Commentary

Bowden, Doba on the coaching hot seat entering 2007

Originally Published: August 9, 2007
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Former Texas Tech football coach Spike Dykes once said a coach loses 10 percent of his team's fan base with each defeat.

The way Clemson coach Tommy Bowden figures it, he has even more to lose as he begins his ninth season with the Tigers.

Tommy Bowden
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesTommy Bowden has seemingly been on the hot seat for years.

"We just set a record for ticket sales, so I have a bunch of people who don't like me -- most in Clemson history," Bowden joked last month at the ACC Kickoff news conference in Pinehurst, N.C.

After his team lost four of its last five games, Bowden once again enters the 2007 season on the hot seat. He has a 60-38 record in eight seasons at Clemson, which hasn't won an ACC title since 1991.

Still, Bowden has survived disappointing seasons in the past, and he is the third-longest tenured coach in the ACC, behind his father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden (32 seasons) and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (21 seasons).

"It's always been the same here," Tommy Bowden said. "I've been here nine years and every third year, I think I've been on the hot seat. Kind of like locusts, they come out every 17 years. A job of this magnitude, it's the nature of the beast."

Here are some other football coaches who enter the 2007 season on the hot seat:

Hot
1. Tommy Bowden, Clemson: Bowden has won at least eight games in three of the last four seasons, but the Tigers have annually failed to crack the upper echelon of the expanded conference. Last season, Clemson was a popular preseason choice to win the league's Atlantic Division, but finished 8-5 and lost to Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

2. Bill Doba, Washington State: Doba, the team's former defensive coordinator, who was elevated to head coach when Mike Price bolted for Alabama, has struggled to maintain the success his predecessor achieved at Washington State. The Cougars are 25-22 in his four years as coach, and the team failed to win one of their final three games to become bowl eligible in 2006 (after starting the season 6-3). Doba, who has worked at Washington State for 19 seasons and is well liked by the administration and fans, might see the writing on the wall. He will take over the Cougars' defense this season, after Robb Akey was hired as Idaho's coach.

3. Ted Roof, Duke: Roof has tried everything to jump-start one of college football's worst programs, but the Blue Devils just haven't performed. He is 5-34 in three-plus seasons, including an 0-12 mark in 2006. Duke brings a 20-game losing streak into the season and has lost 17 consecutive ACC games.

4. Tommy West, Memphis: The Tigers went 2-10 last season, after which many Memphis fans questioned West's decision to fire defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn three games into the year. West fired two more assistant coaches during the offseason. Memphis showed signs of improvement late in the 2006 season, losing close games to Central Florida and Houston and beating UTEP. But with seven starters back on each side of the football, and with the Tigers playing a less-than-competitive schedule, West might need nothing less than a bowl game to be safe.

Mild
1. Tom Amstutz, Toledo: "Toledo Tom" has won 50 games in six seasons at his alma mater, but the Rockets are coming off their first losing season since 1993. Worse, the program had its share of off-field problems the last 10 months. Two players were arrested by the FBI for their roles in a point-shaving conspiracy, and another player was charged with attempted aggravated burglary. The Rockets return eight starters on both offense and defense, so things should get better on the field in 2007.

Phil Bennett
Vladimir Cherry/WireImage.comPhil Bennett hasn't been able to gain traction with SMU in C-USA.
2. Phil Bennett, SMU: On the 20th anniversary of the NCAA giving the Mustangs the death penalty, SMU is still struggling in Conference USA. Bennett barely survived after his team failed to win two of its last three games to become eligible for its first bowl game since 1984. Bennett has a 17-41 record in five seasons, with 11 of those victories coming in the last two years.

3. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State: Croom, the first African-American coach in SEC history, might not be in immediate danger yet. But the Bulldogs at least need to show marked improvement this season, after Croom's teams compiled a 9-25 record in his first three seasons, including a woeful 4-20 record in SEC games. He might have bought himself more time by upsetting Alabama 24-16 in Tuscaloosa last season.

4. Sonny Lubick, Colorado State: The Rams probably won't fire Lubick, the coach who resurrected their program. The Rams won 47 games during the 11 seasons before Lubick arrived at Colorado State in 1993; his teams have won 105 games during the 14 seasons since. But after winning six conference titles and playing in nine bowl games from 1994 to 2003, the program has leveled off. Colorado State went 4-8 last year, its third straight season at . 500 or worse.

