23 College Football Coaches Who Flopped After Changing Jobs
Here’s a question that wasn’t on the SAT this year: Rick Neuheisel is to UCLA as Rich Rodriguez is to _____?
The answer? Well, obviously, it’s Michigan.
Where Neuheisel blazed a trail of success at Washington only to suffer disappointment at UCLA, Rodriguez cashed in on his winning ways at West Virginia to secure what turned out to be an ugly three-season run at Michigan.
It is the age-old story of a successful coach making the monumental decision to change jobs, a move that is considered to be another rung up the career ladder, only to fall tragically to the ground with a loud thud.
Since the possibilities are endless, here’s a look at a sampling of the top coaching flops from the past decade. These are the stories that make us wonder how guys like Chris Petersen, James Franklin, Steve Sarkisian and Charlie Strong will do this season and beyond.
As a note, not included are coaches like Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Cal’s Sonny Dykes, examples of guys who have only been at their new job for one season. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, for now.
23. Derek Dooley
Moved From: Louisiana Tech to Tennessee
Record at Louisiana Tech (2007-09): 17-20 (45.9%)
Record at Tennessee (2010-12): 15-21 (41.6%)
Since Derek Dooley engineered only one winning season in his three years at Louisiana Tech—the Bulldogs went 8-5 in 2008—perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he never finished above .500 in three campaigns at Tennessee.
Dooley is currently the wide receivers coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
22. Houston Nutt
Moved From: Arkansas to Ole Miss
Record at Arkansas (1998-2007): 75-48 (60.9%)
Record at Ole Miss (2008-11): 24-26 (48%)
Despite posting losing records at Arkansas in 2004 and 2005, Houston Nutt led the Razorbacks to three SEC West titles and three Top 20 finishes in a decade in Fayetteville.
Nutt got off to an impressive 18-8 start at Ole Miss, and then the bottom fell out with a 4-8 finish in 2010 and a 2-10 mark in 2011. His only win against an SEC opponent in his final two seasons at the helm came on Oct. 2, 2010, when the Rebels hosted Kentucky and won 42-35.
21. Tommy Tuberville
Moved From: Auburn to Texas Tech
Record at Auburn (1999-2008): 85-40 (68%)
Record at Texas Tech (2010-12): 20-17 (54%)
Given that Tommy Tuberville has posted winning records at each of his four head coaching stops, it seems almost unfair to put him on this list. That said, Tuberville suffered a large enough drop in winning percentage from the soaring heights of Auburn to the mediocrity at Texas Tech that, statistically speaking, he’s earned mention.
Tuberville did suffer two losing campaigns at Auburn—1999 and 2008, the bookends of his tenure—but also managed five SEC West titles and the 2004 SEC conference championship. which included a 13-0 finish and a No. 2 final ranking. At Tech, his best finish in the Big 12 was fifth place and he was 9-17 in conference action.
Tuberville took the head job at Cincinnati in 2013 and led the Bearcats to a 9-4 record last season.
20. Steve Kragthorpe
Moved From: Tulsa to Louisville
Record at Tulsa (2003-06): 29-22 (56.86%)
Record at Louisville (2007-09): 15-21 (41.67%)
In 2005, Steve Kragthorpe led Tulsa to its best finish—including a 9-4 record and a Conference USA title—in 14 years. This huge accomplishment made his 4-8 record at Louisville in 2009—the worst finish since 1997—look even worse in comparison.
Kragthorpe last served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU, but has since been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and has taken on an administrative role.
19. Skip Holtz
Moved From: East Carolina to South Florida
Record at East Carolina (2005-09): 38-27 (58.46%)
Record at South Florida (2010-12): 16-21 (43.24%)
After posting successful runs at UConn (1994-98) and East Carolina, Skip Holtz’s coaching express stalled in three disappointing seasons at South Florida. His worst record as a head coach came in his final season with the Bulls when he went 3-9 overall and 1-6 in Big East play.
Holtz took over the head job at Louisiana Tech in 2013 and led the Bulldogs to a 4-8 record last season.
18. Randy Edsall
Moved From: UConn to Maryland
Record at UConn (1999-2010): 74-70 (51.3%)
Record at Maryland (2011-present): 13-24 (35.1%)
Randy Edsall went from taking UConn to the BCS Fiesta Bowl in 2010 to leading Maryland to a 2-10 record in 2011. Though the Terps improved to 4-8 in 2012 and 7-6 last year, any further progress is likely to be stalled by Maryland’s move to the Big Ten in 2014.
