Wednesday, July 17, 2024

College football third-year coach grades: Lane Kiffin earns ‘B+’, Willie Taggart finishes tenure with ‘F’

Grading the tenures of coaches hired during the 2019-20 cycle as the ones still employed prepare for Year 4

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Vanderbilt

The 2019-20 college football hiring cycle included 24 coaching changes, but circumstances both on the field and off the field have trimmed the group noticeably as some of those hires prepare for Year 4 in 2023. 

As we gather to grade the three-year tenures of the coaches from this cycle, we must first note the ones who won’t be included in the process. Four of the coaches were fired before Year 3 (2022), thus getting an incomplete grade. Kalen DeBoer did not make it to Year 3 at Fresno State because he was hired away by Washington to replace Jimmy Lake, who was among the coaches fired before Year 3. The tragic death of Mike Leach takes another coach off the list from this 2019-20 cycle, and four more coaches who did start the 2022 season have been fired and won’t be leading their program for 2023. 

So, in total, just 14 of the 24 coaches in this hiring cycle have even made it to the point of preparing for a Year 4. 

While the clock has been speeding up for coaches to deliver instant results in recent years, it’s worth noting that no one in this cycle was afforded a typical offseason in the first months after they were hired. The COVID-19 pandemic left the coaching hires of this cycle stuck behind a web camera trying to build relationships virtually. Preseason camps were rushed and impacted significantly by social distancing efforts, while the season itself was disjointed and limited in scope.  

Still, programs demand results once a coach is a couple years into his tenure, and there are examples from this class of being able to meet and even exceed expectations. Conference championships, New Year’s Six bids and double-digit win seasons have all been accomplished by this group, so let’s get into the details with some grades. 

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