Big Ten Coaches on the Hot Seat – Legends Division

By at June 27, 2011 | 10:52 AM | Print

It’s time once again to examine the hottest seats of today’s college football coaches and today we’re concentrating on the Big Ten. The heat of the seats is determined by a combination of tenure time, career & school records, recruiting, attitude of the fans, salary and upcoming schedule.

The “hotness” is measured on a scale of 1-10 with a “1” meaning “completely safe” and “10” meaning “don’t sit down for fear of immediate third-degree burns.” Having a realtor and moving company on speed dial is strongly advised.

Jerry Kill, Minnesota: 3

The Golden Gophers will be an interesting team to watch. Minnesota has a bad habit of firing coaches that were very good for them (Glen Mason) and Kill’s history is possibly setting up the fans for a letdown this year.

He’s set to make $1.5 million in his opening season and the fact remains that he is going to start the year with a very green offensive backfield. His quarterback, MarQueis Gray is a converted wide receiver and the leading rusher from last year, DeLeon Eskridge left the team.

The Gophers will lean heavily on wide receiver Duane Bennett as the season begins. Starting the year at Southern California isn’t the best way to start a new regime in Minneapolis. If Minnesota loses that game, hopefully the fans will realize that there are fewer places more difficult to start your career as the visiting coach. If Gray doesn’t pan out quickly, don’t be surprised if there is heat put on Kill to play Dexter Foreman.

Brady Hoke, Michigan: 4

Brady Hoke’s entering choppy waters and expectations are high. Hoke has a history of turning schools like Ball State and San Diego State into very good teams, especially on offense. With Dennard Robinson and a defense that has nowhere to go but up, there is a growing opinion that Hoke should be able to do well this year.

It’s surprising that Michigan is giving a coach with a sub-.500 record (48-50) $2 million per year, but Hoke continued to improve at SDSU following his last few years at Ball State. With the schedule that Big Blue has, a season-opening win against Notre Dame would go far. If Hoke can finally end the nightmare of losing to Ohio State, he’s golden.

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: 4

Dantonio has a few things to worry about this year. Michigan State is loaded for a conference title run. Coming off last year’s conference title season that ended sourly against Alabama, there is cause for concern if the Spartans finish worse than second in the Legends division. Remember, this is a team that had to come back in a few games they should have dominated last year.

Add into the fact that Dantonio has had health issues and you have to wonder if a bad season would force him to step down. His record is 33-19 as of last year, but don’t forget that in 2009, Michigan State had a record of 6-7. Five years in and making $1.9 million per year, one has to wonder if the Spartans could do better than Dantonio if he had to move on following 2011.

Bo Pelini, Nebraska: 4

Pelini is entering a make or break year at Nebraska. With the transgressions at Ohio State, Nebraska is the clear front runner for the Legends division and the conference crowns. With a new offensive coordinator that he hand-picked in Tim Beck and a defense that has proven to be stout the last few years, there is much for Pelini to be proud of.

However, there have been games lost in ways that have made some fans shake their heads such as last year’s games against Teaxs, Texas A&M and the 2010 Holiday Bowl. Considering the issues with Pelini’s temper and how he’s handled some players, it’s hard not to wonder what would happen if Nebraska only won six or seven games.

Pelini has taken care of business in his division going to the Big 12 championship game during the last two years. He’s compensated well at $2.1 million per season and has won over 70 percent of his games.

Fans in Lincoln are hungry for more and some wonder if and when the Huskers can get over the hump and finish the job under Pelini. Nebraska’s conference schedule doesn’t do them any favors, but Pelini would silence some critics with a Big Ten title.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: 5

The seat is hotter in the Chicago area as Fitzgerald brings the conference’s most experience offense to the table in 2011. Fitzgerald hasn’t been a poor coach going 34-29 in his five years at Northwestern. He’s actually a bargain at only $800,000 per year. With the return of Dan Persa and a schedule that isn’t very tough leading up to the Michigan game, a solid year isn’t out of the question.

The Wildcats could have one loss or even be undefeated heading into their game versus Iowa. Should Northwestern claim eight wins, there is no doubt that he’ll get a few more years added to his contract. Fitzgerald could very well be at another school as a regular BCS contender. The fact that he has a winning record at Northwestern, a school that’s pretty brutal to get into, speaks volumes about his coaching skills.

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: 8

The hottest seat in the Legends division is the one in Iowa City. With the biggest yearly salary in the conference at $3.7 million per year plus the constant overtures from other schools and the NFL, it’s hard to argue that Ferentz has produced the least with the most. Last year, he had an experienced team that was expected to vie for the conference and national championship. Instead, the Hawkeyes went 4-4 in Big Ten play leading to an 8-5 season.

Gone are All-Americans Adrian Clayborne and Ricky Stanzi. Replacing them is a very green defense along with quarterback James Vandenberg. The key is the expectations of Iowa fans. There are people in black and gold that think Iowa can sneak away with the division crown.

If that doesn’t happen and the Hawkeyes have a similar season to 2010, there will be loud calls for Ferentz’s job. With his salary and lack of results, you can’t blame them. Ferentz has gone 89-60 at Iowa but he has to prove that he should be around to coach a more experienced 2012 squad.

Leaders Division

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