To consider Les Miles on the dreaded hot seat at LSU entering this season suggests a lot about job security among college football coaches these days — especially those in the Southeastern Conference.
In 11 seasons as Tigers coach, Miles has 112 wins. Only one LSU coach has more and Charlie McClendon’s 137 victories came in 59 more games. Miles’ .778 winning percentage is better than any coach who has had more than a 30-game stint at LSU — even Nick Saban at .750. Miles has one of LSU’s three national championships.
Still, the Mad Hatter was nearly run out of Baton Rouge last season. If No. 5 LSU falls short of lofty expectations this season, expect Miles’ future will become a hot topic again in Baton Rouge. Southeastern Conference championship or bust?
Around the country, several other coaches enter the season in need of some wins and a change of trajectory to keep their jobs. Here are a few:
Charlie Strong, Texas
This situation looks pretty simple: Strong can’t have a third straight losing season and expect to return as coach when the athletic director and school president who hired him are no longer around. How many victories does Strong need to keep the gig? Hard to say. If the Longhorns land on 7-5 or 8-4, how they get there could be as important as the how many, as well as who is available. (Insert obligatory Houston coach Tom Herman mention here). This would be a good time for Strong’s team to go 9-3.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M and Gus Malzahn, Auburn
A couple of SEC West coaches who just a few years ago were getting serious NFL buzz. Neither has had a losing season, but both programs have been trending in the wrong direction. Complicating each situation is a rich buyout: $15 million for Sumlin and $9 million for Malzahn. Sumlin’s is a pay-in-full payment within two months of being let go. But, hey, it’s only money and this is the SEC. Don’t be surprised if Sumlin departs on his own terms if A&M has a good season.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Stoops made an early splash in recruiting and went from two victories in year one in Lexington to five in year two. Then another second-half swoon last year made it three straight bowl-less seasons for the Wildcats. Four in a row is not acceptable in the SEC, even for a program with relatively modest expectations.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Holgorsen is entering year six in Morgantown, West Virginia, and the last four have pretty much been spent in the middle of the Big 12. He has had some bad luck with close games and key injuries, but the program seems stuck in neutral. Even after an 8-5 finish and a bowl victory last season, new athletic director Shane Lyons pondered making a change. More of the same might not be enough for Holgorsen.
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Classic case of a coach walking into a horrendous situation, making it better but maybe not enough. The Buffaloes went 4-9 last season, MacIntyre’s third in Boulder. Five of those losses were by one score. Nine-game conference schedules don’t provide much room for growing a program (2-25 in the Pac-12), but all the positive signs might not matter for MacIntyre if Colorado cannot reach a bowl game for the first time since 2007.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Hazell is 6-30 in three seasons with Purdue. What else do you need to know?
Six more coaches in need of better seasons than they had last year: Steve Addazio, Boston College; Tracy Claeys, Minnesota; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State; Paul Haynes, Kent State; Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech; Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twtter.com/ralphDrussoAP