Pac-12’s head coach vacancies are likely to grow
There have been 14 coaching changes at the FBS level this season.
Three of those were in the Pac-12, with Washington, Washington Sate and USC all dismissing their coaches in the midst of the regular season. And there’s reason to believe that number could grow before the New Year rolls around.
A look at the coaches who are gone, who may be going, and who are probably safe — for now.
This was by far the strangest coaching saga in recent memory. Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich refused to get vaccinated although it was required of state employees. Rolovich applied for a religious exemption, but the school ultimately decided it was unreasonable to accommodate him and let him go along with four of his assistants.
Rolovich appealed the decision and his lawyer has threatened legal action.
His interim replacement, defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, has the Cougars (6-5, 5-3) bowl-eligible. If Washington State wins the Apple Cup against Washington on Friday, and then wins the bowl game, it’s possible that the Cougars give Dickert the job.
Jimmy Lake was fired under unusual circumstances, too.
Lake was disciplined for swatting at and shoving one of his players during a game against Oregon. He was suspended for the following game but that essentially ended it for Lake, who took over after the departure of Chris Petersen and got less than two full seasons to prove himself.
The Huskies played just four games in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, then he was let go after 10 games of the 2021 season.
The Huskies are 4-7 overall and 3-5 in conference, and playing out the season under interim coach Bob Gregory. Washington’s season will end with the Apple Cup on Friday.
Clay Helton was the first coach fired this season, just two games into his eighth year at USC. He was 46-24 overall with the Trojans, including a Rose Bowl victory after the 2016 season and a Pac-12 title in 2017.
After a pair of good seasons with Sam Darnold at quarterback, Helton couldn’t sustain the success. He was fired after a blowout loss at home to Stanford on Sept. 11 and replaced with interim coach Donte Williams.
The Trojans (4-6, 3-5) play No. 13 BYU over the holiday weekend and then a postponed game against Cal.
Georgia Southern hired Helton on Tuesday, seven weeks after USC fired him.
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards is considered among the coaches in danger because of a combination of factors: tough late-season losses and an NCAA investigation.
The Sun Devils began the season ranked before struggling with inconsistency. They’re coming off a 24-10 loss at Oregon State on Saturday. Still, ASU (7-4, 5-3) is bowl-eligible and likely finishing second in the Pac-12 South.
Another question mark is David Shaw at Stanford, who has had past success with the Cardinal (3-8, 2-7). Stanford upset Oregon, but a blowout 41-11 loss to Cal in the Big Game last Saturday may have sealed Shaw’s fate.
Bay Area neighbor Justin Wilcox is also a hot seat candidate. The Golden Bears (4-6, 3-4) are going to miss out on a bowl game this season. Wilcox has had to deal with a myriad of issues, including a COVID-19 outbreak and some confusing local regulations.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly may survive another year after a 62-33 thumping of crosstown rival USC on Saturday, but for a while there it looked dicey. The Bruins (7-4, 5-3) are bowl-bound for the first time since 2017. And they could finish with their best record since 2015.
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON
Jonathan Smith at Oregon State, Kyle Whittingham at Utah, and Mario Cristobal at Oregon are clearly entrenched for now — although Cristobal has been rumored as a candidate for some of the openings.
Karl Dorrell is in his second season with Colorado. In 2020, the Buffaloes went to the Alamo Bowl. This season the Buffs (4-7, 3-5) aren’t bowling, but it’s likely Dorrell gets more time to build his program.
Can a coach be fired after just one season? Perhaps, if Arizona (1-10, 1-7) decides it has seen enough of Jedd Fisch. But he’s also inherited a mess, so he, too, will be probably be given another season at the helm.
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By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer