The college football coaching carousel is never quiet, even following seasons in which we think there might not be much movement. Inevitably, someone unexpected makes a move that starts other dominoes tumbling.
In this day and age, the spinning usually begins even before the regular season concludes, and the pace often picks up before bowl games. A couple of changes in the Big Ten due more to off-field matters than wins and losses got things off to an even earlier start in 2023.
Houston coach Dana Holgorsen reacts during a play against Central Florida at FBC Mortgage Stadium.
This list of current openings is likely to grow as vacancies are filled, but here are the schools looking for new leadership in order of, in somewhat arbitrary terms, the magnitude and attractiveness of the position.
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San Diego State
Who’s out: Brady Hoke’s second tenure was highlighted by a 12-2 mark and Mountain West title game appearance in 2021, but the Aztecs were just 27-20 in four seasons.
Hoke’s retirement probably comes at a good time for all parties. He’s had success there to be sure, but there is an unmistakable sense that the program dropped from its high standard. There are plenty of reasons to want this gig, not the least of which is the nice weather. Given its fairly large market, the school is better positioned than many of its fellow Mountain West members as the sport’s landscape continues to evolve.
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Who’s out: Dana Holgorsen’s first season in the Big 12 was a disappointment and he was let got after going 31-28 in five campaigns.
The transition to a Power Five conference wasn’t quite as smooth as school officials and supporters had hoped, leading to the rather quick and somewhat costly decision to part ways with Holgorsen. In theory the gig is attractive with a major market, easy access to fertile recruiting grounds and deep-pocketed donors. Of course that last point is what often leads to messy divorces in this profession, but it might also be easier to compete in the Big 12 as configured after this year.
Who’s out: Dino Babers won 10 games in 2018, but overall was 41-55 during his tenure.
The Orange have been hovering around .500 and fringe bowl eligibility for several seasons. Will things get better following the decision to move on from Babers? It’s hard to say. Even with its dome stadium, it’s a tough sell attracting talent from warmer climates to play in Central New York. The school does have a fair bit of football history, finding its place in the pecking order of the expanded ACC will continue to be a challenge.
Who’s out: Tom Allen led the Hoosiers to bowls in 2019 and 2020 but was just 33-48 in seven seasons.
In some respects, the desire to keep Allen in Bloomington long-term was understandable on the heels of a couple successful seasons at a school unaccustomed to them. But once the unusual circumstances of the pandemic years passed, the conclusion that those years were aberrations became unavoidable. In truth, it’s still a tough place to win on the gridiron, and the Big Ten’s incoming members from the west coast won’t make life any easier for the next coach.
Who’s out: Jonathan Smith didn’t have a gaudy record (34-35) but in his six seasons with the Beavers, Smith did one of the best rebuilding jobs in the country.
It’s hard to blame Smith for leaving his alma mater given the uncertain future at one of the schools left behind by the fracturing of the Pac-12. As such, this job search is going to be extremely challenging given the program’s murky prospects.
Who’s out: Andy Avalos didn’t make it to the end of his third season after a 22-14 that included an appearance in the Mountain West title game in 2022.
The plucky program that plays on blue turf got used to punching above its weight in the aught decades, so the slippage under Avalos despite an overall winning record in his two-plus seasons heading the Broncos was deemed unacceptable. Now set to play for the MWC title anyway, interim coach Spencer Danielson might have moved to the front of the line. The players on the current roster have clearly responded to his leadership, but whether he is the long-term answer remains to be seen.
Who’s out: Danny Gonzalez lasted four seasons and managed just an 11-32 record.
Albuquerque is another of those football destinations that can fairly be described as a tough place to win. Gonzalez, a Lobo alum, had four wins this season, which was the best total of his tenure. UNM could try to go the route of bringing in an experienced hand, but that might not be possible with the school’s limited budget.
Who’s out: Dana Dimel posted a 20-49 record in six seasons with one bowl appearance.
UTEP is a geographic outlier in its own state, so tapping into the wealth of football talent in the more populated regions can be laborious. On the plus side, there might be opportunities for the Miners to move up the standings in recently reconfigured Conference USA if a high-energy coach can be found.
Who’s out: Terry Bowden lasted three years, showing improvement through the first two campaigns before slipping to 2-10 and 0-8 in the conference this year.
Of the FBS jobs that have opened thus far in this cycle, the ULM gig is unquestionably the toughest. Keeping up in the increasingly competitive Sun Belt is hard enough, and the program is constantly fighting second-fiddle status with the system’s Lafayette campus. About the only selling point is that it might be a stepping-stone position with just a modicum of success.
Who’s out: The Wildcats fired Pat Fitzgerald before the season after details of hazing allegations were made public by former players. Fitzgerald, the school’s winningest coach, had a 110-101 record.
Who’s hired: After Fitzgerald’s departure, David Braun was made interim coach. Braun was give the job permanently as the team finished 7-5.
Who’s out: The vacancy at Michigan State was created by the firing of Mel Tucker, who departed in the middle of his fourth season amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Who’s hired: Jonathan Smith was lured from Oregon State to take over rebuilding the Spartans. Smith was successful in doing a similar job in his six seasons with the Beavers.
Who’s out: Zach Arnett didn’t last one season as Mike Leach’s replacement. He was fired with the team 5-6.
Who’s hired: The Bulldogs selected Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who previously served in the same role at Mississippi under Lane Kiffin.
Who’s out: Jimbo Fisher arrived to much fanfare but he went 45-25 and was owed $77 million when the school cut ties with him.
Who’s hired: The Aggies turned to a familiar face with the hiring of Duke coach Mike Elko, who was previously the school’s defensive coordinator before a successful, two-year stint with the Blue Devils.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football coaching carousel: A look at who has been hired and fired this offseasonNews Related