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Your college football team’s new head coach will probably be gone within 4 years

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It’s time to start saying goodbye.

Todd Graham
Todd Graham, hired by four different FBS teams within our sample
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images. Banner Society illustration.

Keep this in mind when you review college football coaching carousel grades: about a third of these guys will be fired within four years.

That’s based on the results of every FBS hire made from 2005 through 2014. I chose that span because it’s a full decade, but happened long enough ago that we can say those hires all played out one way or another.

Roughly another quarter of them will leave the school on their own terms within four years, which could mean they did such a great job for you, they got an even bigger job, which would be good for you. Or it could mean they just left.

Either way, your currently redshirting freshmen will probably play for a totally different coaching staff as seniors.

Therefore, the realistic coach hiring grades article should probably include at least one F, a couple Ds, and a whole bunch of Cs. If it’s all B-s and A+s, it’s not gonna line up with any version of reality. (But at least it won’t get screenshotted later on when one of these coaches exceeds honest expectations, which is probably more important to the hire-grader.)

Overall, it’s hard to say the trend is moving one way or the other.

Some cycles end up more dramatic than others, of course. For example, from the 2010-11 group, only four out of 24 made it to year six. This group’s tenures would include firings after only two full seasons each at UConn and Colorado, one-year interims at North Carolina and Ohio State, and Todd Graham leaving Pitt 11 months after being hired.

And if we had a good way to collect older data, I’m guessing this rate of turnover wouldn’t look far out of line with the rest of college football history.

But it still grows more concerning by the year for a couple reasons. Many of these fired coaches get to keep making money afterward, thanks to dumber and dumber contracts, and many of these willingly departed coaches spend an amazing amount of time complaining about players having more transfer agency than before.

These numbers can also tell a few stories about power imbalances within FBS.

Most of the non-power conferences are easy pickings for the Power 5, except for the Mountain West, whose geography means its best coaches are especially desirable for pretty much only Pac-12 teams. Not a ton of chances to leave. The exceptions include things like Michigan hiring lifelong Midwesterner Brady Hoke away from San Diego State.

(These numbers also count Kyle Whittingham and Bronco Mendenhall as Mountain West hires, fwiw. I assigned each coach’s tenure to the conference his school was in at the point of hire.)

The ACC, Big Ten, and (perhaps surprisingly) SEC are quite stable. The ACC seems to have several things going for it here: decent resources, relatively reasonable expectations at most schools, and a level of basketball interest that meets or exceeds football at some schools. Making millions of dollars to go to a few bowls per decade, all while everyone stresses about the hoops team? Who would leave that gig?

Meanwhile, the Big 12 appears to have lost its mind. While it’s certainly a rootin’ tootin’ place, it also has a sample-size issue. For example, 10% of its current teams are Kansas.

At the bottom, the AAC and its predecessor really stand apart as a proving ground and minor league for upcoming coaches. Winning in the MAC or Sun Belt might not impress a power school all that much, but winning in the “Power 6” league (formerly officially, in the BCS era) has long signaled to bigger programs that a coach is ready for a call-up.

Well, that’s the end of the post for now.

The number of years until your coach leaves you is now down to like 3.999999999.