Friday’s announcement that New Mexico State had promoted offensive coordinator Doug Martin brought an end to the coaching carousel in FBS football, marking the last of thirty-one head coaching changes in the 2012-2013 college football season. With all of the head coaching positions filled, there is now only one natural thing to do: rank the new head coaching hires.
Before we get to the list, let me first clarify how the rankings are set. I base my ranking not on which head coach is the absolute best, but instead the ranking is set on how good of a fit the new coach looks to be with his new school and how the coach compares to his predecessor and the other candidates for the job. Without further ado, here is the list:
31. Ron Turner, Florida International – Florida International raised some eyebrows when they opted to fire head coach Mario Cristobal, who had built the program up from a joke to a true contender in the Sun Belt before injuries decimated the 2012 squad. However, all would be forgiven if Panthers athletic director Pete Garcia pulled in a high-caliber head coach to replace Cristobal, like former North Carolina head coach Butch Davis, who worked with Garcia back when the pair were part of the Cleveland Browns. Instead, Garcia selected Turner, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB coach whose most notable stint in college football was a run as head coach of Illinois in which he went 35-57 and posted just two winning seasons in eight years. I would not be surprised if Cristobal is still laughing about Turner being chosen as his replacement.
30. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois – How far has Carey’s life come since 2010? Back then, he was an offensive line coach at FCS North Dakota. Fast-forward to the winter of 2012, and Carey was chosen as Northern Illinois’s new head coach, replacing Dave Doeren. While the Huskies put up a noble effort in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, losing 31-10, the school may have been better off looking outside of the program for a full-time head coach rather than promoting Carey.
29. Doug Martin, New Mexico State – Let’s set the record straight right here, right now: New Mexico State’s football program is pretty forgettable; this is made obvious by the fact that Martin’s predecessor DeWayne Walker left for the NFL to take a job as a secondary coach with the Jackonville Jaguars. In steps in Doug Martin, who posted a 29-53 record in seven seasons with Kent State. In 2012 Martin was in charge of a Boston College offense that was dreadfully woeful, posting a pathetic 349 yards per game, costing Eagles head coach and Tom Selleck look-alike Frank Spaziani his job. Martin is not exactly the best head coaching candidate, but when you’re New Mexico State, you will take just about anybody.
28. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan – You have to give it to Fleck: he’s a very charismatic and energetic coach, as he displayed in his introductory press conference. However, his résumé doesn’t exactly scream “ready to lead a FBS program”, as he has never held a coordinator position in college football, holding onto just one season as a graduate assistant at Ohio State and five seasons as a wide receivers coach at Northern Illinois and Rutgers as his college coaching experience. There’s reason to have hope in Fleck’s potential because he definitely has a chance to Kalamazoo, but turning the team over to a more experienced coach may have made the next couple of years much easier for the Broncos.
27. Sean Kugler, UTEP – A former Miners player back in the ‘80s, Kugler heads to El Paso after a three-year run as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line coach, taking over a program that never could become competitive in Conference USA under head coach Mike Price. It is never a bad decision to turn to an alumnus in order to kick start your program, but it remains to be seen if this longtime offensive line coach can energize a program and make the Miners capable of playing the best the C-USA has to offer.
26. Paul Petrino, Idaho – Petrino has always been in the shadow of his older brother Bobby, and his time spent coaching absent of his brother has been fairly forgettable, as his two-year stint at Illinois and the 2012 season with Arkansas saw the teams go 17-20. Petrino has his work cut out for him with the Vandals considering their recent struggles and their FBS Independent status due to the extinction of the WAC; if he has able to lead the Vandals to several victories, expect him to earn a spot with a BCS school somewhere.
25. Scott Shafer, Syracuse – A former assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh, Shafer takes over as Orange head coach after spending the last four seasons with the team as defensive coordinator, a run which saw Syracuse go 25-25 and win two bowl games. Shafer did his part to sell the media at his opening press conference, making several eye-opening statements, including “I envision an Orange Crush defense that makes their opponent’s families cringe when their child’s team comes to play us.” Shafer fits the bill of the excitable defensive coordinator; can he control that emotion and make the most out of it for Orange football?
24. Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State – Harsin has quickly worked his way up the coaching ladder, moving from his alma mater of Boise State to Texas for two seasons before being selected to replace Gus Malzahn as Red Wolves head coach. Only thirty-six years old, Harsin has been one of the best young coordinators in the FBS football, and now he has the keys to his own program. While he has a significant amount of pressure on him considering the coaches that have come before him (Malzahn and Ole Miss’s Hugh Freeze), the upside for Harsin could be phenomenal, including possibly returning to his alma mater as head coach given an excellent run at Arkansas State and a move by Chris Petersen.
