COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION SIX
This is that time of year when certain Division I college football coaches are going to feel as if there is a blowtorch permanently lodged in the khaki pants they wear on the sideline. In other words, the firing season is about to begin. One coach whose time of gainful employment is about to end is the suspended D.J. Durkin, whose fate will be determined by the University of Maryland Board of Regents next Friday. That’s not to say Durkin will be the first to go. We’re midway through the 2018 season and we haven’t had a single firing, but that could change this weekend.
ON LIFE SUPPORT
D.J. DURKIN, MARYLAND: October 19 can’t get here fast enough for the folks who want D.J. gone. That’s the day the Board of Regents meets to cast will he stay or will he go votes. It would be the upset of the century if the regents elect to keep him and it goes beyond the death of Jordan McNair early in the summer. There is too much evidence that Durkin has created a toxic environment in the football program. Here are two bets you could win: (1) Durkin will be fired and (2) the first call will go to Alabama offensive coordinator (former UF assistant) Mike Locksley. Of course, if Locksley is smart (he is) he should avoid like the plague playing in the same Big Ten division as Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State.
LOVIE SMITH, ILLINOIS: Now that Rutgers has been disposed of, there isn’t another winnable game remaining on the Illinois schedule. Lovie and his zany band of warriors next face a Purdon’t team that is just starting to get things cranking and that’s followed by a trip to Wisconsin. Lovie is 3-2 this year and 8-21 overall. The faithful would be very happy with a break even season. That’s not going to happen. Lovie is 8-21 as the Illini head guy.
MIKE JINKS, BOWLING GREEN: The Falcons are giving up 48.5 points a game and they’ve given up 115 in the past two. They face a red hot Western Michigan team, winner of the last four, on Saturday and that will drop the Falcons to 1-6. There isn’t a winnable game remaining on the schedule. Jinksy is 7-23 in his Bowling Green career. He might last until the end of the season but he won’t last until next year.
DAVID BEATY, KANSAS: When you’re up to your butt in alligators and you’re a Division I head coach on the verge of joining the Extinct Species List, what do you do to distract the alligators? Why, you fire your offensive coordinator, that’s what! And, that’s exactly what Beaty did this week when he pink slipped Doug Meacham. Meacham hasn’t exactly been burning it up, but in the last three games – all losses – the Kansas defense has given up a collective 112 points and 1,524 yards. There won’t be a loss this week but the only reason for that is Kansas has an open date. As a side note, Meacham, who spent four years as the co-coordinator at TCU, will not be unemployed long unless someone calls into question his decision to take a job at Kansas.
RANDY EDSALL, UCONN: In the days leading up to the game with Memphis, Edsall fired his defensive coordinator. That was so inspirational that the Huskies promptly gave up 634 yards and 55 points. They’re giving up 658.2 yards and 53.4 points per game. Mercifully, the Huskies have an open date this week (they’re 47-point underdogs) and then they travel to Tampa where Charlie Strong awaits with an offense that threatens to run up 60 points and 700 yards in 90-degree weather. There might be one winnable game remaining on the schedule for the 1-5 Huskies. Maybe.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
BRAD LAMBERT, CHARLOTTE: It seems like old times at Charlotte. After that shocking win over Old Dominion, the 49ers have reverted back to their losing ways in blowout fashion the last two games. There isn’t a winnable game remaining on the schedule, which means AD Mike Hill, formerly an assistant AD at Florida, should be scouting for his next football coach. Lambert is 2-3 this season, 19-44 in his career. He’s the only coach in Charlotte football history.
SCOTTING MONTGOMERY, EAST CAROLINA: The next three games are Houston, UCF and Memphis, after which the Pirates are going to be 2-6 and Montgomery will be On Life Support. Last week the Pirates were hammered, 49-6, by a fairly average Shirley Temple team. ECU is not only losing on the field but at the box office as well. There were more than 10,000 empty seats at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when North Carolina came to Greenville. Scottie is 8-21 for his tenure and it isn’t going to get any better.
EVERETT WITHERS, TEXAS STATE: After Thursday night’s loss to Georgia Southern, Withers is 5-25 as Texas State’s head coach. He’s 0-5 this season and one of those losses is to Rutgers. When you lose to Rutgers you know your season is in the tank. The people who pay the bills ask why is it that you have all the advantages of recruiting in Texas and yet you’re dead last in the Sun Belt? If the Bobcats lose their next two to Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State Withers will be On Life Support. The final three are Sun Belt powers Appalachian State, Troy and Arkansas State.
LARRY FEDORA, NORTH CAROLINA: Larry Fedora is actually a very good football coach but things have gone south at UNC where his career record is 44-37. The people who pay the freight look at the 4-12 in the last 16 games and they think they could do better. The Tar Heels are 1-3 so far and they’ll be most fortunate to get to four wins. Four wins probably won’t be good enough to keep Fedora around another year.
