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Pac-12 Coaching Hot Seats

Todd Graham, Jim Mora, and Rich Rodriguez have big seasons in front of them

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NCAA Football: Utah at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Now that college football season is done we can start thinking about the 2017 college football season. Every season there are teams that do not live up to expectations and their season ends up being a struggle. When teams struggle over the course of a season or two, it makes things tough on the head coach. Head coaches are hired to be fired and this is why there are coaching hot seats every single year in every single conference.

For the Pac-12 Conference in 2017 the hot seats will be at Arizona State, Arizona, and UCLA.


The Bruins have certainly underperformed. With the amount of talent that is at the Bruins fingertips in the Southern California area it is a bit shocking that the recruits that UCLA have brought in have not delivered the way that the Bruins coaches expected. This is part of the problem for head coach Jim Mora and why his seat is hot going into 2017.

Part of the problem for Mora in my opinion is that he failed to get the Bruin football program to overtake the city of Los Angeles. The Bruins crosstown rival, USC, was floundering in sanctions from the Reggie Bush fiasco and it could have been a situation where the Bruins could have stepped in and corralled all that five star talent to themselves. They didn’t.

In the last few years UCLA could have set themselves up to be the Pac-12 South Division representative in the conference championship game at least a couple of times.

With the resurgence of the USC Trojans this year and looking like the Trojans everybody expects, Mora has his program sliding in the opposite direction.

Recruiting is the aspect of a football program that is life blood of a program and somehow Mora is struggling with that part of the program. It shouldn’t be too difficult to recruit to Westwood. It really shouldn’t be. Your home stadium is the Rose Bowl Stadium, the surroundings are beautiful, the school is one of the top schools in the country, and the history of the football program is deep and rich.

What do high school players look for?

Winning. The vibe of the program seems to be trending down right now and the top high school players notice that. If there ever was a time when he and his staff have to do a tremendous selling job this is it.


For a program that won the Pac-12 South Division just a few years ago things in Tucson have changed and are continuing to change. With the departure of former starting quarterback Anu Solomon as a graduate transfer to Baylor, Scooby Wright leaving early for the NFL, and the Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne leaving for Alabama, what else could happen?

A job dismissal for the head football coach?


It hasn’t happened yet, but certainly could after the following season if Rich Rodriguez doesn’t get his program back on the winning track.

Let me be clear. Rich Rodriguez will be back on the Arizona sidelines in 2017.

However, that doesn’t make his coaching seat any less hot. Arizona fans are longing for the days of “Desert Swarm” and when Rich Rodriguez arrived on the scene in Tucson many people believed that a return to the glory days would soon follow. Rich Rodriguez has got his program a Pac-12 South Division crown, but since that accomplishment, the program has been a gradual slide downward.

Every coach will admit that they are hired to be fired at some point. Sometimes the things that cause a program to go downward are things out of a coach’s immediate control.

Certainly the injuries, suspensions of players, and recruiting misses have hit the program like a Mike Tyson uppercut. The struggles of the football program at Arizona have the Wildcat fan base shaking their heads in frustration. I don’t get the feeling that the fans are demanding a coaching change, but don’t want this past season to be precursor of things to come in the future.

What could make Rich Rod’s coaching seat hotter is that the athletic director that hired him, won’t be at Arizona anymore. Greg Byrne left to take the AD job at Alabama. Byrne leaving came out of the blue to many people and I believe the Coach Rodriguez feels the pressure even more with Byrne moving on. A new athletic director likes to have his own guy as the football coach, so the pressure on Rodriguez would be understandable.

Arizona State

Todd Graham will be returning to the sidelines at Arizona State for 2017, but his seat will be hot due to two seasons of underperformance.

Coach Graham had a team in 2015 that was veteran laden, had talented players, and were thought of as a possible team to qualify for the College Football Playoff. The Sun Devils fell flat on their face. The team went 6-7 and lost their Cactus Bowl game against West Virginia.

Fans went from thinking their team was going to be in a playoff to losing a bowl game which was basically a home game for them.

2016 was a season where the expectations were lower due to youth on the team. Things were looking up as the Sun Devils came out of the gate at 5-1, but there were questions about the defense.

The defense couldn’t stop anybody in 2016. Statistically, Arizona State had one of the worst defenses in all of division one football. In fact, the Sun Devils ranked 127

The Sun Devil defense cost the team their season. The Devils finished the season on a six game losing streak and finished the year at 5-7. Disappointment for sure in Tempe.

Arizona State Athletic Director Ray Anderson did communicate that Coach Graham needed to not talk so big about the program. He told Todd Graham that the team needs to do the talking on the field with their performance, not with a ton of braggart type of talk.

What Coach Graham has to work on is getting his defense to a point where the defense can actually make a defensive stop. Whatever the issue is on defense, Coach Graham has relinquished some control over the defense. Arizona State is bringing Phil Bennett into the program to be the new defensive coordinator. Bennett brings 40 years of experience to the Sun Devil program.

He supposedly told Graham after watching game film, that the program isn’t that far off.


I’m not sure if he saw the defensive ranking from this year when he said this statement.

Whatever needs to be done on the defensive side of the ball needs to be done immediately. Coach Graham knows this. The Sun Devils have a newly designed stadium that they want to sell out and if the team can’t stop anybody the Sun Devil faithful will find something else to do.

When the fans turn their cheek to your program you are finished as a coach. Let’s hope Coach Graham finds a solution to the defensive ills of the program.