It never is too early to start talking about the dreaded coaching hot seat. It’s a right of passage with the coming of the football season as tried and true as the sound of the marching band, the pop of the pads, and the guttural heave of too much beer in the tailgate lots into trash receptacles/shrubs/open sun roofs on the way to the stadium.
For most, college football is a fun way to spend the weekend and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that for twelve men, this is their chosen profession with all the expectations and requirements of any other position. Some excel, some do not, and this is the ranking of who has the hottest seat in the Mid-American Conference, in order from coolest to hottest. Off we go...
12 - Frank Solich, Ohio University Bobcats
The Dean of MAC Coaches is off to another hot start, 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the MAC and the odds on favorite to make it to Detroit again with another MAC East crown. At some point Solich will move on or retire, so Ohio fans need to enjoy these good years when they can. His seat isn’t hot, it’s frigid.
11 - Tim Lester, Western Michigan Broncos
Is there a more surprising story this season than the continuation of WMU’s success? At 3-2 with three straight wins, already 1-0 in the conference, it’s hard to see Lester not being in the running for Coach of the Year. Almost everyone expected a significant drop off with the departure of PJ Fleck, but Lester has continued to carry the Bronco banner with terrific results.
10 - Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan Eagles
At this point, there’s nothing Creighton could do to change his standing this year. Given EMU’s decades-long failures and poor outlook, Creighton has given hope to hopeless. Is he back next year? Anyone’s guess. But it won’t be because he got the pink slip.
9 - Jason Candle, Toledo Rockets
Candle is in maybe the toughest spot in the MAC. . . the hunted. Presumptive favorites from the get go this season, the Rockets are now opening the conference portion of the season where they are expected to kick ass and take names in short order. Live up to expectations and being a title to Toledo and Candle is likely to move on to something bigger and better. Fall short and fans feel let down. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
8 - Lance Leipold, Buffalo Bulls
What a difference a few weeks makes. To start the season we were ready to carve the tombstone for the Leipold error. Now at 3-2 with three straight wins, Leipold looks like he may be on solid ground. Downside? The three wins were against Colgate, a Lane Kiffin-led Florida Atlantic, and Kent State. Hardly a murderer’s row of football, but three wins goes a long way to keeping yourself hired.
7 - Rod Carey, Northern Illinois Huskies
Ask most NIU fans and they would prefer Carey escort himself out of the building today. At 2-2 so far this year and 38-21 overall, I can’t believe that’s what is being said. I get passion and I get wanting your program to be a top-level conference contender. But screaming for Carey’s head on a platter makes no sense to me. NIU will be competing for a divisional title (like most years) and will be in a bowl (like most years) at season’s end. Isn’t that the goal?
6 - John Bonamego, Central Michigan Chippewas
It’s like Lance Leipold in reverse. After two games this season and last year’s successes, Coach Bono was as solid as a rock in Mount Pleasant. Now, three straight losses later, he’s still on good footing, but there are at least grumblings louder than before. It’s the latest example of what have you done for me lately in college athletics. He’s likely extremely safe with the MAC season dawning and a bowl trip very likely.
5 - Mike Neu, Ball State Cardinals
Even as a Ball State fan, I am not quite sure what to do with Mike Neu. On one hand, I understand the significant hole he had to climb out of after Pete Lembo left the program hanging by a thread on his way out the door. On the other, I see games like Illinois and Western Kentucky slipping away. Neu is safe this year and possibly next regardless of outcome. But at some point, results on the field matter. Thankfully, the Cardinals are crushing it in recruiting. PJ Fleck 2.0 anyone?
4 - Chuck Martin, Miami-Ohio Redhawks
Martin is 13-29 at Miami, and knock out the six game winning streak to close 2016 and that record is even more abysmal. I get that the RedHawks were a sort of reclamation project when he arrived, but save for a Central Michigan win this season and the aforementioned streak last year, Martin has had very few bright spots. Throw in some questionable coaching decisions, a committed fanbase, and institutional resources to afford a switch, and you’re in trouble.
3 - Terry Bowden, Akron Zips
Bowden sits just outside the cut line for serious worry, and with good reason. It’s not that Akron has been terrible under Bowden’s leadership, it’s that fans (rightly so) expected better. Between facilities, the name, and the recruiting area around Akron, there is no excuse that Terry Bowden hasn’t built a winner there. The MAC season is going to be critical.
————-Serious Worry Cut Line————-
2 - Paul Haynes, Kent State Golden Flashes
The first coach below our cut line is the first coach with an actual possibility of being let go. Haynes is off to a rough start this season for Kent State. At 1-4 overall beginning the conference season, it’s likely to get worse. 1-12 is a very real possibility for Haynes this season.
1 - Mike Jinks, Bowling Green Falcons
When you’re 0-5 to start the season with a loss to South Dakota, you need to be worried about lasting the year. This is only Jinks’ second season with the Falcons, but sometimes it’s best to pull the rip cord as early as possible and start a new direction than allow the program to accept mediocrity. Jinks’ pedigree is a good one and there’s no real reason why he shouldn’t be successful. I’m just not sure Falcons’ fans can wait to see if he can. I don’t think they should have to.
What say you? Where did we miss the mark on? Coach too high or too low? Let us know in the comments.