Before Jim Harbaugh showed up to Stanford, the Cardinal were mired in losing season after losing season. However, within two years under his coaching, they were considered National Championship contenders. Do you remember the name of the coach who nearly wrecked the program, though? His name was Walt Harris, and his tenure with Stanford was nothing short of a disaster. He’s one of the worst college football coaches of all-time, and he’s in “good company” on this list. To see where he falls among the worst of the worst, you’ll have to stick around.
Dan Hawkins Softened The Edges Of The Colorado Buffs
Dan Hawkins had Colorado fans cheering for him when he took over as the University of Colorado head coach in 2005. His resume included a winning run at Boise State and a tough guy attitude that lead everyone to believe his success would repeat at Boulder.
All the tough talk was quickly silenced when the team went 2-10 in his first season at the helm. Things got worse when a parent complained that his athletes were working too hard and he responded, “this ain’t intramurals!” He was fired in 2010 with a 19-39 record.
Jon Embree Was In A No-Win Situation As Hawkins’ Successor
Sticking with Colorado for our next coach, we present Dan Hawkins’ successor in Colorado: Jon Embree. Retired from the NFL, Embree spent several seasons working with the Buffs’ program. With Hawkins gone, he finally got his chance to be the big man in charge.
In two seasons as the school’s head coach, Embree won four games. Not an inspiring number for the school almuni. He was fired, but things haven’t gotten better for Colorado. The school has only had one winning season in the last ten years.
Mike Locksley Couldn’t Stay Out Of The Tabloids In New Mexico
From 2009 until 2011, Mike Locksley was the head coach of the University of New Mexico football program. During his tenure, the controversial coach couldn’t stay out of trouble. He was even accused of punching one of his assistant coaches during a staff meeting.
The school didn’t fire him for either offense. They did fire him after going 2-26 in two seasons, however. In 2018 he was hired by Alabama as the program’s offensive coordinator.
Rich Rodriguez Failed To Turn Michigan Into A Powerhouse
Rich Rodriguez spent three seasons as the head coach for the University of Michigan. The school hired him after he coached the West Virginia Mountaineers to six-straight winning seasons. Bringing a spread-style offense with him, Rodriguez never adjusted his coaching style to his new players. As a result, the Wolverines went 3-8 in his first season.
In his second season, the team saw minor improvements and went 5-7. The next year they went 7-6, but the winning record wasn’t enough to keep Rodriguez around, whose relationship with players and administrators had crumbled.
Bill Callahan Couldn’t Transition From The NFL Back To College
Bill Callahan brought a big pedigree with him to Nebraska. During his first season as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders the team went to the Super Bowl. Expectations by Cornhusker Nation were sky high with him in charge.
Sadly, like Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, Callahan failed to adjust his style of play and coaching to the college level. Under his leadership, the program suffered it’s first losing season in four decades. He stayed with the program for four seasons, going 27-22 before getting fired.
Charlie Weis Cost Notre Dame $40 Million
Charlie Weis was viewed by millions as the savior of Notre Dame when the school signed him to a ten-year contract at the end of 2004. Coming off four successful seasons as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, spending $40 million for Weis’ services seemed like a no-brainer.
Initially, Weis was a godsend, taking the fighting Irish to two Bowl games right away. Everything unraveled in his third season, when the school went 3-9. Weis struggled to stay afloat for two more years until the school finally cut ties with him.
Ellis Johnson Never Won A Game At Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi was coming off 18 straight winning seasons when they hired Ellis Johnson as the head coach in 2012. He signed a four-year contract worth $700,000 a year. At his introductory press conference he proudly proclaimed, “I am convinced you can always be successful.”
However, some proclamations should never be made. Johnson went 0-12 in his only season with the program. For the next three seasons, the school paid him $2.1 million to stay as far away as he possibly could.
Greg Robinson Won Five Games For Syracuse
Greg Robinson was part of a very dark time in Syracuse University’s sports program’s history. He only won ten games in four years, going 1-10 in his first season. The school fired him in 2008, two years after the NCAA came down hard on the school for violating several rules.
As part of the football program’s punishment, the team (and Robinson) were stripped of their five wins in 2005. Michigan hired Robinson as the school’s defensive coordinator in 2009. In 2015, he retired after one season in the same position with San Jose State.
J.B. “Ears” Whitworth Never Found His Footing In Tuscaloosa
The Crimson Tide were coming off a mediocre season in 1954 when they decided to make the move to hire J.B. “Ears” Whitworth as their head coach. The move immediately proved a mistake and Whitworth didn’t win a single game his first year.
