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2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker: Lincoln Riley to USC headlines early moves

Lincoln Riley heads west to USC while PFN stays put, tracking all the moves in our 2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker.

The college football offseason hits quickly. Gone are the days of allowing teams to finish their seasons and wait out their coaching stints. Tracking the 2021 college football coaching carousel got started essentially when the final blades of grass fell at Bedlam when Oklahoma State defeated Oklahoma. Join us this entire offseason as we track the movement of every coaching staff in major college football.

2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker

The coaching carousel tracker is easy to get zapped into. With news flying around at the speed of Twitter — yes, that’s a speed — it’s just as easy to get lured into fake reports. As such, our 2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker is going to report on jobs available, reported hires from legitimate news sources, and potential news only from trusted college insiders.

As we kick things off, it’s important to understand what we’re tracking. With Week 13 gone, Rivalry Week ended the regular season for all but four teams (Cal, USC playing a makeup game, Army-Navy playing their annual after-season game). With 126 teams’ regular seasons ending, there were over a dozen major college football jobs open.

Included in those slew of job openings were a handful of college football’s most notable programs, including LSU, USC, and Florida. And after the first day of the non-regular season began, the country added a 28th job and perhaps the most prestigious opening on the market: Oklahoma.

Current Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley has reportedly agreed to become the next head coach at USC, leaving behind one incredible legacy in Norman. Riley also spurns the potential advances from LSU, who were also reportedly pushing hard for him.

Coaching Carousel Tracker: Open head coach jobs

Now, here we are. Ahead of perhaps the busiest offseason in college football history in terms of tracking coaching moves. The 2021 College Football Coaching Carousel Tracker will keep track of all the jobs by university, with who’s in, who’s out, and the potential candidates to take over.

Akron Zips

Out: Tom Arth
In: Joe Moorhead

The Zips let go of Tom Arth after the team won just three games with him at the helm. In three years, Arth did achieve growth in each season, winning one more game a year. But it wasn’t to be, as the program saw a steep decline from where they were previously.

The latest on the Zips’ head coaching search is a varietal who’s who of Ohio sports greats. From high school greats to MAC all-stars, this is still very open.

[UPDATE – Monday, November 29th, 12:15 PM ET] A leading candidate has emerged for the Akron head coach opening. Former Penn State OC, current Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has become the leading candidate. Moorhead has the Ducks 18th in rushing offense and third nationally in converting third downs at 52.9%. He’s long since been rumored to land a coaching gig so the bit of news to Akron is surprising a touch given the number of other openings.

[UPDATE – Wednesday, December 1st, 9:15 AM ET] College football insider Bruce Feldman of The Athletic has reported that Moorhead is indeed the guy to land the Akron job. The announcement is expected after the Pac-12 Championship Game. Moorhead spent five seasons previously at Akron from 2004-2008 and is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania originally, less than two hours away.

Colorado State Rams

Out: Steve Addazio
In: Jay Norvell

The Steve Addazio era finished quickly in Fort Collins after his hiring was largely seen as a downgrade in 2020. After failing to turn things around, the Rams went 1-3 in the shortened COVID-19 season a year ago, and failed to install his offensive system this year, limping to a 3-9 record in 2021. Addazio went 4-12 in his CSU career and is now 61-67 lifetime as a head coach.

The Rams quickly moved to bring in Jay Norvell after his five seasons with Nevada. Norvell finished his tenure with Nevada at 33-26, winning seven games in each of the past four seasons. Norvell has known his way around a terrific quarterback in his career and could help change the Colorado State culture in a positive way.

Duke Blue Devils

Out: David Cutcliffe
In: TBD

Longtime Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is out following a 3-9 record in 2021. Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils had fallen off as of late and hadn’t won more than five games in a season since 2018.

Still, Cutcliffe is a legend in the game and perhaps one of the better coaches of the fundamentals in the sport’s history. His quarterback hierarchy is nearly unmatched as well.

