Make-or-break year for some NC football coaches

East Carolina’s Scottie Montgomery, Charlotte’s Brad Lambert are both on the hot seat entering the 2018 season

East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery’s job may hinge on how the Pirates fare in 2018. (James Guillory / USA TODAY Sports)

With temperatures hovering around the mid-90s and humidity levels following closely behind, everyone’s seat has a tendency to get a little hot this time of year in North Carolina.

But for some, the heat will only intensify once summer turns to fall and the weather finally begins to break. It’s an annual fact of life for college football coaches whose programs have underperformed in recent seasons.

So whose seats are the hottest as the new season approaches?

Dennis Dodds of has taken a look at all 129 FBS coaches and rated each by the degree of their job security, breaking them down into six categories — Win or be fired; Start improving now; Pressure is mounting; All good for now; Safe and secure; and Untouchable.

Here’s how the coaches at the state’s seven FBS schools stack up and what those feeling the heat need to do in order to cool things down:

• Win or be fired: East Carolina’s Scottie Montgomery and Charlotte’s Brad Lambert fall into this category and for good reason.

Montgomery has posted back-to-back 3-9 records since taking over for popular predecessor Ruffin McNeill in Greenville while Lambert’s 49ers have languished since joining Conference USA in 2015, losing all but one of their 12 games a year ago.

Lambert is the only head coach Charlotte has had since starting the program six years ago, and that fact may have helped give him one more shot at turning things around this fall. But the honeymoon is close to being over.

Not only has Lambert made changes to his staff by replacing both his offensive and defensive coordinators, but with Judy Rose — the athletic director that hired him — now retired, he’ll have to answer to a new boss with a different set of standards.

While it’s uncertain how many wins Lambert will need to keep his job, Montgomery set the bar for himself last December when after a season-ending 70-13 drubbing at the hands of Memphis, he proclaimed that his Pirates would win at least six games and qualify for a bowl in 2018.

Like Lambert, Montgomery will be answering to a new supervisor. But unlike the situation at Charlotte, that could end up working in the former NFL receiver’s favor, since embattled former AD Jeff Compher is gone and the man that has replaced him on an interim basis — Dave Hart — isn’t worried about his own job security.

Hart, in fact, has gone on the record this summer absolving Montgomery from at least some of the responsibility for ECU’s recently slide.

“Scottie is doing his part recruiting. Now we’ve got to help him,” Hart said, adding that the school needs to put more financial resources into its athletic program. “We’ve got to help all of our coaches to compete in the (AAC), because at some point it’s pretty simplistic. You’re either going to be a player or you’re going to be on the sidelines. We want to be a player.”

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora has gone from one of coaching’s rising stars to someone who could be on the hot seat if the Tar Heels don’t have a bounce-back 2018 season. (Brett Davis / USA TODAY Sports)

• Pressure is mounting: UNC’s Larry Fedora sure had the look of a rising coaching star after leading his Tar Heels to 11 wins and the ACC’s Coastal Division championship in 2015. But after getting off to an 8-2 start the following season and having his name mentioned for several other, more prestigious jobs, his team has gone 3-12 and won only one of nine conference games.

Last year’s 3-9 disaster can rightly be chalked up to an unprecedented rash of injuries that saw 17 players listed as “out for the season.”

But a coach can only get so many free passes. And with rival Dave Doeren regularly beating Fedora in head-to-head battles for in-state talent, patience in Chapel Hill could wear thin very quickly if the Tar Heels don’t turn things around dramatically and get to the postseason this season.

• All good for now: As tenuous as the job security of the previous three coaches might be, their situations are by no means hopeless. NC State’s Doeren is the prime example of that. A year ago at this time, his name was the one popping up on most preseason “hot seat” lists. But he cooled that talk considerably by winning nine games and having seven players selected in the NFL Draft. Doeren’s prospects look just as bright this season with the return of starting quarterback Ryan Finley and another strong recruiting class.

Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe has built Duke football into a respectable program after years of the school being an ACC doormat. (Mark Dolejs / USA TODAY Sports)

Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson also gained a measure of security by leading his Deacons to a breakthrough eight-win season in 2017, punctuated by a Belk Bowl win against Texas A&M. But as secure as both coaches might be now, they’re only too familiar with how quickly their seats can heat back up if their teams fail to build on their current momentum.

• Safe and secure: According to Dodd’s list, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield are the state coaches who enter the new season with nothing to worry about — and for good reason.

Cutcliffe will eventually have a statue of himself placed outside Wallace Wade Stadium for transforming the Blue Devils from a college football laughingstock to a viable, competitive program that has been to bowls in five of the past six years.

Satterfield, meanwhile, has compiled a 41-22 record in four seasons at his alma mater and has successfully led the Mountaineers through a historic transition from FCS status to become the first program ever to win bowl games in each of its first three season of FBS competition.