The head coaching carousel in college football is already spinning out of control -- and it's not even November yet. There are already eight jobs that have come available this season, either due to head coaches retiring or being fired. That list includes some plum jobs (USC) and some, um, slightly less plum jobs (North Texas). It also includes three Big Ten jobs: Illinois (who got a head start on everyone by dismissing Tim Beckman before the season even began), Maryland (who fired Randy Edsall a few weeks ago), and Minnesota (where Jerry Kill retired yesterday). Kill's retirement was the saddest departure by far -- the press conference where he announced that he was stepping down due to health issues connected to his epilepsy was absolutely heart-wrenching to watch. Even as an Iowa fan, I found it pretty difficult to gin up any dislike of Kill and it's certainly sad to see a man unwillingly leaving a job he loves due to health concerns. Best wishes to Kill and his family.
Of course, before the season there was some talk that Iowa would find themselves in the thick of the coaching carousel -- although likely not in the middle of the season, unless things went really badly off the rails. As you might have noticed, things have, uh, not gone badly off the rails. In fact, we've blazing into some pretty damn exciting territory in the back half of this season. 7-0! Kirk Ferentz's seat -- however warm it was due to the disgruntlement of Iowa fans in the offseason -- is a heck of a lot cooler now.
But Iowa's still going to feel the impact of the coaching carousel -- especially at home. Iowa's already faced one interim head coach this year (Bill Cubit at Illinois) and they'll face another one this weekend (Mike Locksley). We know they'll face a third interim head coach at Iowa's next home game (the 11/14 night game versus Minnesota, where the Gophers will be led by Tracy Claeys). Hell, if things get bad enough in West Lafayette and Darrell Hazell gets the heave-ho in the next few weeks, Iowa could see a home Big Ten slate with nothing but interim coaches (Iowa hosts Purdue on 11/21). Interims for everyone!
It's hard to say what effect those interim coaches will have on Iowa's opponents -- and Iowa's own ability to win those games and keep this season rolling along. Illinois has been playing pretty well under Bill Cubit -- likely better than they would have under Beckman. Maryland looked inspired and fired up for their game against Penn State last week, their first without Edsall. When coaches get fired in midseason it's almost always because of poor performance, which is typically due (at least in part) to some sort of disconnect between the coach and the players. So it's not too shocking that an interim coach is often able to juice performances a bit -- everyone's happier! The asshole coach that no one liked all that much is gone! Minnesota's situation is a little different -- this is a change that no one on the Gophers' staff or team wanted to see. i'm not sure there's any way of knowing how they'll react -- maybe they'll use Kill's retirement as motivational fuel ("win one for Jerry!"). Or maybe they'll just be lost and confused -- neither reaction would be a surprise and either would be totally understandable, I think. We'll have to wait and find out -- but the ever-spinning coaching carousel is definitely adding some new wrinkles to Iowa's season this fall.
Incidentally, Iowa could be seeing a lot of new coaches next fall. We already know Iowa will be seeing two brand-new coaches (at Illinois and Minnesota -- unless either of them decides to retain their current interim coaches, I suppose) and it's not too unrealistic to think that Iowa could see as many as five brand-new coaches on the opposing sideline next year. Iowa State, Rutgers, and Purdue all seem like legitimate possibilities to replace their head coaches after this season. It could be six new head coaches if Miami (OH) replaces their coach, but I confess that I don't follow the MAC closely enough to know how likely that is -- but Miami (OH) is having another dismal season (1-7).
And, just for fun, how would you rank the Big Ten jobs available this year -- Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota? Go ahead and include Rutgers and Purdue in those rankings if you like, too.