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Ranking Pac-12 coaching hires, Part Two: The Frozen Middle

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A whole lotta “meh”

USC v Arizona State

Welcome back to our little offseason science project! Today, we determine the least interesting portion of the coaching hires over the last 2+ decades of Pac-10/12 football, the frozen middle. What is the frozen middle? Well, for these purposes, it’s that segment of football coaches who prevented their programs from reaching the next level, due to a glaring lack of competence. There are many well-known names in the middle, which is definitely not a credit to them.

If you missed part one, you can start here and then come back:

If there’s one thing we’ve discovered along this journey, it’s the fact that conference athletic directors are really good at making decidedly uninspired hires for the most important position in the entire department. Stunning, I know. With that, let’s get to the 100% subjective list!

Category Breakdown: Overall Record / Conference Record / Best Season / Worst Season

26. Charles Kelly, UCLA Bruins (2018-present)

Vitals: 10-21 / 10-15 / 2018 (4-8) / 2019 (3-9)

Comment: This hire seemed like a home run when it happened, or else Kelly’s UCLA stint would probably have ranked further down the list. One thing that struck me - UCLA hasn’t won a non-conference game yet under Kelly. Yikes! The Bruins did show some signs of life during the pretend 2020 season, and could be a contender in 2021, but the record is the record. But Chip’s lack of recruiting juice may doom this marriage rather quickly.

If this hire were a song:

25. Willie Taggart, Oregon Ducks (2017)

Vitals: 7-6 / 4-5 (That’s it. That’s the total.)

Comment: Question, rather. If a guy coaches at a school, but nobody remembers it, was he really ever there? Oregon fans were probably up in arms after Taggart bailed on Eugene after one season, but I’d guess the vast majority are now quite happy that Willie loaded up the bus and headed for Florida.

If this hire were a song:

24. Bill Doba, Washington State Cougars (2003-2007)

Vitals: 30-29 / 17-25 / 2003 (10-3) / 2005 (4-7)

Comment: I remember watching Doba’s debut in person, as WSU raced to a big lead over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, only to collapse in the second half and lose in overtime. I also remember reading about the game the next day, when Doba said he was surprised by the heat and humidity in Indiana, and his players weren’t prepared for it. You’ll recall that Doba was born and raised in northern Indiana. It was at that moment I thought this wasn’t going to go well.

Doba seems like a less successful version of Larry Coker. Took over a program with a lot of talent, but couldn’t recruit nearly well enough to sustain it, and let the program get away from him. On the other hand, he did finish above .500 and won three Apple Cups (probably should’ve won all five). In the end, he left behind a program that was rotting to the point of collapse, and it was pretty clear that WSU should have looked outside the program after Mike Price’s departure. When Price left, the offseason of 2003 was probably the best WSU’s job would have ever looked to a prospective coach, but WSU took the easy and lazy way out. Could write 1,000+ words. Won’t.

If this hire were a song (Fair warning - if you hit “play” you will witness the greatest music video of all time):

23. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State Sun Devils (2007-2011)

Vitals: 31-31 / 21-24 / 2007 (10-3) / 2009 (4-8)

Comment: The Dennis Erickson “Let’s coach every team in the conference” tour made its final stop in Tempe, and was decidedly /shrug. The only funny part was that he bolted Moscow after one season even though they kind of rescued his career. ASU under Erickson was like every other team Dennis coached, flashes of brilliance often undone by prolonged episodes of undisciplined buffoonery. By the end of his final season, it was clear that neither he nor his players wanted any part of each other in the future.

If this hire were a song:

22. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado Buffaloes (2013-2018)

Vitals: 30-45 / 14-40 / 2016 (10-4) / 2014 (2-10)

Comment: McIntyre’s stint in Boulder will go down as one of the great head-scratchers. After resurrecting San Jose State (they went from 1-12 to 10-2 in three years), MacIntyre inherited another downtrodden program and gradually rebuilt it. By his fourth season, the Buffaloes were the 8-1 Pac-12 South champs. That season will forever be one of the biggest outliers the Pac-8/10/12 has ever seen. The Buffaloes won six conference games COMBINED in MacIntyre’s other five seasons, and never finished better than 5-7. If not for 2016, Mike would have easily landed in last week’s edition, but somehow he had the Buffaloes beating damn near everybody for that one season.

If this hire were a song:

21. Mike Stoops, Arizona Wildcats (2004-2011)

Vitals: 44-53 / 30-41 / 2005 (3-8) / 2009 (8-5)

Comment: The captain of the Good Ship Histrionic took over another dumpster fire in Tucson and built it into a decent program, despite his absurd sideline act. I was quite surprised when I read that he lasted nearly eight full seasons. After building a slightly above mediocre program, Stoops finally wore everyone out and was fired in mid-2011. While his two brothers have been quite successful at leading programs, Shemp Stoops hasn’t sniffed another head job since, and is now the defensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic under...Willie Taggart.

