Coaching Carousel Going Nuts

November 30, 2021 by Staff

Sunday, November 28 through Tuesday, November 29 may go down in college football history as the craziest two days for head coaching changes. It all started with Sunday's announcement that Lincoln Riley was leaving Oklahoma to go to USC, and Billy Napier was going from Louisiana to Florida. Then, it snowballed on Monday with reports that Brian Kelly is leaving Notre Dame to go to LSU.

Also See: Coaching Changes

Kelly said goodbye to his players Tuesday morning and then headed to Baton Rouge for an introductory press conference. The winningest coach in Notre Dame history leaves behind a team that isn't out of the running to make the College Football Playoffs. But, Kelly's departure could give that very same committee a pause for concern. In his 12 seasons at the helm of the Irish, Kelly amassed records of 92-39 over-all, and went 9-0 as a Covid year member of the ACC in 2020. The only perceived negatives could be a 5-5 bowl record that includes a 0-2 mark in the playoffs.

It was announced on October 17 that Ed Orgeron (4-3) would stay as head coach at LSU through the end of the 2021 season, but a nationwide search for his replacement was already underway. LSU finished the season 6-6 and it was announced that offensive line coach Brad Davis would lead the team in its bowl game. Orgeron's team won the national championship in 2019, but was 11-11 since then.  He records at LSU were 51-20 overall and 31-17 in the SEC. For his career, Orgeron is 67-47.

Virginia Tech announced Brent Pry on Tuesday (November 30) as head coach of the Hokies where he will replace Justin Fuente who was fired with two games left to play in the regular season. Interim head coach J.C. Price led his Alma mater to a 29-24 upset win at Virginia to become bowl eligible after Fuente's 2020 team ended a 27-season bowl appearance streak. Price will be kept as associate head coach. Just when everyone was expecting Alabama OC, and former Penn State/Houston Texans HC, Bill O'Brien to be announced, Virginia Tech flipped the script and went with defense, giving Pry his first head coaching gig. He launched his coaching career as a grad assistant at Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer and Bud Foster from 1995-1997 and spent the last 8 seasons as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Penn State.

Fuente spent a tremendous amount of time on the hot seat and the school announced he was fired on November 16. Fuente's time in Blacksburg started out hot, going 10-4 in 2016, capturing the Coastal division title and winning the Belk Bowl. But that success was never repeated and he was just 24-23 over the last four years, including an 0-3 mark in bowl games. Not only did the bowl streak came to an end on his watch, but a 15-year winning streak over state rival Virginia ended in 2019 and his teams also endured losses to Liberty and Old Dominion, a pair of non-Power 5 schools in the state. He was 43-31 overall with the Hokies and 28-20 in the ACC. He is 69-54 in his career.

Meanwhile, Washington on Monday (November 29) poached Kalen DeBoer from Fresno State. Washington announced the dismissal of Jimmy Lake on November 14 after he had been suspended for 6 games for a physical altercation with an Oregon player, and one of his own, while breaking up a skirmish during the Huskies' 26-16 loss. He was not permitted to be with the team for the following week's 35-30 loss to Arizona State and was fired the next day. Lake was the HC for less than two seasons, finishing 7-6 overall and 6-4 in the conference. Bob Gregory, the defensive coordinator in his 8th season as a Washington assistant, was named interim head coach as the team lost its last three games to finish 4-8. DeBoer was 12-6 at Fresno State after going 67-3 at Sioux Falls when it was a D3 school. That gives him an insane 79-9 mark over-all.

Temple fired Rod Carey after a 3-9 season on Monday (November 29). After his inaugural team went 8-4 in the 2019 regular season, that team was clobbered 55-13 by North Carolina in the Military Bowl and the Owls proceeded to lose 15 of their next 19. He leaves with marks of 12-20 overall and 7-16 in the American Conference. Carey's over-all record is 64-50.

Also on Monday (November 29), Miami offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and former SMU offensive coordinator under Sonny Dykes, was announced as Dykes' replacement with SMU. The day-after-Thanksgiving (November 26), SMU lost Dykes to Metroplex rival TCU, Dykes was allowed to coach his teams' last game, which it lost 34-31 at home to Tulsa. Dykes' SMU team lost 4 of its last 5 games to finish 8-4 and he leaves the school with records of 30-18 over-all and 18-13 in the American Conference. He is 71-63 in his career.

David Cutcliffe and Duke mutually separated on Sunday (November 28) after a third straight losing season. The Blue Devils were 3-9 in 2021 and winless in the ACC. During 14 seasons in Durham, Cutcliffe's teams were 77-97 over-all and 35-79 in the ACC.

On Sunday (November 28), USC announced Lincoln Riley as its new head coach and Oklahoma named former head coach Bob Stoops as the man who will step in as interim head coach for the bowl season. Riley was 55-10 at Oklahoma while losing 2 games every season. He was 37-7 in Big 12 play and just 1-3 in bowl games. He replaces Clay Helton (fired after a 1-1 start) and Donte Williams who went 3-6 in the interim role.

It didn't take long for Helton to find a new head coaching gig, though he moved across the country and out of the Power 5 to fill the vacancy at Georgia Southern. Helton became the first head coach to be fired in 2021. The announcement came on September 13, two days after a 42-28 loss at home to Stanford as a 17.5-point favorite. The Trojans had been preseason-tabbed as national champion material by the Congrove Computer Rankings at Helton was originally named interim head coach in 2015 after Steve Sarkisian was let go five games in to the season and was later elevated to head coach. Helton's teams won 3 PAC-12 South titles and the 2017 conference championship. He was 46-24 overall and 36-13 in conference play.

Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Jared Benko on September 26 announced that they were parting ways with head coach Chad Lunsford, who had led the Eagles to a 28-21 overall record in four-plus seasons. On November 2, Georgia Southern announced Helton was the new head coach in Statesboro. Cornerbacks coach Kevin Whitley was appointed interim head coach after Lunsford's dismissal and went 2-6 after starting 1-3 under Lunsford.

Florida on Sunday (November 28) named Billy Napier its new head coach, effective after Louisiana's Sun Belt Championship game against Appalachian State. Napier was 39-12 with the Ragin' Cajuns, including 11-1 this year. Over the last three seasons, his teams were 32-5 over-all, 22-2 in the Sun Belt, and 2-0 in bowl games.

After dropping to 2-9 against Power 5 teams since the final 3 games of 2020, Dan Mullen was fired from Florida on November 21 on the heels of a 24-23 loss to Missouri. Mullen departed with records of 34-15 overall and 21-13 in the SEC. His career marks are 103-61 overall and a pedestrian 54-52 in the SEC.  Interim head coach Greg Knox became the fourth person to lead Florida in the past 8 seasons and he led the Gators to a 24-21 win over Florida State to prevent the 'Noles from becoming bowl eligible. Just a year ago, Florida played Alabama tough in the SEC Championship game, but the Gators lost virtually all of their skill players from that team and they were just 5-6 at the time of Mullen's dismissal.