BOZICH | Charlie Strong, Mark Stoops headliners on 2016 college football Hot Seat lists
The Hot Seat Lists for the 2016 college football season are everywhere -- and so are the names of two guys. One is Charlie Strong of Texas. The other is Mark Stoops of Kentucky.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The surest sign that college football season is approaching is not the arrival of pre-season magazines.
It’s The Coaching Hot Seat lists.
They’re everywhere. Guess which two names are on every list I’ve uncovered?
Mark Stoops of Kentucky and Charlie Strong of Texas. Stoops will enter season four, Strong season three.
Stoops and Strong were named as guys who’d Better Start Improving by Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. He listed Strong second and Stoops 10th. In a video attached to his story, Dodd said an 8-4 record is the cutoff for Strong to survive.
The CoacheHotSeat.com web site listed Stoops on the eighth hottest seat in college football. Don’t exhale, Charlie. You’re ninth.
SportsOnEarth.com went nearly scorched Earth on Strong, placing him second (behind Darrell Hazell of Purdue) and Stoops 10th. There’s more. I’ll get to that.
Those are not the kinds of Top 10 lists people expect in Austin or in Lexington. Especially Austin.
Let me say this: I don’t think either guy should be coaching for his job this season. Too soon.
Kentucky has never been a Quick Fix job. Repairing the mess Joker Phillips created in three seasons or less would have been a quick fix at UK.
Stoops deserves at least 2016 and 2017 because I believe he has upgraded Kentucky’s overall talent. The Wildcats have been one win short of bowl eligibility in back-to-back seasons, losing twice by less than a touchdown in 2014 and three games by less than a touchdown last season.
That’s usually been the story of Kentucky – close.
What about Strong? This is merely year three since he left the University of Louisville. The Longhorns beat Oklahoma (a playoff team) and Baylor last season but missed bowl eligibility by losing to Iowa State and Texas Tech. Strong went 5-7 at a place that has changed basketball and baseball coaches since he arrived – and Texas wants to win at football a bit more than Texas wants to win at those sports.
Strong will win in Austin. He’s getting bigger, faster, better players. Scout.com reported that only Alabama and Ohio State signed more talented classes than Texas last February.
Phil Steele predicts that Texas will be the most improved team in the country. (Kentucky did not make Steele’s Most Improved List. But he did pick the Wildcats to finish ahead of Vanderbilt and Missouri in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference, projecting a meeting with West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl.)
Do Stoops and Strong have legitimate reasons to worry?
Athletic directors are no longer hesitant to make changes after four or even three years. Patience has gone the way of the Wishbone attack. Phillips got three seasons in Lexington.
As much as wins and losses matter, faith of the fan base matters more. It’s tough for any coach to rally after he loses that.
Pay attention to crowds – in Lexington and Austin. Attendance declined more than 4 percent at Texas last season.
Average attendance actually improved from 57,572 per game to 61,295 in 2015 at Kentucky. Most attribute that to the Commonwealth Stadium renovations.
But the news earlier this week that Kentucky returned more than 1,000 tickets for its Oct. 1 trip to Alabama as well as earlier stories that season ticket sales were lagging are not encouraging signs.
I’ll leave you with words from one final Hot Seat List – a five-coach ranking from the Athlon Sports Yearbook, where Stoops ranked fourth and Strong ranks first on a national list that also features Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), Les Miles (LSU) and Hazell.
Of Stoops, Athlon said: “When the school dumps $120 million on stadium renovations and another $45 million on a new team facility, a smart guy like Stoops can see the writing on those shiny new walls saying that someone else will play with all the new toys if he doesn’t at least get to the teeniest, tiniest of bowl games in his fourth year.”
Writes Athlon, “Merely showing ‘progress’ in a third year at a national powerhouse, when fans are carrying torches to storm the castle, just isn’t good enough. Strong needs to go from ‘good’ to ‘2005 Vince Young-good,’ like right now.”
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