College football coaching tracker: Firings, hirings, news ESPN logo
Saturday, December 23, 2023

As sure as autumn fades into winter, as the college football season winds down, the coaching carousel starts to crank up.

The biggest early name to lose his job was Jimbo Fisher, who was fired at Texas A&M during his sixth season leading the Aggies. Since then, nine Power 5 jobs have opened and closed.

As the list continues to grow, we'll track all the comings and goings of head coaches and prominent coordinators, along with insights and intel on searches for replacements and who might be on the hot seat.


Tony Sanchez to take over at New Mexico State

Wide receivers coach Tony Sanchez will replace Jerry Kill at New Mexico State, sources told ESPN's Pete Thamel.

Kill announced he's stepping down after two years at New Mexico State, where he turned around the football program. The Aggies were 10-5 this season, their first season with double-digit wins since 1960.

Sanchez was head coach at UNLV from 2014 to 2019.

Troy turns to Notre Dame OC Parker

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Gerad Parker is set to become the next coach at Troy, sources told ESPN.

Parker is a veteran coach who has served as Purdue's interim head coach and has been an assistant at places such as Penn State, West Virginia and Duke.

Parker has a similar background and personality traits to the past two coaches to have success at Troy -- Neal Brown and Jon Sumrall. Parker played at Kentucky with both of them and worked with Brown for two years as an assistant at West Virginia.

He'll replace Sumrall, who won back-to-back Sun Belt titles before leaving for Tulane. Sumrall went 23-4 in his two seasons at Troy.

More:Sumrall leaves to lead Green Wave

Grambling hires former assistant Joseph

Grambling is set to hire Mickey Joseph, a Louisiana native and former assistant at the school, as its next head coach, a source told ESPN.

Joseph, 55, most recently served as a Nebraska assistant and became the Huskers' interim coach for nine games after Scott Frost's firing early in the 2022 season.

Grambling fired coach Hue Jackson after only two seasons at the school.

Jackson, a longtime NFL coach who led both the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders earlier in his career, went 8-14 in two seasons with Grambling.

More: "The goal at GSU is to compete for championships every year."

Tulane has deal with Troy's Sumrall

Tulane has agreed to terms on a six-year deal with Troy's Jon Sumrall to become the Trojans' new head coach.

Sumrall has led the Trojans to back-to-back Sun Belt Conference titles the last two years at Troy.

Sumrall replaces Willie Fritz, who was hired by Houston. Fritz led Tulane to one of the best stretches in school history, as the Green Wave have reached a bowl game in five of the past six seasons and have gone 23-4 the past two years.

More: Fritz moves to Houston

Diaz hired by Blue Devils

Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has been hired as Duke's next football coach.

Diaz has been the top target for an extended period. Duke conducted finalist interviews in Las Vegas this week.

JMU replaces Cignetti with Holy Cross' Chesney

James Madison named Holy Cross coach Bob Chesney the school's next head coach.

Chesney emerged in recent seasons as one of the top FCS coaches in the country, as he's led Holy Cross to four FCS playoff bids in his six seasons there as head coach. That included four consecutive outright Patriot League championships from 2019 to 2022.Chesney led the Crusaders to their first-ever FCS playoff win in 2021 and to a win over UConn, the program's first win over an FBS school since 2002.

Chesney replaces Curt Cignetti, who guided James Madison through a seamless transition to the FBS before being scooped up by Indiana. Cignetti led the Dukes to an 11-1 season this year, tops in the Sun Belt. He was 52-9 across five seasons at JMU.

More: No reason Indiana can't succeed, says Cignetti

Middle Tennessee hires Mason

Middle Tennessee hired former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason as its new football coach.

Mason has a long history of coaching in college and the NFL. In addition to being a former head coach at Vanderbilt, he has been the defensive coordinator at Stanford, Auburn and Oklahoma State. He spent the 2023 season as an analyst for the SEC Network.

He replaces longtime MTSU coach Rick Stockstill following the team's third losing season in the past five years.

More: Stockstill was fourth-longest-tenured coach in FBS

New Mexico has hired Bronco Mendenhall to be the school's next football coach.

Mendenhall has been an FBS head coach for 17 seasons, with successful stints at Virginia and BYU. The 57-year-old hasn't coached since 2021, when he left Virginia to "reassess, renew, reframe and reinvent."