23. Steve Addazio, Boston College – Known by most as the Florida offensive coordinator when the Urban Meyer era in Gainesville was nearing its end, Addazio had a solid run as Temple head coach, posting a 13-11 record in two seasons before leaving for the Eagles job. Unfortunately for the BC fans, it is hard to tell how much of Temple’s success under Addazio was due to the blueprint left by current Miami head coach Al Golden, which means that rebuilding in the ACC with Syracuse and Pitt now entering the mix may be even harder than most expect.
22. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech – Holtz is coming off what was nothing short of a disastrous run in St. Petersburg as South Florida’s head coach, as the Bulls managed to disappoint in each of his three years on the job, ending up with a disappointing overall record of 16-21. Fortunately for Holtz, he steps into an excellent situation in Ruston, as the Bulldogs are coming off of back-to-back winning seasons, the school’s first since the 1996-1997 seasons. If Holtz fails to maintain Louisiana Tech’s recent run of success, expect him to be joining Dr. Lou in the booth for some quality father/son time.
21. Trent Miles, Georgia State – Georgia State pulled off a surprising hire in choosing the replacement for Bill Curry, selecting Indiana State head coach Trent Miles, who many thought was set on taking the Western Michigan head coaching position. Miles was highly successful as Sycamores head coach, going 20-36 in five seasons, which is impressive considering the fact that the team went 8–48 in the five years prior to his arrival. Miles will have to work his rebuilding magic again in Atlanta, as the Panthers have been terrible in the FCS (10-23 all-time and fresh off a 1-10 season) and are now moving up to the Sun Belt. Add in the fact that Miles is in fact miles away from his previous battle grounds, and the worst case scenario is that what appeared to be a quiet homerun may turn into a loud strikeout.
20. Paul Haynes, Kent State – Haynes managed to overcome the Razorbacks’ terrible 2012 in which the team lost eight games and gave up twenty points or more nine times and land the head coaching job at his alma mater, a school that had been dormant in the MAC until Darrell Hazell managed to lead the team to an 11-3 record this season. Haynes’ last two coaching stops have been a bit of a disaster (Ohio State in 2011 during the Jim Tressel outster then Arkansas in 2012), so it would be a safe bet that his run with the Golden Flashes will at least top these two jobs.
19. Brian Polian, Nevada – The son of former Panthers and Colts GM Bill Polian, Brian seems to have plenty of coaching experience, boasting sixteen seasons of experience with stops at the likes of Michigan State, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Texas A&M. Unfortunately for Polian, he takes on the task of replacing Nevada coaching legend Chris Ault, who led the Wolf Pack for twenty-eight seasons and invented the “Pistol Offense” that has taken the NFL by storm and has helped the San Francisco 49ers, led by Nevada alum Colin Kaepernick, reach Super Bowl XLVII. Ault’s previous two successors managed a combined record of 23-35 before Ault came running back to Reno to take back the reins. It will be interesting to see if Polian is able to build off of the knowledge he acquired from the successful coaches he has worked for and the successful executive he was raised by and make the Wolf Pack fans say “Chris Who?”
18. Matt Rhule, Temple – Rhule returns to the Owls football program, where he served in a variety of different roles from 2006 to 2011, after a one-year stint as an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants. Rhule knows the Temple program quite well from his time spent under Al Golden, and despite being slighted for this job back two years ago when the school selected Steve Addazio, it appears that the Owls have the head coach that will lead them to some significant success in the shrinking Big East.
17. Ron Caragher, San Jose State – Last season saw the Spartans experience their best football season as a FBS school, which leaves Caragher with some major shoes to fill. Caragher has some experience in leading a California team to multiple years of success, made evident by his 44-22 record in six seasons as San Diego head coach (Caragher replaced none other than Jim Harbaugh as Toreros head coach). A former quarterback at UCLA in the ‘90s, Caragher looks like a good fit for the San Jose State as they venture into the Mountain West, but only time will tell if he is able to have the team competitive against the likes of Boise State.
16. Dave Doeren, NC State – The former Wisconsin defensive coordinator had an outstanding run as Northern Illinois head coach (23-4 in two seasons), but prior to the Huskies’ Orange Bowl game he cashed in his chips and headed south to Raleigh. Doeren was able to enjoy a great amount of success with Northern Illinois, but his move to NC State will be a much harder venture, not only because of the Wolfpack’s competition in the ACC, but also because of his lake of experience in the southeast. Doeren’s prior experience made him appear to be a future Big Ten head coach, which he more than likely would have been with Wisconsin had he not have taken this job. It’s not to say that there is no chance that Doeren ignites NC State and makes them competitive, but it will more than likely not be an overnight success.
15. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado – The Colorado Buffaloes football program has been the worst BCS team for the last two years, which prompted the school to fire alum Jon Embree and bring in MacIntryre. MacIntryre, who once served as Duke defensive coordinator under David Cutcliffe, is coming off an outstanding run as San Jose State head coach, which saw the Spartans go from 1-12 in his first season on the job to 11-2 in his last season. MacIntyre will have to work his magic once again in Boulder, where the Buffaloes have not had a winning season since 2005.
14. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati – The Tuberville-to-Cincy move has probably been the craziest hire of the college football offseason. According to several Texas Tech recruits, Tuberville was eating dinner with some potential Red Raiders players, got a phone call, excused himself from the table, and never returned. Although this incident is a bit embarrassing for the former Auburn head coach, there is no arguing with the fact that Tuberville has been fairly successful everywhere that he has been a head coach, currently holding a 130-77 career record with stops at Ole Miss, Auburn, and Texas Tech. Even though I expect the Bearcats to have some good seasons under Tuberville’s watch, the fans must be advised to disregard the coach’s mentions of only leaving Cincy in a pine box, which he what said while at Ole Miss just before he left for Auburn.
13. Matt Wells, Utah State – Utah State needed to act fast once head coach Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin, and it looks as if they made the smart choice in promoting Andersen’s offensive coordinator to lead the program. A former quarterback for the Aggies from 1994 to 1997, Wells orchestrated a Utah State offense that finished in front of the likes of Georgia, Nebraska, and Alabama in total offense with an average of 469 yards per game, leaving the Aggies in good hands to continue their recent success.
12. Todd Monken, Southern Miss – Monken was passed over for this job last season for Ellis Johnson; fast-forward one year and zero wins for the Golden Eagles, and Monken has his first head coaching job. Monken’s offenses at Oklahoma State were highly successful during his two-year run with the team, as the Cowboys won 23 games and finished the 2012 season fourth in FBS football in total offense. Southern Miss has had a great recent history with hiring former OK State offensive coordinators to lead their team, as that is where they found Larry Fedora, who compiled a 34-19 record with the Golden Eagles before leaving for Chapel Hill. High-octane offenses are always a good component to have when playing in the offensive-friendly C-USA, and quite frankly anything will be better for Southern Miss than the mistake that was the Ellis Johnson era.
11. Willie Taggart, South Florida – South Florida pulled off a great hire in replacing Skip Holtz by hiring Taggart, a Florida native that built the Western Kentucky program from a laughingstock in the Sun Belt to very competitive, shown by their win over state rival Kentucky early in the 2012 season. Taggart is one of the bright young head coaches in FBS football, and I anticipate the Bulls to win at least one Big East title—if that is the conference they remain in—in the first three seasons under Taggart’s guidance.
10. Gus Malzahn, Auburn – Auburn’s offensive coordinator during the successful Gene Chizik years, Malzahn returns to the plains after a one year stint as Arkansas State head coach in which the Red Wolves went 9-3 and won the Sun Belt conference championship for the second straight season, their first back-to-back conference titles in their time in the Sun Belt. The only issue with Malzahn running the ship at Auburn is the fact that his teams have never sustained a long period of success with his style of offense (see: Gene Chizik era minus Cam Newton). The next few years have the ability to be really, really good for Auburn or really, really bad.
9. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin – Wisconsin was caught off guard by the departure of head coach Brett Bielema, and although Andersen does not have a connection with his new school in Madison, he is definitely a high-quality head coach, made obvious by the way he transformed Utah State from a terrible WAC team to the conference champions in its last year of existence. The Badgers will be playing more talented teams in the Big Ten than Utah State faced in the WAC week in and week out, but is it really a bad idea to hire a coach who brought a weaker team into your house and came within a field goal of upsetting you? Andersen has always seemed to do more with less; just imagine what he could do with a talented roster that the Badgers will boast.
8. Butch Jones, Tennessee – One of the hottest head coaches in college football last year, Jones spurned Colorado to take over on Rocky Top, joining a Tennessee program that has not had a dependable amount of success since the very early 2000’s. Jones has credibility at taking a program and winning consistently with it, as he currently holds a 50-27 career record and four conference championships in his stints at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. The big question concerning Butch Jones is how much of his teams’ successes have been due to him or predecessor Brian Kelly, who had a large amount of success at both Central Michigan and Cincy before he opted to leave for greener pastures. If Jones is able to make Tennessee competitive in an SEC that is growing more and more dangerous, you can rest assured that he is owed the praise for the Volunteers’ play, not Derek Dooley.
