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Conference USA Coaching Hot Seat Roundtable

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Managing Editor from Miner Rush Alex Nicolas joins us to talk about C-USA coaches who are on the hot seat.

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Southern Mississippi
Sean Kugler might have the hottest seat in CUSA following a blowout loss to Rice.
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting into my favorite part of the college football season. Nope, not bowl games, I’m talking about the sheer insanity that is the winter NCAA coaching carousel. Before we load up our FlightAware apps and start stalking coaches’ wives on Twitter let’s take some time to review the coaching landscape in Conference USA and make some predictions on how things shake out over the next few months.


This past weekend FAU fired Charlie Partridge. Did FAU make the right choice and where should the program go from here?

Jared: Yeah they definitely did. Partridge is a good position coach and a great recruiter but he just didn’t have the tools or disposition to build a winning program. In Partridge’s last game his defense allowed Middle Tennessee to break school records in points scored and total yards despite the fact that the Blue Raiders played three quarters without a healthy quarterback. That’s simply an embarrassment and embodies Partridge’s lack of schematic excellence. FAU should be able to make a really outstanding hire as FAU is one of the most promising mid-major jobs out there.

Cyrus: Absolutely they made the right choice. Fan support and attention to the program is at an all-time high and there’s no need to risk that on another year on Partridge. Going 9-27 in three years would have been the wrong message to send to the fan base had he came back.

The talent is already there on the roster and recruiting should continue to be fine (the one thing Partridge excelled at). I would like for FAU to hire Mario Cristobal but any offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator from a P5 program would be fine in my book.

Alex: Yes, especially with FIU making changes. They need to follow the UTSA blueprint and reel in a recruiting ace to scoop up the hidden talent in their state and surrounding areas. That gorgeous stadium is a big pitch, but they also need a coach with an exciting offensive scheme to put fans in those seats too.

Thoughts on the UTEP Miners and the job Sean Kugler has done in El Paso?

Jared: He’s in his fourth year at UTEP and the Miners have very little to show for it. Quarterback play has been a huge issue post Jameill Showers and that’s typically what does a head coach in. Kugler already shook up his staff in the offseason, bringing in new offensive and defensive coordinators to no avail. While El Paso is a tough place to win, the Miners have the resources to put together a more competitive team than they’ve shown over the past two seasons.

Cyrus: I think UTEP should part ways with Kugler. His pro-style run heavy system just doesn’t resonate with high school players in Texas and it’s hurt them on the recruiting trail since he’s been there. I think UTEP can do far better than Kugler. I’d like to see them go get Applewhite?

Alex: From a culture standpoint, Kugler is what UTEP needs, but his recruiting and overall development mixed with UTEP's failing attendance puts a cloud on Kugler's tenure so far. He's a Miner by blood, so he has passion to stick it out at UTEP, but his "out of the box" way of doing things in recruiting and offensive philosophy is not working in El Paso. He will be back next year where his job will finally be on the line.

David Bailiff has led Rice to a bit of a late season resurrection, knocking off Charlotte and UTEP in consecutive weeks. Do you think it’s enough to save Bailiff’s job?

Jared: I think Rice is going to take the easy way out and let Bailiff finish out his contract. It’s a weak move and one that wouldn’t fly at programs that face more pressure from boosters and alumni but my gut instinct is that Rice will stand pat to avoid doling out a large buyout allotment. If Herman ends up taking the head coaching job at the University of Texas then it would mean Rice would potentially end up missing out on grabbing Major Applewhite as their head coach, a decision which could haunt Rice for a while if Major continues his successful career.

Cyrus: I actually think it did save his job. Rice just got new facilities and that’s in large part due to Bailiff turning the program around. However, things could get dicey if Texas schools start poaching each other as I could see an SMU or even UTEP turning the tables and try to pursue Bailiff.

Alex: Yeah, I personally feel Rice can't do any better from a head coaching standpoint. Most of his defensive players will be seasoned upperclassmen next year, and he has a shot to develop Jackson Tyner into a suitable quarterback. I think he gets a minimum of two more years, but as a long time C-USA/WAC follower I think Bailiff should be able to stay at Rice as long as he wants.

On a national scale, this is looking to be a weak coaching market for Power Five programs. Is this the year Jeff Brohm finally leaves Western Kentucky? If so, where do you see him landing?

