There are plenty of sites out there ranking the hot seat for “All P5 coaches” and whatnot, but I thought I’d take my own look and see what I thought of the current positioning of Big 12 coaches. Keep in mind that my ranking is relative - as you’ll see, the “hottest” seat in the Big 12 isn’t exactly in “win or be fired” mode.
With that said, let’s get started ranking coaching hot seats, from hottest to coolest.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone in the Big 12 is under intense pressure to win this year. As you’ll see, there are a lot of freshmen and sophomore coaches in the league, so maybe give it another year or two.
1. Tom Herman, Texas
The Longhorn coach isn’t in “win or be fired” mode yet, but that time may be coming. Texas has high expectations as usual, but this year, those expectations actually appear justified considering what the Longhorns return on both sides of the ball. Herman is 1-2 against Oklahoma, having lost the last two matchups. But so far, his best season (2018) still featured 4 losses with too-close-for-comfort games against Tulsa and Kansas.
It’s been a bit of a frustrating tenure so far for Herman; He’s 25-15 in Austin, with 11 of those 15 losses coming by 8 points or fewer.
It’s also notable that Herman almost completely revamped his assistant coaching staff the past offseason, bringing in seven new hires this offseason, including new offensive and defensive coordinators.
2. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Gundy has taken the Cowboys to 14-straight bowl games, finishing in the top-20 in seven of those years. In fact, Gundy has averaged 8.6 wins per year in Stillwater. So why is he so far up this list?
The easy answer is Gundy’s troublesome offseason, which has led to him taking a $1M per year paycut on his contract. He has never really gotten along with his athletic director, and over the last two seasons, the Cowboys are just 15-11. He’s also only defeated OU twice in his 15 years in Stillwater, but considering OSU only has 18 wins in 114 tries against the Sooners, that’s probably more of a bonus instead of a concern.
3. Matt Wells, Texas Tech
It’s difficult to consider placing a second-year coach this high on a list like this, but Wells’ first season in Lubbock was an unmitigated 4-8 disaster. The Raiders lost four of those games by less than a touchdown, but one of those was to Kansas. Wells was just 48-42 at his previous gig at Utah State, but had two 10-win seasons that buoyed his resume. (Sound familiar, KU fans?)
I would think that if the Red Raiders can’t get 6+ wins in 2020 (or whenever college football resumes), Wells will find that his seat has become very uncomfortable.
4. Neal Brown, West Virginia
Again, a second-year coach who struggled in his first season at a program that is used to winning games. The Mountaineers struggled offensively in Brown’s first year, failing to top 24 points in each of their final seven games, and only topping 30 points twice all year. They also struggled to put away James Madison and Kansas. West Virginia had been to a bowl game in 16 of the last 17 years prior to Brown’s arrival, only missing out in 2013.
I think Brown will right the ship in Morgantown, but again, I would have to think that another bowl miss would heat up his seat quite a bit.
Six of the ten Big 12 coaches, in my opinion, have little to worry about. Obviously they want to win games, but their jobs are fairly secure regardless of the outcome of the season. That said, it’s still a good idea to, I dunno, not go 0-12.
5. Dave Aranda, Baylor
Aranda takes over for Matt Rhule, who left Waco for the Carolina Panthers of the NFL. The Bears have been to nine bowl games in the last ten years, missing out in 2017 (Rhule’s first year). At a program that has sudden gotten used to winning, Aranda still has that grace period that every new coach has, but instead of four or five years, he may only get two or three if things don’t go well. He needs to at least get the Bears to a decent bowl game in year one or things may heat up quickly.
6. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
Riley might seem like he’s a little high on this list, but remember, it’s all relative. He’s in no danger of being fired, or even being on a slightly warmed seat. At this point, he can still leave on his own terms, whether it’s to the NFL or if he just gets tired of winning the Big 12 every year. After all, in his short tenure, Riley has led OU to a three-peat of 12-2 seasons that includes two top-5 finishes and three CFP appearances.
The only thing that folks might use to put a question mark on Riley’s tenure so far is OU’s performance in the college football playoff; last year’s was particularly ugly. In fact, I think Joe Burrow just threw another touchdown pass.
7. Gary Patterson, TCU
The longest tenured coach in the Big 12 at 19 years (and second-longest in D1 behind Kirk Ferentz), Patterson’s job is as safe as they come. However, we should note that TCU is 12-13 over the last two seasons, and just 29-23 over the last four years. Patterson does have eleven 10+ win seasons in Fort Worth, but eight of those came in his first 10 years, or in other words, before TCU joined the Big 12.
Additionally, the Frogs missed out on a bowl game last year for just the third time in Patterson’s tenure. I’m still of the mindset that Patterson will get to leave TCU on his own terms, unless of course recent trends take a drastic turn for the worse over a two or three year stretch.
8. Matt Campbell, Iowa State
If you can consistently win 8 games at Iowa State, you’re a coaching legend. Or at least, that’s how ISU fans should feel about their head coach. He’s defeated every team in the Big 12 in his four years in Ames, and although his overall record is just 26-25, he has taken the Cyclones to three consecutive bowl games, which ties the school record (2000-02).
A popular name every offseason in the coaching carousel (and often for “big-time” jobs), Campbell has signed contract extensions for huge raises each of the last two offseasons. Now that he’s built a consistent winner, the next step is to break that 10-win plateau. However, even if a down year or two were to happen in upcoming seasons, it shouldn’t endanger Campbell’s status at ISU.
9. Chris Klieman, K-State
Yet another sophomore coach on our list, Klieman won 8 games in his first season in Manhattan, including on the road in the SEC and a stunning win over Oklahoma, while continuing the annual beat-down of KU. The Wildcats lost four Big 12 games, but two of those were by less than a touchdown. If Klieman can maintain 8+ wins per year while not losing to KU, he’ll be the KSU coach in perpetuity, just like his predecessor (although KSU fans will eventually want more).
And like many of the other coaches in this part of the list, even a down year or two won’t heat up his seat too much.
10. Les Miles, Kansas
The only coach in the Big 12 with a D1 national championship ring, Miles’ chair is as cool as a cucumber entering year two in Lawrence despite a 3-9 opening campaign.
Not much is expected of Kansas this year, here or elsewhere, as the Jayhawks garnered nearly every single last-place vote in the Big 12 Conference media poll last week. Considering that KU returns the least amount of production from 2019 in the Big 12 (and it’s really not very close), the results of that poll from a KU standpoint make complete sense.
I would still call Miles’ first season in Lawrence a relative success, especially considering the state of the program when Miles stepped on campus. The Jayhawks knocked off (bowl-bound) Boston College on the road, Texas Tech at home, and had great shots to knock off West Virginia, Iowa State, and even Texas. Considering what we saw from 2010-18, that’s a huge improvement. Even a 1-11 campaign this fall would have a hard time turning up the heat on Miles considering how recruiting is going.
I know it may come off as rooting for mediocrity, but if Miles can just make Kansas a consistent bowl game participant, Kansas fans should be ecstatic. After all, we’ve (hopefully) seen the bottom of the barrel, and let me tell you - it’s not fun.