Five coaches in make-or-break years
However, when this space tackles the specific topic on tap today, the majority of the criticism comes from the men who make their living in the chosen profession about which I've just written.
"Oh man, not the hot seat again! I hate these stories!" That was the message with which my voicemail box greeted me the last time I wrote about head coaches who needed to get it into gear. The voice on the other end was Dan Hawkins, with whom I'd worked on ESPNU. When we first met on set, he was sure to call me out for saying he'd be fired from Colorado the previous year. But guess what had happened?
Yes, it is odd to discuss someone else's job fate. But the same coaches (and former coaches) who give me grief about speculating will also tell you one absolute truth about being a coach: A big part of the gig will be people predicting when you'll be fired. It is simply an accepted part of the gig.
"But," Hawk has said to me plenty, "not as big as the people screaming for you to be fired."
So now that my confessional is over, what five coaches enter spring staring at a make-or-break season? Read on ... but don't surprised if Hawk calls and gives you grief for doing so.
Will Muschamp, Florida Gators
Record at Florida: 22-16 (three years)
All seemed right in The Swamp when Mack Brown's former heir apparent led the Gators to an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2012, his second season at Florida. But last year, the program posted its first losing season since 1979 and snapped a 22-year bowl streak. The historical hits kept on coming, including the first home loss to Vanderbilt since 1945 and a Nov. 23 loss to Georgia Southern, the program's first ever to a lower-division school.
And, according to the people in the college football industry that I talked to over the past week, the coach never did much to make his situation any easier.
"I've known Will for a long time," says a Big 12 coach, the first to address a topic that became a common theme throughout this list. "He's a good friend but he can be an acquired taste. With players, they love the intensity. But away from the practice field, if you don't know him, he can come off a little, um, prickly."