If the allegations are true, Steve Addazio will be fired. Addazio will join George O’Leary, Michael Haywood, and others on a short and dubious of college football head coaches who were fired or resigned before coaching a game. The allegations: Encouraging players to hide COVID-19 symptoms and leading a “toxic” culture of racism and abuse.
On Friday, three days after the Coloradoan dropped a stunning trove of allegations from CSU football players and athletic department staff alleging “coaches have told players not to report COVID-19 symptoms, threatened players with reduced playing time if they quarantine and claim CSU is altering contact tracing reports to keep players practicing,” Colorado State suspended all football activities and expanded their investigation into the initial COVID allegations to include the allegations of racism and abuse.
If the allegations, some of which stretch back to former head coach Mike Bobo and his staff, are true, Steve Addazio will never coach a game at Colorado State. If he’s fired, who might replace him?
The timing would be unprecedented. Under normal circumstances, Colorado State would promote an assistant to coach the 2020 season while athletics director Joe Parker, if he survives the investigation, would search for a permanent replacement. However, the increasing likelihood of a canceled season for Colorado State and potentially every other FBS program would give the Rams until at least the spring to find a new head coach before games are played.
Addazio was hired last December after Colorado State reportedly narrowed its Urban Meyer-aided search to five finalists: Kevin Wilson, Tony Alford, Dave Aranda, Butch Jones, and Addazio. Aranda is obviously unavailable after landing the Baylor job in January. The other three, however, are in the same position they held at the time of the search, including Tony Alford, a CSU alum who was considered the obvious choice by several insiders. Both Wilson and Jones were reportedly in negotiations with Colorado State before Addazio was hired, but it seems unlikely either would be an option after facing their own issues in the past.
Several lower-level Group of Five coaches could be in play: Lance Leipold, Chris Creighton, Sean Lewis, and Will Healy. All four coaches are in worse jobs with lower salaries than Addazio’s $1.5 million or Bobo’s $1.8 million. Better job and more money never guarantee interest, especially during a global pandemic, but this is the next logical step if they’re seeking a Power Five opportunity in the near future. For what it’s worth, Healy spent one year as a quarterback at Air Force, though that’s the extent of geographical ties for any of the four coaches.
Colorado State should make several FCS calls, starting with Matt Entz (North Dakota State), Jeff Choate (Montana State), and Troy Taylor (Colorado State). Can Entz do better if he keeps the dynasty humming? Probably. Even without any FBS experience, he could land a higher-level Group of Five job or lower-level Power Five job with a few more dominant years. Choate, meanwhile, has loads of FBS experience (including eight years under Chris Petersen), has recruited almost every area west of Kansas, and has done remarkable work in four seasons at Montana State.
Jim McElwain could return to Fort Collins but I don’t think he needs to return if he’s looking for another Power Five opportunity. Oklahoma State safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt is a CSU alum and returned for two separate stints, most recently as passing game coordinator and receivers coach from 2010-11. USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, Michigan State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton, and former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich could be in play as well.