NCAA Football

Breaking Bad: 5 New College Football Coaches Headed for a Dead End

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5 New College Coaches Headed for a Dead End

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Just as high school teacher Walter White says about Chemistry in Breaking Bad, new college football coaching hires can be a study in transformation.

While Lane Kiffin was given a couple of years to continue the success started by Pete Carroll at USC, he transformed a perennial powerhouse into just a good Pac-12 team. The flip side of that is that a new coach, like Al Golden at Temple in 2005, can transform the program from a struggling one to challenging for conference titles. Golden parlayed that transformation into a $2 million-a-year job at the University of Miami.

Kiffin had the unusual distinction of being fired despite posting a winning overall record (28-15) and season record (3-2), but USC has higher standards than most and can afford to fire a guy in the middle of the season. Other institutions will wait until the season is over to make that kind of move.

The Power 5 conferences can go out and buy the best available coaches, like Miami did when it plucked Golden from Temple. Mid-major schools have a tougher job, identifying either a young, hungry assistant coach or a proven head coach like current Western Kentucky head coach, Bobby Petrino, just looking for another opportunity after surviving a scandal at Arkansas.

When struggling schools hire a new coach, they hope for the kind of transformation for their schools that Golden gave Temple -- that school’s first bowl game in 30 years. It doesn't always work that way, though, as sometimes a new hire causes no transformation or the kind of transformation the school was not looking for, making a situation worse.

Here are five new FBS hires this year that appear to fit that profile.

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5. Ron Caragher, San Jose State

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Caragher, the new head coach at San Jose State, had the misfortune of succeeding the hottest coach on last year’s list, Mike MacIntyre, the new head coach at Colorado . MacIntyre had the Spartans ranked in the top 25 with a 10-2 record. Caragher has the team 1-3 with all the losses by blowouts.

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4. Ron Turner, Florida International

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Florida International University might have jumped the gun in firing Mario Cristobal, who had some success for the Golden Panthers. Cristobal was a strong recruiter who had the Panthers in a bowl game three years ago. He was fired after a 3-9 season last year but did have his team play a competitive game against Louisville in a 28-21 loss a year ago and in a bowl game the two prior years. Ron Turner took over for Cristobal and has the Panthers on course for an 0-12 season after a 72-0 loss to Louisville on Sept. 21. He even got blown out by FCS foe Bethune-Cookman, 34-13.

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3. Matt Rhule, Temple

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The new Temple coach, a former assistant to Al Golden, took over for Steve Addazio, the new Boston College head coach. Addazio presided over the team’s first losing season in three years with a 4-7 record a year ago. “We’re not a 4-7 team,” Rhule promised. He probably did not mean they were an 0-12 team, but that’s where this 0-4 team appears headed after losing the two most winnable games on their schedule, Idaho and Fordham. Temple passed over FIU’s Mario Cristobal, current Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and current Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio to give Rhule, a players’ favorite, the job. They probably won’t listen to the players the next time.

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2. Willie Taggart, South Florida

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The new head coach at South Florida is also 0-4, and his team has been blown out in three of the four games. Taggart came from Western Kentucky where he rebuilt that program, but the Hilltoppers don’t have to face the competition the Bulls have to face. South Florida might be yearning for Skip Holtz, who they fired last season. Holtz is now at Louisiana Tech.

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1. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

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The new Western Michigan head coach had the most enthusiastic introductory press conference, yelling through much of it. Fleck’s on-field results are a mere whisper at 0-4. The former Tampa Bay Bucs’ wide receiver coach is the youngest in the FBS at 32 and probably is in over his head.