Coaching Carousel: The 5 Biggest Coaching Changes Around the Pac-12

Oregon Ducks versus Texas Longhorns in the 2013 Alamo Bowl

The off season always brings about a deluge of coaching changes around the college football world.  Some coaches get fired during the season, such as Lane Kiffin at USC, but aren’t replaced until the dust has settled on the final games of the year, while others, like our very own Nick Allioti, retire gracefully after long, successful careers.

No matter the situation, or how carefully it is handled, it always leaves the program in state of flux. Hiring the next coach, whether the main man himself, a coordinator or a position coach, can mean taking the next step toward dominating in the conference or starting the downward spiral that can take years to pull out of.  The Pac-12 this off season has sprung about a coaching carousel with surprise hires, leaving many heads spinning.

5. Lane Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian

After just a few games, it was not a matter of 'if', but 'when' for Kiffin.

Kevin Cline

After just a few games, it was not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’ for Kiffin.

The Pac-12’s first vacancy of the year opened up all the way back in September when USC fired head coach Lane Kiffin after a 3-2 start to the season.  The position wasn’t filled permanently until the beginning of December, when the Trojans hired then-Washington head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who is commonly known around the Pac-12 as “Seven-win Steve,” due to not winning more than seven games in a season until getting to eight this past regular season.

Sarkisian’s qualifications for the job include:

"Seven-win Steve..."  It has a nice ring to it.

Kevin Cline

“Seven-win Steve . . .” It has a nice ring to it.

  • Losing at least four conference games every season since becoming head coach.
  • Being the coach for half of Oregon’s current (ten year!) win streak against  Washington.
  • Owning a career winning percentage lower than Lane Kiffin (Sarkisian .539, Kiffin .586).

USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron resigned the day after Sarkisian was hired, which was met with some discord from players.  Trojan’s freshmen star Su’a Cravens tweeted out “Coach O can never be replaced!”  The LA Times meanwhile pointed out that noted USC fan and official nutball Scott Wolf had a minor meltdown at the hiring, tweeting “‘Winning’ is obviously not a qualification for hiring the next #USC coach for Pat Haden.”

4. Sarkasian to Chris Petersen

Sarkisian’s move to the Trojan opened up the position of Head Puppy at the University of Washington.  Surprisingly, UW managed to go out and do what USC didn’t, and pull Chris Petersen away from Boise.  Now it’s anyone’s guess how Petersen will fare moving from a weak Mountain West Conference, where he’d built Boise State into a powerhouse, to the Pac-12 North, which arguably could be the toughest division in the Nation this coming season — facing both Oregon & Stanford, two guaranteed top 10 teams.

3. Tosh Lupoi leaves Washington

Number one?  Very premature, but a definite improvement.

Kevin Cline

Number one? Very premature, but a definite improvement.

Tosh Lupoi, universally considered one of the best recruiters in the PAC 12, parted ways with the University of Washington. For those who don’t subscribe to the rumor mill, it’s been rumored that Steve Sarkisian wanted to take Lupoi to USC with him to coach the defensive line, but Lupoi had a steep buyout of $400,000 that dissuaded USC from hiring him.

Soon after, it was revealed the Lupoi was under investigation by the NCAA.  Lynnwood High School coach Mike Davis said that Lupoi paid $4,500 for tutoring classes for UW recruit Andrew Basham.  Under this cloud, Lupoi and the University reached a “mutual separation agreement” which paid Lupoi $300,000 to leave the University.

2. Bo Davis leaving the herd already?

The Coaching Carousel spins nowhere faster than in the Land of Troy.

Kevin Cline

The Coaching Carousel spins nowhere faster than in the Land of Troy.

In one of the stranger and funnier college football hiring situation, former Texas defensive line coach Bo Davis was hired at USC for the same position.  A week later, however, he jumped ship and took the same position at Alabama.  Davis was widely seen as Sarkisian’s backup plan after Orgeron resigned and he was unable to bring Lupoi in.

In reaction to Davis’s leaving, Sarkisian told the LA Times, “Obviously, we had a little bit of a hiccup.”

1. Nick Allioti to Don Pellum

Coach Aliotti -- It's been a heck of a ride.

Cliff Grassmick

Coach Aliotti — It’s been a heck of a ride.

Finally we reach the coaching transition most important to Oregon, the resignation of Nick Aliotti.  Days before the Ducks took on Texas at the Alamo Bowl, Coach Aliotti announced his decision to retire after spending 24 years as a Duck.  The Ducks helped Coach Aliotti bow out in typical Duck fashion, and the search for a new Defensive Coordinator began in earnest.

Immediately a few names began to pop up.  Oregon defensive back’s coach John Neal was considered a top candidate, alongside Utah State DC Todd Orlando and former USC/Cal DC Clancy Pendergast.  It wasn’t until multiple media outlets reported Don Pellum was expected to be hired as the next Duck Defensive Coordinator, that people took a closer look at the man who has coached duck defenders for 21 years.  As it was revealed, Pellum has great recruiting connections to Southern California and has done great things with formerly unknown recruits.  His coaching was key to developing Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger into NFL players.

The new DC, Coach Pellum

Cliff Grassmick

The new DC, Coach Pellum.

To fill the gap in the outside linebackers position, the Ducks hired former Oregon Graduate Assistant and current Philadelphia Eagles assistant defensive line coach, Erik Chinander.

Michael Fletcher, a safety for the Ducks from 1996-1999 told OregonLive about Pellum’s hiring: “If you’re sitting in a meeting with coach Pellum, you realize how cerebral he was and how much of the game he knows.  It’s incredible.  He can have you picture things that you’ve never seen before on the field and it makes sense.  He makes players buy into what he’s selling.”

With eight months to go before the start of the 2014-2015 season, let’s see how many more stops the Coaching Carousel will make.

Top Photo Courtesy the Valero Alamo Bowl

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Pat Pannu

Pat Pannu

Pat Pannu is a recent graduate of the University of Oregon. Pat’s been a crazy Duck fan since she moved to Oregon in early 2004 and has been 95% of all home games since the 2005 football season. She loves to talk about sports though those talks somehow always end in arguments. Pat loves to hear other’s view of the sports and teams that she loves and can’t wait to hear from you all. Follow her on twitter @patpannu