Hoo boy, if you’re a fan of the greater college football landscape like me, this week has been a doozy. With openings and shifts happening at powerhouse programs like Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame, LSU, Florida, and more, this year’s coaching carousel is shaping up to be one of the craziest ever. And it’s not even over yet!
Let’s take a look at how it’s been going for teams Boston College fans may care about.
Brian Kelly departs Notre Dame for LSU
This was one of the most shocking and messy developments of the coaching carousel this cycle. Brian Kelly, 12-year head coach at Notre Dame, said less than 2 weeks ago about outside job offers, “Unless that fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million dollar check, my wife would want to take a look at it first. I’d have to run it by her.” Well it looks like he ran it by his wife! Kelly left his longtime position at Notre Dame to join the ranks of Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin, and Jimbo Fisher in the SEC West at LSU. LSU is a cutthroat job (they just fired a head coach that won a national championship less than 2 years ago), but Kelly seems to think he can win big there despite the pressure.
An even worse look for Brian Kelly is the text he sent the Notre Dame team on the night the news broke. You can read it below.
Just now Brian Kelly messaged Notre Dame’s roster in Team Works that “I will be leaving Notre Dame.”
The plan is for Kelly to meet with the team tomorrow at 7 a.m.
Here is the full message pic.twitter.com/sqAl2txZIy
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) November 30, 2021
This text was followed by a 7am meeting the next morning that reportedly lasted a whopping 2 minutes. Yikes.
Notre Dame DC Marcus Freeman is promoted to HC
It was announced this morning that Marcus Freeman, Brian Kelly’s defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, is will be promoted to head coach for the Fighting Irish. This is not an interim head coaching gig like many teams with no head coach see for bowl games, Freeman is expected to become the full-time head coach heading into next season.
While Freeman’s defense has certainly been impressive this year, it’s a bit of a quick ascent for the 35 year old. He got his first coordinator position in 2016 at Purdue as their co-DC, was DC at Cincinnati from 2017-2020, and was DC of Notre Dame for 2021. In that time he’s turned down offers to become DC at LSU (under Brian Kelly), Ohio State, Michigan State, and the Tennessee Titans. It’s paid off for him now that he’s slated to become head coach at one of college football’s premier institutions, and it’s looking like he’s going to retain all of the important staff at ND.
Clemson DC Brent Venables is rumored to be heading to Oklahoma
Rumors broke out shortly after Oklahoma HC Lincoln Riley left for the greener, warmer pastures of USC. They suggested Clemson DC Brent Venables was a top candidate for the newly open Oklahoma job and and that there was mutual interest. This would be a surprise, as Venables has notably avoided other coaching opportunities beyond Clemson and was satisfied being Dabo Swinney’s (highly-paid) defensive coordinator. Venables has been key to Clemson over the past several years and he constructed and coached their 2 national championship winning defenses. This hit to Clemson’s defense would be pretty devastating, especially given the state of the Tigers’ roster in the past year, and suddenly ACC Atlantic teams like BC may be smelling blood in the water.
Virginia Tech fires HC Justin Fuente, hires Penn State DC Brent Pry
Virginia Tech fired their head coach Justin Fuente after he went 43-31 over 6 years, including 25-24 over the last 4. Virginia Tech has a higher standard for their program set by long-time great Frank Beamer who coached there from 1987-2015 and took the Hokies to 23 straight bowl games. Fuente missed a bowl game last year and had been generally lackluster as a head coach.
VT made what looks like a good hire to replace Fuente in Penn State DC Brent Pry. Pry, who was a grad assistant at Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer and Bud Foster from 1995-1997, has been at Penn State since 2014 and has been the solo DC there since 2016. Pry’s defenses have ended up in the top-25 statistically in 8 of his past 12 seasons at Penn State, Vanderbilt, and Georgia Southern. This past season, Penn State ranked 7th in scoring defense.
Virginia HC Bronco Mendenhall steps down
In a very surprising move, Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced on Thursday evening that he’d be resigning after Virginia’s bowl game. While he has struggled a bit the past two years, going 11-11, Cavaliers fans still felt he was mostly on the right track and that the team was in a good place. He took them to three straight bowls from 2017-2019, achieved an Orange Bowl berth, and will be going again this year. That’s pretty good for a Virginia program that only went to one bowl in the 9 years before Mendenhall got there in 2016.
Based on his statement below, something must be going on personally for Mendenhall that resulted in this decision. No replacement has been reported on at the time of this writing.
Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall said he’s been involved for last 31 years of football. “Clearly this week there was a sense of clarity. I needed to step back from college football & reassess my life as well as my wife as my partner & next chapter of our life. This was my decision”
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 2, 2021
Duke HC David Cutcliffe steps down
David Cutcliffe has been a revelation for the Duke football program, but he has overstayed his welcome a bit and will now part ways with the Blue Devils. When Cutcliffe was hired in 2008, Duke football hadn’t had a winning season in 14 years and they hadn’t strung together two winning seasons in 19 years. By 2013, Duke had 10 wins and a berth in the Peach Bowl. His job there was nothing short of remarkable.
But after an excellent stretch between 2013-2018, the wheels fell off and Duke has gone 10-25 in the 3 years since, including an abysmal 4-22 in the ACC. No successor has been reported on yet as of this writing.
UMass fires HC Walt Bell, hires Arizona DC Don Brown
Despite winning the Sickos Bowl over UConn this year, UMass has been unimpressed by Walt Bell’s performance and elected to let him go during the 2021 season. Bell went 1-8 this year, earning just his second win in 3 years as head coach, somehow doing even worse than his predecessor Mark Whipple.
For a replacement, the Minutemen got Don Brown in what’s as close to a home run hire that a program like UMass can get. Boston College fans may remember Brown as their DC from 2013-2015 who got BC’s defense to #1 in the country. Since then he’s been DC at Michigan and Arizona, having not much success in Ann Arbor but being very respected at Arizona. Brown also was UMass’s head coach from 2004-2008 when they were still an FCS program, going 43-19 for UMass’s best 5-year record in school history. It’s a good hire for the Minutemen, much to the chagrin of BC fans everywhere.
UConn fires HC Randy Edsall, hires former UCLA HC Jim Mora
Staying with terrible New England football programs, UConn decided early in the season to fire head coach Randy Edsall. Edsall had gone 3-23 in 2.5 seasons, with the catalyst for his firing being an embarrassing 38-28 loss to Holy Cross, an FCS program, in Week 2. What a dumpster fire. Edsall had also been the UConn head coach from 2000-2010, before being poached by Maryland after doing such a great job for the Huskies and even taking them to a Fiesta Bowl. That impressive performance obviously didn’t carry over into his second stint in Storrs.
As a replacement, UConn has tapped former UCLA head coach Jim Mora to take over. Mora has been a head coach for the Atlanta Falcons, the Seattle Seahawks, and most recently UCLA. He was fired as head coach of UCLA in 2017 and was sitting calmly with his buyout money before deciding to come out of retirement to coach UConn. Mora had some success at UCLA, defeating archrival USC, winning the Pac-12 South, and landing a #12 ranked recruiting class all in his first year. He continued that success in his first 3 years there, stringing together three 10-win seasons before it fell apart and he went 17-19 in the next three.
However, he may be most famous for his appearance on a radio show while he was coach of the Falcons. Mora, a Washington alum, said on a Seattle sports talk radio show in 2006 (while the Falcons were deep into a hunt for the playoffs) that he would take the Washington head coaching job if it was ever open, even if the Falcons were in the middle of a playoff run. Just in case you thought that was a joke, he went on to say that he was “dead serious” about it. After that season, the Falcons fired Mora. You’ve got a good one on your hands, Huskies fans!
Miami HC Manny Diaz is expected to be retained
Manny Diaz has done just an alright job as the head coach of Miami in his first three years, posting 6-7, 8-3, and 7-5 records as head coach. The Hurricanes are more accustomed to 9-win seasons, reaching that benchmark 3 times in the 6 year stretch between 2013-2018 before Diaz was hired. And of course they really want to return to the glory days of competing for national championships.
There were some rumors and reports that Lane Kiffin, current head coach of the red hot 10-2 Ole Miss Rebels, was interested in the Miami job if it became available. But either those reports were not true or Miami leadership didn’t want to pursue that route, as it is now being reported that Diaz will be retained for a 4th year. Or, alternatively, Miami just has no idea what they want as they navigate their current AD search. According to reports, their search for a new AD is a “mess” and Miami’s power players are all split on what to do about Diaz.
Multiple Miami AD candidates told @ActionNetworkHQ UM’s search is a “mess.” With more than 50 board of trustees & several donors involved “everyone is in charge, no one is in charge. They don’t know what they want to do w/Manny (Diaz). Half want him gone, half want him to stay”
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 2, 2021
Syracuse HC Dino Babers will return in 2022
Syracuse had a bit of a rebound this season, going 5-7, after they finished dead last in the ACC last year with a 1-10 record. The Syracuse AD came out recently to announce Babers will be retained for the 2022 season after speculation that he was on the hot seat and may be headed out the door. After his incredible 10-3 season in 2018, Syracuse has been unable to recapture that magic and hasn’t broke the .500 barrier since.
Colorado State fires HC Steve Addazio
Seven-Win Steve couldn’t even get to 7 wins at CSU, going 1-3 and 3-9 in his two years with the Rams until he was fired on Thursday. Along the way he was combative with the media (that’s nothing new) and struggled to recruit in the west (he’s been on the east coast his whole career, who could’ve saw that coming). It was a baffling hire at the time, and it still baffles me now. Boston College fans who enjoy pettiness, this one’s for you.
My favorite part of the whole endeavor, though, is that his coaching tenure at CSU ended with a walk-off ejection in the first half of his final game as their head coach after being issued two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties:
Colorado State HC Steve Addazio was ejected from the game for his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
He is the second ever FBS coach to be ejected from a game for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties since the rule changed in 2016. pic.twitter.com/nIF0HlaoxT
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 28, 2021
Do you know how hard it is to do that as a head coach?? Incredible sequence of events for Daz.
Jeff Hafley signs 5-year extension with Boston College
And of course, the news broke Monday that BC head coach Jeff Hafley signed a 5-year extension with Boston College to keep him in Chestnut Hill through 2026. Read about it here.