CHUCK MARTIN, MIAMI (OHIO): Chucky shocked the MAC football world last week by blowing the doors off Akron to improve to 2-4 on the season. Kent State is next and that’s a winnable game, but after that it will be a struggle to win three of the last five to secure a break even season. Martin is 18-37 at Miami, not exactly the kind of mark that instills confidence at a school that’s called “The Cradle of Coaches.”
BOBBY WILDER, OLD DOMINION: Prior to 2017, Wilder was 67-30 in his career at ODU. The last two seasons haven’t been kind (6-12) but there is hope that Wilder can get the Monarchs somewhere close to .500 in the remaining games. They really don’t want to send Wilder packing but he’s 1-5 right now and 3-9 or 4-8 just isn’t going to cut it.
CHRIS ASH, RUTGERS: This Big Ten thing is good for the bank account but there is no doubt Rutgers is in way over its head in an East Division which requires games with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State every year. Chris Ash (7-23 in 2-plus seasons) is probably a really good football coach, but we’ll never know as long as he’s at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are 1-5 and there isn’t a winnable game left on the schedule.
DEREK MASON, VANDERBILT: If only James Franklin hadn’t gone to three straight bowl games and proven you can win big with back-to-back 9-win seasons there would be no heat whatsoever on Mason. He’s 21-33 in his 4-plus years, which, by pre-Franklin standards at Vandy would make him immensely successful. Franklin has been gone since 2013 but his memory is still fresh in the minds of the pass the chardonnay tailgate set (seedless grapes and brie on a Triscuit, anyone?) at Vandy. The Commodores are 3-3 this year, but about to endure a loss to Florida. As for the rest of the schedule the only winnable games appear to be at Arkansas and Tennessee. Anything less than five wins would put Mason on very shaky ground.
WILLIE TAGGART, FLORIDA STATE: Blowing a 20-point lead to lose to Miami only amped up the uneasiness among boosters who are starting to believe FSU drank a couple gallons of Kool-Aid when Willie the T was hired. The Seminoles can’t lose this week because they don’t play. After that it’s Wake Forest Gump followed back-to-back-to back with Clemson, North Carolina State and Notre Dame. Willie’s lawyers won’t be negotiating a buyout this year, but what’s going on in 2018 will definitely make 2019 a 10-win-or-else season, especially if the Gators beat the Seminoles in the final regular season game for the first losing season since 1976.
BOBBY PETRINO, LOUISVILLE: Oh how they would love to send Petrino and his snarky ways packing, but there is this one teensy little problem. They had to pay fired AD Tom Jurich about $7 million in cash and benefits to settle his contract, they’ve got a $35 million lawsuit they’ll have to settle with fired basketball coach Rick Pitino and they backed up a Brinks truck to Chris Mack’s home in Cincinnati to get him to leave Xavier to take over the basketball program. So that means there is no extra cash around to pay off Petrino’s $14,056,250 buyout, which means they will have to endure the snarkiness and maybe a few more blowout losses like last week’s 66-31 trouncing at the hands of Georgia Tech.
SOME NON-COACHING STUFF
FINAL THOUGHTS FLORIDA AT VANDY: Two defensive keys for a Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC) win against Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-2 SEC) in Nashville Saturday afternoon are (1) bring plenty of blitzes to force Kyle Shurmur into a dink and dunk passing attack and (2) keep running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn from getting to the second level. Vanderbilt will have to commit plenty of resources to slow down Florida edge rushers Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga coming off the edge so this is where Todd Grantham’s exotic blitz packages come into play. If the Gators can do to Shurmur what South Carolina did (Shurmur averaged only 4.7 yards per pass attempt), South Carolina’s offense will be very pedestrian. Vaughn has emerged as the successor to Ralph Webb in the Vandy running game. He’s averaging 6.75 yards per carry and has a second gear he can kick in when he gets to the second level. He broke free for a 43-yard gainer on Georgia last week and scored on a 78-yard TD run against Tennessee State the week before. Without Vaughn, the Commodores don’t have much in the way of backfield speed.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: All but two of ESPN’s writers pick Georgia to beat LSU in Death Valley Saturday. Heather Dinich and Alex Scarborough are the only two brave enough to pick the Tigers. I haven’t picked a winner yet but I do think whoever wins will win it by three or fewer points … The Pac-12 is embroiled in a controversy in its replay booth from the September 21 Southern Cal-Washington State game when “a third party” disagreed with a targeting call against a Washington State defender and overrode the decision in the booth and the replay command center. The Pac-12 has admitted errors were made … Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will be the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Hotshots in the Alliance of American Football, the spring league that will debut in February … The Chicago Cubs have fired hitting coach Chili Davis after a single season. The Cubs hit plenty of home runs in 2017 but dropped to 11th in the National League in 2018 … The Milwaukee Brewers will throw lefty Gio Gonzalez tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw in the National League Championship Series … Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has plans to visit North Carolina and Arkansas. He will be a graduate transfer with a full year of eligibility due to the new redshirt/transfer rule.