12, the Buffaloes went out with a whimper, and so to did Dan Hawkins. After a hugely disappointing 2009 season, there was little hope for improvement this season, but a lack of financial resources (aka their boosters suck) kept them from turfing Hawkins. The Hawk leaves Boulder having taken the Buffs to just one bowl game (an Independence Bowl loss to Alabama in 2007) and never posting a winning record. His teams were an astounding 2-24 outside the state of Colorado. Basically, his entire tenure at CU was one big public service announcement for the likes of Chris Peterson and Gary Patterson: Be sure you've got the right job before you leave your mid-major utopia. They ain't all Florida.
Potential Candidates: Though they seemingly came up with the cash to send Hawkins packing, there's still no indication that they're in financial shape to make competitive offers for the better candidates looking to hop aboard The Carousel. There's a reason Bill McCartney is a serious contender for the job. He'll come cheap, and he has enough positive vibes attached to his name to satisfy a portion of the base. It also helps that Kansas State has had moderate success since bringing back another old Bill last year. I honestly think he'll be the coach there. If not, the Buffs are realistically looking at second tier assistants and the like. Best case scenario here is maybe enticing Troy Calhoun to come over from Air Force, but he's turned down better jobs.
Now let's get happy. Take a look at some coaches who were on the hot seat heading into this season but have managed to significantly improve their situation since we last checked in on them.
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland
2010 Record: 6-3
Given the low standards for achievement that currently exist at Maryland, I think Friedgen has done enough to ensure he gets another year. The Terrapins are going to a bowl. Everything else is gravy. It would take going 0-3 the rest of the way and losing the bowl game before anyone there is going to reconsider Friedgen's job.
Next 2 weeks: at Virginia, vs. Florida State
Chances for Survival: 95%
Ron Zook, Illinois
2010 Record: 5-4
This team has really surprised me. Those "replace all the assistants to keep your job" gambits rarely pan out. I give most of the credit to new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who's managed to squeeze some life out of an offense that had been increasingly moribund since the departure of Rashard Mendenhall, but Zook will reap the rewards of another year as head coach. The one hitch here could be that two of the Illini's wins have come against FCS competition, meaning they have to hit 7 wins to be bowl eligible. However, Illinois' last 3 games are all winnable, and I imagine the administration was in on the scheme to fluff up the win total at the possible expense of post season play. 6 wins should give the return of the Zooker in 2011.
Next 2 weeks: vs. Minnesota, @ Northwestern
Chances for Survival: 80%
Now for a couple of guys who've helped themselves over the past several games but aren't quite out of the woods just yet.
ON THE EDGE OF THEIR SEATS
Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
2010 Record: 6-3
RichRod is going to a bowl. Coming into the season, that seemed to be the top criteria for retaining his job. Thanks to that 67-65 win over Illinois, he's done it. With a game against 4-5 Purdue coming up this weekend, 7 wins is within reach. All that said, this Michigan team hasn't made it look easy, even in wins (see 67-65), and as great as the offense has looked with Denard Robinson, the defense has shown no signs of improvement. If anything it's regressed, and that's what's holding this team back. So there's still reason for important, influential people surrounding the program to think a change is in order. Especially considering many of those people HATE Rich the way Rich hates Tate Forcier. An upset loss to Purdue would put him in peril once again. On the other hand, an upset win over Wisconsin or Ohio State would shut everyone up. I think Rich is still living game to game. His chances for survival might look much different next week.
Next 2 weeks: @ Purdue, vs. Wisconsin
Chances for Survival: 70%
Mark Richt, Georgia
2010 Record: 5-5
Five games into the season, I was pretty sure the only thing that could save Richt's job was his enormous buyout (somewhere in the neighborhood of $10mil, allegedly). But UGA regrouped at home and got their act together against bottom dwellers Tennessee and Vanderbilt, ultimately ripping off 3 straight wins. A win against Florida would have gotten him off this list completely, but his Bulldogs at least looked competitive in defeat. However, Richt now finds himself in the untenable position of needing to win at least one out of his last 2 games to reach bowl eligibility. And if Cam Newton plays (all indications are he will as of now), Georgia has no shot of beating the Tigers. So that boils the whole season down to their big game with Georgia Tech. The Yellowjackets haven't looked much better than Georgia this year, but it's a rivalry game. You just never know how those are going to shake out. A loss there will make for quite the awkward Thanksgiving weekend in Athens.
Next 2 weeks: at Auburn, vs. Georgia Tech
Chances for Survival: 70%
And then there's this guy...
PLEASE COLLECT YOUR PERSONAL BELONGINGS BEFORE EXITING
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
2010 Record: 4-5
Similar to Illinois, the Sun Devils elected to pad their win total with 2 games against FCS opponents this season. In order to reach bowl eligibility, they will have to win out the rest of the way to get to a bowl and save Erickson's job. The good news is two of those games are at home where they've played a bit better than on the road. The bad news is one of those games is against mighty Stanford, who ASU doesn't have a snowball's chance in Dennis Erickson's seat of beating.
Next 2 weeks: vs. Stanford, vs. UCLA
Chances for Survival: 10%
Finally, we have one new addition to the watch.
Robbie Caldwell, Vanderbilt
2010 Record: 2-7
Caldwell only has his job because Bobby Johnson quit to close to the start of the season for Vanderbilt to get anybody else. Since taking over, the Commodores have been awful under his watch, the lone bright spot being stealing a win from Ole Miss early in the Jeremiah Masoli experiment. Since then, they've barely even been competitive in the SEC. Vanderbilt isn't as ruthless as other SEC schools when it comes to demanding results, but I can't see them tolerating this much longer. No one there was really happy with how Johnson basically left his coaching staff on their doorstep in the middle of the night. Barring a major upset down the stretch (say, against Tennessee), they're going to clean house and start over very soon.
Next 2 weeks: at Kentucky, vs. Tennessee
Chances for Survival: 10%