2016 College Football Coaches Winners & Losers
It seems to happen every season. School A gets tired of basking in mediocrity and fires its coach late in the season. The firing and subsequent hiring of the latest up-and-coming hotshot sparks a chain of changes in the college football landscape. As we begin 2016, the college football coaching carousel is slowly coming to a halt. Here are the winners and losers among all the coaching changes across the nation.
The Atlantic Coast Conference welcomed new coaches at five different schools – Miami, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Syracuse, and Rutgers. The biggest ACC winner has to be Miami, who pulled in an alum in former Georgia coach Mark Richt. A former quarterback at the U, Richt brings a 145-51 career record along with two SEC championships to Miami. Richt and Georgia parted ways after he guided the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record last season. Hurricanes fans would love a 9-3 season, and Richt is the guy that can deliver it.
Virginia Tech watched the end of an era as Frank Beamer retired after winning 238 games in Blacksburg. The Hokies got possibly the hottest name in coaching when they hired former Memphis head coach Justin Fuente. The young (39 years old) Fuente turned Memphis into a winner in just three years. At one point last season, his Tigers were 8-0, and there was talk of a possible New Year’s Six bowl. Now, he will take over for the one of the legendary coaches in the game. He will instantly make the Hokies offense better. His QB at Memphis, Paxton Lynch, might be the first taken in this year’s NFL draft.
At Syracuse, the Orange haven’t really had much success since the days of Donovan McNabb back in the late 1990s. That could all change as Dino Babers, who led Bowling Green to a MAC championship last year, takes over. Babers’ offenses are known for their hyper-speed operation. The Falcons were fourth in the nation in total offense last season and quarterback Matt Johnson led the nation in passing during the regular season.
The American Athletic Conference was a great success in its second season and should continue to be not for its new hires, but for the coaches that it will keep. Conference champion Houston was led by first-year head coach Tom Herman, whose name popped up in virtually every coaching vacancy discussion. Houston rewarded Herman with a new contract and a higher salary to stay.
At Navy, Ken Niumatalolo led the Midshipmen to the most wins in school history. The Middies lost to Houston in the AAC Championship game and then went on to defeat Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds set NCAA records for career rushing touchdowns and most career rushing yards by a quarterback. Niumatalolo was courted by BYU, whose former coach Bronco Mendenhall wound up at Virginia. In the end, the nine-year Navy head coach decided to remain.
When Steve Spurrier retired at South Carolina in October, the Gamecocks had plenty of time to find a new head coach. That leaves many wondering why they decided to hire former Florida head coach Will Muschamp. Did the South Carolina administration believe hiring another Florida coach will take them to multiple 11-win seasons again? Who knows but Muschamp struggled at Florida and was eventually fired. He is a great defensive mind, but unless he hires a quality offensive coordinator, don’t expect the Gamecocks to make any waves in the SEC East.
Just before the start of the 2015 season, Illinois fired head coach Tim Beckman amidst a scandal. Bill Cubit was named the interim coach. After leading the Illini to a 5-7 record, Cubit was given a two-year contract to become the school’s head coach. The university has been without a chancellor and a full-time athletic director and basically hired Cubit because they didn’t know what else to do.
Hawaii hired former offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, who will take over the nation’s most cushy job. Rolovich also played at Hawaii, so he understands the difficulty of operating the program. The school could have hired its former coach June Jones, but instead went with Rolovich, who has made a splash everywhere he’s been, but then seems to fizzle. His Hawaii offense in 2010 averaged 501 yards per game. The following year, they dropped to 404. At Nevada in 2012, his offense produced 515 yards per game. Last year, they fell to a pedestrian 378.
The biggest loser of this year’s college coaching moves may be Greg Schiano…or the schools that didn’t hire him. Schiano turned Rutgers back into a regional power in the East in the late 2000s but somehow was an afterthought when his old school, Miami, and some of the other schools on the east coast had coaching job openings. In the end, maybe Schiano is a winner. He is the new defensive coordinator at Ohio State.