We are closing in on less than a month to the start of college football season, and much like you in the hours leading up to your prom, fans across the country are filled with a little too much excitement. This is, after all the magical time of year where everyone loves their team and coach, and where your school - yes yours - has all the pieces to win a title. Of course, we also know what immediately follows the highs of the off-season: The crippling lows of the actual season, when your team disappoints on the field, and you demand change off of it. That's right, it's time to talk hot seats! But remember, all hot seats aren’t equal, and just because you’re mad at your coach doesn’t mean he should actually be fired. Here are seven coaches who are currently on the hot seat, but shouldn’t be.
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Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Hearing Auburn fans call for Malzahn’s head is like the time my mom tried to figure out the Kardashian phenomenon. It’s confusing and makes your head hurt, to the point that after a while it’s not worth thinking about. Still, Auburn fans want Malzahn gone, and we shouldn’t be surprised. This is a fan-base which I recently called the most delusional in the country, and one that's fired three separate coaches in my lifetime who had undefeated seasons. They’re also the only school ever to fire a coach within two seasons of winning a national title (Gene Chizik). So of course they want Malzahn gone, even after he had Auburn in the title game three seasons ago, and started 7-1 the year before last. At this point, I’ve given up reasoning with Auburn fans, and instead would ask: If you want to fire Malzahn, who will you get that’s better?
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Les Miles, LSU
It’s funny how quickly the world forgets, but Miles was -- quite literally -- one quarter away from being fired last year. Instead he beat Texas A&M, won a bowl game and now enters the season with a potential title contender. But LSU falters even a bit? Miles’ head could roll. In the grand scheme of things that makes zero sense (then again, what in college football does?), considering that Miles has won an average of 10 games per year at LSU, and won 10-or-more seven times (and it would have been eight if one game hadn’t been cancelled last year). Here’s the simple truth: What Miles entire time at LSU could come down to is a matchup with Alabama in November. Miles has lost five straight to Nick Saban. A sixth straight – baring something huge – could be the end of his time in Baton Rouge. Even if it shouldn’t be.
Charlie Strong, Texas
So I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been a little tough on Charlie Strong through the years, but one thing that no one can deny is that he’s been coaching with one hand behind his back since arriving in Austin. The talent drain at Texas (prior to and since his arrival) has been well-documented, but it’s worth repeating here: Texas has had just six players drafted total in the last three years, and only two in the top three rounds overall. For comparison’s sake, Baylor – flippin’ Baylor – had six players drafted just last year alone. And that’s Baylor; not Alabama, Ohio State or any other normally traditionally powerful school. Point being, Strong needs more time. With a monster recruiting class arriving the Horns are on the way back up, and hopefully Strong gets to see his time at Texas through.
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Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Holgorsen’s seat isn’t scorching hot like the three guys above him, but it’s also warm enough to burn off a couple of the few remaining hairs on the top of his head. And in defense of West Virginia fans, I understand. After going 10-3 and winning the Big East in Holgorsen’s first year on the job, the program has plateaued since joining the Big 12, going just 26-25 since. At the same time, that’s the problem; they’re in the Big 12. With a major geographical disadvantage and little recruiting cache, West Virginia --- for all its history --- is one of the least desirable jobs in the conference. It also raises the question: Like Malzahn at Auburn, if you do get rid of Holgorsen, who will you get that’s better?
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James Franklin, Penn State
This is a little bit of a loose definition of ‘hot seat’ since, barring something catastrophic, Franklin isn’t getting fired after this year. But after going 7-6 last year, and losing their last four to end the season, the locals are starting to get restless. To quote Aaron Rodgers: R-E-L-A-X, Penn State fans. The truth is, one has worked at a disadvantage the past few years quite like Franklin has. Remember, this is a program which had just nine scholarship offensive linemen when he arrived (not even enough to fill-out a two-deep), and hasn’t yet been at a full allotment of 85 scholarships. Understand, with those numbers there isn’t a single coach in college football who could win big, let alone in one of the toughest divisions of college football. Franklin will be fine, but he does need time.
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Mark Stoops, Kentucky
It’s not just that Stoops has had a losing record all three seasons in Lexington, it’s how they’ve gotten those records. Kentucky started 5-1 in 2014 before finishing 5-7 overall, and started 4-1 last year before losing six of their last seven. Even worse in many of those games --- many, many --- the Wildcats have built big leads only to see them unable to maintain them. Still, for what Stoops lacks in big wins, he makes up for on the recruiting trail as he’s locked down the state of Kentucky, and also routinely convinced some of the best players in bordering Ohio to join him in the SEC as well. That’s also why UK would be crazy to fire Stoops. You can get better on game-day, but if you don’t have ‘it’ on the recruiting trail, it’s never going to come. Stoops has ‘it.’ And in time he will get better on Saturdays.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Again, I ‘get’ why A&M fans are frustrated with Sumlin. The program regressed from 11 wins to nine, to eight the last two years, and also taken a public perception hit with several high-profile transfers. But at the same time - and I hate to keep sounding like a broken record - what’s the alternative? Sure, there’s a chance the Aggies fire Sumlin and get Tom Herman, but there’s also a chance Herman says no, and also a chance he takes the job and is simply not as good as advertised. As for Sumlin, well, the records have been disappointing the last few years, but he has also brought unprecedented excitement to the program, and has completely changed their ‘brand’ from stodgy and old, to hip and cool. This year’s team should give him fewer headaches than in years past. And it should, hopefully be enough for him to keep his job.