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Forde-Yard Dash: Seven Worst Power 5 Head Coaching Jobs

The Dash names the duds of college football coaching gigs, including a new vacancy in Lubbock.
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (magic tricks from Liberty quarterback Malik Willis sold separately:

MORE DASH: Upperclassmen Salutes | Big Ten East Hopefuls | Late-Season Fix-It List

FOURTH QUARTER: THE WORST POWER 5 JOBS

Texas Tech fired Matt Wells Monday, perpetuating the weird current dynamic in college football where athletic directors don’t want to give coaches a chance to win big games and save their jobs. Ed Orgeron was informed that his services will no longer be needed at LSU last week, just 17 games after winning the national title. Wells was all of 30 games into his tenure at Tech and was 5—3 this year, but the school had seen enough.

Texas Tech aspires to do better, but should it? The Dash’s list of the seven worst Power 5 coaching jobs includes the one in Lubbock. The full breakdown of the bottom seven, from bad to the very worst:

Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Matt Wells leads his team onto the field prior to their game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Matt Wells leads his team onto the field prior to their game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Texas Tech (31). In terms of recent performance, other schools could have made this list ahead of Tech—Illinois, Maryland, Purdue and Indiana, just to name 29 percent of the Big Ten. But when Oklahoma and Texas depart the Big 12, the imminent lost of revenue and likely hit to College Football Playoff access have to be factored in. Tough job gets tougher.

Record this year: 5—3, 2—3 in the Big 12

Record the previous 10 years: 56—66 overall, 30—60 in the Big 12

Number of full-time head coaches in the past 10 years: three

Last winning season: 7—6 in 2015

Last season finishing in the Top 25: 2009

Last conference championship: 1994 in the Southwest Conference. Among the most specious of all conference titles, for anyone. Texas A&M went 6—0—1 in the SWC but was ineligible for the league title due to NCAA sanctions. The next five teams all finished 4—3 and claimed a co-championship: Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech and Rice. At 6—6, Texas Tech went to the Cotton Bowl and was nudged by USC, 55-14. 

Last outright conference championship: 1955 in the Border Conference

Arizona (32). The wheels have fallen completely off. Theoretically, given the growing population and membership in a manageable division, the wheels can be put back on. But at present this program needs a long runway just to get back to decent.

Record this year: 0—7 overall, 0—4 in the Pac-12. The Wildcats own the longest active losing streak in FBS at 19 games.

Record the previous 10 years: 56—63 overall, 32—54 in the Pac-12

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Number of full-time head coaches in the past 10 years: four

Last winning season: 7—6 in 2017

Last season finishing in the Top 25: 2014

Last conference championship: 1993

Last outright conference championship: 1941 in the Border Conference

Syracuse (33). The Orange have had periodic high points for decades, but overall the move to the ACC has been difficult. Being in the same division with Clemson (and Florida State, if it ever revives) puts a pretty solid cap on potential upward mobility.

Record this year: 4—4 overall, 1—3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference

Record the previous 10 years: 51—71 overall, 26—54 in the ACC and Big East

Number of full-time head coaches the past 10 years: three

Last winning season: 10—3 in 2018

Last season finishing in the Top 25: 2018

Last conference championship: 2012 in the Big East

Last outright conference championship: 1998

Oregon State (34). This could also be Washington State. But the Beavers have a more persistent in-state problem to deal with in Oregon than the Cougars have in Washington.

Record this year: 5—2 overall, 3—1 in the Pac-12

Record the previous 10 years: 40—77 overall, 25—63 in the Pac-12

Number of full-time head coaches the past 10 years: three

Last winning season: 7—6 in 2013

Last season finishing in the Top 25: 2012

Last conference championship: 2000

Last outright conference championship: 1956

Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano looks on before the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano looks on before the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field.

Rutgers (35). The Big Ten invitation was a no-brainer for the school to accept in much the same way a sportswriter would accept membership at Augusta National. But it did not do the football program any favors in terms of being competitive with its peers. (Or any other sports. The Scarlet Knights just clinched the Big Ten title in women’s soccer—their first league title in anything since coming onboard in 2014.)