Cutcliffe’s departure paves the way for new blood in a program that deserves it. This will be an interesting head coach opening to monitor. Duke has a lot to offer as a university.

Florida Gators

Out: Dan Mullen
In: Billy Napier

The Gators ousted Dan Mullen after the program failed to achieve any growth in his tenure. He took over incredibly talented teams in 2018 and failed to reach the success of their 2019 season that saw them win the Orange Bowl. Florida fired Mullen ahead of their Rivalry Week showdown with Florida State after dropping a game in OT to Missouri.

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Florida hired Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, an announcement that will become formal after Louisiana’s Sun Belt Championship Game appearance next weekend. Napier has turned the Louisiana program into a nationally-known team that surpassed even the wildest of Sun Belt aspirations. His teams have lost just two games over the past two seasons combined, and he’s currently 39-12 as Louisiana’s head coach.

Florida International Panthers

Out: Butch Davis
In: Mike MacIntyre

Butch Davis has left the program amid accusations that the athletic department underserved the football program. While there’s more to unpack from FIU, Davis is out. And whoever steps in to take over has their work cut out for them. FIU lost their last game of the season to Southern Miss, 37-17, and will have to replace a ton of graduating seniors.

[UPDATE – Thursday, December 9th, 9:15 AM ET] It has been announced that Mike MacIntyre has been named the head coach at FIU. MacIntyre had recently been the Memphis defensive coordinator after head coaching stops at Colorado and San Jose State in the past. MacIntyre has his work cut out for him after FIU finished 1-11 this year and has question marks across the roster and staff. He may be just the man for the job, however, as he also comes in with newly-hired athletic director Scott Carr.

Fresno State Bulldogs

Out: Kalen DeBoer
In: Jeff Tedford

Kalen DeBoer was always destined for great things in the college football coaching ranks. Since entering coaching following his playing days at Sioux Falls, it’s been one rapid ascension up the ranks. He continued that when he left Indiana after one season as offensive coordinator to join Fresno State in 2020 as their head man.

Now, he leaves the program to become Washington’s next head coach. DeBoer finished his two seasons at Fresno State with a 12-6 record after compiling a 67-3 record as Sioux Falls head coach from 2005-2009. Fresno State has been built into a formidable Mountain West program and should absolutely land a strong head coach soon.

[UPDATE – Thursday, December 9th, 9:15 AM ET] Jeff Tedford is set to return to the sidelines in Fresno, after two years away. Tedford was Fresno State’s head coach from 2017-2019, marking his third stint on the Bulldogs coaching staff. After playing for Fresno State in the 80’s, Tedford was the program’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator from 1992-1997 before bouncing around and ultimately landing the Cal head coaching gig from 2002-2012. He was the Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2017 and returns after two years away.

Georgia Southern Eagles

Out: Chad Lunsford
In: Clay Helton

The program at Georgia Southern was apparently lost under Chad Lunsford. A great leader of men, Lunsford just couldn’t quite put two and two together with for the Eagles.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a video of a player chugging a beer on the roof of a moving school bus headed to a game, not from it. Lunsford was removed after four games in 2021, compiling a 28-21 record across five seasons at the helm.

The Eagles moved quickly to jump on former USC head coach Clay Helton. Despite being named head coach prior to the end of their season, Helton assumed coaching duties following their season-ending loss to Appalachian State in Week 13.

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

Out: Billy Napier
In: Michael Desormeaux

Napier’s exit to Gainesville leaves one of the most prestigious Group of 5 openings without a head coach. The Ragin’ Cajuns likely have had plans to replace Napier for some time as he was destined for a Power 5 job from the start. The culture built by Napier will be hard to replace but they have the roster and assets to bring in a big hire.

