Yesterday, they were powers on offense, conference headliners, New Year’s bowl participants – and in some cases – among college football’s elite.
Today, these teams are left for dead – preyed upon by the best of the best.
So what happened? The issues can often be drilled down to one coach – and his tenure – which resulted in the derailing of the program.
Top Ten Struggling College Football Programs and the Coaches Who Derailed Them
10. Kansas State – Ron Prince
From 1997-2003, the Wildcats rattled off 11-win campaigns in six of the seven seasons during that span. Kansas State earned a bowl berth over 11 straight seasons, and while K-State struggled under Snyder in 2004 and 2005, the program saw no turnaround under Ron Prince.
Actually, it was more of an “about face”.
In November 2008, Snyder returned for a second go-around.
The Numbers: Wildcats under Bill Snyder’s first tenure (136-68-1) vs. Ron Prince (17-20)
9. Tennessee – Lane Kiffin
During his mini-tenure at Tennessee, Kiffin caused a major stir, from poor recruiting tactics, to preseason big mouth comments and finally, to pushing Urban Meyer and the Gators to the limit.
Kiffin basically alienated himself from the SEC entirely – and then bolted for his “dream job” in southern California.
Here you go, Derek Dooley – good luck.
The Numbers: Lane Kiffin (7-6 in one season – plus countless messes to be cleaned up)
8. West Virginia – Bill Stewart
Many argue that Bill Stewart has done a fine job during his brief tenure at West Virginia, but those critics should compare his tenure to that of Rich Rodriguez, when he coached the Mountaineers.
During four of his last five seasons at West Virginia, Rodriguez was at the top of the conference – including double-digit win totals from 2005-2007.
Meanwhile, Stewart has posted back-to-back four-loss campaigns – pushing West Virginia back in the pack of arguably the weakest of the power conferences.
The Numbers: WVU under Rich Rodriguez – 60 wins in 7 seasons (with only 3 in year one)
7. Syracuse – Greg Robinson
The ‘Cuse hasn’t been considered an elite program in recent memory – but the Orange did win over 100 games in 14 seasons under Paul Pasqualoni – and a lot of that success is also thanks to the duo of Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison.
Robinson’s time as the head man – on the other hand – has been a complete disaster.
Heck, Doug Marrone almost halved Robinson’s win total during his first season as coach (2009 – 4-8)
The Numbers: Syracuse under Paul Pasqualoni (107-59) vs. Greg Robinson (10-37)
6. Texas A&M – Dennis Franchione
Under R.C. Slocum (1989-2002), the Aggies had zero losing seasons. During Franchione’s tenure, the 12th man at A&M went from a roar as big as Texas to hearing a pin drop. Now, Mike Sherman’s in charge, and after a 10-15 start – there’s still plenty of room for improvement – though there were moments of promise and hope in 2009 (e.g. versus the rival Longhorns).
The Numbers: The Aggies under R.C. Slocum (123-47-2) vs. Dennis Franchione (32-28)
5. Hawaii – Greg McMackin
Hawaii may not be a major football powerhouse, but they have become known for prolific offenses. That is, until McMackin took over for the departed June Jones. Last season, Hawaii was ranked 89th in scoring offense.
McMackin also further alienated the Warrior faithful with a slur, directed at Notre Dame.
Good call, coach – that’s a fan base that you want to tick off.
The Numbers: Hawaii under June Jones (75-41) vs. Greg McMackin (12-13)
4. Michigan – Rich Rodriguez
Rich Rod is only in his third season at Michigan, but three years of trying to fit a round peg in a square hole doesn’t cut it.
Three conference wins in two seasons? That simply won’t get it done when coaching one of the most historic programs in college football.
In fact, if Rodriguez doesn’t beat Ohio State this year, he won’t get the same time that Carr had to drive the program.
The Numbers: Michigan under Lloyd Carr (122-40) vs. Rich Rodriguez (8-16)
3. Colorado – Dan Hawkins
Raise your hand if you know the last time the Buffaloes finished a season ranked in the AP poll. That’s what we thought – try 2002.
In fact, those days of Kordell “Slash” Stewart seem like ages ago, don’t they? That’s because they are.
Yes, the days of Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett are gone in Colorado – replaced by Hawkins, who became more known for the playing time of his son than the team’s actual performance on the field.
The Numbers: Neuheisel and Barnett at Colorado (82-53) vs. Dan Hawkins (16-33)
2. Nebraska – Bill Callahan
The ‘Huskers were at the top of college football through the mid 90’s – posting three undefeated seasons in ’94, ’95 and ’97.
The ‘blackshirts’ posted numerous dominating performances under head coaches Tom Osborne and Frank Solich.
It wasn’t until Bill Callahan took over that the team started to slide to the middle of the pack in the Big 12 conference – and while Bo Pelini has injected some life into Middle America, this program still has a ways to go.
The Numbers: 255 wins under Osborne, 58-19 under Solich and 27-22 under Callahan
1. Louisville – Steve Kragthorpe
We won’t say he derailed the program. He put the program into a head-on collision with Syracuse for Big East cellar-dwelling domination. Period.
Kragthorpe managed to morph a great quarterback school into one that is known simply for their jersey logos—The Ville. Shouldn’t anything with “The” in front of it have something to be proud of? Ask Ohio State – they would answer with an emphatic YES…
The Numbers: John L. Smith 41-21 (‘98-‘02), Bobby Petrino 40-9 (‘03-‘06), Kragthorpe 15-21