17. Turner Gill
Moved From: Buffalo to Kansas
Record at Buffalo (2006-09): 20-30 (40%)
Record at Kansas (2010-11): 5-19 (20.8%)
Though Turner Gill didn’t have an overall winning record after four seasons at Buffalo, the 8-6 mark he posted in 2008 was, at the time, the Bulls’ best finish in the top level of college football.
This earned Gill the Kansas job, where he won just one Big 12 game—a 52-45 win over Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010—in 17 tries.
Since 2012, Gill has served as the head coach at FCS Liberty. So far, he’s 14-9 in two seasons and has captured back-to-back Big South conference titles.
16. Ron Zook
Moved From: Florida to Illinois
Record at Florida (2002-04): 23-14 (62.1%)
Record at Illinois (2005-11): 34-51 (40%)
As bad as Ron Zook was in the minds of Florida fans—he went 23-14 (62 percent) from 2002-04—his three-year number is actually better than Will Muschamp’s 22-16 (57 percent). Only Muschamp still has his job in year four.
While Zook finished only two of his seven seasons at Illinois over .500, he did manage to get the Illini to their first Rose Bowl in 24 years. Illinois dropped that game 49-17 to No. 6 USC.
After sitting out the past two seasons, Zook was hired earlier this year by the Green Bay Packers as an assistant special teams coach.
15. Rick Neuheisel
Moved From: Washington to UCLA
Record at Washington (1999-2002): 33-16 (67.3%)
Record at UCLA (2008-11): 21-29 (42%)
Rick Neuheisel went 33-14 at Colorado from 1995-98 before moving to Washington in 1999. While in Seattle, Neuheisel went 23-9 in Pac-12 action and led the 2000 Huskies to an 11-1 finish, BCS Rose Bowl win over Purdue and a No. 3 rank in the final AP poll.
This was enough to get him the job at his alma mater, UCLA. During his four years in Westwood, Neuheisel posted just one winning record—the Bruins went 7-6 in 2009—and went 13-23 in Pac-12 play.
Neuheisel is currently a full-time studio analyst for the Pac-12 Network. This spring he’s featured in a series documenting him mentoring Pac-12 quarterbacks called Under Center with Rick Neuheisel.
14. Walt Harris
Moved From: Pitt to Stanford
Record at Pitt (1997-2004): 52-44 (54%)
Record at Stanford (2005-06): 6-17 (26%)
Walt Harris led the Panthers to a 25-13 mark in his last three seasons in Pittsburgh, the program's best three-year run since 1981-83. In 2004, his final year, Pitt won the Big East and went to the BCS Fiesta Bowl, losing 35-7 to No. 5 Utah.
Harris went 5-6 in his first campaign at Stanford, the best finish since 2001, but suffered through an ugly 1-11 season in 2006 that spawned a single win over Washington.
Harris’ last job in coaching was in 2010 when he served as the offensive coordinator at D-II California (Pennsylvania).
13. Rich Rodriguez
Moved From: West Virginia to Michigan
Record at West Virginia (2001-07): 60-26 (69.7%)
Record at Michigan (2008-10): 15-22 (40.5%)
In seven seasons at West Virginia, Rich Rodriguez took a program that hadn’t won in the double digits since 1993, and had never done so in consecutive seasons, to three straight 10-plus-win campaigns from 2005-07. Included in the run were four Big East crowns and three Top 10 finishes.
Rich Rod’s three seasons at Michigan couldn’t have been more different than his glorious run in Morgantown. The Wolverines posted only one winning finish—a 7-6 mark in 2010—and went 6-18 in Big Ten play. The 3-9 finish in 2008 and the 5-7 mark in 2009 marked the first back-to-back losing seasons at Michigan since 1962-63.
Rodriguez took over the head coaching job at Arizona in 2012 and is 16-10, including consecutive bowl wins, after two seasons.
12. Rich Ellerson
Moved From: FCS Cal Poly to Army
Record at FCS Cal Poly (2001-08): 56-34 (62.2%)
Record at Army (2009-13): 20-41 (32.7%)
Rich Ellerson led FCS Cal Poly to Great West Conference crowns three of his last five seasons and led the Mustangs as far as the NCAA FCS quarterfinals in 2005. His record and his successful utilization of the triple-option was enough to get him the Army job in 2009.
