There might be no other sport where coaching is more important than college football. Between recruiting and the schematics of the game, good coaching is essential for success in college football. Of course, sometimes programs hiring a new coach get the decision wrong, dead wrong. That got us thinking about the worst coaching hires ever made. While there were a lot of (un)worthy contenders, here is our list of the worst coaching hires in college football history.
Lane Kiffin, Tennessee
If nothing else, one can say that Kiffin’s tenure at Tennessee was entertaining. But what were the Vols thinking when they hired a brash and unpredictable coach who went 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders? Kiffin had no problem running his mouth, accusing Urban Meyer of recruiting violations and telling Alshon Jeffery that he would pump gas for the rest of his life if he chose South Carolina over Tennessee.
For the record, Jeffery has had a nice career in the NFL. The kicker is that Kiffin backed up all that talk by going 7-6, getting blown out in a bowl game, and then leaving for USC after one year, forcing Tennessee to start over the next year with Derek Dooley, who didn’t work out either.
Jennings Whitworth, Alabama
Even for 1955, Whitworth was an odd hire, as he had a losing record at Oklahoma A&M. In his defense, the Crimson Tide was 4-5-2 the year before Whitworth arrived. But he took a proud program that had fallen on hard times and turned it into a train wreck.
The Crimson Tide went 0-10 in his first season and 2-7-1 in each of the next two seasons. That’s a total of four wins in 30 games. However, all’s well that ends well because Bear Bryant eventually replaced Whitworth, and the rest is history.
Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Honestly, it’s downright puzzling how Johnson could make Southern Miss so bad so quickly. In 2011, Larry Fedora led the Golden Eagles to a 12-2 record and a Conference USA championship. Then Johnson takes over and Southern Miss immediately goes 0-12.
To be fair, one loss came in double-overtime and another loss came by a single point, so the Golden Eagles were close to winning a couple of times. But it’s hard to imagine that Fedora left the cupboard so bare that a team could go from 12-2 to 0-12.
Greg Robinson, Syracuse
For decades, Syracuse was one of the elite football programs in the Northeast. While the program had plateaued a little, the Orange went to 14 bowl games in the 20 years before Robinson arrived.
He quickly turned the program into a laughing stock, opening the door for rival Rutgers to no longer be basement dwellers in the Big East. In four seasons, Robinson won just 10 games. The kicker is that half of those 10 wins were later vacated because of NCAA violations.
Art Briles, Baylor
Of course, Baylor had great success under Briles, who won at least 10 games in four of his last five seasons with the Bears. The program reached new heights, won two Big 12 titles, and produced a Heisman winner in 2011. But if Baylor could do it over again, there’s no way they would have hired Briles because of the way things ended.
He was a focal point in the middle of one of the most disgusting scandals in college football history that Briles tried to hide and cover-up. He disgraced the university and the program in ways that are unforgivable. All of the losses in the world aren’t worse than the lack of integrity and basic decency that Briles showed while at Baylor.