Over the course of the season we’ve talked about coaches who are or aren’t on the hot seat. Some have had the pressure turned up, some we felt were gone almost all season long and others remain to be seen. As the final Saturday in the regular season is in the books, it’s time to take a look at the coaches we believe should be worried about not being on a Big Ten sideline as head coach next season.
Brady Hoke, Michigan
This is a no-brainer. Hoke went out and splashed the cash on a new offensive coordinator, but forgot to get rid of the rest of the problem and that meant getting rid of the rest of the offensive coaching staff. Not a single thing changed with a new coordinator in place — as the offensive line was bad, Gardner threw inexplicable interceptions on a weekly basis (he led the Big Ten in INT’s thrown with 15) and the run game was one of the worst in the Big Ten (ranking 9th in conference-only games).
Sure, the Wolverines had a great defense but the same could’ve been said of 2013’s team too and it didn’t matter much then. The final nail in the coffin for me was the fact that Michigan lost to both newcomers to the league, Maryland and Rutgers.
Michigan also struggled mightily on the road, only beating Northwestern (10-9) while losing to Notre Dame, Rutgers, Michigan State and Ohio State. Yes, that’s all three of Michigan’s rivals and a newcomer.
There is no bigger indictment of where this program is than that set of facts. Look for Hoke’s removal to happen quickly, because they’ll need to act fast to hold on to a recruiting class that is already crumbling.
Tim Beckman, Illinois
Over in the West division there’s a head coach that is going to be done in by the exact opposite problem that Brady Hoke had. Of course we’re talking Illinois and the three-year long lack of defense. Beckman’s teams ranked 10th, 11th (next to last) and now 14th in total defense during his three years in Champaign, Ill.
Yet, after two bad years in a row Beckman stuck with Tim Banks as defensive coordinator and it didn’t pay off. One has to wonder if things would be different today had he would’ve done what he did on offense after the first season — fire the coordinator(s) and transition to someone with huge experience on that side of the ball.
It’s that mistake more than anything that will likely cost him his job.
On a personal level, I’m a big fan of Beckman. He’s treated me well throughout his time as head coach, always respectfully answering questions and helping to give some insight on the game when needed (he probably didn’t even know he did that for me).
However, this is a business that’s driving by wins and losses, and the fact that Beckman has had a full four years and got his team to just one bowl game, plus just four Big Ten wins is all you need to know. Throttling Northwestern to get to a bowl game could save his job, but it may come with the ultimatum to fire Banks and change some things up on defense.
The ultimate question is if the AD sees this season as progress enough to keep him around for a fifth season.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana
This is the one that will be the most interesting to watch this offseason. I’m not 100 percent convinced that Wilson should be gone at Indiana, as he’s brought the talent level on offense to heights they’ve never seen and this year seems to be an exception, rather than the rule.
But, just like for Beckman this is a business driving by your record and Wilson has had four years to get his team bowl eligible and failed to do it. That said, he may have bought some leniency with a road win over SEC East champion Missouri and the realization that there were major injuries to this team in 2014.
It’s equally hard to ignore a 6-26 record in Big Ten play and no bowl game to date. The question for Indiana’s athletic director is if switching the head coach right now would bring better results? Perhaps it is wise to give that 3-4 defense just one more year to transition and if not then Wilson and his staff need to go.
Personally, that’s the route I would take, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him out of the job. That’s especially true knowing the program desperately wants to be in contention for more than minor bowl games. IU has invested a lot of money and expects better returns on said investment.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Going from easily the third best team in the Big Ten to losing to Wisconsin and Minnesota in back-to-back weekends has put Pelini on the hot seat once again. He’ll finish the regular season with another nine-win season though as Nebraska beat Iowa in OT on Friday to win the Heroes Game.
While winning nine and 10 games consistently is great, this team is clearly far away from competing for a Big Ten championship. I mean, they simply can’t get past Wisconsin and in a budding rivalry that’s not going anywhere anytime soon that’s a major concern for me.
The question is, does Shawn Eichorst pull the trigger and fire Pelini following his open support of him each of the last two seasons.
For me, the internal question that Eichorst must answer is if he believes Pelini is the guy that can get this team from competing at a championship level to actually winning one. He’s had seven years and four championship game opportunities and failed to do it each and every time.
I would consider a move, but only if Eichorst knows he can have a guy he’s confident in that will lead this team back towards national title contention in the very near future. It isn’t worth getting rid of Pelini otherwise, at least in my opinion.