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Feeling the heat

Frank Haynes,
Senior College Football Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Aside from maybe your local mortician or perhaps an overzealous IRS supervisor, there aren't a whole lot of people who get excited over the prospects of the only two guarantees in life. Sure, the whole "death and taxes" thing may be overly dramatic, but when you really look long and hard at life's road map, there isn't a whole lot more one can add.

There was a time when job security was considered one of the things you could count on, but those days are long gone. The economic downturn of the last few years is partially to blame, but to be honest, the plight of the American worker goes back even further as the job market, in virtually all areas, has become over-saturated, and more and more companies continue outsourcing in an effort to cut costs. In a lot of cases, feeling less-than-comfortable with what the future holds has absolutely nothing to do with your work ethic, degree of commitment or years of service, but rather whether your employer can afford to keep you on.

In the major college football coaching ranks, money isn't typically the issue as to whether someone stays or goes, but rather the success the program enjoys both on and off the field. Of the 120 head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision, most will survive the 2011 season, but that may have more to do with a lack of suitable replacements rather than the guys currently holding down the fort being irreplaceable cogs in some well-oiled machine.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at some coaches would could find themselves on the unemployment line, either before the end of the season or shortly thereafter.

Most discussions on the subject right now center around two names: Washington State's Paul Wulff and New Mexico's Mike Locksley.

Wulff has had three years to turn things around in Pullman, and the only thing he has to show for his efforts are a measly five wins in 37 chances. Not good! Odds are there won't be but three or four wins coming this season as the Cougars embark on their first trek through the brand new Pac-12 North, which also houses Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Oregon State and California, so Wulff's troops must exceed the rather low expectations placed upon them or the axe will almost surely fall.

As for Locksley, he comes into his third season in Albuquerque sporting a dreadful 2-22 record, and with the Mountain West Conference recently adding powerhouse Boise State to the fold, the climb up the league ladder will be that much tougher. A non-conference slate that includes bouts with Arkansas and Texas Tech won't help matters, and the Lobos' most difficult league tilts against Nevada, TCU and Boise State all take place on the road. UNM will be lucky to win two games this year, thus spelling the end of Locksley's reign.

Continuing with the coaches who need to win now or else, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel returned to his alma mater in 2007 with the hopes of restoring the Bruins to their former glory, but things haven't exactly gone according to plan. UCLA is 15-22 in Nueheisel's first three years, and he has yet to beat bitter rival USC. If all goes right this fall, the Bruins could challenge for the Pac-12 South Division title, but that's a huge "if", particularly when you consider the team's toughest league games (Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona, Utah and USC) all take place on the road.

Another guy with ties to UCLA, Bob Toledo, has produced a meager 13-35 ledger in four seasons at Tulane. Recruiting in Louisiana isn't easy with SEC powers LSU, Alabama and Auburn raiding the state of its best players. Plus, Toledo is 65 years old, so how much longer can it be expected that he will continue coaching, or more to the point -- how much longer can the school afford to keep him? Bottom line...he isn't long for this job so expect the Green Wave, who have their work cut out for them once again in a competitive Conference USA, to have a new man at the helm sooner rather than later.

Steve Fairchild's tenure at Colorado State began solidly enough, as the Rams logged a winning record (7-6) and earned a bowl invite back in 2008. Unfortunately, things have gone down hill since as the team has posted back- to-back 3-9 campaigns, and the prevailing thought is CSU needs to show dramatic improvement or this will be Fairchild's last stand. We'll know soon enough, but he can certainly help his cause by beating rival Colorado in mid- September.

Other guys expected to sweat this one out include Neil Callaway (UAB), Larry Porter (Memphis), Jeff Tedford (California), Turner Gill (Kansas), Dennis Erickson (Arizona State) and to a lesser extent, Ron Zook (Illinois), Mark Richt (Georgia) and Derek Dooley (Tennessee). Butch Davis (North Carolina) and even the previously-untouchable Chip Kelly (Oregon) face some uncertainty due to improprieties being investigated by the NCAA, and Luke Fickell (Ohio State) is likely "one-and-done" barring some sort of miraculous season turned in by the embattled Buckeyes.

The coaches mentioned here aren't the only ones who will feel the pressure this year, but at present their seats are hotter than a July afternoon in Death Valley.

Sure would be nice to get back to the days when we didn't fear for our jobs as much, but at least these guys can control their own destiny. Win and nearly all else will be forgiven. Easier said than done of course, but nevertheless it's nice to have at least some control over your future.


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Frank Haynes at fhaynes@sportsnetwork.com.


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