Paul Wulff is well aware the clock is ticking down on his time at Washington State.
The same is true for New Mexico State’s Mike Locksley and Colorado State’s Steve Fairchild. Heck, Butch Davis is already on the unemployment line.
Before any of their teams play a game, these coaches start the season on the hot seat. They are not alone either.
Unless you are Nick Saban or Gene Chizik, there’s always the potential any college coach could lose his job for any number of reasons by the time 2011 ends.
Seriously, who would have guessed that Jim Tressel wouldn’t be coaching at Ohio State this fall? Stop it, you really didn’t.
Don’t be afraid. Keep reading and you’ll find out who the 10 coaches are who will be looking for employment elsewhere in 2012.
10. Luke Fickell, Ohio State
It’s not Luke Fickell’s fault that he’s on the hot seat in his first season at Ohio State.
Fickell is just the patsy that gets to take over the Buckeyes after the Jim Tressel-Terrelle Pryor fallout.
Fickell has earned a solid reputation in coaching circles and may one day make a great head coach.
But after the NCAA finally makes a ruling on Ohio State, President Gordon Gee likely won’t have a choice but to clean house.
That means Fickell and every other OSU coach are looking for new jobs.
Can Fickell actually keep the top job in Columbus? Anything short of a 12-0 won’t help.
9. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
DeWayne Walker was an outstanding defensive coordinator at UCLA and jumped at the opportunity to become a head coach at New Mexico State.
Walker knew it was going to take some time and hard work to turn around the Aggies. But going 5-20 in two seasons has been tough for everyone.
Walker still believes he can build a successful program, and it won’t take a miracle to save his job.
However, it will take something more than three victories.
8. Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic
Howard Schnellenberger is a coaching legend—especially in South Florida.
It’s almost impossible for Schnellenberger to get fired, but he’s 77 years old, and he’s not looking to coach as long as Joe Paterno.
Schnellenberger will coach the Owls in their new on-campus stadium this fall, and he may step down after accomplishing about everything he had hoped when he took over at FAU.
Schnellenberger has won 53 games at FAU.
7. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Dabo Swinney’s squad dealt with some injuries last season, but the Tigers still underachieved in his second full season.
Clemson fans are still pretty supportive, but if the Tigers struggle early don’t be shocked when that support weakens.
Swinney reacted after last season like a coach who needs to make some drastic moves. He fired some assistants, which usually gives the head coach a little longer leash for at least a year.
There’s also a former Clemson assistant (Rich Rodriguez) who is well liked by many fans.
It would be hard to argue with pushing Swinney out the door if Clemson isn’t at least an eight-game winner in 2011.
6. Ron Zook, Illinois
It seems the hotter Ron Zook’s seat gets, the better his team plays.
When Zook hired new coordinators for 2010, it was pretty clear the Illinois brass was making a two-year commitment to their coach.
The Fighting Illini had an up-and-down 2010, which included a big win over Penn State as Zook’s team finished 7-6.
He’s 28-45 since he took over Illinois in 2005. So another 7-6 season might be good enough to save his job.
But it’s not likely that will happen.
5. Neil Callaway, UAB
Neil Callaway starts the season high up on this list because of high expectations.
After four consecutive losing seasons, UAB is expected to be a top contender in Conference USA.
Callaway has a great pedigree, but he hasn’t produced enough wins at UAB.
If he has another 4-8 season, Callaway’s days in Birmingham are finished.
4. Bob Toledo, Tulane
Bob Toledo was high on this list last year, and all Tulane did was go 4-8.
Somehow, the former UCLA coach is still in charge.
The 65-year-old coach has won only 13 games in four years and saw minimal improvement last year.
If Toledo wants to coach past 2011, he’s going to need to get the Green Wave into a bowl game.
3. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
Rick Neuheisel was supposed to be UCLA’s savior.
Instead, injuries and inconsistent play on offense have made his three seasons at his alma mater extremely painful to watch.
Like all desperate coaches, Neuheisel has hired new coordinators. That may be enough for the UCLA administration to give their head coach two more seasons.
It also helps that the Bruins may actually be talented enough to get back to a bowl game.
2. Paul Wulff, Washington State
Unfortunately for Paul Wulff, expectations are pretty low for Washington State again this season.
Most experts are picking the Cougars to finish last in the Pac-12…behind even Colorado.
In three seasons, Wulff has a very unimpressive 5-32 record.
It goes without saying, this is the year he has to show some signs of progress.
The first five games are all potential wins, but it will still take a few breaks.
Wulff could also use a little help keeping his team healthy.
1. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
Seriously, how is Mike Locksley still coaching at New Mexico.
He’s done the worst coaching job in the last half century.
How many weeks into the season before New Mexico announces his firing?
Five is a good bet.