2009 Big Ten Coaches Hot Seat - Part 1

Ahh, it's that magical time of year again! Time to dust off that old steno pad and see who's been naughty and see who's been nice. Welcome, my friends to the 2009 edition of the Big Ten Coaches Hot Seat!

For a fuller, more richer user-experience, we have color-coded the hotness of each coach's seat...

Safe for Now: Not getting fired, can have an off-year and still be okay.
Needs a Good Year: Not getting fired, but needs to improve from 08.
Needs a Great Year: 2009 could be the end if things don't get better fast
Dead Man Walking: Probably won't make it through 2009

Last year we started this little endeavor (part 1 - part 2) and as it turned out, was quite a fun little way to kill a few days of the most boring part of the off-season. So without further adieu, let's have a look at the first 6 coaches (in school alphabetical order, of course) for the 2009 season.

Ron Zook - Illinois
5th Season

2005: 2-9
2006: 2-10
2007: 9-4
2008: 5-7
Total: 18-30

Last year we though Zook was pretty safe at Illinois for the foreseeable future. 2007 was a pretty good season in Champaign, and everyone was pretty high on him, especially with Juice Williams coming back at QB. The big upset of tOSU in Columbus was a banner win for the young program, and Zook was named the 2007 Big Ten coach of the year. But as it turned out, 08 was not as kind. It seems Rashard Mendenhall was pretty vital to that offense.

But Zook does bring a pretty decent recruiting record to Illinois, and 2008 was no slouch. His 08 class ranked #17 according to Rivals.com. And while this blogger has never shied away from his feelings that Zook may not exactly be the most ethical recruiter in the Big Ten, I really can't say much without knowing for sure if any rules have been broken...which of course has never been reported.

His current contract goes until 2013. I think the heat might be starting to get turned up by the fans in Champaign this year. A very nice 07 turned into a big letdown in 08. Juice Williams is a senior, and it is time to deliver some results. If 09 is not a drastic improvement over 08, expect fireronzook dot com to explode.

Important Games in 09:
9/5 @ Missouri
9/26 @ tOSU
11/28 @ Cincinnati

Hotness Meter: Needs a Great Year

Bill Lynch - Indiana
3rd Season

2007: 7-6
2008: 3-9
Total: 10-15

Indiana is just not synonymous with football...and for a good reason...they grow basketball players in Indiana, nothing else. The University of Indiana is just not a kind place for football coaches. First of all, you're consistently playing in the shadow of Assembly Hall, and secondly, did I mention that the state of Indiana is not known for football for a reason?

Bill Lynch, while probably one of the nicest guys in Big Ten coaching fraternity, is destined to fail at IU. His current contract takes him until 2012...but if he's smart, he'll get out way before that and head to greener coaching pastures. Why? Because at this rate, if the Big Ten were to shrink back to 10 teams, IU would certainly be one of the two teams mentioned to get the axe. Basketball would likely save them, but the world of football for the Hoosiers has not been an pleasant one.

His first year as head coach, 2007, as it turned out was a crazy-good year.. They went 7-6 and actually made it to a bowl game. 2008 was not so nice. Coming in last in the Big Ten, a year when Michigan stunk up the joint going 3-9, is really saying something. They haven't been ranked since 88, and probably haven't played a meaningful non-conf game since then either.

Oh, the cherry on top...senior leader of the Hoosiers and and most dangerous weapon, team-captain Kellen Lewis has been kicked off the team for violating team rules.

Lynch won't likely be fired this year, even if they don't win a game. Expectations are about as low as they can be. The 3-week span where they play at Michigan, home against tOSU, and then back on the road versus Virginia is going to define this season. I expect a coaching change, either by choice or by force, within 2 seasons.

Important Games in 09:
9/26 @ Michigan
10/3 TOSU
10/10 @ Virginia
11/14 @ Penn State

Hotness Meter: Needs a Great Year

Kirk Ferentz - Iowa
11th 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
2008: 9-4
Total: 70-53

Last year was exactly what the doctor ordered for Kirk Ferentz. Nine wins in Iowa City is a pretty good year. Especially when those wins include Iowa State, a huge upset of undefeated Penn State, and a big win against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on January 1st.

After 07, it seemed Ferentz was on the outs. His team just lost to Western Michigan at home to end the season...and rumors started to circulate that he was in the hunt for Michigan's open coaching gig.

But a strong 08 showed that Ferentz wasn't going anywhere. They finished 9-4 and tied for 5th in the Big Ten at 5-3. And, one of the members of Iowa's 08 recruiting class is Kirk's son James.

Every time an NFL coaching gig opens up, Ferentz's name is usually in the hat. But the recent extension of his contract until 2015 is a strong indicator that he's not going anywhere. And why should he leave, as of his current contract, he receives 2.7 million dollars a year. He's actually the highest paid state employee in Iowa.

Important Games in 09:
9/12 @ Iowa State
9/26 @ Penn State
11/14 @ tOSU

Hotness Meter: Safe for Now

Rich Rodriguez - Michigan
2nd Season

2008: 3-9

Okay, 08 was not a good start for Rodriguez at Michigan. Actually, it was about as bad as it could've been. Nothing seemed to go right for the first year coach. But as we've all seen, Rodriguez's 2nd seasons are always a drastic improvement over his typically awful 1sts.

But what he's trying to do at Michigan is nothing short of a full face-lift. Rodriguez is the creator of the no huddle spread-option offense. Nowhere in the world would it be tougher to install than Michigan, which as used the pro-style set since the beginning of time. Sure, they've added some quirks, but nothing like what 2008 was like.