Jared: Go get that money Jeff, the time is now! I like Brohm’s chances to end up at a mid-tier SEC school. His brilliant offensive mind should make him a quick winner anywhere he ends up. That being said, I’m not sure WKU can make a hire worthy of replacing him. While WKU has ramped up their facilities and have a recent winning tradition they still suffer from a lack of support and don’t have a rich local talent base to pull from. If I’m WKU I’m looking for an air-raid guy that can take advantage of the talent the Hilltoppers already have in the program.

Cyrus: If the other major P5 jobs other than Texas and LSU don’t become open I think he stays. I don’t think Brohm is going to take a lower-rung P5 job. If he wanted to do that he would have jumped last year when Illinois, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, and other jobs of that stature opened up.

Before the season started I thought Brohm would end up at Tennessee and after Butch Jones’ failure to win a weak SEC East for the second straight year that very well could happen. I think Tennessee should definitely pull the plug on him and start fresh with Brohm. Should WKU lose Brohm I think they should go after Troy’s head coach Neal Brown.

Alex: Nope, and the weak coaching market is my reasoning. I'd actually like to see what Brohm could do at a school like Houston, but he has a nice gig at WKU right now outside of their attendance issue. If I'm Brohm I wouldn't leave that talent pool he's built up until a "dream job" comes his way, and I don't see that happening this winter.

It’s safe to say the Jay Hopson era at Southern Miss is not off to a roaring start. Do you see the Golden Eagles making an aggressive move and cutting ties after just one season?

Jared: I’ll say this— I’m 90% sure Hopson won’t finish his contract at Southern Miss. The contract is extremely, unprecedentedly university friendly and the Golden Eagles shouldn’t have any problem raising the funds to take full advantage of it. I don’t think USM will pull the trigger on Hopson this quick but I do think the school will force him to majorly shake up his staff. Hopson brought way too many coaches from the FCS level with him to Hattiesburg. We’ve seen that fail repeatedly yet FCS-to-FBS hires still seem to shake out that way. I’ll predict that Hopson skates on thin ice before being terminated in 2017.

Cyrus: Jay Hopson has massively underachieved this year but I don’t see Southern Miss parting with one of their own like that as Hopson really bailed out the administration in Southern Miss by taking the job. Beating Tech in the rivalry game really helped him.

Alex: Before the LA Tech game, yeah. But after they showed up and stopped LA Tech's offense, give him another year. His margin of error is small, and I'm sure he wasn't a sexy hire to some USM boosters. Although I think he comes into the the 2017 season already on the hot seat in my opinion.

On a scale of 1-5 (1 he’s gone, 5 100% coming back) , what are the odds Skip Holtz returns back to Ruston?

Jared: I’ll peg it as a 3. Holtz has done an incredible job at bringing Louisiana Tech back to their former glory but he still carries a bit of baggage from his failure at South Florida. Holtz would be very attractive to a program like Texas Tech that would want an air raid offense and a stiff defense but his lack of victories over Power Five programs while at Louisiana Tech (Illinois hardly counts) doesn’t make his name jump off the page like PJ Fleck or Jeff Brohm would.

Cyrus: I would say 5. Holtz has found his niche and it’s in the G5. He’s a decent coach and the resources at La Tech gives him a nice advantage over his peers but I think his failure at USF has scared him unless he turns Tech into a powerhouse and I don’t think he will.

Alex: I’ll say 2. I'd say he's more likely to leave than Brohm at WKU if a decent job pops up for the right price and situation.

Of all of the C-USA programs likely to dip their toes into the head coaching market which program do you see making the best hire?

Jared: I think FIU has already won this fight with Butch Davis but I think Rice will be able to make a strong hire if they part ways with Bailiff. Former Rice offensive coordinator Major Applewhite will likely be on the market and would be a fantastic fit for the Owls. Recruiting and sustaining a program at Rice is a challenge but Bailiff’s previous success has proven that it’s a possibility.

Cyrus: Unless FAU hires Charlie Strong (highly unlikely) FIU has the best hire as I don’t see any other program topping them.

Alex: I think LA Tech would be able to make an impact hire if Holtz leaves. Frank Wilson's hire at UTSA could be pressuring AD's in the C-USA West to check themselves, and LA Tech should be able to reel in a good replacement if Holtz decides to leave for any reason.