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Coaching Changes

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2005 Coaching Changes

by Matt James

Marshall's most successful football coach announced his retirement on Wednesday (March 9) as the school prepares to leave the MAC and enter CUSA. Bob Pruett, 61, called it quits after guiding the Thundering Herd to a 94-23 record in his 9 years at the helm. He coached Marshall to five MAC titles and five bowl wins and saw star players Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich move on to successful NFL careers.

How New Coaches Fared
BYU Gary Crowton 5-6 Bronco Mendenhall 6-6
East Carolina John Thompson 2-9 Skip Holtz 5-6
Florida Ron Zook 7-5 Urban Meyer 9-3
Illinois Ron Turner 3-8 Ron Zook 2-9
Indiana Gerry DiNardo 3-8 Terry Hoeppner 4-7
LSU Nick Saban 9-3 Les Miles 11-2
Marshall Bob Pruett 6-6 Mark Snyder 4-7
Miami (Ohio) Terry Hoeppner 8-5 Shane Montgomery 7-4
Mississippi David Cutcliffe 4-7 Ed Orgeron 3-8
Nev.-Las Vegas John Robinson 2-9 Mike Sanford 2-9
New Mexico St. Tony Samuel 5-6 Hal Mumme 0-12
Notre Dame Ty Willingham 6-6 Charlie Weis 9-3
Ohio Brian Knorr 4-7 Frank Solich 4-7
Oklahoma State Les Miles 7-5 Mike Gundy 4-7
Pittsburgh Walt Harris 8-4 Dave Wannstedt 5-6
San Jose State Fitz Hill 2-9 Dick Tomey 3-8
South Carolina Lou Holtz 6-5 Steve Spurrier 7-5
Stanford Buddy Teevens 4-7 Walt Harris 5-6
Syracuse Paul Pasqualoni 6-6 Greg Robinson 1-10
Utah Urban Meyer 12-0 Kyle Whittingham 7-5
Utah State Mick Dennnehy 3-8 Brent Guy 3-8
Washington Keith Gilbertson 1-10 Ty Willingham 2-9
Western Michigan Gary Darnell 1-10 Bill Cubit 7-4

The Huntington, West Virginia school named Larry Kueck as the interim coach and later announced Ohio State assistant coach Mark Snyder as their new hire on April 14. Snyder spent four years on Jim Tressel's staff and was the defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes in 2004. Snyder played for Marshall and graduated from the school in 1988.

Pruett's announcement was the first coaching change since Syracuse named Greg Robinson as its new head coach on January 11. The Texas co-defensive coordinator takes over for Paul Pasqualoni whose 14-year tenure ended on December 29 with his firing.

The higher-ups had given Pasqualoni a vote of confidence following the regular season after the Orangemen rallied to win three of their last four games and become bowl eligible. But dwindling home attendance and the bad taste left by a 51-14 drubbing at the hands of Georgia Tech in the lower-rung Champs Sports Bowl sealed Pasqualoni's fate.

Pasqualoni was 107-59-1 in his career at Syracuse and gathered the second-most wins of any coach in school history. Syracuse won six of the nine bowl games it appeared in during those 14 seasons, but the team only finished 4-8 in 2002 and 6-6 in each of the past two seasons.

LSU named Les Miles as its new head coach on January 3, replacing Nick Saban who accepted the head coaching position with the NFL's Miami Dolphins on Christmas Day and coached his final game for the Tigers in the Capital One Bowl. As the head coach at LSU, Saban had a record of 48-16 and his teams won SEC titles in 2001 and 2003 and the BCS national title in 2003.

Miles coached Oklahoma State for four seasons, compiling a 28-21 record with three straight bowl appearances.

Mike Gundy was promoted from offensive coordinator and assistant head coach to head coach at Oklahoma State. That move was also announced January 3.

Former Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt accepted the head coaching job at Pittsburgh on December 23, replacing Walt Harris. Wannstedt is from Pittsburgh and played for the Panthers.

Harris came under early-season scrutiny when Pittsburgh was stretched to overtime to beat 1-AA Furman and appeared to be a team headed backward into mediocrity. But the Panthers finished the season strong and, at 8-3, earned the Big East conference's BCS bowl bid. However, Harris accepted the head coaching position at Stanford on December 12. Harris coached Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl against Utah where they lost 35-7.

