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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

15 college football coaches on the hot seat

Bret Bielema Arkansas

It’s late enough in the college football season that we can begin wondering just how much leeway will be given to some of the nation’s most notable coaches. In some instances, those at both big and small schools alike are coaching for their futures. Some can still save themselves, while for others, it’s probably going to be too little, too late.

Here is a list of the 15 college football coaches on the hottest of hot seats.

15) Jim Mora, UCLA

With quarterback Josh Rosen back healthy after missing most of his sophomore season, Mora was supposed to improve easily in 2017. However, expectations simply have not been met.

After a 2-0 start to the season — including a remarkable comeback against Texas A&M — UCLA followed with three losses in four games. They took advantage of a weakened Oregon team to improve to 4-3 — matching last year’s win total — but they have trips to Washington, Utah, and USC looming. Mora’s job is safe for now, but a bad finish to the season could change everything.

14) Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

That Sumlin is not higher up on this list is rather amazing considering how Texas A&M’s season started. The Aggies allowed 28 unanswered fourth quarter points in a loss to UCLA, leading to many calls for Sumlin’s job.

Sumlin managed to help his team regroup and win five of their next six, with the only loss coming against mighty Alabama. Freshman Kellen Mond overcame a rough debut against UCLA and has looked like a premier dual-threat QB. Still, it wouldn’t take a huge downtown for Sumlin to find himself facing the ax again. After all, there is clearly some opposition from the school’s Board of Regents, so he can’t really rest easy.

13) Tony Sanchez, UNLV

After a remarkable run of success at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Sanchez took the step up to the collegiate ranks and has little to show for it. He’s now in his third year at UNLV, and he has yet to post a winning season — or even make any real progress toward achieving one. After going from 3-9 to 4-8, the program looks to have stagnated again, with the Rebels off to a 2-5 start. That means Sanchez has a 9-22 record in his third season, having won just six of his 20 conference games so far. You can see why the school might be tempted to look elsewhere.

12) Paul Haynes, Kent State

Haynes is in year five of his Kent State tenure, and no discernible progress has been made whatsoever on the field. He won four games in his first season there, and he hasn’t won that many in a single season since. 2017 is not looking promising either, with the Golden Flashes sitting at 2-6.

Haynes is 9-26 in MAC play and 14-41 overall. After five years with the program, that record is not really acceptable, and even though he’s a Kent State alum, patience must be wearing thin.

11) Barry Odom, Missouri

Odom may be saved by a lack of longevity — he’s only in year two — but his team has, if anything, taken a step back since he took over for Gary Pinkel prior to 2016. Odom is winless in SEC play thus far after winning only two conference games in his debut season. The program’s record as a whole has taken a step back in 2017 and shows no signs of turning back around. Odom may be allowed one more year to show tangible progress, but it would be no shock to see him let go if the 2-5 team’s underwhelming play keeps up.

10) Lovie Smith, Illinois

The hiring of Smith, a respected NFL coach, was supposed to give the Illini credibility on and off the field. Perhaps the coach brought some name recognition and boosted the Fighting Illini in some form, but he has done nothing for results on it.

Smith is winless in Big Ten play in 2017 and has a record of 5-14 over his tenure so far. Nobody thought the Illinois job would be an easy one, but the school invested money in Smith to see improvement on the field which hasn’t manifested. Smith may get a crack at a third season, but the seat will be very hot if he does.

9) Kalani Sitake, BYU

It was less than three months ago, really, that Sitake was viewed as a rising star in the coaching profession after going 9-4 in his debut season at BYU, including a Poinsettia Bowl victory. That talk has evaporated quickly with the Cougars sitting at 1-7 and taking their place as one of the worst teams in college football this season. The Cougars are 128th out of 130 with just 12.1 points scored per game, while once-promising QB Tanner Mangum has really taken a step back with five touchdown passes against eight interceptions.

Sitake probably still harbors some goodwill from his first year with BYU, and he’ll need every bit of it to save his job. BYU has been terrible this year, unacceptably so.

8) Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Fedora is very easily having his worst season as North Carolina head coach. The Tar Heels have posted a losing record just once in his tenure before 2017. This season he’s 1-7, and it’s not just the losing, but also the manner of it.

The Tar Heels have consistently been losing in blowouts, culminating in a 59-7 loss at Virginia Tech on Oct. 21. Fedora had a good resume coming into this season. That plus all the injuries the team has suffered this season should give him plenty of wiggle room, but his team has been so bad that nothing can be ruled out.

See Nos. 7-1 on Page 2

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