Below, brief notes on each FBS head coaching change, along with an INSTA GRADE. The difference: let’s also grade the firing part as well. Why should only hirings get graded? Onward.
Note: I’m not factoring buyouts here. You’re probably paying him too much to leave. That’s your boosters’ problem, not mine.
- Terry Bowden firing grade: C. Better have a high-upside replacement. He led two of Akron’s three bowl trips and only bowl win, and a four-win base line is basically Akron’s historical norm. It sounds like everyone just got tired of things.
- Tom Arth hiring grade: B-. This is a really interesting hire. His 9-13 record as Chattanooga head coach wasn’t much, but he went 40-8 at previously mediocre John Carroll in Division III, where he also played. He’s only 37, but has spent almost all of his life within about an hour of Akron.
- Scott Satterfield left for Louisville.
- Eli Drinkwitz hiring grade: A (be advised I’m handing out lots of As this time around). The NC State offensive coordinator ran a good group in Raleigh, has a good rep among coaches, and has experience both in the state (obviously) and Sun Belt.
- Mike Jinks firing grade: A. At some MAC schools, you might as well just stick with whoever you have. But BGSU had won pretty consistently under four straight coaches before its former AD reportedly Googled his way to a poor fit, both geographically and experience-wise.
- Scott Loeffler hiring grade: D. He’s only been an OC, so let’s look at his offenses: as he’s coached four different teams, his offenses have ranked Nos. 32, 73, 91, 94, 72, 124, 101, and 95 in opponent-adjusted S&P+. The old joke about the majority of his resume being “was Tom Brady’s position coach at Michigan” seems to still apply.
- John Bonamego firing grade: B. CMU wasn’t supposed to be good this year, and he led three solid seasons, but — well — this was the worst season in program history. Considering how hard it is to hire well in the MAC, I think I would’ve given him a chance to prove this was a fluke, but I get it.
- Jim McElwain hiring grade: B. Hey, you got a two-time recent SEC East champ in the MAC! Nevermind how strangely his Florida tenure ended. Also nevermind how bad the SEC East was. He’s spent the season since making connections as a Michigan assistant and has coached at Michigan State before.
- Brad Lambert firing grade: A. It was time for the architect to move on. A startup jumping to FBS is never easy.
- Will Healy hiring grade: A. I mean, he had a winning season at the somewhat nearby Austin Peay. That’s basically impossible.
- Mike MacIntyre firing grade: C+. Building 10-win teams at San Jose State and Colorado is hard … but what’s he done over the last decade if you take out those two years? CU’s good year didn’t feel especially sustainable, considering how senior-heavy that team was.
- Mel Tucker hiring grade: B. Well, the Georgia defensive coordinator led one of college football’s best units for three years and was in demand, being considered for jobs like UNC’s. There’s the question of how his experience will translate to the West, in a state where a former UGA coordinator is struggling at Colorado State. But there’s no particular reason to doubt he can build decent teams.
- Scottie Montgomery firing grade: A. This had been a simple call for about two months. A school that’d recently been to eight bowls in nine years had gone 9-26 under Montgomery at the time of firing.
- Mike Houston hiring grade: A. He’s the only FCS national champion head coach from somewhere other than North Dakota State since 2010, a North Carolina native, and career-long Mid-Atlantic vet. Do we hand out bonus points for ECU stealing him from Charlotte or demerits for Houston apparently breaking a verbal with Charlotte? Let’s call it even.
- David Beaty firing grade: B+. KU improved during the first-time head coach’s four years, but not that much. More importantly, things don’t look that much better going forward than they did when he showed up.
- Les Miles hiring grade: C+ for now, because the expectations matter greatly. Is Miles’ primary task to stabilize the program and set it up for a young innovator? In a weird way, Miles’ beloved gritball might be an underdog tactic in the wide-open Big 12 (see: some of Kansas State’s best recent teams), but he needs to show he’s willing to evolve his Schembechler-ian tendencies.
- Urban Meyer retired.
- Ryan Day hiring grade: B. The Ohio State OC’s side of the ball was the reason the Buckeyes won the Big Ten this year. He’s only 39, and this is one of the biggest jobs in all of football, but it appears he led the team capably during Meyer’s three-game suspension. Continuity is nice, as long as he’s ready to make significant staff changes on defense.
- Geoff Collins left for Georgia Tech.
- Manny Diaz hiring grade: A. He was responsible for the only thing the Canes were good at, has been a smart and elite defensive coordinator for years, and should be able to bring some Florida athletes to Philly. My only real concern as Temple would be the Miami head job possibly opening in the next few years, but that’s down the road (I wrote this sentence before Richt retired, so it stays).
- Everett Withers firing grade: B. Wins had yet to arrive, with only seven in his three years at a school that joined FBS in 2012, and Withers’ personality wasn’t a great fit, but at least recruiting was going well. Withers clearly never should’ve left JMU for this job.
- Jake Spavital hiring grade: B+. Lots of relevant experience in the area and air raid roots that should be popular in Texas and stand out somewhat in the Sun Belt.
- Kliff Kingsbury firing grade: A. Yeah, five straight years of losing the exact same way and producing .500-ish seasons at a school that would prefer its Mike Leach records is gonna get a person fired. Both parties should better succeed apart.
- Matt Wells hiring grade: A. The geographic fit isn’t perfect, but other than that? Wells was head coach or coordinator for Utah State’s three best seasons since the 1960s, and could’ve had even more than that if not for rotten injury luck during the middle of his time there. Per Steven Godfrey in the offseason, other coaches believed Wells would get it turned back around.
- Mark Whipple firing grade: A. Five years with nothing better than 4-8 is an easy call. Amid significant roster turnover, this sets up as a fresh rebuild.
- Walt Bell hiring grade: C+. The former Arkansas State, Maryland, and Florida State OC has minimal ties to the Northeast and is only 34, but will surely strive to oversee an offense more creative than the one the Noles put together this year.
- Matt Wells left for Texas Tech.
- Gary Andersen hiring grade: Well, A, I guess! Worked out great the last time.
- Mike Sanford firing grade: C. A 9-16 record is a clear step down from Jeff Brohm’s three straight bowl wins. But canning a previously up-and-coming coach after just two years at a school that’s still a C-USA newbie suggests he was clearly way in over his head. Do four one-score losses in 2018 and two comfortable wins to finish the season support that? Hard to say from afar.
- Tyson Helton hiring grade: C. He has basically the same resume as Sanford and wasn’t exactly on the rise at Tennessee. If there’s a secret reason he’s a significantly better choice than Sanford, tremendous.