It's October, and if the past few years have taught us anything, we're only a few weeks away from ax-swinging time in college football. Today, we'll look at a few coaches on the hot seat and discuss what they can do to keep their jobs.
Ralph Friedgen/James Franklin (coach-in-waiting)
Resume at school: Ninth season, 65-39, 37-27 ACC, 4-2 in bowls, one BCS bowl, one ACC title
High point: Won ACC title in 2001
Losing to Middle Tennessee State in consecutive years might even get a coach fired in the Sun Belt Conference, so Friedgen might have reason to worry. A popular alum who turned the Terps into a player almost immediately, Friedgen's teams have been inconsistent in recent years. Some weeks, the Terps look like ACC title contenders. Other weeks, they look as if they'd struggle to win the Sun Belt. That's not good enough at a school that has a fertile recruiting ground in Maryland and the District of Columbia, but Friedgen probably stays for two reasons. First, he has banked a lot of goodwill through the years by being a standup guy. Second, it could cost up to $4 million to fire him this year. Complicating matters is a deal for Friedgen to hand off the keys to the program to Franklin after the 2011 season. If that doesn't happen, the school owes Franklin $1 million.
Resume at school: Ninth year, 56-47, 34-30 ACC, 2-3 in bowls, one New Year's Day bowl
High point: Going 6-2 in the ACC in 2007 (lost to Texas Tech in Gator Bowl)
Groh, who must have a cache of naughty pictures of some very powerful people in Charlottesville to have remained on the job this long, said this week that it takes a few weeks for a team to develop its identity. That's not quite true in the case of his team; the 2009 Cavaliers will forever be known as the group that lost to William and Mary. I know one of George Welsh's teams also lost to W&M, but that was a different era. Sitting at 0-3 with the ACC opener against North Carolina on tap, the Hoos need to cut a pretty wide swath through the conference to justify retaining their coach. According to the program's media guide, Virginia has just upgraded its locker room and weight room - so facilities aren't an excuse. The Cavaliers' sustained mediocrity makes no sense when the program sits on a goldmine of talent. The problem is the best players sign with Virginia Tech (Ryan Williams, Ed Wang, etc.) or leave the state (Percy Harvin, Evan Royster, Russell Wilson, Jerod Mayo). Since Virginia is a state school, its academic reputation should be a selling point, not a hindrance a la Vanderbilt. If Groh does get canned, expect some of the better coaching free agents to attack this job. The right coach can win big in Charlottesville.
Resume at school: 14-27, 8-16 Big 12, 0-1 in bowls
High point: An upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007
I covered Colorado's humiliation at Toledo on Sept. 11, and I was stunned at the lack of athleticism. Toledo had better athletes at almost every position. After the game, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn said the administration built a nice "façade" to mask the deficiencies left over from Gary Barnett's scandal-ridden tenure. Still, that doesn't explain the fact that only a handful of Buffaloes starters could crack the two-deep at a Big 12 title contender. Hawkins simply has to recruit better, because barring a significant fundraising drive, Colorado is stuck with him. Firing Hawkins could cost almost $3 million for a department that isn't exactly flush with cash.
Resume at school: Third season, 12-15, 6-10 Big East, no bowls
High point: Beating No. 15 Cincinnati on the road in 2007
Louisville is building an addition to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium that will open next season. Fans will not buy tickets for a program that seems stuck in neutral. If Kragthorpe doesn't make a major run in the Big East, athletic director Tom Jurich - whose hiring record was spotless before Kragthorpe - will have to make a change. Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com already has predicted the date of the firing (after the Oct. 24 Cincinnati game) and the identity of the next coach (Phillip Fulmer).
School: Notre Dame
Resume at school: Fifth season, 32-22, 1-2 in bowls, two BCS bowls
High point: Nearly beating top-ranked USC in 2005
Weis is a fascinating case. He must feel as if he's walking on a razor's edge this season. If the Irish make one more first down at Michigan, we're not even discussing Weis' job status. If a banged-up Jimmy Clausen doesn't gut out a game-winning drive at Purdue, we're probably already sizing up candidates. The next big win or big loss could be the one that decides whether Weis is safe or gone.
Resume at school: Fifth season, 19-32, 10-23 Big Ten, 0-1 in bowls, one BCS bowl
High point: Reached Rose Bowl as an at-large team in 2007
It seemed as if the Rose Bowl run was the start of something big for Zook, who stockpiled talent in Champaign almost as well as he did in Gainesville. This was supposed to be the season the Illini put it all together, but they've been stomped by Missouri and Ohio State. The Zooker still has seven Big Ten games to turn things around, but the clock is ticking.