2014: The (Other) B1G Coaches

This season marks the beginning of a new era for the B1G conference. There are two new member schools, a new East/West divisional structure, and of course the new College Football Playoff as a potential post-season reward. Navigating this new world are 14 coaches in various stages of their careers. We already know all about our own fearless leader, but let’s take a look at where the rest of the head honchos stand:

The Veteran

Kirk Ferentz – Iowa. I’m honestly not sure how Ferentz manages to hang on to this job, but there he is. Still. The only current B1G coach who had his job before Y2K, Cap’n Kirk has only hit 10 wins four times out of 15 seasons, and only once in the last nine.

But guess what? This year Iowa misses Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan. They play Wisconsin and Nebraska at home at the end of the season and face Northern Iowa, Ball State, Iowa State and Pittsburgh out of conference, with only the Pitt game on the road. Nine wins should be the minimum acceptable out of that bunch, and I’d guess they snag another one in there too.

Ferentz is a lock for B1G Coach of the Year, which he won in three of those four 10-win seasons, including 2002–when Jim Tressel took Ohio State to the national championship game (the award was given out before he also won that game.)

The Newbie

James Franklin – Penn State. Franklin is in an unusual position for first-year coach. Even though he still has to deal with the fallout of NCAA sanctions related to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, he is unlikely to get any of the forgiveness that coaches typically get in these cases. That’s because his predecessor Bill O’Brien managed a 15-9 record in the first two years under the harsh punishment. If Franklin can’t at least match that performance, fans will grow impatient.

Right or wrong, Franklin needs to finish above .500 right out of the gate to stay off the hot seat. Fortunately for him, he was able to that for two of his three years at Vanderbilt, and went 6-7 in his first year, which tripled the win total from the previous year.

The Safe Zone: Coaches Who Aren’t Going Anywhere Unless They Want To

Mark Dantonio – Michigan State. It’s impossible to overstate what Mark Dantonio has achieved for the Spartans. Besides being the most recent conference and Rose Bowl champion, he has won 69% of his games, including five out of seven against in-state rivals Michigan (the two losses coming by a total of six points.)

Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern. Following the shocking death of Randy Walker, Fitzgerald was named the new Wildcat head coach. He had no previous head coaching experience, having served as linebackers coach for five years at Northwestern, and for three years before that at Maryland, Colorado and Idaho.

Yet he has become perhaps the most accomplished coach in the program’s history, making five consecutive bowl games and delivering the first post-season win since the 1949 Rose Bowl. He also turned in the school’s second 10-win season in history–the first came when he was suited up at linebacker.

Bo Pelini – Nebraska. I probably could have just as easily put Pelini in the Hot Seat section, since Cornhusker fans are consistently disappointed in how their season turns out. That’s probably because Pelini has consistently lost four games a year since become head coach in 2008.

Exactly four games. Every single year.

I can see how that would get maddening, but it also means he wins nine or ten a year, and it’s tough to argue that he should be let go for that. No, it’s far more likely that Pelini will be let go for choking an official to death and then using the corpse to beat his kicker for missing an extra point.

The Hot Seat: Coaches Who Need To Get Something Done Or Get Packing

Kevin Wilson – Indiana. Indiana doesn’t ask for much from their football program. Get to a bowl game on a regular basis like Bill Mallory did in the late-80s/early-90s, and you won’t hear too many complaints from the Hoosier faithful. But that doesn’t mean IU has a long leash. Bill Lynch only got four years, sputtering for three after reaching the Insight Bowl in 2007. Gerry DiNardo got axed after three years and eight wins. While Wilson’s teams have shown some promise, he needs to make the post-season in 2014 or it’s curtains.

Brady Hoke – Michigan. You probably won’t see the coaches of Michigan and Indiana grouped together too often, but unlike Wilson, Hoke has actually been regressing each season with the Wolverines, to the point that most people now credit his stellar first season more to Rich Rodriguez than to Hoke himself. Yeah, I know.

As if atoning for all of his own failures wasn’t enough, Hoke must try to make up for Lloyd Carr’s infamous loss to Appalachian State in 2007. If the unthinkable happens again, Hoke might not make it to this year’s edition of The Game.

Up-and-Comers: Coaches Showing Promise

Jerry Kill – Minnesota. No, Kill hasn’t posted a stellar record in his first three years as Top Gopher. Yes, his multiple kidney cancer induced sideline seizures have been terrifying and lead many (myself included) to wonder if this is the best job for him. But the most important thing about Coach Kill is that his teams are steadily improving, making him more likely to become the next Glen Mason (or better) rather than the next Tim Brewster.

Randy Edsall – Maryland. Having guided the Connecticut Huskies from I-AA to perennial bowl team over the course of 12 years, Edsall was brought in to take over the Terrapins program after the severely mishandled firing of Ralph Friedgen.* While they may not be quite where Maryland fans would like to see them, Edsall’s teams have been progressing each season.

*Interesting side-note: Friedgen is now the OC at Rutgers, while his former Maryland OC James Franklin is the new head coach of Penn State. All three teams will compete in the new Big Ten East division.

Gary Andersen – Wisconsin. After just one year on the job, Andersen is the best of this bunch so far. He turned in a 9-win season last year that would have been 10 if the Arizona State game had been officiated competently. His Badgers didn’t get blown out in any game, with the worst loss coming in the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina–a closely contested game that ended in a 34-24 defeat.

Too Early To Tell

Kyle Flood – Rutgers. He’s won 15 games in two years with Rutgers, but the B1G (East) is not the same thing as the Big East. If he gets time to adjust, he may end up okay. How patient will Scarlet Knights’ fans be?

Tim Beckman – Illinois. While six wins in two years isn’t great, Beckman’s team improved last year and if he keeps it up, he may prevent Illinois from becoming the go-to punchline of the B1G.

Darrell Hazell – Purdue. Last year was a complete disaster for Hazell. His lone win was a 6-point victory over Indiana State–a team that also went 1-11 last year. (Their lone win was against 2-9 Quincy. We better stop there.)

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