The Last Man Standing
Athlon shared a list of coaches on the hot seat. Five of them come from the Big Ten. Who's got the best opportunity to survive (and even thrive) and who's likely to be out of work in the near future:
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was highest on the list. Despite a good recruiting base within the state borders, his teams have produced just one conference win in two years. Next came Rutgers head man Kyle Flood. His team regressed from 9-4 in his first season to just 6-7 last year and his schedule is about to get a lot tougher. Bo Pelini is on the list, despite his recent contract extension. Would a seven-loss season be all it takes to end his time in Lincoln? Brady Hoke appears next as his team has been trending down in each of the last two years after a promising Sugar Bowl winning season in his debut at Michigan. Kevin Wilson at Indiana was also mentioned. His team is trending up but still has yet to put together a winning record.
Reasons to Retain
Beckman and Flood each have only had two seasons at their respective schools. Firing a coach in his third season (particularly at a program without a history of sustained success) is not a great way to attract a top candidate. Similarly, you can't fire a coach with a winning track record like Pelini (no matter how volatile his personality), and expect to lure the best coaching prospect. He must be allowed to truly fail first (9 wins is not a losing season). Hoke's success is a bit more muted, even if it looks decent overall. He has to get back to winning five or more conference games a year, but should have the talent to do so. Wilson has improved his win total each season at Indiana. Six wins should be plenty reason to be patient.
Reasons to Change
There's patience and then there's false hope. Beckman's tenure so far simply provides little hope for brighter days ahead. Similarly, Flood's headed into a buzzsaw schedule-wise and so letting him struggle two more years might kill what little momentum the program had. Pelini must be allowed to fail, but that's not out of the realm of possibility. The turnover woes could continue, as the passing game could really struggle with a new quarterback. While there are good elements on defense, the overall unit still has questions of depth and experience. Combine any bad behavior in defeat with 7 or more losses and the Pelini era could end. In Hoke's case, 7 wins might be too few. It was for his predecessor at Michigan. And Wolverine fans don't want to continue to see losses to Michigan State and Ohio State. Should Indiana retreat to four or fewer victories, there's an argument to change. That seems unlikely with 18 returning starters and six winnable games on the schedule.
Who's Out First?
Honestly, these guys could all survive another year. Flood could be given a pass for going up a weight class, even if he wins just 4 games. Beckman has a great chance to improve his win total but might get a break for losing a senior quarterback if he doesn't. Neither coach would likely survive two more bad years, so look for both schools to sport new coaches in 2016. It's hard to see Wilson having a terrible year, but if he did his progress to date might still merit another chance. Things have to get truly bad for Pelini to be fired after six seasons of 9 or more wins, and he can sleepwalk to six wins with his current schedule. Barring bad behavior, it will take two seasons of fewer than nine wins to do him in. Hoke's squad and schedule are screaming 9-3. Fans won't be happy if that includes losses to the Buckeyes and Spartans, but the Athletic Director probably won't pay him to leave.