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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Coaching Moves

The 2011 Locksley: Week 8

Queue up a sad dirge for Bob Toledo, who resigned — yeah, that sounds right — from his position at Tulane with a career mark of 15-40. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Well, a 44-7 home loss to UTEP on Saturday was the specific loss that led Tulane to make a coaching move. But the university’s decision was years in the making, and blaming one loss for Toledo’s dismissal ignores the years and years of terrible football the Green Wave played under his watch. Tulane never won more than four games in any single season, bottomed out at 2-10 in 2008, and despite starting 2-2 in three of the last four years was unable to make any move whatsoever in Conference USA. So it was a long, long time coming. Up next? The Green Wave need to attempt to right a past mistake by offering Rich Rodriguez all it has in the bank. This week’s coaching quote of the week comes from Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, who had some nice things to say about Wisconsin’s running game:

“They do some creative, really nice stuff. They basically have four really good running plays and executed them well. Then off of that they have some great pass action. Bottom line, if they get out in space, those two backs are pretty good. I don’t know if they have blazingly great speed but it’s pretty good speed. They run through trash and they’re always moving forward. They had a bunch of nice eight-, nine-, 10-yard runs, and then some big ones.”

1. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (Last week: No. 1)

2011 record 1-5
Overall (since 2009) 17-16

Like a rainout for a baseball team on a long losing streak, Boston College’s bye week came at just the right time. The Eagles are reeling, having failed to notch an F.B.S. win all season, and perhaps the week away gave Spaziani some time to get back to the drawing board in an attempt to reach his wildly underachieving team. That’s the hope, but I have my doubts. If the week away hasn’t recharged B.C.’s batteries, this team is going to lose 10 games. Virginia Tech and Maryland come next, both on the road. Then Florida State and N.C. State come to Chestnut Hill, followed by road games against Miami (Fla.) and Notre Dame. In other words, 1-5 is looking very much like 2-10 if B.C. hasn’t found itself. I am very doubtful that it has, which isn’t good news for Spaziani. Barring a turnaround, the university needs to clean house in the football program. And making changes up in the athletic department might not be a bad idea either.

2. Neil Callaway, U.A.B. (Last week: No. 3)

2011 record 0-6
Overall (since 2007) 15-39

The writing is on the wall for Callaway. He won’t last until 2012 unless his Blazers roll off six straight wins to end the regular season, and that’s not happening. Coincidentally, his career mark heading into Saturday’s game against U.C.F. is 15-39 — meaning he’s one loss away from Toledo territory. Could U.A.B. follow Tulane’s lead and dismiss Callaway in the middle of the season? Well, considering the fact that the Green Wave dominated U.A.B. in September, winning by 49-10, there’s no reason to think that Callaway’s job is safe until the end of the season. If Callaway survives an 0-7 start, there’s no way he’d escape 0-10, especially if that 10th loss comes to lowly Memphis.

3. Larry Porter, Memphis (Last week: No. 2)

2011 record 1-6
Overall (since 2010) 2-17

Porter has a great chance at netting an F.B.S. win this Saturday against Tulane. That would be something, wouldn’t it? Part of me is happy for Memphis, which has been an utter train wreck since last September, while another part of me is saddened to know that we’ve been robbed of a battle of coaching heavyweights following Toledo’s resignation. If Porter can’t beat a reeling Tulane team he probably won’t beat anyone the rest of the way — unless he gets the better of Callaway, should he still be around, in that clash of the coaching titans.

4. Rick Neuheisel, U.C.L.A. (Last week: No. 5)

2011 record 3-3
Overall (since 2008) 18-25

Quotes like this from your employer are never good: U.C.L.A. athletic director Dan Guerrero said Rick Neuheisel’s job status is “day to day,” making it sound as if Neuheisel had pulled a hamstring. In these troubled economic times, isn’t everyone’s job status “day to day”? As an aside, if Neuheisel’s status is “day to day” then Guerrero’s job status should be “hour by hour,” given how horribly he’s directed U.C.L.A. athletics. Regardless, his statement does lend plenty of credence to the idea that this year will be Neuheisel’s last even if he leads the Bruins to a 6-6 regular season, as I believe he will. Can the Bruins win seven, eight games? Why not? There’s no intimidating opponents left on the schedule; U.S.C. is good but far from great, and the same can be said of Arizona State.

5. Houston Nutt, Mississippi (Last week: No. 7)

2011 record 2-4
Overall (since 2008) 24-20

Last week’s key for Nutt against Alabama: don’t get embarrassed. Unfortunately, embarrassment was on the menu for Nutt and the Rebels, who scored first to take a 7-0 lead but went on to allow 52 unanswered points in another SEC loss. That makes nine straight for Nutt, as noted earlier in the week, and that’s a new low for a Mississippi coach in conference play. So no, it wasn’t Ed Orgeron who brought this program to its knees against SEC competition: it was Nutt, and all this on the heels of back-to-back Cotton Bowl wins. This isn’t good. And with Arkansas and Auburn up next, the Rebels are staring at a 2-6 start.

6. Rob Ianello, Akron (Last week: No. 4)

2011 record 1-5
Overall (since 2010) 2-16

Ianello and Akron didn’t play on Saturday, which is good. It’s good Akron, which needed a breather. It has to be good for Ianello as he looks for answers. And it was good for all of us who are bothered by terrible football — and Akron football is not good football. But the Zips have been a tad more competitive over the last two weeks, losing to Eastern Michigan by eight points and to Florida International by only 10. So are better days ahead? I’m not optimistic, but it’s not like the Zips take on the SEC West over the second half of the year.

7. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (Last week: No. 10)

2011 record 2-5
Overall (since 2010) 5-14

Enos’s stock fluctuates nearly as much as actual stock — you know, the stuff on Wall Street. I think that’s a metaphor that might ring a bell with a few of us. He was fourth on the debut list after starting 1-3, moved to seventh the following week at 2-3 and even moved down again, to 10th, after his offense put up a good fight in a loss to N.C. State. But losing to Eastern Michigan, even if the Eagles have improved under Ron English? That’s as close as inexcusable as it gets for Central Michigan, which had outscored E.M.U. by 48 and 38 points over their last two meetings. Bad, meet worse. Enos is in trouble.

8. Rick Stockstill, M.T.S.U. (Last week: No. 9)

2011 record 1-4
Overall (since 2006) 34-34

We’ve had a week to swallow and digest Middle Tennessee State’s loss to Western Kentucky, but let me tell you: the loss still tastes terrible. It’s a horrific, abysmal loss, one that came against a team that was lambasted by Indiana State a few weeks before, and it’s likely one that won’t soon be forgotten by the M.T.S.U. faithful. And amid that mess came further damage, as Stockstill lost his offensive coordinator, Willie Simmons, after he resigned following allegations of aggravated assault. If you’re making marks on the wall, Simmons’ departure means Stockstill and the Blue Raiders will be on their fifth offensive coordinator since 2008. Whether Stockstill returns in 2012 or no, the Blue Raiders will be onto a sixth coordinator next fall.

9. Jeff Tedford, California (Last week: N/A)

2011 record 3-3
Overall (since 2002) 75-45

As noted after last week’s loss to U.S.C., Tedford is about to enter the most important four-game stretch of his coaching career. It seems likely, as of today, that his team will lose road games to Stanford and Arizona State to end the regular season. So in order to reach bowl play, California needs to win at least three of four against Utah, U.C.L.A., Oregon State and Washington State. Doable, I’d think. But would 6-6 be enough? What about 7-5? Cal’s slide since the beginning of the 2010 season doesn’t bode well for Tedford’s future. But he has three factors in his corner: one, the university certainly remembers how bad the football program was prior to his arrival; two, his work on the team’s graduation rate warrants praise; and three, his contract includes a hefty buyout.

10. Paul Wulff, Washington State (Last week: N/A)

2011 record 3-3
Overall (since 2008) 8-35

It’s probably fair to put Wulff back on the list, though my heart’s not in it. Washington State is 3-3, though a loss to U.C.L.A. nearly two weeks ago may send this season into a tailspin. Not that the Cougars will falter mentally; it’s more that the schedule kicks into high gear from here on out. And the three wins, while nice, did come against three terrible teams: Idaho, U.N.L.V. and Colorado — the latter by four points, thanks to a late score. So the resume of wins isn’t strong, and while the Cougars may rebound to win five games they really needed a win over Bruins to solidify any bowl hopes. Wulff needs at least five wins, and even then his job would be on shaky ground heading into the winter.

Dropped out

Bob Toledo, Tulane (Last week: No. 6)
Pat Hill, Fresno State (Last week: No. 8)

Previous lists

Week 7 list Frank Spaziani, No. 1
Week 6 list Rick Neuheisel, No. 1
Week 5 list Rick Neuheisel, No. 1

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  1. Parker says:

    Hi Paul

    Back in 2009, I traveled to New Orleans for the UH-Tulane game. Houston had about 4,000 people make the trip. We outnumbered the Tulane fans.

    Yet Tulane announced a crowd of 22,891. I think we’ve discovered where furloughed former Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Shahaf wound up.

    Back in 2009, the Tulane side of the Superdome did not look much fuller than this picture of the Tulane side from the recent Syracuse game:


    I recall reading a New Orleans newspaper article on that 2009 trip about how Tulane’s football team goes home for the summer. That as a private school in the wake of Katrina, they choose not to allocate their resources to put the football team in summer school so that the team can work out together during the summers like most schools do (volunutary 7 on 7, weight room, etc.)

    This told me that Tulane is not committed to winning football. Until that changes, it doesn’t matter who the coach is.

    But if the Green Wave decide to commit, then Major Applewhite would be a great choice if Rich Rodriguez passes.

    Major’s mentors Mack Brown and Greg Davis got their starts at Tulane. Major was part of the Todd Graham miracle at Rice and knows what a private school can accomplish in C-USA. He played HS ball in Louisiana. And he’s supposed to be a great recruiter.


  2. Nick Seevers says:

    As a Cal fan I am completely and utterly against firing Tedford. At the very least he gets one more season to turn it around in the stadium he literally built. I think a bowl game assures his seeing another year, even at 6-6. Not making a bowl game may get him fired, but I would be completely against it.

  3. tulaneoutlaw says:


    We are bad about announcing attendance numbers that are clearly not correct. However, your information is outdated concerning summer school. I was around campus all summer and can speak to the fact that the entire football team was taking classes and participating in work outs. That said, Tulane does need to up its commitment to football (and really all athletics). Moving past Bob Toledo is the school’s first step in upping that commitment.

  4. schedule nit says:

    The problem with Tedford on this list is Cal must realize that if they replace him, they will basically be looking for the coach who is the most similar to Tedford they can find. It sure seems like they would rather just sit back and hope the team starts winning within a few years. And, hey, it’s not like they’ve looked as bad as UCLA last night!

  5. Chris says:

    I’ve read before that Tedford has no buyout clause in his contract so he would be owed the entirety of his contract. This is over 10 million dollars. He’s not going anywhere.

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