To be fair to Ellerson, he took over a program at West Point that hadn’t posted a winning record since 1996 and hadn’t had back-to-back winning seasons since 1984-85. He got off to a reasonable start, posting a 7-6 mark in his second season, including the program’s first bowl appearance in 14 years and the first postseason win in 25 years.
After that, the bottom fell out with only eight wins coming in his final three seasons at the helm, including a 3-9 record last year.
According to Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star, Ellerson is not planning on coaching this season.
11. Hal Mumme
Moved From: FCS Southeastern Louisiana to New Mexico State
Record at FCS Southeastern Louisiana (2003-04): 12-11 (52.1%)
Record at New Mexico State (2005-08): 11-38 (22.4%)
One of the founding fathers of the pass-happy movement, Hal Mumme’s two seasons at FCS Southeastern Louisiana were—at the time—the best back-to-back years for the Lions since 1980-81. Mumme was also the guy who led the program back onto the field after a 17-year football hiatus.
All this led to Mumme’s four-year run at New Mexico State, starting with an 0-12 record in 2005 and including only four WAC wins in 32 tries.
Earlier this year, Mumme took the head coaching job at NAIA Belhaven in Jackson, Mississippi.
10. Ken Hatfield
Moved From: Clemson to Rice
Record at Clemson (1990-93): 32-13 (71.11%)
Record at Rice (1994-2005): 55-78 (41.35%)
Though Ken Hatfield is best remembered for his six seasons at Arkansas (1984-89), he engineered four successful campaigns at Clemson, including three Top 25 finishes and the 1991 ACC championship.
After Clemson, Hatfield moved on to Rice, where he started off with back-to-back seven-win seasons and second-place finishes in the WAC. During the next eight years under Hatfield, the Owls only produced one winning season (2001) and went 1-10 in his final year.
Hatfield has been out of coaching since he resigned from Rice in 2005.
9. Tim Beckman
Moved From: Toledo to Illinois
Record at Toledo (2009-11): 21-16 (56.7%)
Record at Illinois (2012-13): 6-18 (25%)
In 2011, Tim Beckman led Toledo to its first MAC West crown and bowl win since 2004. Though the Rockets dropped five conference games in his first season, they improved to a 14-2 mark in MAC play from 2010-11.
This led to Beckman getting the call from Illinois, where he’s managed six total wins in two seasons and one Big Ten victory—the Illini beat Purdue 20-16 last season—in 16 tries.
8. Bobby Johnson
Moved From: FCS Furman to Vanderbilt
Record at FCS Furman (1994-2001): 60-36 (62.5%)
Record at Vanderbilt (2002-09): 29-66 (30.5%)
Bobby Johnson went 30-9 during his final three seasons at FCS Furman, a run that included two Southern Conference titles and a trip to the FCS championship, a game the Paladins lost 13-6 to powerhouse Montana.
Even though Johnson did take Vanderbilt to its first bowl game since 1982—it beat Boston College in the 2008 Music City Bowl—he only managed one winning record in eight tries.
7. Tyrone Willingham
Moved From: Notre Dame to Washington
Record at Notre Dame (2002-04): 21-15 (58.3%)
Record at Washington (2005-08): 11-37 (22.9%)
One of several coaches who had mediocre runs at Notre Dame followed by flops at the next stop, Tyrone Willingham’s story started at Stanford, where he went 44-36-1 from 1995-2001.
This was enough to get him the coveted Irish job, where went 11-12 during his final two seasons but overall posted a winning 21-15 mark.
Though this might have been a failure by Notre Dame’s standards, it glistens in comparison with the 11 total wins he managed in four long seasons at Washington. Included in the run were only six Pac-10 victories in 35 tries and a 0-12 finish in 2008.
Willingham is a member of the new College Football Playoff selection committee.
6. Paul Wulff
Moved From: FCS Eastern Washington to Washington State
Record at FCS Eastern Washington (2000-07): 53-40 (56.9%)
Record at Washington State (2008-11): 9-40 (18.3%)
Paul Wulff posted a losing record only once in his eight seasons at FCS Eastern Washington. He led the Eagles to Big Sky Conference titles in 2004 and 2005 and to the FCS playoffs three times during his tenure.
This set up an even bigger challenge for Wulff, righting the ship at Washington State, where no one had produced more than six wins Bill Doba went 10-3 in 2003.