The next two seasons, he managed to win four games, but lost the trust of the school. He was replaced by legendary coach Bear Bryant, who led Alabama from 1958 until 1982, winning 232 games and losing just 46.
Lane Kiffin Quit Before He Could Be Fired
Lane Kiffin has done a lot of things well in his career. He is great at recruiting athletes, and he is one of the best play callers in college football (despite his firing from USC). During his brief stint as Tennessee’s head coach, however, he was nothing more than a major disappointment.
Unlike the rest of the coaches on this list, though, the university never got to fire him. Fourteen months after accepting the job and going 7-6, Kiffin jumped ship to become the head coach at USC. After three years there, he was fired on the tarmac. Today he coaches at Florida Atlantic University.
Bobby Petrino Wasn’t A Bad Coach, Just A Bad Person
There’s no denying the promise Bobby Petrino showed as the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. His 34-17 record on the field speaks for itself. His unbecoming behavior off the field also speaks for itself, painting a picture of a troubled person who was given too much power.
Petrino found himself in hot water in 2012 when he got into a motorcycle accident with the woman he was having an affair with. The woman, whom Petrino “gifted” $20,000, was 25-years-old and worked on the Arkansas team support staff. He was suspended briefly before being fired.
Mike Haywood Was Fired 16 Days After Being Hired By Pitt
It didn’t take Pittsburgh long to hire, then fire, 2010 head coach Mike Haywood. Known best for being a wide receiver from Notre Dame, Pitt took on a chance on Haywood to bring a winning pedigree to the program. Little did they know how quickly they would regret it.
Almost as soon as Haywood was hired he was arrested and charged with felony domestic battery of a minor. The victim had visible injuries and was also the mother of Haywood’s child. Pitt fired the beleaguered coach as soon as he made bail; 16 days after hiring him.
George O’Leary Lied About His Credentials
Here’s a doozy of a story! George O’Leary was hired by Notre Dame in 2001. Before being hired, he made a number of claims including earning multiple varsity letters at the University of New Hampshire and earning his masters degree from NYU.
As soon as he was hired, his resume was torn apart. Coaches and players from New Hampshire claimed to not remember him. Worse, NYU denied ever awarding him a graduate degree. Notre Dame forced O’Leary to resign in shame, just five days after hiring him.
Art Briles Went From Hero To Villain At Baylor Overnight
Art Briles coached Robert Griffin III to a Heisman Trophy before the wheels fell off his tenure as the head coach at Baylor University. The team was great on the field, but was so bad off it, their coach had to cover up their behavior.
In 2015, a law firm revealed that Baylor’s athletic department, including Briles, hindered investigation into student athletes accused of sexual assault by female students on campus. Briles was fired and sued the school for wrongful termination. In 2018, the NCAA was still investigating the case.
Rick Venturi Helped Set The Record For Consecutive Losses At Northwestern
Northwestern hired Rick Venturi in 1978, where he went on to begin setting the division one record for most consecutive losses (34). It’s not easy losing so many games in a row, and Venturi paid the price. In 1981 he was replaced with Dennis Green, who continued the losing streak for a time.
Before Venturi turned Northwestern into a national embarrassment, the school wasn’t exactly a powerhouse. They had suffered through several losing seasons and just wanted to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. Instead they got buried even deeper beneath the surface.
Walt Harris Likes To Punt On Third Down At Stanford
Walt Harris earned his pink slip from Stanford following a 1-11 season in 2006. Known for his odd playcalling, Harris had an affinity for punting on third down instead of fourth down. He was also considered too tough on the athletes, and was cited as the reason at least one quit the program.
After leaving Stanford, Harris became the passing game at the University of Akron. In 2010 he spent one season as the offensive coordinator at California University of Pennsylvania. He has not coached football since.
Barry Wilson Crushed The Dreams Of Duke Fans Everywhere
When Steve Spurrier left Duke in 1989 as a top-20 program, no one predicted how quickly the school would fall back into obscurity. Barry Wilson took charge of the football team and suffered four straight losing seasons before being mercifully fired.
It took the Blue Devils nearly 20 years to recover from the damage Wilson did. The school went through seven seasons with double digit losses and had just one winning season until David Cutcliffe was hired and led them to four straight bowl games.
Paul Hackett Led The Way For Pete Carroll At USC
Paul Hackett had a long and storied career as a football coach in 1998 when USC hired him to bring glory to Southern California. His first season was a minor success and USC went 8-5. The next season he went 6-6 and then 5-7. Not looking to move backwards, USC fired him.
