It seems each and every year, the trigger is pulled earlier on college head coaches that will be relieved of their duties. University leaders and athletic directors used to confer and maybe even talk with influential alums for a week or so before deciding the fate of a coach.
This year, with some teams still having a game to play and others one day removed from their last game the axe came down on the leaders of some major programs.
Let’s see who didn’t survive the Thanksgiving weekend and why:
After his Illini team lost their final six games, it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter or when Ron Zook would get fired. Zook who did a great job recruiting players to Illinois, finished his career there at 34-51. He did lead the school to the 2007 Rose Bowl and last season beat a good Baylor team in the Texas Bowl. Zook came to Illinois after he was fired at Florida. Look for Illinois to look at some NFL assistants.
Turner Gill came to Kansas with high expectations. He didn’t meet any of them. He was fired Sunday, one day after his team lost to Missouri 24-10. Kansas won their first two games of the season, but then dropped the last 10. Gill, a former Nebraska star player came to Kansas from Buffalo where he won a league championship with the MAC school. Kansas has named Reggie Mitchell as the interim coach.
Mark Mangino proved that you can win at Kansas, so Gill going 5-19 was a disappointment.
Unlike some coaches who aren’t given enough time to make their mark on a program, UAB was more than understanding with Neil Callaway. It turns out that five straight losing seasons and a career record of 18-42 at the Conference USA school was too much. You can say it was the bad facilities or small budget for football, but Alabama is football rich when it comes to recruiting talent and Callaway wasn’t able to get players that could form a winning team in Conference USA.
Memphis may have had the worst program in the country this year, so I think Larry Porter did a decent job in finishing 2-10. Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson thought differently and cited a 3-21 record in Porter’s two seasons as reason to get rid of him.
The firing was difficult as Porter is a former Memphis player. “We want to thank coach Porter for his efforts as our football coach but believe that it is in the best interest of our program to make a change at this point,” Johnson said. “We were proud to have Larry Porter, one of our former football lettermen, as our head coach and wish him nothing but the best in his future athletic endeavors.”
Memphis needs to turn to a young and hungry coach who will recruit, recruit and recruit some more. It’s a tough place to win, but it can be done.
it appears Arizona State has fired veteran coach Dennis Erickson and are working on the contract buyout. He might also be allowed to retire, rather than be fired. Things started promising for the Sun Devils in 2011, they jumped out to a 6-2 record. Finishing 0-4 down the stretch sealed the deal for a coach that won two national championships as coach at Miami. I’m sure Arizona State will look to make a high profile hire as the Pac-12 looks to be loaded in the years to come.
Look for more pink slips to be given to coaches in the days to come.
Rick Limpert covers sports, technology and events in and around Atlanta. He’ll be following all the news in college football as the season wraps up.