[UPDATE – Wednesday, December 8th, 9:15 AM ET] Michael Desormeaux becomes the 27th head coach in Louisiana’s program history. A rapid riser, Desormeaux has been with the program since 2016, in a variety of roles on offense. Most recently, he was Napier’s co-offensive coordinator this past season. He’s been coined as a “relentless recruiter,” and is certainly on his way to big things if his current trajectory continues.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Out: Skip Holtz
In: Sonny Cumbie

The Bulldogs announced ahead of their regular-season finale against Rice that they had plans to move on from Skip Holtz. Louisiana Tech lost their game against Rice to move to 3-9 on the season and will be without Holtz as HC for the first time since 2012. Holtz compiled a 64-50 record in his time at Louisiana Tech, winning the C-USA West division three times.

[UPDATE – Tuesday, November 30th, 9:15 AM ET] The Bulldogs are expected to name Sonny Cumbie their next head coach on Tuesday. Cumbie was named Texas Tech’s interim head coach following Matt Wells’ firing and despite initial reports stating he was to be retained under Joey McGuire, the opening at Tech has prompted his move. Cumbie was 1-3 as the Red Raiders interim head coach this season.

[UPDATE – Wednesday, December 1st, 7:15 AM ET] In today’s world, your word is your bond. In college football, your Twitter bio is the ultimate checklist of items to ensure news is accurate. Cumbie officially changed his Twitter biography to show he has accepted the Louisiana Tech job. Officially official, Cumbie is the next lead man for the Bulldogs.

LSU Tigers

Out: Ed Orgeron
In: Brian Kelly

In a rapid decline, LSU announced back in October that they and Ed Orgeron would split ways after the end of the season. Orgeron famously led the Tigers to an unprecedented 15-0 season in 2019, capping it with a national championship. But back-to-back seasons at .500 were his undoing.

The Tigers reportedly went hard after Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley but were spurned when Riley chose USC. LSU now finds itself between a rock and a hard place as they allowed Florida to grab in-state Napier. It is arguably the best job still available.

[UPDATE – Monday, November 29th, 8:15 PM ET] Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reports that LSU has reached an agreement to hire current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. The longtime coach of the Fighting Irish has led Notre Dame to an 11-1 record this season. Their College Football Playoff hopes are still alive in South Bend as the pending announcement is expected on Tuesday, November 30th according to Thamel.

[UPDATE – Tuesday, November 30th, 9:15 AM ET] The contract details are out as Kelly is officially announced as LSU’s next head coach. Kelly was given a nine-year, $95 million deal to become the Tigers next head coach.

Miami Hurricanes

Out: Manny Diaz
In: Mario Cristobal

In a splash hire, the Hurricanes brought in Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal to be their next coach. Though the hire makes sense, the entire situation was handled relatively poor as they didn’t fire Manny Diaz until they had close confirmation that Cristobal would sign on. Diaz finishes his short stint as Miami’s head coach with a 21-15 record.

Cristobal enters the fold after formerly serving as FIU’s head coach in 2007-2012 and two prior stops on Miami’s coaching staff. Cristobal has a career coaching record of 62-60 but his four seasons at Oregon saw success at the major level. He won two Pac-12 Championships and two Pac-12 North crowns. His recruiting prowess is among the best in the country, as such, keeping homegrown talent will be integral towards his long-term success.

New Mexico State Aggies

Out: Doug Martin
In: Jerry Kill

Martin was relieved of his command in charge of the Aggies after eight seasons with the program. Martin joined New Mexico State in 2013, winning more than three games in a season just once when the Aggies finished 7-6 in 2017.

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New Mexico State announced just hours following Martin’s dismissal that they’ve reached an agreement to bring in longtime college head coach Jerry Kill. Most recently, Kill had been a special assistant to now-former TCU head coach Gary Patterson, before being named TCU’s interim HC following Patterson’s firing.

Kill is most widely known for his time at Minnesota, where health issues dominated his headlines. His health problems forced him into retirement back in 2015, but he returned to coaching in 2018. Kill has a lifetime record of 154-101 as a CFB head coach.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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