I had a great idea last night – I’d write an article ranking the 12 ACC coaches by how much heat they are under. Then, I check the Internets this morning and wouldn’t you know it, StateFansNation beat me to the punch.
Ah well, I’m doing it anyway.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of job pressure for coaches. There’s the intense scrutiny kind where fans and media constantly second-guess your every move and demand to know why you aren’t winning more or by larger margins. And there’s the am-I-going-to-lose-my-job? kind of pressure. They aren’t necessarily the same thing. You can have one and not the other. The really hot seats are the ones with both types of Bunsen burners underneath.
So, let’s have a look at all of the ACC coaches and see whether they are Hot Or Not. I’ll list them in order of just how much heat they are feeling.
Larry Coker – Wow. Just a few years ago, this guy had one of the best resumes in the business. He had just won a national championship and was averaging less than one less per year. Maybe he set expectations too high. Fans jumped all over the Hurricanes lackluster 9-3 record in 2005, largely because they failed to earn a spot in the inaugural ACC Championship and they got waxed by LSU in the Peach Bowl. Coker replied to the negativity by firing every coach he could find. It didn’t help. A 1-2 start this year has led to rampant rumors of his impending doom. On The Sports Reporters yesterday, William Rhoden gave a monologue on why Coker should be fired. That kind of attention just isn’t given to most ACC coaches.
Chuck Amato – Is there anything I can add here? Everybody knows how things have fallen apart in Chuck’s Wolfpack program. It’s like a VH-1 Behind The Music episode over there. We’re in the the-drug-addiction-has-turned-dark stage of the show. He hasn’t wrapped his Corvette around a tree and found New Christian Rock yet, but that’s coming. Amato’s not going to be fired this year, but odds are good that his career will end in some dramatic fashion in the next 12-18 months. Maybe some sort of Woodie Hayes-type finale.
One odd measure of the growing ire – there’s been a link to Dave Sez from firechuckamato.com for a while now. At least a year. I normally get a hit or two a month from folks there browsing around. Suddenly this month, it’s one of the ten more popular referrers I have. Hmmm, looks like they’ve gotten quite a traffic increase over there!
Ted Roof – Here’s a perfect example of a coach who is under very little pressure from fans and media but who’s probably going to be fired anyway. That’s the beauty of being the Duke coach. There are no fans to yell at you! Doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be canned though. Look for Steve Logan to be the next Blue Devil coach (just a guess. I have no inside info.).
John Bunting – Roof is going to get fired. Coker will very likely be fired. John Bunting is probably the next most likely. Carolina has a well-earned habit of hanging on to their football coaches for a season or two longer than they should, so don’t be surprised if Big John hangs around one more year. Of course, some would argue that he’s already in his extra year (or second). The odd thing is, there doesn’t seem to be too much vitriol in Chapel Hill. They just seem resigned to their fate. Or maybe they’re having too much fun needling NC State fans about Chuck Amato. Either way, they’ve stopped going to their own games, and that’s always the clearest sign to an AD that things are broken. Even Dick Baddour.
Al Groh – Groh’s situation is very much like Chuck Amato’s just not quite so severe. He built expectations in Charlottesville, but not as much as Amato did in Raleigh. He’s failing to meet his own expectations, but not nearly so dramatically as Chuck is. Either way, he’s in trouble and the fans are turning on him in droves. But he’s not going to get fired. Not this year.
Ralph Friedgen – Just reread my Al Groh and Chuck Amato paragraphs. I mean, it’s the same story! Alumnus returns to great expectations, wins, recruits, convinces fans that they will be a football power, then the house of cards crumbles. Has any coach ever recovered from that career arc? Friedgen is probably under less heat than Groh or Amato, but that’s largely due to some institutional denial at Maryland.
Tommy Bowden – Tommy Boy is the toast of Tiger Town today, but he’s always one loss away from the pyre. That’s just the way it is with any Clemson coach. They are some mighty tough fans to win over. Sure, they’ll tell you that Bowden was never in any danger of being fired in recent years, but that was not because they didn’t want to. It was simply because his contract made it too expensive. That win on Saturday night went a long way to earning him another year or two down there, largely because those are the sorts of wins that they remember from the Danny Ford days and they’ve been mighty rare over the past 20 or so years.
Chan Gailey – Before the season, a lot of people felt that Gailey was in a tenuous position in Atlanta. It may be that he hasn’t improved things any, but compared to most other coaches in the league, he’s having a great year! That’s the standard in the ACC 2006 – don’t lose to any teams from 1-AA or with a compass direction in their name and you’re king of the world! Of course, there’s still time for Gailey to screw things up.
Jim Grobe – Being the Wake Forest coach is not too different from being the Duke coach. Nearly no one cares. Couple that with the fact that Grobe is an excellent coach and has Wake at 3-0, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s not going anyway. Well, unless he finally comes to his senses and takes a better job. I’d love to see what he could do somewhere where he had some real talent.
Bobby Bowden – If anyone else were the coach at Florida State, they’d be getting the Coker treatment right about now. I read in some article today that FSU is 3-5 in their last eight games and that they hadn’t gone into halftime with a lead in nine consecutive games. Read that last part again. Nine games! Of course, Bobby is such a legend, that no one is pressuring the school to get rid of him. Just his son. Of course, if he were to announce tomorrow that he were retiring, I don’t think too many fans would try to talk Ol’ Bobby out of it either.
Tom O’Brien – O’Brien has built up a huge savings of good feelings in Chestnut Hill. O’Brien has done nothing at BC other than consistently win with class. Sure, fans have gotten pampered a bit and are now wondering why they can’t now become a major power, but I highly doubt they’d consider kicking him to the curb. O’Brien would have to have two or three consecutive bad seasons to truly be on a hot seat.
Frank Beamer – The best coach with the best coaching staff is in the best position in the conference. By far. The fans love him and they should. He has done one of the hardest things there is in any major sport – build a national power from scratch. Sure, there’s plenty of deserved criticism for the conduct of his players on and off the field – and the apparent soft handling of these incidents – but honestly most of that questioning comes from outside of Hokie Nation. The real Virginia Tech fans are nowhere near ready to throw the baby out with the bong water. The only real difference between Beamer and Bobby Bowden at this point is that Beamer is still a good coach.