Looking at college football’s coaches hired in 2012

By Chris Kennedy

Illinois football head coach Tim Beckman just finished his third season in Champaign and head basketball coach John Groce has reached the tail end of his third season as well.

Groce currently has the Illini fighting for an NCAA tournament bid. Most fans would say he’s earned his stripes.

Beckman is another story entirely. He will return for a fourth year after his best season, leading the Illini to their first bowl game since 2011 and he just signed his best recruiting class yet. 

But where does Beckman stand in his class? How does he rank amongst his peers, the coaching class of 2012?

Twenty-eight coaches were hired prior to the 2012 season. Twenty of them still hold those jobs. Six were fired and two upgraded to better gigs. 

Only three coaches have earned fewer wins over three years than Beckman’s 12: Akron’s Terry Bowden (11), New Mexico’s Bob Davie (11) and Hawaii’s Norm Chow (8). Fourteen power-five conference coaches were hired before 2012, and only two are still coaching with a three-year losing record: Beckman and Washington State’s Mike Leach.

Beckman is in even worse company with conference wins. Chow, Davie and Beckman all sit at the bottom of the rankings with 4-20 conference marks. When he fired Ron Zook, athletic director Mike Thomas cited Zook’s conference struggles: Thomas wasn’t happy with a 32 percent Big Ten winning percentage. Beckman’s conference winning percentage?  17 percent.

Let’s look at how the college football coaching class of 2012 has panned out thus far.

 

Home runs

Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)

Meyer has already won Ohio State a national title. The Buckeyes are a powerhouse again thanks to Meyer, who holds an undefeated Big Ten record. 

Sumlin has electrified College Station and has managed a seamless transition for A&M into the SEC. Sumlin was reportedly at the top of the Illini’s list in 2011. 

 

Superb

Rich Rodriguez (Arizona), Todd Graham (Arizona State), Bill O’Brien (Penn State), Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), Jim McElwain (Colorado State), Justin Fuente (Memphis)

All of these coaches have brought or are bringing their programs to new heights. Rodriguez began a renaissance in the desert, leading the Wildcats to their first Fiesta Bowl since 1993. Graham has turned Arizona State into a contender, competing for multiple division titles.

This season, Freeze has recruited well and put Ole Miss on the national map this season, leading the Rebels to a huge win against Alabama and a ranking as high as No. 3. 

McElwain turned Colorado State into a conference title challenger and Fuente earned Memphis its first conference title since 1971. Bill O’Brien gets a mention here for a phenomenal job handling the toughest era in Penn State football history.

 

Good, but not great

Jim Mora (UCLA), Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State), Kyle Flood (Rutgers), Paul Chryst (Pitt), Dave Campbell (Toledo)

These coaches have led their programs to the postseason multiple times, but there’s not as much of a visible upward trajectory. Mora has had consecutive 10-win seasons at UCLA, but his teams have underachieved. 

DeRuyter struggled this year after riding the coattails of Derek Carr’s success. Flood and Chryst have reached bowl games in each of their three seasons, but they’ve been exceptionally average. Campbell has the Rockets trending upwards, with three winning seasons and a division title last year.

 

Serviceable

Tony Levine (Houston), Larry Fedora (North Carolina)

These coaches have put together decent seasons, but they haven’t blown anyone away. 

Levine was fired after another mediocre year at Houston, even with two consecutive bowl appearances. Fedora has the Tar Heels trending downward. In 2012, the team would have gone to the ACC title game, but it was ineligible for the postseason.

 

Mediocre

Tim Beckman (Illinois), Bob Davie (New Mexcio), Curtis Johnson (Tulane), Mike Leach (Washington State), Norm Chow (Hawaii), Terry Bowden (Akron)

These coaches have the worst records of any who have lasted three years with the program. Over three years, they’re all 12-25 or worse, including Illinois’ Beckman. He made some strides this year, but it doesn’t seem like he did enough to warrant another season. 

There’s only one winning season in all of these coach’s tenures — Tulane’s Johnson in 2013. Tulane went on to a 3-9 record in 2014. Leach also regressed. Bowden put up another 5-7 record with the Zips and the other three of these coaches improved their win totals enough to convince their AD’s to keep them around another year.   

 

Total failure

John L. Smith (Arkanasas), Charlie Weis (Kansas), Garrick McGee (UAB), Ellis Johnson (Southern Miss), Charley Molnar (Massachusetts), Carl Pelini (FAU)

None of these hires remain and many are no longer head coaches anywhere. Johnson went 0-12 his first year and was immediately canned. The Golden Eagles kept losing until they defeated McGee’s Blazers to snap a 23-game losing streak, and McGee was fired shortly after. Smith and Pelini both left amid scandals, Molnar only managed one win in each of UMass’ first FBS seasons, and Weis was a high-paid colossal failure that the Jayhawks will be paying for years to come.

*Gus Malzahn gets an incomplete grade, because he left Arkansas State after only one year to become Auburn’s head coach.

Chris is a sophomore in Media.

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