Hal Mumme, who resigned from Kentucky in February 2001 in the midst of an NCAA investigation that led to the Wildcats being placed on three years probation for recruiting violations, was hired December 30 as the new head coach at New Mexico State. Mumme spent the last two seasons restarting the football program at 1-AA Southeastern Louisiana where he was 12-11, including a 7-4 record this past season. Mumme replaces Tony Samuel who was fired on November 24 after compiling a 34-57 record in eight seasons. However, Samuel led the Aggies to two winning seasons in his tenure. Before his arrival, the school had two winning seasons in 27 years.

San Jose State, whose program is in jeopardy of losing its 1-A status because of weak home attendance, has hired Dick Tomey as its new head coach. Tomey coached Arizona from 1987-2000 where he compiled a record of 95-64-4. Before that, he led the Hawaii program from for ten seasons where he was 63-46-3. Tomey is currently the assistant head coach under Mack Brown at Texas.

Fitz Hill announced he is stepping down from San Jose State on November 22. At the time of the announcement, Hill was 14-32 over four seasons. Tomey's hiring was announced December 28.

Miami (Ohio) replaced Terry Hoeppner with with Hoeppner's offensive coordinator, Shane Montgomery. That announcement was made in the locker room prior to the start of the Independence Bowl, Hoeppner's last game as the head coach of the RedHawks. Miami lost that game, 17-13, to Iowa State.

Hoeppner, 48-24 in six seasons with Miami (Ohio), was hired December 17 as Indiana's new head coach where he replaces Gerry DiNardo who was fired on December 1 after winning just 8-of-35 games in three seasons.

Frank Solich, fired last year from Nebraska after a 9-3 regular season, was announced December as the new head coach at Ohio University. Brian Knorr was fired from his post at Ohio on November 18 after a fourth consecutive losing season. Knorr was 11-35 in his career with the Bobcats and never finished a season with a better record than 4-7.

Also on December 16, Mississippi introduced USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron as their new head coach. David Cutcliffe, the only coach at Ole Miss to win at least seven games in each of his first five seasons, was fired from his job on December 1. Cutcliffe was 44-29 in his six seasons on the Oxford campus. Orgeron was on the sidelines of the Trojans' BCS title game win against Oklahoma.

Notre Dame and Washington joined Stanford in officially announcing the hiring of their new coaches on December 12. Notre Dame tapped New England Patriots' offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and Tyrone Willingham was hired at Washington.

Weis graduated from Notre Dame in 1978 but did not play football for the Irish. The 48-year old coaching veteran has spent 26 years honing his craft. He has spent fifteen seasons in the NFL, nine with the New England Patriots (1993-1996, 2000-present) and the last five in his current role. Weis called plays for the New York jets from '97-'99. He will work both jobs until New England's season is over with. Kent Baer coached the Irish in the Bowl loss to Oregon State. Weis' most-notable achievement has a head coach was the 1989 New Jersey state championship at Franklin Township High. His NFL career began the following year with the New York Giants.

Notre Dame had to focus their attention somewhere else in their search to replace Ty Willingham who was fired on December 1 after just three seasons. The school was intensely interested in Urban Meyer, a former assistant in South Bend, but Florida landed the prize catch. Other notables such as Steve Mariucci (Detroit Lions), Bobby Petrino (Louisville) and Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin) reportedly turned down the Irish.

Willingham's dismissal was easily the most shocking of all the coaching changes announced thus far. He simply wasn't on the radar watch of coaches who would presumably be losing their jobs this year.

Willingham was just 21-15 in his tenure and only 11-12 the last two seasons. Inarguably, the program wasn't producing on the field and the top blue chip football players were not flocking to Notre Dame. But the lack of stability at the head coaching level could be pointed to as a contributing factor. The Irish have changed coaches every five years, or less, lately.

Willingham, as expected, landed on his feet. But as the new head coach at Washington, he will take over a program that has suffered immeasurably after the dismissal of Rick Neuheisel.

The Huskies announced on November 1 that Neuheisel's replacement, Keith Gilbertson, would step down at the end of the season. Gilbertson was the offensive coordinator when Neuheisel was fired in the summer of 2003 amid accusations he "gambled" on NCAA basketball for which he later sued and won a $4.5 million settlement. Gilbertson's over-all record was 7-16 that included a 6-6 campaign in 2003. But the Huskies finished the 2004 season at 1-10 and 0-8 in the conference, their worst season in 35 years.

