Arizona hired Kevin Sumlin on Sunday (January 14) as head coach to complete a domino effect of changes that began on November 26 when he was fired by Texas A&M. The Aggies subsequently plucked Jimbo Fisher from Florida State on December 1, leading the 'Noles to hire Willie Taggart away from Oregon on December 5 after just one season with the Ducks. Oregon filled its position from within by promoting co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal on December 8, just 3 days after handing him the interim tag. The Arizona job became vacant when Rich Rodriguez was fired on January 2.
Rodriguez' dismissal came in the wake of a sexual harassment claim that could not be substantiated after an outside law firm investigated the allegation. Rodriguez denied the allegation and the complainant declined multiple requests to participate in the investigation. Nonetheless, the school said it was "in the best interest of the University of Arizona and our athletics department to go in a new direction". Arizona completed a 7-6 season with a loss to Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl. Rodriguez was 43-35 over 6 seasons with the school, but just 24-30 in PAC-12 play. His best year came in 2015 when the Wildcats won the league's south division title in 2015, but lost 51-13 to Oregon in the conference championship game before falling 38-30 to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the year 10-4.
Sumlin was considered to be a prize catch by Texas A&M after he had led Houston to a 12-0 record in 2011 before the Cougars fell to Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship game. He left Houston with a 35-17 record.
At Texas A&M, Sumlin was 51-26 in 6 seasons, but barely above water in SEC games at 25-23. His first team lost just 2 games, the second lost 4, and each of the last four teams have had 5 losses. The former Texas A&M assistant under R.C. Slocum in 2001 and 2002 was fired from the Aggies the day after a loss at LSU dropped the team to 7-5. Sumlin had led his teams to 9 bowl games in 10 seasons, though he didn't coach in Houston's 2012 Ticket City Bowl win or the Aggies' Belk Bowl loss in December. Tony Levine was Houston's head coach in the Ticket City Bowl win over Penn State, and Jeff Banks served as interim head coach for the Aggies' in a 55-52 loss to Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl.
Five days after Sumlin as fired from A&M, Fisher resigned from FSU and was immediately announced as the head coach of the Aggies. Florida State was just 5-6 when Fisher stepped down, but associate head coach and defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins led the team to a victory over Louisiana-Monroe the next day to get the school to a 36th straight bowl game. Haggins later led FSU to an Independence Bowl in over Southern Miss to save the 'Noles from suffering their first losing season since 1976 which was Bobby Bowden's first year at the school and his only losing campaign.
Fisher was 83-23 overall, 48-17 in the ACC, and 5-2 in bowl games and postseason playoff games. His teams won 3 straight ACC titles from 2012-2014, and the 2013 squad went 14-0 and won the last Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national title. The 2017 team was among the preseason favorites to win another national title, but lost starting QB Deondre Francois in an opening-day loss to Alabama. Florida State won only 3 of its first 9 games.
With Fisher headed to Texas A&M, the Florida State administrators needed just 4 days to secure Willie Taggart. Oregon had just completed a turnaround 7-5 campaign after the 2016 team had sunk to 4-8 under Mark Helfrich. The former Western Kentucky quarterback, and later WKU head coach, has quickly built a reputation as a man with great recruiting strengths and the ability to rebuild programs in a hurry. While his 47-50 overall record isn't scintillating, his final year at each of the three schools he's coached have produced winning seasons and a combined mark of 24-12.
Cristobal's promotion by Oregon was somewhat surprising as his only previous head coaching experience was at FIU from 2007-2012 where he was 27-47 over-all, 20-26 in the Sun Belt, and 1-1 in bowl games. Cristobal is the third head coach of Oregon in 3 years.
Taggart is now with his 3rd different team as head coach in just under a year. On December 10, 2016, he was the head coach at USF. On the 11th of December in 2016, he was the head coach at Oregon. On December 5, 2017, Taggart moved on to FSU.
Before Arizona's announcement of firing Rodriguez, the last empty seat on the 2018 coaching carousel had been filled on Monday December 18 when Kent State hired Syracuse's Sean Lewis to replace Paul Haynes. Lewis, a Dino Babers protege, served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Orange for the last 2 seasons and also worked under Babers at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois. Haynes was fired the day before Thanksgiving (November 23) following a 2-10 season and a 14-45 mark over 5 years at the school. He missed the first two games of 2017 while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was acting head coach during that period.
See: Coaching Changes