In Hackett’s place, the school hired Pete Carroll, who turned the program around immediately and won a National Championship. Carroll eventually grew too big for USC and moved onto coach the Seattle Seahawks, where he has appeared in two Super Bowls, winning one.
Jack Crowe Was Fired After Losing To A Division 1-AA Program
The Arkansas Razorbacks were held in high esteem when Jack Crowe took over the program in 1990. The team was coming off a 10-win season and was expected to compete for a National Championship. Instead, they went 3-8, falling victim to a seven game losing streak after a promising start.
The next season finished under similar circumstances. Arkansas jumped out to a hot start, going 5-2 before finishing the season 6-6. The nail in Crowe’s coffin came at the start of the next season, when Arkansas lost an embarrassing game to The Citadel, a Division 1-AA opponent. Crowe was fired immediately.
Mike Price Was So Bad He Never Coached A Game
Mike Price finally got a chance to play with the big boys in 2003 when he was hired by Alabama to be the head coach. Coming off 14 seasons running the Washington State football program, boosters in Tuscaloosa were sure they made the right choice.
Everything fell apart when Price’s vices got the best of him. Before he was able to coach a game, he was caught allegedly imbibing at an adult club. Alabama fired him without hesitation, hiring Mike Shula as his replacement.
John Blake Never Won More Than Five Games At Oklahoma
John Blake was given his only chance as a head coach in 1996 when Oklahoma hired him. In three seasons there, he never won more than five games, finishing with a dismal 12-22 record. Blake’s tenure is considered the worst three year stretch in the history of the program.
One thing Blake was credited for during his run was his ability to recruit. Two years after he left, Oklahoma won the National Championship. He was responsible for recruiting over half of the players on that team.
Brady Hoke Never Lived Up To Michigan’s Lofty Expectations
Brady Hoke was hired by Michigan in 2011 with high expectations. Over the course of four years, he won more than he lost, compiling a respectable 31-20 record. Still, when you’re coaching at Michigan, that’s not good enough. He was fired and replaced with Jim Harbaugh.
Before landing in Ann Arbor, Hoke had a career head coaching record of 47-50, bringing into question why the school hired him in the first place. In 2018, he was hired by the Carolina Panthers to be their defensive coordinator.
K-State Immediately Regretted Giving Ron Prince An Extension
Ron Prince immediately gave K-State’s football program a boost when he came on in 2006. Full of energy, the 36-year-old was the youngest head coach in his division. The team finished his first season 7-6. The next year they fell back to earth going 5-7.
At the beginning of his third season, the school signed him to a contract extension that would run through 2012. A poor recruiting class soured the glow of Prince, though, and the school finished below .500 for the second straight season. Afterwards he was fired, and was paid a $1.2 million buyout.
Mike Shula Had 16 Wins Taken Off His Record At Alabama For Violations
Mike Shula is best known as the son of legendary head coach Don Shula. Unfortunately, his father’s iconic shoes were too big to fill when Mike finally got his chance to be a head coach. For four years he ran the show at Alabama, going 10-23 in the process.
His best year was 2005, when the team finished 10-2. Those ten wins were wiped off of Shula’s record when the school was hit with NCAA sanctions for textbook violations. In total, Shula had 16 wins vacated.
Derek Dooley Ended His Tenure At Tennessee As The Program’s Least Winning Coach
Derek Dooley was hired into a no-win situation at the University of Tennessee. He was the third head coach in three years at the schools and was handed a team lacking confident who had lost several recruits. Unsurprisingly, he never finished a season over .500.
When he was fired after three years, Dooley’s overall record was 15-21. It was the worst record in the history of the school for a coach with more than two years in charge. He was replaced by Butch Jones.
Butch Jones Got Canned After Losing 50-17 To Missouri
Butch Jones had an up and down tenure with Tennessee. After two sub par seasons, he rejuvenated the failing program, going 9-4 in 2015 and 2016. The 2017 season, however, was filled will several embarrassing losses, including a devastating 50-17 crushing by Missouri.
After the loss to Missouri, Tennessee fired Butch Jones. It was the school’s worst loss to an unranked opponent ever, and someone had to pay the price . Brady Hoke took over as the team’s interim head coach, but left for the NFL after the season.
Ron Zook Failed To Bring The Fight Back To Illinois
Originally hired by Florida to take over for Steve Spurrier, Zook couldn’t live up to expectations despite two straight winning seasons. He ended up leaving the school to take over the the program at the University of Illinois.
Illinois’ program was in shambles before Zook arrived. His first recruiting class was ranked top 30 in the nation and everything seemed to be going in the right direction. Then losses piled up and the school finished the season 2-9. Zook was fired after the 2011 season with a 34-51 record.