The school is on probation with, among other things, limited paid recruiting visits to the school reduced from 56-48 through 2005-06.

Buddy Teevens, who was hired three years ago to replace Willingham when he left for Notre Dame, was fired from his head coaching position at Stanford on November 28. Teevens was just 10-23 in his tenure with back-top-back 4-7 finishes after an inaugural year 2-9 campaign.

The domino effect began early when Florida fired Ron Zook on October 25, two days after an embarrassing loss at Mississippi State that dropped the Gators' record to 4-3. That defeat was apparently the straw that broke the camel's (boosters) back, coming just days after the revelation of a run-in with fraternity house members after he was sent there to quell a dispute.

Zook was permitted to finish out the season as a lame duck coach while the school searched for his permanent replacement. Gator fans were later disappointed when Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and former Gator coach Steve Spurrier withdrew their names from consideration as Zook's replacement.

Ironically, the announcement was made prior to the annual Georgia-Florida game that had been Zook's greatest success with victories in his first two meetings against UF's hated border rival. As it turned out, Florida lost the game this time. But Zook coached his team to three more wins to close out the season and became the first Gator head coach to beat Florida State in Tallahassee since Galen Hall in 1986. Zook's 23-14 record in three seasons was eleven fewer losses than Spurrier had in a dozen campaigns.

Florida announced Meyer as their new head coach on December 4. Meyer is one of the nation's hottest football coaches after compiling a tremendous record in two-year stints with Utah (22-2) and Bowling Green (17-6).

Utah, in turn, announced on December 8 that current defensive coodinator Kyle Whittingham was selected as the new head coach of the Utes.

Meyer coached Utah to a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Offensive coordinator Charlie Strong coached Florida in its Peach Bowl loss to Miami (Fla.).

Utah's offensive coordinator Mike Sanford was announced by UNLV on December 6 as its next head coach, replacing John Robinson. Robinson announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season, back on September 26.

Zook was announced as the new head coach of Illinois on December 7. Ron Turner was fired from Illinois on November 22 after the Fighting Illini finished their third straight losing season. Turner compiled a record of 35-57 with just two bowl appearances in eight seasons, but he also led Illinois to the Big Ten championship in 2001.

Steve Spurrier returned to the college ranks on November 23 when South Carolina officially named him to replace Lou Holtz who had formally announced his retirement the day before. Holtz was the only coach in the Gamecock's history to lead that team to two bowl victories.

While Spurrier spurned the opportunity to return to his old stomping grounds at Florida where Bobby Bowden and Florida State would have once again become his biggest rival, he will still have a Bowden as his chief rival. Bobby's son, Tommy, is the head coach at Clemson.

Skip Holtz, son of Lou Holtz and quarterbacks coach for his dad at South Carolina, was hired by East Carolina as the head coach on December 2. Spurrier did not retain the younger Holtz when he took over for the Gamecocks (Gee, I wonder who will coach quarterbacks for South Carolina). Holtz served as the head coach at UConn, then a 1-AA school, from 1994-1998 and compiled a 34-23 record.

John Thompson announced his resignation from ECU on November 17. He was 3-18 at the time but the Pirates lost their final two games to bring his short two-year mark to 3-20.

Gary Crowton, who replaced the legendary LaVell Edwards, was forced out at Brigham Young on December 1 after four seasons. He was replaced on December 13 by Bronco Mendenhall, the man Crowton lured from New Mexico two years ago to serve as his defensive coordinator. Crowton began his career with 12 straight wins in 2001 but was just 14-23 since then.

Gary Darnell was given notice on November 14 that he would no longer be the coach at Western Michigan after the regular season was completed. The Broncos were 1-9 over-all and 0-7 in the MAC when the decision was made. They finished 1-10 (0-8 in conference) and on a 10-game losing streak. Darnell's over-all record was 48-55 in nine seasons.

Bill Cubit was named the new coach in Kalamazoo in December 7. He was the offensive coordinator for WMU from 1997-1999 and served in that same capacity at Stanford this past season.

Mick Dennehy was fired from his post as head coach at Utah State on November 7 but was retained through the end of the season. The Aggies were 2-7 at the time of the announcement. They finished 3-8. Dennehy was just 19-37 in his career there after moving up from 1-AA Montana in 1999.

Brent Guy, a former Utah State assistant from 1992-94, was hired as Dennehy's replacement on December 10. Guy spent the past four seasons as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for Arizona State.


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