clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 10 Worst Pac-12 Coaches of the Past 25 Years

Lane Kiffin is far from the worst coach to walk the conference's sidelines in recent years.


Needless to say, Lane Kiffin is on the hot seat, that's not an uncommon place for a coach to be in college football these days, but what is uncommon is just how much hatred seems to be aimed at the USC head coach right now. It seems not only USC fans, but fans all around the Pac-12, not only dislike Kiffin, but revel in his failure and impending doom. On a side note, I would reason that this is very foolish of fans of other Pac-12 schools, as a Kiffin exit could open the door to a new coach who could get the program humming again and dominating the conference.

Though Kiffin is definitely struggling at USC, especially with the amount of talent that he has on his roster, his overall record of 27-14 at USC while under sanctions almost his entire tenure isn't that bad (Less scrutinized Steve Sarkisian is 22-18 during that time frame and Mike Riley 18-21). So, even though Kiffin will likely go down as one of the most hated coaches in recent history in the Pac-12, he's probably not the worst.

So who is?

Based on records and overall team performances, we put together who are probably the 10 least successful coaches in the Pac-12 of the past 25 years - and Kiffin isn't among them, so don't feel too sorry for yourselves Trojan fans.

1. Jerry Pettibone - Oregon State - 1991-1996 13-52-1 (6-41-1)

It seems kind of crazy now with how well Mike Riley has stabilized the Beavers, but there was a time when the program was comically bad and as regularly one of the worst teams in the entire nation. Pettibone ran the wishbone back when everyone in the Pac-10 was moving towards pro-style offenses, and they regularly got pasted by their opponents. It's a testament to just how different of an era it was in college football in that Pettibone held the position for six seasons with his teams performing so poorly.

2. Jon Embree - Colorado - 2011-2012 4-21 (3-15)

It's an accomplishment to be so bad that you get fired after just two years, but Embree managed to do it. Embree's Colorado teams were woefully bad, and struggled to even barely compete in the program's first two years in the Pac-12. Adding insult to injury, Embree's teams were maybe even worse out-of-conference, winning only one game during his tenure.

3. Paul Wulff - Washington State - 2008-2011 9-40 (4-32)

Current Cougar quarterback, and Wulff recruit, Connor Halliday recently quipped about how the guys on Wulff's WSU squads couldn't have started for good high school teams, and while Halliday was exaggerating, his statements are a testament to just how bad Wulff's teams were. Wulff's teams not only lost a lot of games, they lost them spectacularly - regularly giving up upwards of 40, 50 and even 60 points. On top of their injury-plagued struggles on the field, Wulff's teams were also frequently dealing with off-the-field and academic issues.

4. Tyrone Willingham - Washington - 2005-2008 11-37 (6-29)

Many Husky fans would say that Willingham should be at the top of this list, particularly because of how reportedly demonstrative he was, but he was able to win some games while at Washington (though not many). It was Willingham's 0-12 final season in 2008, that rocketed him up this list, especially since that team lost to the 2008 Wulff-coached Cougar team that was going to be considered the worst in modern conference history until they beat the Huskies and sealed their winless fate. Overall, Willingham never made a bowl game, led Washington to their worst season in program history and might have been even more unpopular with Washington fans than Kiffin is with USC fans right now by the time he was fired.

5. John Mackovic - Arizona - 2001-2003 10-18 (3-14)

Mackovic was a coach who was never that great to begin with, thrown into modern college football and it was a recipe for disaster. Mackovic's players revolted against him due to his abrasive, old school style and he didn't even make it three years. He was fired halfway through the 2003 after a large amount of players protested after having enough of Mackovic's tirades.

6. Walt Harris - Stanford - 2005-2006 6-17 (5-12)

Another coach that suffered the indignity of being fired after just two seasons, Harris came to Stanford after some good, but not great years at Pitt and despite a five-win 2005 season, immediately hit rock bottom in 2006. Harris' 2006 Stanford team was absolutely putrid and at the very top of the list of worst Pac-12 teams ever, and only managed one win against a Willingham-coached Washington team. Harris was such bad, that he was dismissed after just two seasons at a less-than-serious (especially at the time) football school. But hey, at least his quick exit paved the way for Jim Harbaugh and the renaissance of Stanford football.

7. Tom Holmoe - Cal - 1997-2001 12-43 (6-34)

The preamble to Jeff Tedford was ugly, as Holmoe kept the Bears at the bottom of the conference for five years. Holmoe never beat Stanford, led the Bears to their worst record in school history in 2001, never had a winning season, and won more than three games only once. On top of it all, Holmoe's program got the Bears into NCAA trouble just before he was fired and kept them from being bowl eligible in Tedford's first season.

8. Buddy Teevens - Stanford 2002-2004 10-23 (5-19)

The time between Willingham and Harbaugh was a dark one in Palo Alto. Teevens never beat a team that finished a season with a winning record, and especially struggled against Stanford's rivals, while never posting a winning season himself. However, unlike a lot of the other guys on this list, Teevens wasn't hated when he was dismissed and left without much animosity.

9. Paul Hackett - USC 1998-2000 19-18 (10-14)

Before there was Kiffin, there was Paul Hackett. Hackett quickly found himself hated by USC fans as he led the program to some of their first ever consecutive non-winning seasons in nearly 40 years, led to them to an upset loss in the Sun Bowl and generally underachieved with a very talented roster. Hackett bottomed out in 2000 when the Trojans embarrassingly finished last in the conference and he was fired. Hackett can find some solace in that he predicted that the Trojans would "blow up" in a couple of years, and that's exactly what they did under Pete Carroll with a number of his recruits.

10. Dan Hawkins - Colorado 2006-2010 19-39 (10-27)

Okay, Hawkins didn't coach in the Pac-12, but I didn't want to leave the Mountain Schools out, and there really isn't a deserving tenth candidate. Hawkins failed to have a winning season during his five at Colorado, and he drew ire for starting his son Cody, at quarterback during a number of his years in Boulder. Hawkins also probably deserves some of the blame for leaving the cupboards bare for Embree when he took over.