College football is no different than any other major sport when it comes to head coaches. Win or you're gone. Which Pac-12 programs are a bad season from replacing their head coach? Which coaches are safe? How safe are they?
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CHURCHILL: 2017 Pac-12 Predictions
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SCHEDULE: 2017 Pac-12 Games of the Year
CHURCHILL: Bold Predictions for Every Pac-12 Team [divider]
While none appear to be sitting in a white hot — or what we'd call Habanero — seat at the moment, that could change during ths season. Here's a Hot Seat Meter for every head coach in the conference. What are your head coach's Scoville Units?
Todd Graham, Arizona State
Graham went 8-5, 10-4 and 10-3 his first three years at ASU — with a lot of players he didn't recruit. Since then he's 11-14 and heading into dangerous territory.
Another season of 5-6 wins, bowl game or not, and Arizona State may be knocking down the door of some of the top coach-ready assistants in the country, or looking at a Group of 5 candidates, such as Rocky Long at San Diego State.
This summer, the school declined to extend Graham's contract for the first time since he came to Tempe. Clearly they want more out of the football program.[divider]
COFFARO: Top Group of 5 Coaches[divider]
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Like their in-state rivals, the Wildcats have been mediocre for the last 10 years with one exception: Year 3 under Rodriguez that ended in a 10-4 campaign and a Fiesta Bowl appearance. Since then Arizona is 10-15, including a 3-9 season a year ago.
Another bad year and the screaming Rodriguez — seriously, he screams at his players and coaches the entire game — may be screaming in line at the Phoenix unemployment office in November.[divider]
Jim Mora, UCLA
Mora's probably not getting fired this season, as long as the Bruins don't fall to the bottom of the Pac-12 South with a healthy Josh Rosen at quarterback. But 8-5 in 2015 and then last year's 4-8 aren't exactly solidifying Mora's place in Los Angeles, either.
Expectations will dictate how hot the seat is, but good coaches find a way to avoid the 4-8 seasons, even when their star quarterback plays hurt early and then misses the final six weeks of the season. Another 4-8 year and it's not out of the question Mora is replaced. [divider]
Justin Wilcox, California
Yep, before he's ever coached a game. Wilcox isn't losing his job anytime soon. He'll be given a couple of years to right the ship and show it's heading in the right direction. But until he's able to get a few key wins, the seat will always be lukewarm.
A surprise 2017 cools things off for Wilcox, but a 2-10 year and it the heat is on a bit. The safe wager is he gets through Year 2, then AD H. Michael Williams can reevaluate the hot seat — and not tell us about it entering Year 3. Right H?[divider]
Gary Andersen, Oregon State
Andersen went from 2-10 in Year to 4-8 a year ago and if he has the quarterback situation solidified, he won't need more than 5-6 wins in 2017 to stave off advancement to the Poblano Mild category.
It's not easy to attract names to Corvallis and Andersen's earned some cache in his two years at the helm. [divider]
Willie Taggart, Oregon
Taggart, like Wilcox, is in Year 1 but his seat is considerably cooler for one reason: Recruiting. Taggart has done a good job early and already has a quarterback in Justin Hebert, one of the more underrated performers in the conference last season.
While it's nothing for the Ducks to cut bait on a coach making more than $3 million per season, Taggart is going to get a few years to flip the recent script, and anything more than eight wins in 2017 probably pushes Taggart down a notch to Ice Cold.[divider]
Clay Helton, USC
The mojo is back, the recruiting trail appears to be hot and they have a big-time quarterback. Those are reasons Helton's job is among the safest in the conference. They are also aspects of his job that can change in a heartbeat. Darnold could opt for the draft after the season, the defense could struggle in '17 and drag the overall team to the good-but-not-great level to which many expect them to jump.
Chances are, we're not going to be talking about Helton's job security for at least another few seasons, and every 10-win season pushes that conversation back another two years.[divider]
Mike Leach, Washington State
Leach is closer to Liquid Hydrogen than he is Cool Breeze; it's not easy to recruit to Pullman, Washington and it's not easy to find coaches better than Leach to come there, either.
Under Leach, WSU is just 29-34, but they are 17-9 the past two seasons and both the running game and the defense are markedly better than the first three season. Growth isn't necessary for Leach to stay in the Palouse for another decade, but it's possible in 2017.[divider]
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
MacIntyre was the conference's coach of the year in 2017 after taking the Buffaloes to a Pac-12 South title and an appearance in the title game versus Washington.
The next two years are the big test, however. He's not going to feel any pressure anytime soon — nor should be — but 2017 may be a step back in the win column. Two mediocre years in a row might push his seat temperature upa couple of notches, but that's a ways off, if it ever arrives. [divider]
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Whittingham is closer to Liquid Hydrogen than Cool Breeze. He's one of the top 25 coaches in the country and finds a way to get his team in the mix, year-in and year-out.
What can he do to take the next step into LH territory? Win 10 games, beat Washington or USC, or both, and at least get to the Pac-12 championship game. He's 104-50 at Utah but has yet to win a conference title since the Utes joined the conference for the 2011 season.[divider]
David Shaw, Stanford
One could make the argument Shaw would have to go winless for two years in a row before feeling any pressure, and they may be right. He's 64-17 in seven seasons in Palo Alto with three Rose Bowl appearance and two wins.
It's a Top 15 program despite the academic challenges and Shaw is among the elites in college football. [divider]
Chris Petersen, Washington
Petersen hasn't been at Washington as long as Shaw has been at Stanford, but in his four years has taken them to heights not seen since the Don James era in the 1980s and 90s.
The foundation Petersen has brought to the Huskies program is as strong as Stanley Hudson when Michael promises te rest of the dat off is anyone can beat his push-up record.
There are few coaches in college football with more footing than Shaw and Petersen (Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher and Urban Meyer may be the only four) and few others with similar traction (Jim Harbaugh, for example).