Coaches on the hot seat but stayin’ alive
Let’s first take a look at a few jobs where there’s been heavy discussion as to whether or not a coaching change will be made. Some of these coaches have done enough this fall to keep them around one more year. Others have still had disappointing seasons, but it seems as though the decision makers over their program will at least give them a final chance to turn things around.
I’ll go ahead and say that I have no way of knowing for sure on any of these coaches and programs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them be let go. This merely a prediction.
West Virginia, Neal Brown
You can argue that no coach entered the season on a hotter seat than Neal Brown. But he’s done the very simple thing coaches have to do when in that spot: win. The Mountaineers are 6-3 and could realistically finish the year at 8-4. That would easily be the best season on Brown’s tenure and the exact type of season he needed to get West Virginia back behind him.
Baylor, Dave Aranda
This has been a disastrous season in Waco. The Bears are 3-6. They opened the season in terrible fashion, losing at home to a Texas State team undergoing a reset, and this past weekend they lost in OT to a struggling Houston team we’re going to discuss later. And this is coming off a disappointing 2022 season. But Aranda is still viewed as a really good coach, and he’s just a couple years removed from winning the Big 12. Baylor certainly isn’t ok with the collapse post-league title, but they’ll give Aranda a final chance to turn it around.
Boston College, Jeff Hafley
Hafley was another coach that seemed likely to be on his way out going into 2023. And after a 1-3 start that featured a loss to Northern Illinois and barely surviving against FCS Holy Cross, it appeared that Boston College would certainly make a change. But what do you know, the Eagles have won 5-straight. None of those wins are of significance, but it doesn’t matter. Hafley needed to reach a bowl to be safe, and that’s what he’s done.
Virginia, Tony Elliot
Tony Elliot is in one of the most impossible situations in the sport. The program had found somewhat stable ground under previous coach Bronco Mendenhall, but there was a major reset following his departure. And historically, this has been one of the tougher jobs in the ACC. Tony Elliot has struggled. He’s 5-14 for his tenure with just one conference win. But this is a program that had three players murdered at the end of the 2022 season. How does anyone deal with that? And the Hoos are almost certainly better than their record indicates. Elliot will get more time, as he should.
Cal, Justin Wilcox
I’m not sure Wilcox qualifies as a coach who’s been “heavily discussed” with regards to a hot seat. You almost never see his name mentioned in that way. But I decided I’d include him since he’s on the way to a fifth-straight losing season. If you’re wondering why that’s not likely going to get him fired, well, it’s Cal. expectations aren’t exactly high, especially with the changing landscape of the sport. Cal’s losses have all come to better programs, and they’ve actually been competitive in a few of those. Maybe they hope the move to the ACC next year turns them into a winner (it won’t).
Florida, Billy Napier
I think the conversation around Napier is a case of the public perception his job status being different than how Florida’s athletic department views it. Because if you ask a random college football fan, they’ll tell you Napier is going to be gone. The Gators were a disappointing 6-7 in his first season, and their loss to Arkansas means it’ll be tough for them to make a bowl this year. Given that Dan Mullen was quickly fired amidst one mediocre year, most think Napier will have the same fate. But Florida wants to give him every possible chance to build the program “the right way”. They like the direction of things off the field. He’s safe for one more year, but 2024 is a make or break season.
Arkansas, Sam Pittman
This is another coach I think most fans assume will be fired. And if you ask Hog Twitter, he should be. Of all the coaches I’ve included, he’s the one I’d put as most-likely to be let go. But there’s some word that he’s still got enough good will built up amongst the Arkansas higher-ups and is well-liked enough that he’ll be granted the chance to work his way out of this.
Firing Dan Enos and then beating Florida in the Swamp for the first time ever helped him out a lot. Pittman’s buyout gets cut in half if he’s below .500 since the start of 2021 (the COVID year is excluded) at the time of firing. Right now, he’s 19-16 since that point. Even if he lost out, which he won’t with FIU still on the schedule, he’d be exactly .500.
South Carolina, Shane Beamer
I’m only mentioning Beamer because I know it’s mostly SEC fans who’ll read this, and there’s been a lot of negative buzz around the Gamecocks and specifically Beamer with this season going so poorly. With the moves Beamer’s made in recruiting and simply generating hype around this program, he’ll survive this year, even with it going so poorly.