Off to the retirement home
This may be one of the tougher groups to call. It’s rarely going to be obvious when a coach is going to step away. And of the few Power 5 coaches that have the retirement conversation around them, you could easily see all of them back in 2024. But I think the odds are higher that at least one of these guys hangs it up after this season, so I might as well throw them out there.
I was really, really tempted to include Nick Saban. In fact just a few weeks ago I absolutely would’ve said “I think he’s done.” Some of his demeanor this year along with doing very un-Saban-like things such as joining the Pat McAfee Show every week had me believing this was it. But now I just get a feeling he’s going to make a final push to get Bama back to the top.
I’m going to be mad at myself if Saban does in fact walk away after I chose to not include him, but I’ll give myself an out. If Alabama wins the national title, Nick Saban will retire. Otherwise, you’ll still see him on the sidelines next season.
Also, I have no freaking idea what’s going to happen with Jim Harbaugh. If he leaves, it won’t be a retirement. It’ll be a move off to the NFL. But right now there’s a million different reports and rumors about the investigation into Michigan and how that impacts Harbaugh’s future one way or another, and I’m not interested in trying to sort through it all. I’ll leave the deciphering to Connor Stalions.
North Carolina, Mack Brown
Mack’s unretirement and return to Chapel Hill has been positive. The Tarheels have been a bowl team each season of his second stint and have regularly found themselves in contention to reach the ACC Championship Game. They’ve recruited at a high level and have turned out good NFL talent.
But he hasn’t gotten UNC over the hump, and it seems as though that window has closed. Each time the Tarheels have had a shot to breakthrough, they’ve taken back-breaking losses at the worst possible times. This season might be the one that finally makes Mack call it quits. In a year where the ACC looks incredibly gettable and with the potential #1 overall pick at QB, UNC has wasted a 7-0 start with consecutive losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech, two of the league’s worsts.
I think Brown views this season as “if I couldn’t do it this year, I’m not going to.” He’s done a great job and has once again left UNC in great shape, but I think he knows he’s done all he can there.
Iowa, Kirk Ferentz
This one feels like it’s been trending this way for a while. Ferentz is a legend in Iowa City. But that legend status has allowed him to grow too powerful. Iowa football has turned into a meme over the last few seasons. The Hawkeyes play elite defense and special teams and continuously find ways to win football games.
But their offense has been a disgrace to the game of football. And the man responsible for their offensive ineptitude is none other than Kirk’s own son, Brian. This act of nepotism has created an incredibly frustrating situation for the Hawkeye faithful. They know they have a good HC. They know they are a good team that can win lots of games. And they know that if they could just be average offensively, they could legitimately compete for Big Ten titles. But they also know that Kirk Ferentz has no interest in firing his own son.
This offseason Iowa announced new contract stipulations for Brian Ferentz, stating that unless the Hawkeyes averaged 25 PPG over the course of the 2023 season, his contract as OC would expire. This of course took the meme status of Iowa football to a whole new level. And with the Hawkeyes currently 7-2 while averaging just 18.4 PPG, all anyone has been able to do is make a mockery of the situation.
Well Iowa finally had enough. Interim AD Beth Goetz announced a few days ago that officially, this season would be Brian Ferentz’s last, ending the talk of his ridiculous contract. Kirk was very vocal that he was not pleased with this decision, stating that he’s never had an AD make a staffing decision for him. And now it feels as though the writing is on the wall that Kirk will soon be on his own way out.
I should acknowledge that Kirk expressed his intentions to remain Iowa’s coach for the future, but I’m not fully buying it. This is a coach who’s been able to do things his way for decades. And he got to do that because it was working. But now it’s not, and the Big Ten is changing. Iowa can’t be Iowa in the way that Ferentz wants to operate, and he no longer has the control he believes he should. I would be surprised if he actually decides to stick around.