7. Mark Stoops, Kentucky – The Joker Phillips era in Kentucky turned sour suddenly for the UK alum, which meant another head coach was needed to rebuild the sinking Wildcats ship. Enter Mark Stoops, a successful defensive coordinator at Florida State and the brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. Kentucky has not been able to compete consistently in the Southeastern Conference since some guy nicknamed “Bear” walked the Kentucky sidelines in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and while making Kentucky capable of playing the likes of Georgia and Florida will probably be a slow process, it seems like the school made a good decision in acquiring a noted defensive mind and a young coach like Stoops.
6. Brett Bielema, Arkansas – The Arkansas head coaching vacancy probably tied Tennessee’s for the most painful candidate search in all of FBS football, as several candidates spurned the opportunity to take over the Razorbacks program in order to take on other pursuits. Out of nowhere, the Razorbacks hired Brett Bielema, who had a tremendous amount of success at Wisconsin, winning the Big Ten his last three seasons in the job and posting four seasons of ten wins or more. Bielema looks to continue the trend of coaches with Big Ten backgrounds having success in the SEC (which includes Alabama’s Nick Saban, LSU’s Les Miles, and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin), which won’t be easy considering how talented the SEC West currently is.
5. Mark Helfrich, Oregon – The natural successor to Chip Kelly, Helfrich has been waiting in the wings for some time now, and now it is his time to shine. While he did not call the offensive plays for the Ducks during his four year tenure as offensive coordinator, there is no doubting that Helfrich played some role in the team’s success, and current Oregon players have already said that Helfrich’s climb to head coach makes it feel like nothing has changed. This is perfect for the Ducks and their fans, because if you go 46-7 with one national championship appearance in four years, you do your best to change as little as possible.
4. Sonny Dykes, California – The son of former Texas Tech head coach Spike Dykes, Sonny was highly sought after for the amount of success he had at Louisiana Tech, where he went 22-15 with one WAC championship in three years on the job. Now Dykes moves to the Pac-12, where he was for three years as Arizona offensive coordinator prior to landing in Ruston, to take over a California program that has fallen on hard times. Despite having to compete with the best of the best on the west coast, it is very possible that the Golden Bears get back to their winning ways under Dykes’ leadership.
3. Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky – A homerun hire by the Hilltoppers, Western Kentucky’s decision to employ Petrino would be #1 if it were not for Petrino’s constant off-the-field issues. Say what you will about Bobby Petrino, the man, but where discussing Bobby Petrino, the coach, there is no arguing with what he has done in college, as he has just one losing season—a 5-7 mark his first year at Arkansas—in nine seasons as a head coach. Add in the fact that he has posted at least one ten win season at three different schools, and it is undeniable that Western Kentucky made a great decision to bring in Petrino, no matter if he remains for one year or five. Expect the Hilltoppers to finish no worse than third in the Sun Belt come 2013.
2. Darrell Hazell, Purdue – Formerly Jim Tressel’s top assistant at Ohio State, Hazell would have more than likely been the Buckeyes’ interim head coach back in 2011 over Luke Fickell had he still be on the staff. Instead, Hazell was at Kent State, rebuilding a Golden Flashes program that had never lived up to its full potential under former head coach and #29 on this list Doug Martin. Hazell had no problem getting Kent State to compete in the MAC, missing bowl eligibility by one game his first year on the job in 2011 and responding with an 11-3 mark the following season, good enough for the Golden Flashes’ first appearance in the MAC title game. Now Hazell moves on to Purdue, a program that has seen some success in the past few years but has not achieved enough to be truly nationally recognized. If the Boilermakers give Hazell enough time, I expect the Boilermakers to make some noise in West Lafayette before too long.
1. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech – Tommy Tuberville leaving for Cincinnati was a miracle for the Red Raiders, as it allowed the team to bring in one of their own to run the show. A former record-setting quarterback during the good years of the Mike Leach era in Lubbock, Kingsbury has risen quickly up the coaching ladder, jumping from an assistant at Houston to the offensive coordinator two years later and then to the offensive coordinator position at Texas A&M for 2012, a year that saw the Aggies turn everyone’s heads and quarterback Johnny Manziel become the first freshman quarterback to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Expect Kingsbury to take advantage of his working with Johnny Football and bring in some top-tier quarterbacks to Texas Tech, which will result in the Red Raiders reaching the level of success that Leach once gave the team year in and year out.
Don’t agree with the rankings? Leave a comment and let everyone know who you think is out of place