If this hire were a song:

20. Dirk Koetter, (2018-present)20. Dirk Koetter, Arizona State Sun Devils (2001-2006)

Vitals: 40-34 / 21-28 / 2004 (9-3) / 2001 (4-7)

Comment: Does anyone remember anything about Koetter’s time at ASU? Like, one thing? Ok I remember when he led a hot Sun Devils team into Pullman in 2002 and got boatraced. Outside that? I got nothing. That’s why Dirk is smack dab in the middle of the list. Utterly forgettable.

If this hire were a song:

19. Justin Wilcox, California Golden Bears (2017-present)

Vitals: 21-21 / 11-20 / 2019 (8-5) / 2017 (5-7)

Comment: We’ve entered another stretch of “TBD” due to relatively new eras at Cal and ASU. Wilcox’s hire wasn’t exactly met with praise around the conference, but he’s steadily improved the Bears, with a very stingy defense and an offense that, well, ok it’s mostly been about the defense. 2020 was supposed to be a breakout year in Berkeley, but we all know what happened with that season. 2021 may well be the new 2020, but the record is still the record. One thing in Wilcox’s favor is the uptick in recruiting. However, ace defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was gobbled up by the Oregon money machine. In a classic “I know you are but what am I?” move, Cal hired Oregon assistant Keith Heyward to be the new DC.

If this hire were a song:

(That’s a really deep Wilcox cut for you long-timers)

18. Herm Edwards, Arizona State Sun Devils, (2018-Present)

Vitals: 17-13 / 11-11 / 2019 (8-5) / 2018 (7-6)

Comment: The Edwards hire was widely panned when it happened (yours truly included), with good reason, as he was a largely unsuccessful NFL coach whose college coaching resumé was comprised of a two-year stint in San Jose as an assistant...30 years ago. Results so far have been mostly par for the course in Tempe, read: “meh.” However, Edwards - four days shy of his 67th birthday - has compiled an impressive group of assistants and the recruiting classes have been better than in the past. Could 2021 be the year they break out? Maybe. But don’t hold your breath.

If this hire were a song:

17. Steve Sarkisian (2009-2013)

Vitals: 34-29 / 24-21 / 2013 (9-4) / 2009 (5-7)

Comment: Sarkisian was a decent hire, but was never able to break out of a cycle of mediocrity at Washington, rightfully earning the moniker “Seven-win Steve.” In Sarkisian’s final four seasons, Washington finished with the same exact middling 5-4 conference record. Naturally, Pat Haden saw Sark’s nondescript work in Seattle and thought, “Here’s the guy to lead USC back to glory! Get him on a plane asap!” That went well.

If this hire were a song:

16. Karl Dorrell, UCLA Bruins (2003-2007)

Vitals: 35-28 / 24-18 / 2005 (10-2) / 2003 (6-7)

Comment: To be honest, I didn’t realize Dorrell’s record was this decent in Westwood. He was like Mike MacIntyre, only with a higher floor. In the middle of Dorrell’s tenure, UCLA went 10-2 (should’ve been 9-3 but don’t get me started) and finished in the top 15. The other four years? 6-7, 6-6, 7-6, 6-7. And that one year where they weren’t stuck in neutral? The two conference losses were by scores of 52-14 and 66-19. So yeah, they weren’t that great in 2005 either.

If this hire were a song:

15. Lane Kiffin, USC Trojans, (2010-2013ish)

Vitals: 28-15 / 17-12 / 2011 (10-2) / 2013 (3-2)

Comment: I was all set to rank Kiffin far lower than this, given the way things ended, along with the overall vibe that Lane put off while in LA. Did he deserve the USC job when he was hired? Oh my God no. Then again, he didn’t deserve anything he’d gotten to that point. But he did lead USC to some decent-to-good seasons despite some crippling sanctions that were imposed just as he arrived, due to Mike Garrett’s hubris and the NCAA’s nonsensical punishment system. But Kiffin did very little to demonstrate that he’d be the best solution to lead USC out of the depths of NCAA purgatory, and that was proven over the course of 3+ years.

If this hire were a song:

14. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona Wildcats (2012-2017)

Vitals: 43-35 / 24-30 / 2014 (10-4) / 2016 (3-9)

Comment: Credit to Arizona for hiring RichRod after the disastrous three seasons at Michigan (where Lloyd Carr was a complete a**hole because that’s who he is). Rodriguez took the Wildcats to five bowl games in six seasons, and won a division title in 2014. You might also recall that he engineered a win at Oregon that same season, which was the only defeat of the Ducks before the CFP title game.

We’ll overlook that fact that he lost to that same Oregon team by 38 a couple months later, and that he couldn’t beat Boise State in a virtual home game shortly afterward. Oh, and let’s not bring up the sexual harassment lawsuit that led to his firing. Anyway RichRod was the best thing that happened to Arizona Football in many years (which isn’t saying much). He was the guy who turned Khalil Tate into a folk hero. Let’s just focus on that.

If this hire were a song:

So there you have it. All of the “meh” hires you ever wanted. Join us next time for the best hires in the last 20+ years! Also Mark Helfrich, barely!