COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION NINE
Okay, so Maryland didn’t exactly go the conventional route when it came to firing D.J. Durkin on Wednesday but at least the long anticipated event took place, bringing to two the number of Division I coaches who have been pink slipped in 2018. Being that it’s November, it means the firing season is just starting to warm up. Unlike last year, however, it doesn’t look like there will be a single top tier job this year.
MIKE JINKS, BOWLING GREEN: Among the names surfacing in the Bowling Green coaching search are former Kent State and Purdue head coach (Minnesota Vikings receivers coach) Darrell Hazell, Syracuse defensive coordinator and former BG assistant Brian Ward, and Glenn Caruso, who is 116-29 at Division III St. Thomas (Minnesota).
D.J. DURKIN, MARYLAND: Just when you thought the firing of Jim McElwain in 2017 for lying about death threats was about as bizarre as it gets, along comes D.J. Durkin. After spending three months on administrative leave, Durkin was reinstated on Tuesday only to be fired on Wednesday when school president Wallace D. Loh decided he had a conscience after all. Durkin will probably get a job in the NFL next year but he may never coach at the college level again.
ON LIFE SUPPORT
LOVIE SMITH, ILLINOIS: Illinois defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson resigned after last week’s 63-33, citing health reasons. By resigning, Nickerson saved himself the embarrassment of being fired along with Lovie and the rest of the staff after the final regular season game. Illinois is 3-5 and is a good bet to finish 3-9. Lovie is 8-24 in three seasons.
DAVID BEATY, KANSAS: Just because Kansas beat TCU for its third win last week doesn’t get Beaty off the hook. There are four more games and KU will be double digit underdogs in three of them. AD Jeff Long knows Beaty isn’t the long term answer (6-38 career record) and it’s not a big buyout so he’s already coach shopping.
RANDY EDSALL, UCONN: The Huskies had a game they couldn’t lose last week, but, of course, they found a way to lose it. This week they play a Tulsa team that is down and out on its luck (1-7 record, same as UConn). Tulsa is only a few plays away from a winning record. UConn ranks dead last in both total and scoring defense. It’s a question of when, not if Edsall is picking up monthly buyout checks.
CHRIS ASH, RUTGERS: A horrible season (1-7, 0-5 Big Ten) got worse this week when one of its linebackers was arrested for initiating a plot to murder family members of an acquaintance. Ash probably is a pretty good football coach, but he’s coaching at a school with no tradition trying to play football in the same division as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.
EVERETT WITHERS, TEXAS STATE: The Bobcats improved to 2-6 last week when they beat New Mexico State. Most of the games have been close this season so a case could be made that Withers has his team on the upswing. However, the boosters believe that if you’re in the Sun Belt Conference and you have the advantage of recruiting Texas you ought to be better than 6-26 in your three years at the school. If Withers were to win three of the last four he might stick around another year but that’s highly doubtful.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
SCOTTIE MONTGOMERY, EAST CAROLINA: There are five games remaining on the schedule and to remain gainfully employed, Montgomery needs to win four of them. In the immortal words of Dennis Hopper (from the movie “Waterworld”), “There are two chances that’s going to happen – no way and no how!” ECU is 2-5 this year and 8-23 for his career.
BOBBY WILDER, OLD DOMINION: ODU was guaranteed a losing season last week when Middle Tennessee State took a rubber hose and beat the Monarchs silly, 51-17. Wilder is in his ninth year and he’s 74-44 career at ODU. Do they trust him to turn things around next year or do they make the break now?
TONY SANCHEZ, UNLV: The excitement that maybe the Rebels had turned the corner for success is an afterthought now. The Rebels are 2-6 and they just lost to San Jose State, which was looking like the only possible win remaining on the schedule. A 2-10 record seems imminent.
MIKE SANFORD, WESTERN KENTUCKY: They’re used to winning at WKU and a losing season is guaranteed after last week’s 38-17 loss to Florida International. It’s in Sanford’s favor that this is only his second season, but patience is wearing thin. The only game that looks winnable the rest of the way is UTEP.
PHIL MONTGOMERY, TULSA: The good news for Tulsa is UConn comes to town this week. The bad news is a second straight 2-10 season is in the cards. Should Tulsa find a way to lose to UConn, Montgomery will go On Life Support.
LARRY FEDORA, NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels will finish with a second straight losing record, which probably means the end of the road for Fedora unless they take into account that he guided the football program through a sentence in the NCAA jail house. Will that offset what will likely be a 2-9 season?
BRAD LAMBERT, CHARLOTTE: Charlotte is a surprising 4-4 but the 49ers will be underdogs in the four remaining games. The 49ers have a paycheck game at Tennessee this weekend. If they could somehow keep this one competitive and avoid getting embarrassed it would help Lambert get another year. A blowout loss could be hazardous.
CHUCK MARTIN, MIAMI (OHIO): After the loss to Buffalo Tuesday night, the Red Hawks are 3-6 which means they have to go 3-0 down the stretch to break even. Of the three, the only game that looks remotely winnable is Ball State. This is year five for Martin and he’s 19-38 career. He probably goes On Life Support in a week or two.
