College Football Coaching Changes for the 2017 Season
By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Coaching changes are a big part of the college football landscape. Coaches used to be with teams for years on end with only a slew of disappointing seasons leading to a firing. That leash has been shortened considerably in recent years, with it taking less for the university administration to send a coach packing. But as we look at this list of coaches in their first year, we see a lot of jobs having opened up because of success. In other words, a lot of coaches who have been thriving at lower-level schools are getting shots at more-marquee coaching positions. So there's just as many new head coaching openings in 2017 because of prior coaches failing as there are from coaches doing really well and moving on to higher-profile gigs. Let's take a look at all the new coaches for the 2017-18 season.
Matt Rhule (Baylor Bears): After a successful run at Temple, the job of revamping the Baylor program fall in the hands of Rhule. The 42-year old posted consecutive 10-win seasons for the Owls, which led to him earning this gig. He will have to deal with some residual sanctions against the school, stemming from Art Briles' tenure. He takes over for Jim Grobe, who filled in last season after Briles became an unplanned casualty of the school scandal.
Justin Wilcox (California Golden Bears): Following the exit of previous coach Sonny Dykes after a 5-7 season, the Cal job falls into the hands of Justin Wilcox. The 40-year old Wilcox has spent the last decade-plus as a defensive coordinator for high-profile programs like Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, and USC. After a big season running the Wisconsin "D" in 2016, Wilcox gets his first shot at a head coaching gig.
Luke Fickell (Cincinnati Bearcats): Fickell takes over the Bearcats after the resignation of Tommy Tuberville. The former Ohio State QB served on the coaching staff of his alma mater for the past 15 seasons, now striking out on his own in the ranks of college head coaches. Fickell served as head coach as an emergency fill-in amidst the Jim Tressel scandal, but was relegated to an assistant position upon the hiring of Urban Meyer.
Randy Edsall (Connecticut Huskies): Edsall returns to the team he coached for 12 years from 1999 to 2010. A five-year run as Maryland head coach followed by a season in the Detroit front office led to his return to coach the Huskies. He replaces Bob Diaco and was actually above .500 with a Huskies team that has since struggled. A 22-34 run with Maryland has put him back in a realm where he has previously found success.
Lane Kiffin (Florida Atlantic Owls): Still only 41, it's been a wild ride for Kiffin, as he now rejoins the head coaching ranks following a 3-year run as Alabama's offensive coordinator. The former Raiders head coach has served as college head coach for both Tennessee and USC. He replaces Charlie Partridge, who led the Owls to three straight 3-9 seasons.
Butch Davis (Florida International Panthers): After a prolonged absence from coaching where Davis worked as a TV analyst, Davis returns to the sidelines and takes over the big seat for FIU. The 65-year old takes over for Ron Turner, who led the Panthers to a 5-19 record in his two seasons at the helm. Davis has been a part of big time college football since the late-70's and is best known for coaching Miami, North Carolina, and the Cleveland Browns.
Jeff Tedford (Fresno State Bulldogs): The 55-year old former Fresno QB returns home to take over a Bulldogs program that has fallen on hard times. After a successful run with the Cal Bears where he was two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year, he served as Tampa's offensive coordinator, as the BC Lions' head coach, and as a consultant for Washington. He now returns to Fresno, where he served as a positions coach from 1992-97.
Shawn Elliott (Georgia State Panthers): The 43-year old gets his first full-fledged head coaching job with the Georgia State Panthers. Elliott was the interim head coach for South Carolina in 2015 following Steve Spurrier's resignation. He spent the last seven seasons on the Gamecocks' staff. Elliot now tries to nudge GSU up to the ranks of respectability in their fifth season in the Sun Belt.
Major Applewhite (Houston Cougars): Technically, Applewhite got his start in Houston's bowl game last season, when a crestfallen Cougars petered out at the finish line. Tom Herman is off to take the Texas gig, coming off a nice run of success with Houston. Applewhite is now entrusted with keeping the train chugging forward. Applewhite first established himself as a standout quarterback for Texas in the late 90's and early 2000's. A former offensive coordinator for Alabama, Applewhite also worked in the same role for Texas. He spent the last two seasons coordinating the Houston offense and lends familiarity in his first head coaching gig.
