Our American Athletic Conference staff got together this week to analyze the coaches in the AAC, mainly discussing which were facing the most heat in 2015. Each staff member rated each coach on a scale from 0 (could get the stadium named after him) to 10 (might get fired tomorrow), and all the votes were averaged to create an official spectrum from cold to hot. From there, the coaches were split into groups based on their averages and each staffer added their two cents about a coach or two. Without further ado, let's dive in.
These two schools should be less worried about firing their coach than losing him to a bigger school. It's entirely possible these coaches could be coaching a Power Five team in 2016.
Justin Fuente, Memphis (0.71)
Chris James: 0-12 and he still will be coaching Memphis. He has turned the culture and it is noticed.
Daniel Taylor: Justin Fuente’s seat is cool. Cool as creamy ranch dressing. Cool as an igloo armchair. Cool as Don Johnson-circa 1985. Barring the disastrous, the only way he’s not coaching Memphis football in 2016 is if he chooses not to.
Tom Herman, Houston (0.71)
Scott Stone: Tom Herman is about as safe as a coach can be.
Ryan Smith: Scott's right. If Herman has a good first season-- say, 8-4 or upwards-- you have to wonder how long Houston can hold on to him. He's already proved his offensive and recruiting chops. If he proves he can run a program, he'll be an even hotter commodity.
These coaches are all pretty recognizable names. They've either done enough for their program or haven't been on the job long enough that they won't be going anywhere for quite some time-- unless they choose to.
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (1.0)
Justin Mears: Ken is about as secure as you can get, as he is now the all-time winningest coach in Navy history. I would say he could be 1-11 this year and as long as the only victory is the 14th in a row against Army he will have a job next year.
George O'Leary, UCF (1.42)
Alex Mitchell: O'Leary isn't untouchable by any means, but he might as well be, because this UCF team won't do worse than 7-5 and a bowl. He has had the Knights competing for a few years now, and until that drastically changes he shouldn't worry about his job.
Chas Short: GOL is a UCF fixture and virtually all of UCF's meaningful milestones have occurred on his watch. He's not out until he wants to be. There's tremendous mutual loyalty between UCF and GOL. The more interesting question is whether heir apparent Brent Key will in fact eventually slot in.
Chad Morris, SMU (1.57)
Justin: SMU's program has fallen so far that he has at least 3 or 4 years before they would even consider making a change.
Ryan: Morris has the enviable combination of being a huge name at a talent-rich school that's recently fallen on hard times. He gets a blank check for a few years to fix the Mustangs up. His seat's ice cold.
Perhaps these coaches could find themselves in hot water with a bad season, but they're certainly safe for the foreseeable future.
Ruffin McNeil, East Carolina (2.28)
Ryan: For all the talent that ECU had last season, they very quietly underachieved. McNeil's done a good job in Greenville, but if the Pirates slip in 2015, you wonder if the ECU faithful starts to get impatient. Of course, this is all a moot point if he wins another nine games.
Phillip Montgomery, Tulsa (2.57)
Alex: I feel like Montgomery is under more heat than the other first year coaches just based on how bad Tulsa was last year, how good Tulsa was not too long ago, and how the fans that I know don't seem to have a lot of faith in him.
Ryan: Despite their poor record last year, Tulsa's got some horses on offense and their fans are accustomed to watching a winning program. There's potential for a turnaround here, but that's a double-edged sword-- if progress is slow, Montgomery's seat will heat up faster than say, Chad Morris'.
Matt Rhule, Temple (2.85)
Jake Hyman: He's a stable coach that wants to make Temple a brand of football in his vision. He has worked with little talent on the offensive side of the ball but has the defense in a great position to contend every week.
Ryan: This is a pivotal year for Rhule. His rebuild is well on schedule, and after going 6-6 last season, fans expect the Owls to make a bowl game and ruffle some feathers in the conference title race. If he pulls that off, he'll be a hero. If Temple misses a bowl, it'll feel like a giant step backwards.
Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati (3.14)
Ryan: Is there a coach in a weirder position? It seemed that Cincy fans were pretty fed up with Tuberville after they underachieved in 2013 and had an absolute black hole for a defense to start the 2014 season... but then they regrouped and nabbed a share of the conference title. The Bearcats look loaded this year, and as such I think Tuberville will be just fine, but this fanbase will turn on him quickly if things go sour.
This group consists solely of UConn's Bob Diaco, who leads a team that was awful last year and isn't projected to be much better this season. But Diaco's got a plan, and he seems to have Husky fans' full support during the rebuild. For now, anyway.
Bob Diaco, UConn (4.42)
Justin: I think Diaco needs to be somewhere around 5 wins to remain off the hot seat, but I think that is going to be extremely difficult for him this year.
Ryan: Diaco's getting another season. The Huskies are in a slow rebuild, so 2016's probably the pivotal year here.
At the Crossroads
One of the trickiest coaches to evaluate is Tulane's Curtis Johnson, who took a moribund program to a bowl in 2013 before dropping back below .500 during the Green Wave's first season in the AAC. Are the Greenies prepped for another step forward? Will Johnson lose his job with another losing season? Your guess is as good as ours. As you can see, the staff had trouble reaching a consensus on Johnson.
Curtis Johnson, Tulane (5.57)
Justin: Curtis Johnson needs a .500 record I think to stay on at Tulane.
Scott: I think AT LEAST eight wins and a bowl WIN for Johnson to keep his job.
Feeling the Heat
No AAC coach has a hotter seat than USF's Willie Taggart, who has gone just 6-18 in two season in Tampa. There's a very clear bar for him in 2015.
Willie Taggart, USF (7.57)
Alex: I don't know if there is a chance in hell he keeps his job unless the Bulls somehow finish above .500.
Justin: Taggart is going to have to have a winning record for sure to remain coach at USF next year.
How'd we do? Let us know your thoughts on your team's coach and the rest of the AAC.