Who is under the most pressure this season?

Estimated read time 7 min read

Going into the 2021 college football season, industry experts expected limited coaching changes for the Chiefs.

After the financial impact of the pandemic, college athletic departments have been dipping into reserves, cutting salaries and cutting positions. Certainly, schools are not going to pay millions to fire their coaches.

Think again! By the end of the 2021 coaching cycle, there have been a whopping 29 Chiefs coaching changes, the most associated in a decade. The dismissals cost the schools what is believed to be a one-year record $94 million in cash.

Now let’s move on to this season. The same industry insiders expect a fairly quiet training session. And they say few, if any, major jobs should open. Big gigs are stable. Big names are guaranteed and safe.

We’ll see about that.

As the 2023 season opens, Yahoo Sports has spoken to a number of sports agents, administrators, and athletic trainers to develop a list of FBS coaches whose seats are warm, heated, or hot.

The 2023 openings shouldn’t rival the 2021 ones. After all, that year saw changes at Florida, USC, LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma, Miami, Notre Dame, and Tennessee. But you never know.

One big domino can set off a chain reaction.

What if Texas suffered in Steve Sarkissian’s third season? What if Texas A&M swings to 5-7? Two-step dismissals in Texas can cause dominoes to fall.

Some have their eyes set on two Big Ten coaches that many still think of as NFL stuff: Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Ryan Day. Such openings can trigger a chain of changes.

let’s start:

heated seats

Tom Allen, Indiana

Allen, an Indiana native, has worked magic in his seven seasons at Bloomington, leading the Hoosiers to an eight-win 2019 season and then a 6-2 mark during the 2020 COVID season. But the last two teams combined to go 6-18. However, his purchase—about $20 million—is a deterrent in a place like IU despite the influx of Big Ten money.

Steve Sarkissian, Texas

In the words of one sports agent, “The Texas coach is always on the hook.” Off the field (always a crouten!), the Longhorns are landing big fish (the class of 2023 ranked third behind Alabama and Georgia). However, recruiting has never been an issue for UT. On the field, things have improved (5-7 to 8-5), but Sark’s third year appears to be a crucial step before Texas heads to the SEC in 2024. If he gets fired, Sark will owe about 70% of his credit. The remaining salary, or about $ 13 million.

Texas Longhorns coach Steve Sarkissian reacts during a practice on April 15, 2023 in Austin, Texas.  (Team Warner/Getty Images)

Texas Longhorns coach Steve Sarkissian reacts during a practice on April 15, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Team Warner/Getty Images)

Justin Wilcox Cal

In order to fire Wilcox this year, the Bears need money. Cal has the largest debt in the country to its athletic department (approximately $450 million). The acquisition of Wilcox is significant, especially for a program in such a financial position. He will owe all of his remaining salary on a contract that runs through 2027 (he got a new deal in January 2022). That’s about $20 million.

Thomas Hammock, Northern Illinois

Former NIU and Ravens assistant, Hammock led an impressive turnaround in his third year, going from the Huskies’ 0-6 mark during the pandemic season to a MAC title with nine wins in 2021. However, last year the number was 3-9. The record is the school’s worst since 2007 (after discounting the 2020 six-game campaign). Pressing Hammock to improve his four-year record of 17-27.

Rice Mike Blomgren

Bloomgren’s Owls, a former Stanford assistant, entered a bowl game last season with five wins. But with a new athletic director (Tommy McClelland) and 16 wins in five years, it was time for Rice to take the next step. It won’t be easy. The school is transitioning from C-USA to AAC this year.

heated seats

Eli Drinkowitz, Missouri

Drinkowitz began his tenure with three consecutive trips – the school’s first since 2009-11. But, here’s the SEC and six wins that won’t kill it. Drinkowitz has been rocking the recruiting game lately, in part because a new Missouri law has encouraged coach and school lawmakers to pass it—a clever play that gives the program an edge among its conference opponents. With the contract running through 2027, Drinkwitz owes $20 million if it launches this fall. That’s a high price – for non-SEC teams.

Dana Holgorsen, Houston

The Cougars are 12 wins in Holgorsen’s third season in 2021, and despite an eight-win season last year, this looks like a critical season for Houston in its first year in the Big 12. Remember, UH dumped Major Applewhite after his sophomore season ended. With … eight wins. The Cougs expected heroics in Holgorsen’s employment, but the hurdle got taller with the Power Five move. It wouldn’t be cheap to cut it. In 2022, he signed a new contract until 2027. His buyout would be in the $15 million realm.

Dino Papers, Syracuse

Starting in his eighth year with the Orange, the Babers entered last season on one of the most exciting benches of anyone (Cuse had won 11 games in his three previous years). A trip to Pinstripe Bowl cooled things off, but only temporarily. Syracuse is a private school, but the Papers purchase is believed to be between $8 and $9 million.

Jeff Hafley, Boston College

A former 49ers and Browns assistant, Hafley started with two six-win seasons at BC before disappointing 3-9 in 2022. The Eagles avoided Clemson and Notre Dame this year, but Florida State, Pitt and Miami are on schedule. Hafley signed a new deal in 2021. His purchase is expected to be around $10 million.

Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

At most schools, the $70 million-plus acquisition would prevent a potential dismissal, but we’re not talking about any school here. Aggies have more money than God, as they say. Fisher overhauled his coaching staff this season with the hiring of Bobby Petrino as offensive coordinator, and allegedly relinquished playing duties. Since the 9-1 COVID season, the Aggies have gone 8-4 and 5-7. With a salary of nearly $10 million a year, Aggieland expects more.

Texas A&M Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher speaks during the SEC Media Days.  (Steve Roberts - USA Today Sports)

Texas A&M Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher speaks during the SEC Media Days. (Steve Roberts – USA Today Sports)

Butch Jones, Arkansas State

The Red Wolves won five games combined in Jones’ first two seasons—the school’s worst two-year record in over 20 years. Jones has three years left on his deal. Showing progress in Year 3 is a must. Does this mean a trip in a bowl? maybe. He bought it for about $1 million.

Scott Loeffler, Bowling Green

A former offensive coordinator at Auburn, Boston College and Virginia Tech, Loeffler won 13 games in four years. And while last season brought a six-win trip to the Quick Lane Bowl, Loeffler needs consistency, especially with a new athletic director hired a year ago. He bought it for about $1.3 million.

Sizzling seats

Neil Brown, West Virginia

As someone said, Brown “trains for his life.” While that’s a bit exciting, it also confirms that the Browns’ bench is the hottest among FBS coaches entering the 2023 season. With new AD Wren Baker hired last fall and outgoing head coach Gordon Gee, a coaching change seems imminent if the Browns can’t. He, at least, played bowling for the Mountaineers. He never lost more than seven games in school – but he did so three times in four seasons. His purchase is expected to be around $13 million.

Ryan Silverfield, Memphis

Going into his fourth season in charge, Silverfield’s fate was uncertain after last season – its second in a row with at least six losses. While three consecutive bowl games is great, a seventh- and eighth-place finish in the American Athletic Conference is not. Buying Silverfield is as low as $2-2.5 million.

Danny Gonzalez, New Mexico

A former defensive coordinator for Arizona State, Gonzalez’s teams won seven games in three years. The Lobos have won one of their last 15 conference play games. It’s easy to see why the school would cut ties with the coach, especially with a purchase of less than $500,000.

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