5. Houston Nutt, Arkansas: It's hard to believe a coach who won 10 games and the SEC West title could be in danger the following season, but that's life in Fayetteville. After the Hogs lost their last three games to finish 10-4 in 2006, Nutt's offseason was filled with defections, allegations and downright animosity. With tailback Darren McFadden returning, the Hogs might need to finish no worse than second in the SEC West for Nutt to feel real comfortable.

6. Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss: Rebels fans will tell you Orgeron has greatly improved the program's talent level with superior recruiting, but it hasn't yet translated into victories. Orgeron, the former USC defensive-line coach hired to replace fired David Cutcliffe, is 7-16 in two seasons at the school. Ole Miss showed some improvement last season, losing to Georgia and Auburn by less than a touchdown, and losing to both Alabama and LSU in overtime.

7. Greg Robinson, Syracuse: The Orange showed improvement last season, improving from 1-10 in 2005 to 4-8 in Robinson's second season. But Syracuse still continues to be an also-ran, even in the depleted Big East. The Orange have had plenty of time to learn Robinson's new system, so the administration will be looking for improvement in 2007.

Warm
1. Karl Dorrell, UCLA: After leading the Bruins to a 29-21 record and four straight bowl games, UCLA would probably have to collapse this season for Dorrell to be in serious trouble. UCLA returns 10 starters on each side of the football, and the team's stunning 13-9 upset of rival USC last season probably bought the coach some time. But a four-game losing streak during the regular season in 2006, followed by a disappointing 44-27 loss to FSU in the Emerald Bowl, raised concerns about the program's direction. The offseason arrest of receivers coach Eric Scott on felony burglary charges didn't help the cause.

2. Randy Edsall, Connecticut: The school has been extremely patient with Edsall, who was hired the year before the Huskies moved to Division I-A. Edsall led Connecticut to nine victories in 2004, but the Huskies failed to win more than five games in each of the last two seasons.

Dennis Franchione
Kirby Lee/WireImage.comDennis Franchione and the Aggies have high expectations this year.
3. Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M: The Aggies finally seemed to have things turned around in Franchione's fourth season, when they finished the regular season by beating rival Texas 12-7, their first win over the Longhorns since 1999. But then Texas A&M was blasted by California 45-10 in the Holiday Bowl and things turned sour. With quarterback Stephen McGee and running backs Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson returning, the Aggies once again face high expectations.

4. Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee: It would take a very, very disappointing season for Tennessee to fire Fulmer, one of the most successful coaches in SEC history. But there are signs of concern in Knoxville. The Volunteers haven't won an SEC championship since their national championship season in 1998, and they've lost five of their last seven postseason games. With David Cutcliffe directing the offense again, the Vols showed improvement last season. But a 9-4 finish is hardly what Fulmer had in mind after his team's fast start.

5. Al Groh, Virginia: Groh has vastly improved the Cavaliers' talent, producing players such as D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Ahmad Brooks and Heath Miller. But Groh has been unable to parlay that talent into much on-field success. The former New York Jets coach has a 42-33 record in six seasons at his alma mater, including a 25-23 mark in ACC games. The Cavaliers were very young in 2006, when they finished 5-7, but patience is wearing thin in Charlottesville, Va. Groh's contract runs through the 2010 season, and the school owes him more than $8 million coming into this fiscal year, all of which would have to be paid unless he was fired for NCAA rules violations or other off-field transgressions.

6. Mike Stoops, Arizona: The former Oklahoma defensive coordinator has restored pride in Tucson with his menacing defense and tough-nosed approach. Now it's time for the Wildcats to start winning games again. Stoops felt his team should have been invited to a bowl game after it finished 6-6 in 2006. With offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes on board, expectations are high at Arizona.

7. Joe Tiller, Purdue: The Boilermakers missed a golden opportunity the last two seasons -- when they finished 5-6 and 8-6, even when Michigan and Ohio State weren't on the schedule. Tiller has won 75 games in 10 seasons at Purdue, but his program seemed to lose momentum after winning its last Big Ten title in 2000. The Boilermakers have won more than eight games only once during that span, and another mediocre campaign might turn up the heat in West Lafayette, Ind.

8. Tyrone Willingham, Washington: The Huskies showed great improvement in 2006, finishing 5-7 after they won three games in the previous two seasons combined. With what might be the country's toughest schedule -- road games at UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State and Hawaii and home games against Boise State, Ohio State, USC, Oregon and California -- Willingham will have a difficult time matching last year's finish.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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