Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Look Ahead: ACC Football Coaching Hot Seat

The ACC as a conference did have not a good bowl season, only going 4-6. Halfway through the season, we took a look at each ACC coach and what their current status was on the hot seat. Now that the bowl season is over for all ACC squads, we take a look at next year.

Obviously all of these are subject to change. As Alabama coach Nick Saban said after Tommy Tuberville got fired at Auburn, it is concerning that coaches can be one 5-7 season away from getting fired. Though most ACC schools are not that trigger-happy, Tommy Bowden got fired mid-season from Clemson, so the conference schools are capable of such behavior. So what coaches are in trouble going into next year?

Boston College (9-5, 5-3 ACC, Atlantic Division champion, lost Music City Bowl 16-14 to Vanderbilt)
--Head Coach: Jeff Jagodzinski (2 seasons, 20-8 record with BC): FIRED
Despite an injury to quarterback Chris Crane, the Eagles had enough depth with Dominique Davis to reach the ACC Championship. Coach Jagodzinski has proven he did not need Matt Ryan to lead a good Boston College team. Things could have gone better, and folks in Chestnut Hill are probably not happy about their loss to Vanderbilt, but overall Jagodzinski has done a solid job over his short time.
UPDATE 1/4/09: The BC athletic director has threatened to fire Jagodzinski if he interviews with the Jets for the head coach position, sources tell ESPN. Jagodzinski still plans to talk to the Jets. Situation downgraded from SAFE to SAFE, FOR NOW.
UPDATE 1/6/09: ESPN is reporting that because Jagodzinski interviewed with the Jets, Boston College will indeed fire him.
UPDATE 1/13/09: It is being reported that BC has promoted defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani to head coach.

Clemson (7-6, 4-4 ACC, lost Gator Bowl 26-21 to Nebraska)
--Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (entered mid-season, 4-3 record as Clemson head coach): SAFE, FOR NOW
Dabo Swinney took over as interim head coach for Tommy Bowden mid-season, losing the interim status after the Tigers upset win over South Carolina. The players embraced him, liking his energy and tough personality over the seemingly misguided Bowden. Swinney is only 39-years-old and had never held a job higher than receivers coach. Next season will be a big test, as Swinney will have to do a lot more than just defeat South Carolina, he'll need to compete for the ACC Championship; nothing less is acceptable at Clemson.

Duke (4-8, 1-7 ACC, did not play in a bowl)
--Head Coach: David Cutcliffe (1 season, 4-8 record with Duke): SAFE
Duke University has to love Coach Cutcliffe and what he has done so far, especially after publicly stating he was not interested in the Tennessee head coaching position. Four wins is not much, but Duke only had six wins under Ted Roof's five seasons in Durham. Plus, attendance figures at football games have gotten much higher. Obviously a lot of work has to be done with the football team, but if Cutcliffe wishes to stay, he can stay in Durham for a long time.

Florida State (9-4, 5-3 overall, won Champs Sports Bowl 42-13 over Wisconsin)
--Head Coach: Bobby Bowden (33 seasons, 309-89-4 record with FSU): SAFE, FOR NOW
The Seminoles earned quite the reputation this year, with a solid 9-4 season, defeating Miami, a dominating bowl win, and Myron Rolle receiving the Rhodes Scholarship. Florida State is never going to fire Bobby Bowden, not with all he has done over the years, but he will turn 80 next year, and it is hard to tell how much time he has left as head coach. Even Bowden has said as long as he is there, Florida State won't return to past glory. But Jimbo Fisher, his offensive coordinator, has been named the successor. For now, the legendary coach is not going anywhere.

Georgia Tech (9-4, 5-3 ACC, lost Chick-Fil-A Bowl 38-3 to LSU)
--Head Coach: Paul Johnson (1 season, 9-4 with GT): SAFE
Even with the terrible bowl loss, the critics of the triple-option offense were quieted when Georgia Tech upset Georgia, the first time they beat their rival since 2000. Paul Johnson earned Coach of the Year by after the upset win and winning all of his home games, and once he has the recruits to use the full force of the triple option, watch out. Coach Johnson has proven he is a tough coach and will be a fierce one in the upcoming years.

