Big Ten Coaches Hot Seat - Part 1

Instead of doing some wacky mid off-season prediction for how our Big Ten squads will fair this upcoming season, because with 3 months until kickoff, what's the point? Instead we'll take a look at what sort of position each Big Ten coach is in as they approach the fall. Are they safe? Are they about to be axed? You make the call.

Ron Zook - Illinois
4th Season

2005: 2-9
2006: 2-10
2007: 9-4
Total: 13-23

Ron Zook came from Florida where he had some success (23-14 overall) in three seasons. But ultimately, after falling short of very lofty expectations, Florida said goodbye to the Zook-man. I think his landing at Illinois will be sort of a blessing...eventually. Illinois was simply awful for a long time before Zook came in. His ability to recruit I think made him a great catch for the Illini. Even Urban Meyer gave Zook credit for the players he had recruited prior to Florida's 2006 BCS National Championship.

Although it should be noted that this particular blog doesn't think Mr. Zook's recruiting practices are, shall we say, legal? But that's mere speculation. I have nothing to back that up.

I predict that Zook will be safe at Illinois for the foreseeable future. This last season saw the first winning record in Champaign since 2001, and a Rose Bowl appearance. Although, a small taste of success can backfire, as fans, and especially regents/trustees will start to expect it more often.

Bill Lynch - Indiana
2nd Season

2007: 7-6

First of all, let me say that I like Bill Lynch. I think he's maybe one of the hidden gems of the Big Ten coaching fraternity. Of course when you take Indiana to a 7-6 record and a bowl game in your first year, it will be hard to remain hidden.

Granted he did go 3-5 in-conference, and their bowl game was the Insight Bowl...but still.

Coming from DePauw in 2005, he joined then Indiana head coach Terry Hoeppner as assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/tight ends coach. After Hoeppner's unfortunate passing in June 2007, he stepped into a tough situation. It will be interesting to see if Indiana can continue the success from 07, and try to prove that it wasn't just a one year fluke. However, they play a cake non-conf. schedule next year, and do not play UM or OSU. So the scheduling Gods are on his side.

My prediction is that he will struggle as most Indiana coaches have. Indiana just isn't a good football school. They play the hell out of the basketball...but thats about it. I give him the standard 2 more seasons, even though he just signed a contract until 2012. With such a cake schedule, it will be hard to impress boosters with big wins when you don't really play big teams.

Kirk Ferentz - Iowa
10th Season

1999: 1-10
2000: 3-9
2001: 7-5
2002: 11-2
2003: 10-3
2004: 10-2
2005: 7-5
2006: 6-7
2007: 6-6
Total: 73-70

Kirk Ferentz is in the middle of his current contract with Iowa. He signed it after the 2004 season and it will keep him there (theoretically) until 2012. Don't get me wrong, for a while there, he was maybe the best coach in the Big Ten. But lately, his inability to beat Ohio State, Michigan and little brother Iowa State...has kept him from serious NFL coaching consideration that he enjoyed from 02-04. In the past couple years, he has benefited from not even playing Michigan or OSU, and has still struggled.

It could be argued that he is most definitely on the hot seat...maybe more so than any other Big Ten coach. If for no other reason that he makes $2.7 million per, the most in the Big Ten. You don't just throw that kind of money at a guy and not expect greatness in return.

If he fails to reach a bowl this year, and continues to flail against such opponents as Iowa State and other mid-Big Ten conf. foes...expect to see Ferentz chased out of town.

Rich Rodriguez - Michigan
1st Season

We all know the Rodriguez story, so I'll spare you the specifics. The Michigan coaching carousel doesn't slow down and stop too often. But when it does, it's big news. And the hire of Rodriquez was no different. Not only was it unexpected (thank you Les Miles), but when it actually became official, probably every team in the Big Ten took notice.

Rodriguez will be the head ball coach at Michigan for at least 5 years, regardless of his contract. Probably what will mark his early career the most is how well he can recruit. So far, things look good. He may get a pass from the administration because he is implementing his style of play with players who never signed on to play this way...ahem, Justin Boren, ahem.

No telling yet how far he'll go at Michigan. He could turn out to be a Jim tressel, or a Nick Saban...we shall see.

Mark Dantonio - Michigan State
2nd Season

2007: 7-6

Ahh, little brother! The good thing about being the head coach at Michigan State, is that you never really have big shoes to fill. Let's face it, if there is a "second class" of Big Ten schools, Michigan State is the head of that class.

Now they may play some big games, and they surely win their fair share of them, but when it comes to being competitive in your own conference, Sparty just doesn't cut it. It seems like every year, they come out of the gate strong, then lose to Michigan, and their season goes into the gutter. And that, my friends, is bad coaching. John L was a master of bad coaching, so at least Sparty fans are used to it. Time will tell if Dantonio can turn the ship around.

Last year saw them become bowl eligible for the first time since 03, and their 5 regular season losses were by 7 points or less. So maybe there is something good going on here. But a word of advice; don't get into a battle of words with your schools biggest rival, especially since you haven't won in six years. Dantonio is safe for now, but be careful hanging your whole coaching career/reputation on one game a year...because that will be all people remember you for.

Tim Brewster - Minnesota
2nd Season

2007: 1-11

Well, we'll start with the good. In this second year of his tenure as the Gophers head coach, there is no where to go but up.

He was attached at the hip with Texas's Mack Brown for 13 years, both at UNC and then Texas. But in 2001, he was hired as a position coach with the San Diego Chargers, and then for two years as TE coach with the Denver Broncos. After that, in 2007, he was announced as the head coach at Minnesota.

In his first presser, he said his immediate goals were to win the conference, and take "Gopher Nation" to the Rose Bowl. He has 4 more years on his contract. Good luck.

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