He will take on one of the biggest challenges in college football, as New Mexico hasn't won more than four games since 2016.

New Mexico fired head coach Danny Gonzales on Nov. 25 after a four-year stint in which he went 11-32 at his alma mater.

More: Gonzalez out after 4-8 season

UTEP hired coach Scotty Walden away from Austin Peay, hoping the 34-year-old Texan's return to his home state can revive the Miners' moribund program.

Walden led Austin Peay to the FCS team's first undefeated conference record this season with a 9-3 overall record and a 6-0 mark in the United Athletic Conference.The Governors were No. 10 in the NCAA's FCS coaches poll, but lost to Chattanooga 24-21 in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

UTEP fired coach Dana Dimel, 61, after a 3-9 season, his fifth losing season in six years.

More: Dimel out after six seasons at UTEP

Boise State promotes interim coach Danielson

Boise Statepromoted interim coach Spencer Danielson, naming him the school's new head coach, sources told ESPN.

Danielson, 35, is the former Boise State defensive coordinator who turned around the program's fortunes after getting promoted to interim head coach on Nov. 12.

Boise fired Andy Avalos on Nov. 12, with the Broncos at 5-5 and in danger of the program's first losing season since 1997.

More:Avalos out as Boise State can't match past success

Houston hires Tulane's Fritz

Houston has hired Tulane's Willie Fritz to be the Cougars' next football coach, the school announced.

Fritz has led Tulane to one of the best stretches in school history, as the Green Wave have reached a bowl game in five of the past six seasons and have gone 23-4 the past two years. Prior to his arrival, Tulane went to one bowl game between 2003 and 2015.

More:Holgorsen out after 31-28 record with Cougs

JMU's Cignetti is Indiana's next coach

Indiana has hired James Madison's Curt Cignetti as its next football coach.

Indiana fired Tom Allen on Sunday, a day after the Hoosiers completed their third consecutive losing season.

Cignetti, named the 2023 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year, guided James Madison through a seamless transition to the FBS. He led the Dukes to an 11-1 season this year, tops in the Sun Belt.

Across five seasons, Cignetti has a 52-9 record at James Madison.

More: Allen fired, in line for $15.5 million buyout

USC tabs UCLA's defensive coordinator

USC is finalizing a deal to hire UCLA defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn, per ESPN sources. UCLA finished No. 11 in total defense in his first year there this season, an improvement from No. 89 the year before.

USC fired DC Alex Grinch in November after the Trojans allowed 101 total points in two games.

More:Lynn led Pac-12's best defense

Penn State hiring Kansas OC Kotelnicki

Penn State is set to hire Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki for the same role, a source confirmed to ESPN. Kotelnicki has played a key role in Kansas' turnaround under coach Lance Leipold, whom he also worked for at Buffalo and Wisconsin-Whitewater.

He replaces Mike Yurcich, fired by Penn State on Nov. 12 following the team's 24-15 home loss to Ohio State. The Athletic first reported Penn State's expected hire of Kotelnicki.

More: Kotelnicki's KU offense 29th in yards, scoring

Baylor hires JakeSpavital as OC

Baylor has hired Jake Spavital as its new offensive coordinator. Coach Dave Aranda was retained after a 3-9 season, but offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes was dismissed after the Bears finished the year ranked 70th in total offense, scoring fewer than 20 points in five games.

It will mark a return to Texas and the Big 12 for Spavital, the former Texas State head coach as well as an offensive coordinator at Texas A&M and West Virginia. He was the offensive coordinator at Cal this season.

More: Spavital hire an attempt to bring up-tempo spread to Baylor

Bobby Petrino returning to Arkansas

Bobby Petrino has agreed to become the next offensive coordinator at Arkansas, and the two sides are finalizing the deal, sources told ESPN.

Petrino spent this season as the Texas A&M offensive coordinator and wasn't retained by new coach Mike Elko after Jimbo Fisher was fired earlier this month. The Aggies defeated the Razorbacks 34-22 on Sept. 30.

More:Petrino's return would mark a spectacular full-circle moment

San Diego State hires Colorado OC Lewis

San Diego State hired Sean Lewis, the Colorado offensive coordinator and former Kent State coach, as its new head coach.