Maryland (8-5 overall, 4-4 ACC, won Humanitarian Bowl 42-35 over Nevada)
--Head Coach: Ralph Friedgen (8 seasons, 64-36 with UMD): SAFE
Most coaches have the problem of beating the bad teams then losing to the good teams, while Friedgen seems to have the opposite problem. Maryland had a bad collapse, losing three of their last four, but the Terps had a good season, and Friedgen is safe. He still has a number of critics who say his best years were without his own recruits, but he has gotten Maryland to three bowls in the last three seasons, which is fine in College Park.

Miami (7-6, 4-4 ACC, lost Emerald Bowl 24-17 to California)
--Head Coach: Randy Shannon (2 seasons, 12-13 with Miami): IN DANGER
Before their bowl game, Shannon was looking all right, ending with a winning season and getting ready to lead with a couple of big recruiting classes next year. However recent events have started rumors that Shannon could be in trouble for next year. The problematic clock management during the bowl game, plus the announcement of the transfer of Robert Marve, the starting quarterback, stating that he could not work with Shannon after getting suspended for the bowl game. Shannon has shown he is overall a good coach and he is rebuilding Miami's program, but if Miami falters next season, a lot of pressure will be on the University to fire Shannon.

UPDATE 1/3/09: The head coach of Henry B. Plant High School, Robert Marve's alma mater, has announced that he will not send recruits to Miami anymore. This high school is a strong football program, with alumni including Tim Tebow.

North Carolina (8-5, 4-4 ACC, lost Meineke Car Care Bowl 31-30 to West Virginia)
--Head Coach: Butch Davis (2 seasons, 12-13 with UNC): SAFE
The ACC better be afraid of the Tar Heels in the upcoming seasons. Another top-10 recruiting class is set to come in next season, and with North Carolina's history in football, there will be no pressure whatsoever on Butch Davis. This year the Heels got a ranking, won a big game against Notre Dame, and their first winning season since 2001. The Tar Heels are set to become a big competitor on the national long as Davis does not leave Chapel Hill.

N.C. State (6-7, 4-4 ACC, lost Bowl 29-23 to Rutgers)
--Head Coach: Tom O'Brien (2 seasons, 11-14 with NCSU): SAFE, FOR NOW
The Wolfpack were left for dead after starting 2-6, but Russell Wilson led the way to four straight victories to get NC State to a bowl game this year. It has not been a great start for Tom O'Brien, but if Wilson is the real deal, he can get a winning season next year in Raleigh. NC State lately has not been very patient with coaches, and O'Brien may feel the pressure next season.

Virginia (5-7, 3-5 ACC, did not play in a bowl)
--Head Coach: Al Groh (8 seasons, 56-44 with UVA): IN DANGER
Many Virginia fans are surprised that Groh is still the head coach after the Cavaliers started 5-3 only to lose their last four contests, all within 11 points. He is contracted until 2012, so it would take a lot of money to buy him out, but pressure is getting critical on him, even saying at the end of the season that "There are no scapegoats here, the head coach is responsible for the team" in a Virginia press release. If he does not have a winning season next year, that would make three in the last four years, and likely he would be gone.

Virginia Tech (10-4, 5-3 ACC, ACC Champion, won BCS Orange Bowl 20-7 over Cincinatti)
--Head Coach: Frank Beamer (22 seasons, 177-89-2 with VT): SAFE
A conference championship, a BCS bowl win, and you've been the head coach for the last 22 years. Frank Beamer's job is probably the safest in the whole conference, and it is well-deserved.

Wake Forest (8-5, 4-4 ACC, won EagleBank Bowl 29-19 over Navy)
--Head Coach: Jim Grobe (8 seasons, 54-44 with Wake): SAFE
Wake Forest wants Grobe for the long haul, and his recent success shows he has earned it. Another solid season for the Deacs, making three straight winning seasons, and a solid bowl win against Navy. As mentioned before, Winston-Salem had not seen success like this in over 50 years, so unless Grobe leaves, he will be Wake Forest's coach for a long time.

The ACC college football world is done, and next year will be a very interesting one indeed.

(Photo credits: (Swinney), Sporting News (Bowden), ESPN (Shannon, Groh), Getty Images (Davis))

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