We’re just jumping into spring practice (you can look at every ACC team’s previews here), but for all 14 (15) squads, this is the start of the 2013 season. And for head coaches, this is where the year’s evaluations start; from their players, the school administrations, the fans and the boosters that can easily pull the plug on their position. While some of the ACC‘s head coaches are firmly entrenched where they’re at, there are also plenty that find themselves in precarious situations. Regarding both, we provide a quick evaluation of where all of them stand, new coaches and all.
Completely Safe (5)
Dabo Swinney, Clemson (sixth year): Swinney has brought the Tigers to an extended period of success they haven’t seen in decades, winning the ACC, becoming a perennial top-20 program and taking home a huge victory in the 2012 Chick-fil-a Bowl. The only things left? Consistently beating South Carolina and winning a national championship.
David Cutcliffe, Duke (sixth year): After getting Duke to their first bowl game since 1994, it appears that Cutcliffe can do no wrong in Durham. Of course, now the question begs whether he can keep it up. So long as he can consistently win between five and seven games, Cutcliffe will be just fine at Duke.
Charlie Strong, Louisville (fourth year): Strong had a real opportunity to leave this past offseason, yet chose to stick around at Louisville to finish what he started. While there’s always the threat he could head to the SEC, Strong’s ability to rebuild this program and contend on a national stage (see: Sugar Bowl) have him here long-term if he wants to be.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina (second year): Just a small sample size for Fedora thus far, but in his one season, he’s already brought UNC to a place of far more prominence than they’ve been in a decade. He’ll get several seasons to continue implementing his system, but if trends continue, he’ll be fine in Chapel Hill.
Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (second year): Another second-year coach, Chryst has seen some results after a season at the helm, but it appears he’s set to grow the program further after (especially after a nice recruiting haul this spring). If they take a step back, questions may start, but he’s got plenty of runway to work with.
Fine for Now (4)
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (fourth year): Expectations are always high at FSU, so it’s no surprise Fisher sits here, despite winning 12 games and an ACC title last year. Now, of course, it’ll be interesting to see if he can live up year-to-year. If Fisher can’t contend more than every few seasons, patience will grow short very quickly around Florida State.
Al Golden, Miami (third year): Miami’s hit rock bottom, so it’s understandable that expectations around “the U” have changed from what they once were. Golden appears dedicated to getting the ‘Canes back to prominence, and as long as they look to be moving in that general direction, he’s fine. But a step back would do a lot of damage right now.
Mike London, Virginia (fourth year): London’s first three seasons in Charlottesville are not unlike former SU head coach Doug Marrone’s first three with the Orange; an eight-win campaign bookended by losing efforts. Now, London’s shown himself more than capable on the recruiting trail, which assists him a great deal. But he’ll need to translate that to wins (at least six) this year.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (27th year): One mediocre season (arguably the worst in two decades) for Tech, and there were some fans calling for Beamer’s head last year. Though it may be a stretch to think the program’s long-time coach deserves the boot after a 7-6 campaign, it does move him down a line. Another .500-ish year and his escalating age could suddenly make the Hokies’ head coaching job look more available than it has in quite some time.
In Trouble (3)
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (sixth year): Patience is wearing thin around Atlanta, as Tech fans see diminishing returns on the recruiting trail and a significant gap between the talent level there and at arch rival Georgia. Success for the ‘Wreck has typically been defined as eight or nine wins, but it seems as if lately, the team either falls short or struggles mightily to get there.
Randy Edsall, Maryland (third year): First year was a complete disaster. The second, he gets a mulligan for his injury-riddled losing effort. But if Edsall’s squad can’t win more than four games this season, he could very well be shown the door before the team’s impending move to the Big Ten.
Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (13th year): Grobe allowed Wake Forest fans to experience something they thought was out of their reach — an ACC football championship. Yet since then, there hasn’t been much to cheer about for the Deacs, and you can tell the fan base is getting antsy (about the entire athletic department). Grobe has a senior-laden group this season, and must get back to a bowl game if he’s staying for year 14.
New in Town (3)
Steve Addazio, Boston College (first year): Nearly anything Addazio does will be better than his predecessor, Frank Spaziani’s performance. But his true challenge will be to re-energize a fan base that has quickly grown tired of lackluster efforts. Titles aren’t necessarily the goal. BC just wants to get back to bowl games and respectable football right now.
Dave Doeren, NC State (first year): Former head coach Tom O’Brien guided this team to a hump he simply couldn’t help them over. Now, it’s Doeren’s turn to help them contend and thrive in North Carolina. Bowl games have become the minimum in Raleigh, so he has work ahead of him to show he’s not just another coach to get them seven wins or so.
Scott Shafer, Syracuse (first year): Shafer has a hard act to follow in Marrone, but he’s been left with a much better program than where it was back in 2009. And Syracuse fans also seem to be back to their old ways. While they get it’s a slow process, the Orange faithful are once again holding this squad to a six-win minimum, with an expectation for growth, too.
So, did we paint an accurate picture? Are there coaches you firmly believe are on the hot seat? Feel free to toss in other opinions in the comments.