BOBBY PETRINO, LOUISVILLE: Money is the real concern here since Petrino would be owed more than $14 million if he were fired and Louisville has already ponied up big bucks to pay off former AD Tom Jurich and new hoops coach Chris Mack, plus there is no telling how much they’ll have to settle up with former hoops coach Rick Pitino, who has sued for $35 million. There is some thought that Petrino wants out as badly as Louisville wants him out so perhaps there will be a mutual parting for a reduced price.
CLAY HELTON, SOUTHERN CAL: The Trojans have had a slew of injuries but the faithful seem to think that’s not an excuse. Helton fired his O-line coach and took the playcalling duties away from Tee Martin. That’s a sign that not all is well. A further sign came this week when AD Lynn Swann gave the coach the dreaded vote of confidence.
DEREK MASON, VANDERBILT: The heartbeat will be steady and the pulse strong if the Commodores can win their last three to finish at 7-5. That’s actually quite do-able since the last three games are quite winnable (at Mizzou, Ole Miss and Tennessee). Winning two out of three would punch a ticket for next year. The faithful want bowl games and 9-win seasons like they got with James Franklin but they choke on their strawberry Mascarpone Triscuit bruschetta when it comes to ponying up the bucks it would take to give Vandy the facilities that would help Mason recruit the athletes it takes to win in the SEC.
DOUG MARTIN, NEW MEXICO STATE: Given the handicaps Martin operates under, it’s unfair to put him in any category that might lead to unemployment but he made a mistake last year and got the Aggies to a bowl game. Now, people think he should be able to do it every year.
BARRY ODOM, MISSOURI: Mizzou is 4-4. If the Tigers go 3-1 the rest of the way, Odom is safe. If he goes 2-2 he will stay but with an ultimatum to win big next year. Now, if he posts a losing record firing offensive coordinator Derek Dooley might not even save him.
WILLIE TAGGART, FLORIDA STATE: That 59-10 loss to Clemson didn’t exactly create warm and fuzzy feelings among boosters who are anything but sold on Taggart being the answer. Even if the Seminoles go 0-4 the rest of the way to finish 4-8 Taggart won’t be fired. This year. Next year? It will take 9-10 wins to save his hide if he goes 4-8 this year.
PAUL JOHNSON, GEORGIA TECH: The problem with Paul Johnson is that he’s just good enough to stay gainfully employed and just inconsistent enough that the alumni and boosters are always looking for a reason to pink slip him. The Jackets are 4-4 and this week’s game with North Carolina is the last time they’ll be favored this year. A 5-7 might get him fired. A 6-6 record and he’ll go bowling and be back next year.
THE SAYER SAYS SOOTH: A November to remember for 14th-ranked Florida (6-2, 4-2 SEC) starts this Saturday at The Swamp against Missouri (4-4, 0-4 SEC). A hangover from last week’s 36-17 loss to Georgia would be disastrous because Missouri has enough weapons to light up a team whose head was left in the locker room. The thought here is that Dan Mullen and his staff aren’t about to let the Gators drop their guard. Look for Florida to play some defense with its offense by focusing on the running game as a way of eating up clock and keeping the Missouri offense off the field. If Florida comes out ready to play from the opening whistle, this will be a nice Homecoming celebration and the beginning of what has the makings of the first 4-0 November since 2012.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: UCF stretched its best in the country winning streak to 21 Thursday night with a 52-40 win over Temple, a game in which the two teams combined for nearly 1,300 yards of offense … Following the bizarre way D.J. Durkin was fired at the University of Maryland, Board of Regents chairman James T. Brady announced his resignation effective immediately. Brady was in favor of retaining Durkin but after school president Wallace Loh reinstated Durkin on Tuesday only to reverse course and fire him on Wednesday, Brady elected to resign … Former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant, who has already visited Arkansas, North Carolina and Missouri, visited Auburn on Tuesday and called it a good trip. The QB job at Auburn will be wide open if Jarrett Stidham elects to declare for the NFL Draft. Bryant is also expected to take a visit to Mississippi State … Things went from terrible to disastrous for the Oakland Raiders Thursday night when they were destroyed by the San Francisco 49ers, 34-3 … Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden, in his first year back in the NFL after years of exile to the TV booth, says, “I get a lot of phone calls from people who are dying to come play here. I’m just telling you. They’re dying to play for the Raiders” … Paul Zimmerman, who for years was the definitive NFL writer for Sports Illustrated, died Thursday at the age of 86. Known as Dr. Z, Zimmerman wrote a book that is a must read for anyone who is a real fan of the pro game: “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” … Peter Uihlein shot an opening round 63 to take the lead in the Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas. Jordan Speith is three shots off the pace … During the Boston Red Sox championship parade fans were throwing beer to the players. One fan missed his target and hit the World Series trophy, which has since been repaired.