We are two weeks into the 2021 college football season (kind of), and we’ve already had two coaches fired. We’ve finally reached a point where coaches are never safe and silly season never ends. Even though UConn and USC are polar opposite programs, the reason they moved on from their coaches is the same: they weren’t winning. With this new reality setting in, it’s worth taking a look at who’s on the hot seat, and who will be the next coach to get the boot.
Before we get to the top 5, let’s acknowledge a few other candidates who are commonly included in hot seat conversations, but aren’t in any real danger of a midseason canning for one reason or another.
Jeff Scott, USF- The Bulls might be one of the worst teams in college football this year, but that was to be expected. Scott inherited maybe the direst situation in the country last year, so it’s way too early to fire him. If they have any sense at all, USF will give him plenty of time to try and turn things around.
Mike Norvell, Florida State- Losing to an FCS team will immediately catapult a coach onto the hot seat, especially when it’s in as embarrassing a fashion as FSU’s last-second loss to Jacksonville State. But it’d still be incredibly early to bail on Norvell, even for FSU. He’s only coached 11 games. Add on to this FSU athletics’ serious financial problems and the $3.5 million they’re already paying Willie Taggart, the Noles don’t really have a choice but to stick by Norvell a little longer.
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech- Hey look, another ACC coach that’s off to a rough start this season. He’s 7-17 in his 2+ seasons with the Yellow Jackets with very few signs of turning a corner any time soon. Everyone knew transitioning out of the triple option was going to take some time, but that excuse is starting to run thin. However, it is going to buy him at least one more season. He’s safe for now, but he is primed to be the top guy on the 2022 edition of the hot seat.
David Cutcliffe, Duke- Third time’s the charm for the ACC I guess. Duke has been really bad for a few years now. There’s no arguing that it won’t get better without some changes. But Cutcliffe is a legend at both Duke and the college football world. He’s going out on his own terms. And seeing that today is his 67th birthday, those terms will probably be retirement at the end of this season.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan- Don’t be fooled by the 4-year extension he signed this year; Harbaugh is firmly on the hot seat. His buyout is chump change for a school like Michigan. Plus, the likelihood that another school on this list will go after Iowa State’s Matt Campbell means they can’t afford to stick to the status quo. But despite what their fans will tell you, the Wolverines measure their success against that big red steamroller to the south. A sixth straight loss to Ohio State will be the end for Harbaugh, but they won’t make a move before then.
5. Dana Holgorsen, Houston
It looked like a coup when the Cougs lured a famous Power 5 coach to Houston, but things change quickly. After the bizarre red-shirt experiment in his first season that cost him D’Eriq King, he’s now 8-14 at Houston with few signs of progress. There have been rumblings that the powers that be behind the scenes are getting tired of paying a top-tier G5 salary for poor results, especially when the top dog isn’t exactly swimming in cash. The opening season loss to a very bad Texas Tech team only sped up what looks like an inevitable firing. However, he might be the beneficiary of a weak schedule. An 8-win season doesn’t look out of reach, as the Cougars avoided Cincinnati and UCF in the AAC this year. With a move to the Big 12 on the horizon, Houston will most likely be looking to upgrade sooner rather than later.
Prediction: Fired at the end of the season
4. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
What a difference a game makes. Fuente entered the year as the consensus #1 on the hot seat big board. The Hokies’ shocking upset of UNC to open the year bought him some time, but will it buy him a full year? He looked like a slam dunk hire after reviving a dead Memphis program and led them to an ACC championship game in his first season. It’s only gone downhill from there. The Hokies haven’t had a ranked finish since 2017. It’s never easy to be the guy that follows The Guy, but Fuente has done nothing to ingratiate himself with the people of Blacksburg. He forced out legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster, treated the local media with hostility, and then pushed hard for the Baylor job last year, leading to a near hostage situation. Their schedule is also up in the air. Honestly, it seems just as likely they go 12-0 as 5-7. I think they’ll win just enough of these games to keep Fuente around until the end of the season, but a second loss in three years to arch-rival Virginia will be the final straw.
Prediction: Fired at the end of the season
3. Dino Babers, Syracuse
Are you sensing a pattern? Babers is yet another ACC coach that was once a rising star and has found his way onto the hot seat. That 10-3 season in 2018 is looking more and more like an aberration, especially after finishing last year 1-10. The Orange are just flat-out bad. There really isn’t much more to it. After Saturday’s matchup with FCS Albany, it’s tough to find another win on that schedule. It’s time to make a change, and that’s really all there is to say.
Prediction: Fired after Week 9 loss to Boston College
2. Scott Frost, Nebraska
This is just an obvious pick. It’s probably a bigger surprise that he isn’t #1. The native son’s return has not been the slam dunk everyone thought it would be. He has a winning percentage of .400, which is one of the worst in school history. His biggest win is against a bad Penn State team during a pandemic. Their Week 0 loss to Illinois is looking worse by the day. What was once a proud program has become an embarrassment, peaking last summer when they were outed for trying to cancel their impeding blood bath against Oklahoma. They have the toughest remaining schedule of anybody on this list. They could very easily end this season 1-11. Nebraska has no choice but to make a change, especially with a perfect fit like Matt Campbell out there (even though I’m not sure he’d leave Iowa State for this). With a new athletic director running the show, I think Nebraska does the cold-hearted thing and fires him on Scott Frost Day.
Prediction: Fired after Week 6 blowout loss to Michigan
1. Scott Satterfield, Louisville
Another ACC coach and another Scott? College football is weird. Things at Louisville are as bad as they’ve been in a long time. Which is saying something because they’ve hired Bobby Petrino twice! The Cardinals looked fundamentally broken on offense in their opening loss to Ole Miss, which was supposed to be Satterfield’s bread and butter. He is a worse version of Justin Fuente in nearly every way (which is funny because some people have floated the idea of the two swapping jobs). His first season was his best, where he went 8-5, and it went downhill from there. He even tried very publicly to get another job last offseason. When he was quickly rejected and that info got out, he gave maybe the worst non-apology in history. And it was all for the chance to coach at South Carolina, who is very much not good! This is a runaway freight train headed straight to the unemployment line. Louisville could easily make a move in a couple of days after they get blown out by UCF, but I think Satterfield will last a little bit longer. But, more so than any other coach in the country, it’s a matter of when, not if.
Prediction: Fired after Week 5 loss to Wake Forest