It’s tough to win at a major college football program. Really, it’s tough to win at any program, at any level. But a college football coach must win if he wants to keep his job. Some coaches get more chances than others, but that’s the way it goes.
There are a variety of ways a coach can earn his way to the hot seat.
There are coaches who fail expectations from the start and lose their shine almost immediately. There are coaches who start off on the right path before faltering. There are coaches who are given every opportunity to right the ship, and no one can understand why.
Those are but a few of the examples. But nonetheless, you never want to see your name mentioned on a hot seat list if you’re a coach.
Today, we’ll look at three coaches who aren’t in any immediate danger, but who should tread lightly moving forward. We also have two more who are firmly on the hot seat and may not survive the season.
It should be noted that coaches in the Big Ten and Pac-12 are not included. We focus only on teams that have already started their seasons.
Scott Satterfield, Louisville
Satterfield has bought himself some time after the turnaround that he had at Louisville in Year 1. He took a Cardinals program that had gone 2-10 (0-8 in the ACC) in 2018 and turned it into an eight-win team in 2019. That’s about as good as it gets. So why is he on this list?
Well, Louisville got embarrassed by Georgia Tech this past Saturday. The lopsided final score was 46-27, which now puts the team’s record at 1-3 (0-3 in ACC) to start the year. The good news is there are some winnable games left on the schedule. Just not this weekend. The Cardinals go on the road to take on Notre Dame.
Satterfield isn’t on the hot seat yet, but the slow start is worth monitoring.
Hot meter: Mild
Mike Leach, Mississippi State
Wait a minute, didn’t this guy just get to Starkville? Yes, which is exactly why there won’t be any changes made in 2020. But let’s not forget that former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead was given only two years before he was canned.
Mike Leach was brought in to create some offensive fireworks. In Week 1 against LSU, that’s exactly what happened. But since then, the Bulldogs have 10 turnovers in two games, including six interceptions against Kentucky in Week 3. They’ve totaled 16 points during that time.
That’s not going to get it done. Leach needs to get this program heading in the right direction if he wants to stick around for longer than two seasons.
Hot meter: Mild
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Gus Malzahn always seems to flirt with the hot seat list. Beating Nick Saban and in-state rival Alabama has saved him in the past, but how long can that be enough?
Malzahn is an offensive-minded head coach, and the Auburn offense has struggled with consistency since Nick Marshall and Tre Mason left following the 2013 season. New offensive coordinator Chad Morris was supposed to remedy the problem, but it just hasn’t happened — at least not yet.
An embarrassing loss to Georgia followed by a near-loss to Arkansas is enough to bring Malzahn’s name up once again. With offensive talent like Seth Williams, Mitchell Schwartz and Tank Bigsby, the Tigers need to bounce back.
Hot meter: Medium
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Derek Mason is one of those coaches who just keeps getting chances, mostly because Vanderbilt doesn’t want to invest in its football program. We are getting dangerously close to the “ok, it’s time” point, however.
The Commodores haven’t had a winning season under Mason, but they’ve come close a couple times. In both 2016 and 2018, bowl losses prevented the team from finishing with a record above .500, but it’s getting worse.
Vanderbilt is 0-3 this season and is coming off back-to-back 41-7 losses to LSU and South Carolina. The 12-17 loss to Texas A&M was respectable, but this is a program that needs new life. Mason isn’t it.
Hot meter: Hot
Tom Herman, Texas
There are a lot of people out there who still believe that Tom Herman is safe. I am not one of those people. Is he done? No, but it is a very realistic possibility that he is not the head coach at Texas come 2021.
The Longhorns are 2-2 on the season (1-2 in the Big 12) and once again, they have lost to rival Oklahoma. That puts Herman’s record against the Sooners at 1-4. Oklahoma is vulnerable this season. They have struggled to a 2-2 record themselves, and the win over Texas gave them their first conference win.
It’s tough to imagine a scenario where the Sooners stay down for long, and Herman still wasn’t able to get it done. Is that going to be an acceptable outcome to Texas boosters and decision-makers? Absolutely not.
Hot meter: Hot
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.