Wulff made a valiant effort but won nine games total in four seasons with the Cougars and beat Pac-12 opponents only four times in 36 tries.
Earlier this year Wulff left his job as a senior offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers to take the offensive coordinator job at South Florida.
5. Mick Dennehy
Moved From: FCS Montana to Utah State
Record at FCS Montana (1996-99): 39-12 (76.4%)
Record at Utah State (2000-04): 19-37 (33.9%)
After engineering three Big Sky titles in only four seasons at FCS Montana, Mick Dennehy got the nod to try and revive a Utah State program that had only passed the six-win mark once since going 8-2-1 in 1979.
Dennehy’s best Aggie team was his first, a 5-6 product that went 4-1 in Big West play. He is retired from the game and lives in Montana.
4. Joe Glenn
Moved From: FCS Montana to Wyoming
Record at FCS Montana (2000-02): 39-6 (86.6%)
Record at Wyoming (2003-08): 30-41 (42.2%)
Joe Glenn took over the reins at FCS Montana after Mick Dennehy moved to Utah State. Building on his predecessor’s success, Glenn went 15-0 in Big Sky play from 2000-02. He won three straight conference titles and the 2001 FCS national championship.
This led to the Wyoming job, where Glenn managed one winning season—the Cowboys went 7-5 in 2004—in six tries.
Despite his overall record, Glenn did manage to lead the program to its first bowl appearance in a decade, the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, which the Cowboys won 24-21 over UCLA. It was Wyoming’s first postseason victory since the 1966 Sun Bowl, a 28-20 triumph over Florida State.
Glenn took the FCS South Dakota job in 2012 and is 5-18 in his first two seasons.
3. Mike London
Moved From: FCS Richmond to Virginia
Record at FCS Richmond (2008-09): 24-5 (82.7%)
Record at Virginia (2010-present): 18-31 (36.7%)
Mike London went from back-to-back Top Five finishes and winning the 2008 FCS national championship at FCS Richmond to finishing 2-10 four seasons into his tenure at Virginia.
London did lead the Cavaliers to an 8-5 mark and Chick-fil-A Bowl appearance in 2011, but other than that, he’s a dismal 10-23 over his other three seasons at the helm.
Virginia hasn’t won an ACC game since Nov. 10, 2012, when it hosted Miami (Fla.) and edged the Hurricanes 41-40.
2. Dan Hawkins
Moved From: Boise State to Colorado
Record at Boise State (2001-05): 53-11 (82.8%)
Record at Colorado (2006-10): 19-39 (32.7%)
The guy who really makes you wonder how Chris Petersen will do at Washington, Dan Hawkins was Petersen before being Petersen was cool.
Hawkins managed three consecutive 11-plus-win seasons and Top 15 finishes at Boise State from 2002-04. He also won four back-to-back WAC titles from 2002-05 and lost only one conference game during that time period.
When Hawkins took over at Colorado in 2006, the Buffaloes had posted winning records four of the previous five seasons, including a 10-3 finish and a Big 12 title in 2001.
Hawkins pumped out five losing seasons in Boulder, the low point coming in his first year with a 2-10 mark and the high point coming in 2007, when the Buffs went 6-7.
Hawkins was named the head coach of the CFL Montreal Alouettes in February of 2013 but was fired in August after a 2-3 start to the season.
1. Bobby Hauck
Moved From: FCS Montana to UNLV
Record at FCS Montana (2003-09): 80-17 (82.4%)
Record at UNLV (2010-present): 13-38 (25.4%)
The coach with the biggest drop in output after a job change in the last decade, Bobby Hauck is the third straight head coach at FCS Montana to struggle in the FBS ranks.
Hauck followed Joe Glenn at Montana and took the Grizzlies to seven consecutive Big Sky titles and FCS playoff appearances from 2003-09. Montana made it all the way to the national championship game in 2004, 2008 and 2009, falling short of the big prize on each occasion.
Hauck took over a UNLV program that had just enjoyed back-to-back five-win seasons in 2008 and 2009 after managing only two wins each year from 2004-07.
Though Hauck went 6-32 in his first three seasons, he did manage to turn things around last year, leading the Rebels to a 7-6 mark. It was the best finish since John Robinson went 8-5 in 2000.
Statistics courtesy of College Football Data Warehouse.
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