Record this year: 3—4 overall, 0—4 in the Big Ten

Record the previous 10 years: 47—73 overall, 22-61 in the Big Ten, American and Big East

Number of full-time head coaches the past 10 years: four, two of which are Greg Schiano

Last winning season: 8—5 in 2014

Last season finishing in the Top 25: 2006

Last conference championship: 2012 in the Big East

Last outright conference championship: 1961 in the Middle Atlantic

Vanderbilt (36). In theory, Vandy should have the same opportunities for Smart Guy Football success as have been enjoyed periodically at Stanford, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Duke. But the Commodores are in the SEC, so never mind.

Record this year: 2—6 overall, 0—4 in the Southeastern Conference

Record the previous 10 years: 51—71 overall, 21—60 in the SEC

Number of full-time head coaches in the past 10 years: three

Last winning season: 9—4 in 2013

Last season finishing in the Top 25: 2013

Last conference championship: 1923, in the Southern Conference

Last outright conference championship: 1915, also in the SoCon

Kansas (37). No, it’s not particularly close.

Record this year: 1—6, 0—4 in the Big 12

Record the previous 10 years: 18—99, 5—84

Number of full-time head coaches in the past 10 years: five

Last winning season: 8—5 in 2008

Last season finishing in the Top 25: 2007

Last conference championship: 1968

Last outright conference championship: 1930

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Thomas Hammock (38), Northern Illinois. The third-year coach of the Huskies is either living right or doing a fantastic job in pressure situations, because his team is now 5—1 in one-score games. That includes two one-point wins and one two-point victory. The most recent nailbiter was a second-half rally from 17 down to beat Central Michigan, 39-38. Three times this year, NIU has scored the winning points in the final minute, with Michigan State transfer quarterback Rocky Lombardi leading those drives.

Northern Illinois Huskies head coach Thomas Hammock talks to the linesman during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.

Northern Illinois Huskies head coach Thomas Hammock talks to the linesman during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.

Last season was a COVID-19 washout for Hammock, an 0—6 bust at a school that was fully prepared not to play at all in the fall. At 6—2 overall this year, 4—0 in the Mid-American Conference, the Huskies have a two-game lead in the MAC West.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Kevin Kelley (39), Presbyterian. He was hired out of the high school ranks this offseason amid relative fanfare (for FCS non-scholarship levels), thanks to his counter-culture coaching style of rarely punting, frequently onside kicking and generally being ready to take every gamble available. Because everyone likes the coach who goes for it all the time, right? Well, The Dash checked in on the Blue Hose and—ewww.

After starting 2—0 they have lost five straight, giving up 63 or more points in four of those games. That included a 72-0 loss to Campbell, a 70-35 loss to Davidson and a 69-28 loss to San Diego. But let’s talk about the fourth of those blowout losses for a moment, 63-43 to Dayton.

In that one, Presbyterian jumped to a 23-0 lead, but an unsuccessful onside kick gave the Flyers a short field for their first touchdown. Then the Hose gave up a safety on a 26-yard loss. Then an unsuccessful fourth down play gave Dayton another short field for another TD. Then, on fourth-and-21 from their own 4, Kelley sent on a punt team that didn’t know what it was doing and got it blocked for another safety. The momentum from the early lead was gone, with no thought of managing the game, and the route was on thereafter.

Clearly, this is a strategy to which Kelley is completely wedded, and it will take time to make such a radical culture switch. But he might want to think about occasionally—very occasionally—approaching time and score and field position like Kirk Ferentz, who has won a few games in his career.

POINT AFTER

When hungry and thirsty in the current college football capital of America, Athens, Ga., The Dash recommends a meal at Marker 7 Coastal Grill. The seafood is good and the oysters are fresh. Sit on the porch, order a couple of Tropicalia IPAs from local brewery Creature Comforts (40), and thank The Dash later. 

MORE DASH: Upperclassmen Salutes | Big Ten East Hopefuls | Late-Season Fix-It List