Going through the 2008 schedule before the season, I thought 8 wins were possible, and at least 6 would be do-able. But 3 is just not acceptable. Not at Michigan. With losses to Toledo, Northwestern, Purdue and losses to all 3 big rivals, including a 35-point pummeling in Columbus really turned up the heat on Rodriguez. It seems crazy to think that a 2nd year coach at Michigan would be in such hot water, but with great power comes great responsibility.

2010 is a put up or shut up kind of a year...09 is just a "better get to a bowl" kinda year. And while most level-headed fans will give him until at least his 3rd season to prove himself, the loud-mouth radio hosts and beat writers will be all over him if he does not at least make a bowl, and beat at least two big rivals in 2009. But if the opener against WMU goes badly, pitchfork sales in Ann Arbor will spike on September 6th.

Important Games in 09:
9/5 WESTERN MICHIGAN (How sad is it that this is a big game?!)
9/12 NOTRE DAME (duh!)
10/3 @ Michigan State (duh!)
11/21 TOSU (duh!)

Hotness Meter: Needs a Good Year

Mark Dantonio - Michigan State
3rd Season

2007: 7-6
2008: 9-4
Total: 16-10

I'll set aside my pure hatred for Dantonio to try and give a good honest review of his career thus far in East Lansing.

Mark Dantonio did exactly what he needed to do in 2008. Nine wins, a win on the road in Ann Arbor, and beating every team he was supposed to beat are pretty much all you need to do to keep the couch-burning, Natural Light-drinking Sparty faithful happy.

Its funny how a win against Big Brother can mask two horribly lopsided defeats against the brass of the conference, tOSU (45-7) and Penn State (49-18). A big win in Ann Arbor is nice, but that kind of happiness is fickle when Sparty Nation starts wanting more. It's not just good enough to win 8 or 9 games, when those 3 or 4 losses always include either Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State...and usually a good non-conf opponent.

It's Dantonio's job to bring Michigan State into the upper-level of the conference. And that simply isn't going to happen in he continues to put all of his proverbial "eggs" into the Michigan basket. Sure a rivalry is nice, but double-digit win seasons are the priority. Michigan State fans are tired of being little brother. The last time Michigan State was Big Ten champs was the Bush administration...the first Bush administration, 1990. And they haven't won a bowl game since 2001.

I'd say Dantonio is safe. He's talking the talk, and showing that he can kinda walk the walk. But he's got a little ways to go. But Sparty is happy with him, and I can say with all honesty that the rest of the Big Ten is taking them a lot more seriously than they did in the glory days of John L. Smith.

Important Games in 09:
9/19 @ Notre Dame
10/24 IOWA

Hotness Meter: Safe for Now

Tim Brewster - Minnesota
3rd Season

2007: 1-11
2008: 7-6

Well, last year we said that Brewster had nowhere to go but up...and he did. The Gophers started out 2008 7-1. A great start for a team that just sucked in 2007.

Minnesota broke into the top 25 after beating Illinois on the road, and then hit #20 after winning at Purdue the week after. They probably should have beat Northwestern, and certainly should have played better against Michigan...but still, a winning season at Minnesota after going 1-11 is nothing to scoff at.

Honest expectations for 09 are probably going to be on-par with the results of 08. If he can tack a couple more wins of the record this year and make a New Year's Day bowl, he'll solidify himself to be in Minneapolis for a while to come.

Important Games in 09:
9/19 CAL
10/17 @ Penn State
10/24 @ tOSU
11/21 @ Iowa

Hotness Meter: Safe for Now

Stay tuned for part 2...

I had stated that Minnesota was the only team to win all of their regular season non-conf games. Northwestern and Penn State did as well. I have deleted this comment from the Tim Brewster section.


  1. Anonymous2:52 PM

    Disagreed on Lynch. With the "expectations" and personnel he has available to him, I wouldn't put him any further above needing a good year. I can't call it safe, but anything close to competing will be a massive improvement, especially after losing his only star.

  2. Culturally we Americans are spoiled rotten with instant gratification (pull up to drive through window, ask for a 10-2 season, receive and pay at the next window), and the "grass must be greener" point of view about everything else under the sun.

    Michigan football program success by 2010 is not impossible, but it is unrealistic in my view.

    Rodriguez will need 3 or 4 years AT LEAST to get rull recruiting classes of players that fit his system and the same amount of time a Walk-On program off the ground at Michigan before meaningful results can be tallied.

    But I agree about pitchfork sales and mob mentality, because the expectations are very high at Michigan and the sports press does a lousy job in general covering salient issues of college football.

    Michigan will be lucky to win 6 games in 2009 and this is mainly due to the inexperience and lack of depth on defense. The offense should improve this year, but then again, how could it not improve?
    Just convert more than 27% of the time on third down and don't fumble so damn much. Pretty simple, really.

    I would add the away games at Iowa and at Illinois as other very challenging games for Michigan this year.

    That all said, it would be a mistake for any team to take Michigan lightly this year. Unlike 2008, I predict this UM team to upset more than just a few teams before and during the November 21st matchup with OSU.

  3. Anonymous9:11 PM

    Um...ok. After that bs Michigan comment...

    I'm thinking Lynch could be a dead man walking, if any coach in the Big Ten is that (which probably none are). You're talking about a team that is, once again, looking to be at the very bottom of the Big Ten. They've lost Lewis, far and away their best player. It's like the team's only goal has been to make a bowl game. Did that, and now let's go back to the schitter and stay there. They need someone who can motivate better than that, and he's coming off as someone who is just not going to get the job done there.