The college football coaching carousel is spinning closer to our state than usual this season. At least four area programs have been impacted by the dominoes falling around the country.
High-paid Volunteer gig
Tennessee fired coach Butch Jones following a season in which the Volunteers went winless in the SEC. After negotiations with Greg Schiano fell through, one of Tennessee’s next targets was Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, who served as an assistant coach in Knoxville for 19 seasons, including two stints as offensive coordinator.
Cutcliffe reportedly told the Vols that he wasn’t interested and planned to finish his coaching career at Duke.
It’s the second time Cutcliffe has spurned Tennessee. He discussed the job with the Vols in 2010 and reportedly was close to accepting before withdrawing his name.
After Cutcliffe, Tennessee turned to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, getting turned down by each.
That led to a dramatic 48 hours for NC State and Dave Doeren.
The Wolfpack head coach emerged as Tennessee’s top remaining target. The two sides were reported to be close to a deal last week, at which point NC State made a counter-offer to attempt to keep the head coach in Raleigh.
With long-term offers rumored to be in excess of $3 million a year from each school, Doeren weighed his options and made his decision early Thursday afternoon.
Tennessee fans, who staged a social media revolt to derail the hiring of Schiano a few days earlier, reacted negatively toward the courtship of Doeren as well, urging him on Twitter to turn down the offer and threatening to cancel season ticket orders.
Doeren announced that he was returning to State. “We’re going to run this,” he texted his players.
Doeren’s deal with State reportedly is for five years and more than $15 million, including a large increase for his assistant coaches.
“It’s been a crazy week,” Doeren said during a Sun Bowl conference call. Ironically, the Pack will be playing Arizona State, another team that just replaced its coach. “But I’m where I want to be.”
“It was a rough 48 hours,” Doeren admitted.
Staff shakeup in Charlotte
After finishing 1-10 this year, the fifth straight losing season, there was speculation that Charlotte would part ways with head coach Brad Lambert.
“Everybody wants more wins,” Lambert said following a season-ending loss to Florida Atlantic. “But there’s no doubt I’m the right guy for this place.”
The school agreed. Two days later, athletic director Judy Rose announced that the school was keeping Lambert as head coach. “Coach Lambert is fully invested in making necessary changes to strengthen our program and has been looking at every facet.”
Lambert will replace both coordinators. Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt was fired, and Greg Adkins, who took over as offensive coordinator at midseason, was moved back to offensive line coach.
Lambert also cut ties with quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen, who lost coordinator duties to Adkins, and receivers coach Damien Gary.
While fans complained about the decision to keep Lambert, calling for Rose’s firing as well with signs around campus and a banner flown over the stadium at one game, the school pointed out that part of the reason for Lambert’s struggles was a quick transition to the FBS level.
Standing pat at ECU
In the week after East Carolina lost 70-13 to close out a 3-9 season, the school called a press conference.
That was to announce the resignation of basketball coach Jeff Lebo, however.
No news is apparently good news for football coach Scottie Montgomery, who has struggled since taking over prior to last season.
“I haven’t made a whole lot of guarantees since I got here,” Montgomery said, “but we’ll be a better football team, and we’re going to go play in the postseason next year.”
He went on to say that, like Lambert, he might make some changes in his staff, although nothing has been announced as of yet.
On the horizon
Wake Forest has already been impacted by the latest turn of the carousel. The Deacs’ opponent in the upcoming Belk Bowl will be Texas A&M, who just introduced their new coach — former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
The seemingly lateral move for the Seminoles’ coach sent an entirely new set of dominoes falling, even before Tennessee has found closure in its search. And early this week, NC State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz was reported to be interviewing for the South Alabama coaching job.
Clearly, the offseason coaching drama is just getting warmed up.