J. Brady McCollough looks at the biggest story lines in college football heading into the 2019 season. Which Power Five teams could see a coaching change?
College football players must now spend time in the mysterious transfer portal to find a new destination, but for coaches, switching up locales is as easy as ever in 2019: break one contract, sign a new one. And they won’t have to make an appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility either.
It’s never too early to look ahead and try to forecast the potential movements of the coaching carousel. Among power programs, USC, Florida State and Auburn could come open. Then there is the possibility that Oklahoma loses Lincoln Riley to the NFL. (If Kliff Kingsbury can get fired at Texas Tech and be rewarded with an NFL head coaching gig, imagine what luxurious packages those franchises who are searching for the next Sean McVay are going to start throwing at Riley?)
In the next tier, we find a few scenarios that are more of the “thank you for all that you did, but it’s time to freshen things up” variety.
For instance, Texas Christian would never “fire” Gary Patterson, the man who has built that program from the ground up over the last two decades and pushed the Horned Frogs to the verge of the College Football Playoff in 2014. But after going 7-6 in 2016 and 6-7 in 2018, if TCU doesn’t show marked offensive improvement and clear signs of competing with Texas and Oklahoma, there could at least be discussion of an amicable parting of ways.
Similarly, Michigan State would not send Mark Dantonio packing unceremoniously. The Spartans have made the CFP and gone 8-4 against Michigan under his watch. But things are starting to get a bit stale in East Lansing — Dantonio did not bring in a new offensive coordinator despite having a woeful offense, electing instead to shuffle his staff — and it’s at least worth watching if Michigan State doesn’t have a big bounce-back year.
Virginia Tech is probably sticking with Justin Fuente after he won 19 games in his first two seasons, but if the program trajectory continues toward last year’s 6-7 record, his seat will get hot. The Hokies already announced that defensive coordinator Bud Foster, a Blacksburg institution, will retire after this season, so a transition is coming. It’s just a matter of whether Fuente will be leading it.
South Carolina is in no hurry to give up on Will Muschamp, whose Gamecocks are facing one of the toughest schedules in the country. Still, a big win over Alabama, Florida or Clemson, all of which visit Columbia, would go a long way toward proving his program is on the upswing.
Here’s who you don’t want to be in 2019: Illinois’ Lovie Smith and Rutgers’ Chris Ash.
For the top tier jobs, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Syracuse’s Dino Babers and Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall will be the first names on most athletic directors’ wish lists. For a premier, top-five job like USC, a name like Penn State’s James Franklin would make sense, too. Of course, it would be foolish to leave Urban Meyer out of any speculation.
Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin, N.C. State’s Dave Doeren, Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi, Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson, Memphis’ Mike Norvell and North Texas’ Seth Littrell could be worthy of more high-profile jobs and might be appealing based on the particular fit.