Now for the part people really want to see. Who’s getting fired? Again, this is simply a prediction. Some of these guys can theoretically win enough games down the stretch to save themselves. I just don’t think they will. Others might be in a situation where their buyout is substantial enough that the school shies away from cutting them loose. But if I had to call it today, here are the coaches I expect to be getting a buyout after the season…
Houston, Dana Holgorsen
As an Air Raid fanatic, it pains me to include Holgorsen. He’s a good coach, a fun personality in the sport, and the man knows how to score points. But he’s ultimately not meeting the standards at Houston. Holgo’s controversially decision to “tank” his first two seasons with the Cougars seemed to have paid off with a 12-2 season in 2021. But they fell to 8-5 in 2022 despite being one of the favorites to win the AAC.
Now in the Big 12, the league they’ve so desperately wanted to be a part of, they’ve struggled their way to 4-5 and will be lucky to make a bowl. This is a school whose president once famously said they “fire coaches at 8-4”. There’s an expectation for the Coogs to become contenders in the Big 12. That was never happening this season, but they don’t feel like Holgo is the coach to get them there. Now, his buyout is significant. It’s nearly $15 million. But I think Houston will find the money.
Syracuse, Dino Babers
Dino Babers career at Syracuse has been an odd one. His first two seasons, the Orange went 4-8. He then exploded for a 10-3 season in 2018, their best season since 2001. He followed that up with 5-7, 1-10, and 5-7. Badly needing to reach a bowl game, the Cuse started 2022 6-0. After that? They lost 6/7 to close. But still, that’s a bowl game! The expectation was to build off that for 2023, and the Orange once again started off undefeated, 4-0.
Well, they haven’t won since. Injuries have plagued them, and Babers has been very vocal that their issues are a product of the transfer portal killing their depth (I think that’s a bit of a copout excuse but sure). Things are trending poorly, and it seems that Syracuse is ready for a change. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this team could win-out, which I think would save Babers.
But even if they get two more wins to go 6-6, I think Syracuse moves on. It’s probably unfair. This is an incredibly difficult job that was made even harder when the school left the Big East for the ACC. But there’s just not much juice around the program. Fanbases want to believe they can do better than the occasional 6-6 year, even when they can’t.
Indiana, Tom Allen
There’s a part of me that contemplated putting Allen in the “Stayin’ Alive” group after the Hoosiers upset of Wisconsin. That was a nice win, and IU could hypothetically get a couple more to appease some boosters. But more importantly, Allen has a massive buyout of about $20 million. How many basketball schools are going to be willing to pay that much to fire a coach in a sport they really don’t care about?
Well, it seems IU could be the one. Tom Allen became a beloved figure in Bloomington. He’s responsible for the program’s two best seasons in the modern era. It’s why his buyout is so large. But they’ve fallen back into irrelevancy since that point. There’s just nothing to be excited about for Indiana football at the moment, and even a basketball school expects a somewhat entertaining product to watch in the fall. The Big Ten money is there to make the move. They just have to hope that alone is enough to entice better candidates.
Texas A&M, Jimbo Fisher
I’ve talked about Houston and Indiana needing to navigate paying huge buyouts to move on from their coaches. Well Jimbo Fisher’s buyout makes those look like pocket change. Because if Texas A&M chooses to fire Fisher after this season, they’ll owe him about $77 million.
SEVENTY-SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS.
It’s an absolutely absurd amount of money that A. makes me think we should probably reevaluate just how much money schools are paying these coaches and B. makes me very grateful that the state of Mississippi only allows us to keep coaches under contract for four years.
But the word has gotten out that money won’t be an issue for the Aggie boosters. They’ve got it, and they aren’t scared to use it. It’s as simple as whether or not they believe Jimbo can get them to the place they expect to be. And I think the loss to Ole Miss was the nail in the coffin. Not that the Rebels are bad. They’re really good, were at home, and the game came down to a blocked field goal.
But A&M expects to win that game. And even if they were to beat LSU to close out the season, that win wouldn’t carry much weight at that point. A&M’s improved from last season but not to the standard expected. They’re simply back to the level they’ve been for most of Jimbo’s tenure, and that’s underachieving relative to the level of talent on the roster.
They will finally pull the plug on this one.
Mississippi State, Zach Arnett
Yep. I’m calling it. To me, the loss to Kentucky was the final blow. Zach Arnett cannot continue as Mississippi State’s head coach. Look, I understand it was an impossible situation to inherit and know how to navigate. And I will even acknowledge that, although I didn’t agree with some of the moves Arnett made and I now feel justified in that, he deserved the right to try and build the program his own way. You have to grant that to a coach.
But it just hasn’t worked. Arnett chose to change the offense, and that failed. The defense, which is Arnett’s side of the ball, has been a major disappointment, and he’s done nothing to address it. And despite his coaching staff being hired with the intentions of locking down recruiting in the state of Mississippi, the incoming signing class is on pace to be the worst in years.
Arnett looks lost on the sidelines. There’s constant rumors of disfunction behind the scenes. And the team has simply been a major disappointment. There’s simply nothing to be excited about with this program, and the fanbase has made it perfectly clear that they’re ready for a change.
State can get out of Arnett’s deal for incredibly cheap by SEC football standards. He’d be owed $4.5 million with a duty to mitigate, meaning whatever he’d make at his next job would take away from that total. The writing is on the wall with this one.