Lewis spent the 2023 season with coach Deion Sanders and Colorado, handling offensive play calls for the first eight games before former NFL coach Pat Shurmur took over during the final month. The 37-year-old built his reputation on high-tempo, dynamic offenses.

Lewis replaces Brady Hoke, who announced his retirement earlier this month. Hoke went 40-32 in two stints with the Aztecs, who were 4-8 this season, their worst mark since 2009.

More: Hoke retires following second stint at SDSU

Oregon State promotes DC Trent Bray

Oregon State promoted defensive coordinator Trent Bray, a former Beavers linebacker who dramatically improved the team's defense over the past two-plus seasons, to head coach.

Bray, 41, replaces Jonathan Smith, who was introduced earlier Tuesday as Michigan State's head coach. Bray joined Smith's staff at Oregon State in 2018 as linebackers coach but began making his mark when Smith elevated him to coordinator in 2021.

More:Oregon State is 20-9 with Bray as its defensive coordinator

Syracuse tabs Fran Brown from Georgia

Syracuse hired Georgia defensive backs coach Fran Brown as its head coach, giving the Orange a highly regarded recruiter with roots in the Northeast.

The 41-year-old Brown, a native of Camden, New Jersey, spent the past two seasons with Georgia but has never been a head coach. He was part of a national championship team last season, and the Bulldogs are preparing for a third straight SEC championship game appearance Saturday against Alabama.

Brown replacesDino Babers, who ended his tenure at Syracuse with a 41-55 record over the past eight seasons.

More:Babers' ACC record was 20-45

A&M hires Duke's Elko to replace Fisher

Dukecoach Mike Elko is leaving the Blue Devils to become head coach at Texas A&M.

Elko is a former Texas A&M defensive coordinator who left there two years ago to take the Duke head-coaching job. Since Elko's departure after the 2021 season, A&M's performance has dipped on the field. The Aggies went 12-12 the past two years, which is why the school paid a record $76 million buyout to fire coach Jimbo Fisher.

Elko immediately showed his chops as a head coach, authoring one of the sport's biggest turnarounds in the 2022 season. Duke went 9-4 in Elko's first season after he inherited a team that had gone 3-9 the year before. The team went 7-5 this season after losing quarterback Riley Leonard to injury in Week 4.

Fisher was 45-25 in six seasons at Texas A&M.

More:Fisher fired, gets record buyout| AD: Aggies stuck in neutral

Oklahoma OC Lebby in for Arnett at Mississippi State

Oklahomaoffensive coordinator Jeff Lebby will be the new coach at Mississippi State, the school announced Nov. 26.

Lebby has been the offensive coordinator at OU, Ole Miss and UCF, with high-tempo and prolific offenses his hallmark. Since 2019, he's been coordinator of an offense that has scored 50 or more points 14 times, leading all active offensive coordinators.

Lebby replaces Zach Arnett, who fired Nov. 13 before completing his first season. Arnett, the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator for three seasons, was promoted to head coach this past December after the sudden death of Mike Leach.

More:Mississippi State fires Arnett after 11 games

Michigan State hires Oregon State's Smith

Michigan Statehired Oregon State football coach Jonathan Smith for the same role Nov. 25, hours after both teams ended their regular seasons.

Smith, 44, completed the regular season as No. 16 Oregon State fell to rival Oregon 31-7 on the road, dropping to 8-4 on the season. The former Beavers quarterback finishes 34-35 in six seasons at his alma mater, but 18-7 since the start of the 2022 campaign.

The Spartans fired Mel Tucker for cause Sept. 27 as he was under university investigation for a sexual misconduct complaint brought by Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault awareness speaker.

More: Competition for Smith required seven-year deal

MSU fires Tucker for bringing 'ridicule' to program

Northwestern promotes interim coach Braun

Interim coach David Braun, hired in January as defensive coordinator by former coach Pat Fitzgerald, was promoted to the permanent head-coaching role. Entering Week 12, Braun had led Northwestern to five wins, more than the team's combined win total from the past two seasons (4). He is the first Northwestern coach to win five games in his first season since Walter McCornack in 1903.

The school named Braun interim coach July 14, four days after it fired Fitzgerald in the wake of hazing allegations against the program. Fitzgerald went 110-101 over 17 seasons at Northwestern.

More: Committee liked Braun's approach|Hazing 'clearly not a secret'

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