Tom Allen (Indiana Hoosiers): Technically, Allen took over last season, coaching Indiana in their bowl game. He is now the full-time coach, as this will be the first college head coaching job for the 47-year old longtime assistant. He made his mark in the high school ranks, before coaching college ball. After a year as Hoosiers defensive coordinator, he takes over after the sudden departure of Kevin Wilson.
PJ Fleck (Minnesota Golden Gophers): After nearly leading Western Michigan to an unbeaten season in 2016, the 36-year old gets a bump to the Big Ten, taking over the Golden Gophers. The former standout NIU receiver looks to stabilize a Minnesota program that caught a lot of flack for canning Tracy Claeys last season. Seeing how Fleck took a WMU team that was 1-11 in his first year to 13-1 last season, maybe he's the man for the job.
Jay Norvell (Nevada Wolf Pack): The 54-year old former standout Iowa linebacker focused on offense as a coach, serving as a positions coach for the better part of three decades in the NFL and college ranks. This will be Norvell's first head coaching job, as he takes over after Brian Polian's 4-year tenure where he was just 23-27. In some of his bigger jobs, he was offensive coordinator for Nebraska from 2004-06, also serving in the same capacity for UCLA in 2007.
Willie Taggart (Oregon Ducks): Taggart gets a big-time gig at age 40, following his sterling work with South Florida, who he led them to a 10-win season in 2016. Prior to that, he also did a good job turning the Western Kentucky program around. He took over both WKU and South Florida coming off 2-10 seasons and got both programs on the right track. He takes over for an Oregon team that has fallen on hard times the last two seasons after a period of high success.
Jeff Brohm (Purdue Boilermakers): The 45-year old Brohm banged around in the NFL for 7 seasons as a journeyman backup, which followed a strong career at Louisville. After serving as an assistant, he made headlines for his work over the past three seasons with Western Kentucky where he went 30-10 as head coach, ending his tenure with consecutive Conference USA titles. He now tries to revive the long-struggling Boilermakers program.
Brent Brennan (San Jose State Spartans): The job of reviving the San Jose State program falls into the hands of Brennan, who takes over for the departed Ron Caragher, who was just 19-30 in his 4 seasons at the helm. A former QB for UCLA, the 44-year old has spent nearly two decades as a college coach. After 6 seasons on the Oregon State staff, Brennan gets his first head coaching gig in 2017.
Charlie Strong (South Florida Bulls): The venerable 56-year old could never quite get traction with Texas. The high-profile hire lasted 3 seasons, going a woeful 16-21. Still, he has succeeded before, namely with some big seasons at Louisville. He replaces Willie Taggart, who takes the higher-profile Oregon job. Strong will have a chance to re-establish his brand with the Bulls.
Geoff Collins (Temple Owls): After two decades coaching for various teams around college football, the 46-year old gets his first head coaching gig with the resurgent Owls. Former head coach Matt Rhule is off to take the Baylor job on the heels of bringing up the Temple football program. Collins worked the last two seasons as a defensive coordinator, having also served in that role for FIU and Mississippi State.
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Tom Herman (Texas Longhorns): Considered a bright young coach, the 41-year old Herman gets his first big-time gig as he tries to revive the Texas program. Herman made his bones as an offensive coordinator for Ohio State under Urban Meyer, before taking the Houston job. With the Cougars, Herman went 22-4 and became a hot property among the coaching ranks. From 1999-2000, he served as a graduate assistant for Texas and now takes over the big seat.
Mike Sanford, Jr. (Western Kentucky Hilltoppers): The former Boise St. quarterback has coaching in his blood with his pops serving as head coach for Indiana and UNLV. He made his bones as a position coach for Stanford, before serving as offensive coordinator for his alma mater and Notre Dame, leading to his first head coaching gig with WKU. The Hilltoppers won ten games last season, with head coach Jeff Brohm taking the head coaching job at Purdue.
Tim Lester (Western Michigan Broncos): The record-setting former quarterback of the Broncos now takes over the head coaching job, with PJ Fleck having turned the program around and now headed to the Big Ten. From 2005-06, he served as WMU's quarterback coach, eventually ending up as a QB coach/coordinator for Syracuse and Purdue. Lester, 40, now returns home and looks to keep the upward momentum of a team that won 13 games last season. Bet on NCAA football for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!