Will Muschamp Underwhelmed At Florida
Will Muschamp was in a tough position following in Urban Meyer’s footsteps at Florida. Meyer had won a National Championship with the program and left to take on a new challenge at Ohio. Muschamp went 7-6 his first season, finishing 98th in the nation in total offense.
The next season the tide started to turn and Florida went 11-2, carried by their defense. The Gators started the next season 4-1 before losing seven in row. He was forced to step down after the next season, saying he was disappointed and didn’t win enough games.
Tyrone Willingham’s Career Flatlined At Washington
Before being hired by Washington, Tyrone Willingham had a strong head coaching record. Going 65-51 with Stanford and Notre Dame, Willingham was given a terrible team in Washington that needed a major attitude adjustment. He took the job seriously, showing up to players’ classes unannounced to make sure they were attending.
All the effort Willingham put in off the field didn’t pay dividends on it. In four seasons he finished with a 11-37 record. His worst season was his last, when the team went 0-12. It was the school’s first winless season in 119 years!
Karl Dorrell Was Given Too Much Rope At UCLA
Karl Dorrell started his UCLA career with two unimpressive seasons, going 6-7 and then 6-6. His job was in question the next season until he guided the Bruins to a 10-2 record, saving his livelihood. The next season UCLA finished 7-6.
In his final season at UCLA, the Bruins went 6-6 and played inconsistent football. Losses to several unranked opponents became the final straw for the University, who fired him and hired Baltimore Raven offensive coordinator Rich Neuhuisal to take over.
Rick Venturi Won One Game In Three Years At Northwestern
Rick Venture was the head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats from 1978 until 1980. In those three seasons, he finished 1-31, which has to be the worst record in school history. His final season saw him coach the beginning the school’s historic 34 game losing streak.
Somehow, Venturi ended up becoming the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints. Both times he took over mid-season on an interim status. He went 1-10 with the Colts in 1991 and 1-7 with the Saints in 1996.
Gary Crowton Couldn’t Find Repeat Success At BYU
Gary Crowton arrive at Brigham Young University with a bang, leading the team to a 12-2 record his first season. Expectations were high for a repeat performance the next season. Like most sequels, his sophomore effort was a letdown, and BYU went 5-7.
Crowton’s third season was even worse. The school went 4-8, but somehow didn’t lose faith in the beleaguered coach. He was forced to resign after going 5-6 during the his fourth season. In 2018, Crowton was hired by Pine View High School to be their offensive coordinator.
Joker Phillips Turned Kentucky Into A Laughing Stock
Joker Phillips was handed the reigns at Kentucky after several successful seasons as the school’s offensive coordinator. In his first season, the team went 6-7, a disappointing finish for the highly touted coach. Things only got worse from there. The next season the team went 5-7 and failed to make a bowl game.
The next season for Phillips was the worst, and the team finished 2-10. Suddenly the name Joker had an unexpected double meaning. In 2017, he was hired by the Bengals as their wide receivers coach.
Gerry DiNardo Tanked At Indiana
Before Gerry DiNardo was hired by Indiana to take over their football program, he was the head coach of the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the XFL. The team went 2-8, which Indiana should have seen a warning instead of a positive.
DiNardo never found his footing with the Hoosiers. In three seasons he never won more than three game, ending his disastrous tenure with a 8-27 record. After leaving Indiana, DiNardo left the coaching world entirely, becoming an analyst for the Big Ten Network.
Gene Chizik’s Fall From Grace Was Swift At Auburn
The only former head coach you’ll see on this list with a National Championship title on his resume, Gene Chizik’s fall at Auburn was just as historic as his rise. Hired by the school in 2009, Auburn went 8-5. The next year they went 14-0 and won the big game at the end.
Looking for continued success, Chizik underwhelmed, following his championship season with a n 8-5 record, then falling 3-9 in his fourth and final one. Firing their head coach cost Auburn $11.1 million. That’s a lot of money to send someone packing!
Mike London Had Six Failed Seasons At Virginia
Mike London was the head coach of he Virginia Cavaliers for six seasons. In that time he had one winning season. Amazingly, the school didn’t fire London after going 4-8 during the 2015 season. Instead, hearing the calls for his termination from fans, London resigned.
Two years after leaving Virginia, London became the head coach at Howard. His posted a winning record in his first season. It was his first since 2011. Now only time will tell if it will be his last.
Kevin Steele Bent And Broke At Baylor
Head coaching tenures don’t get much worse than Kevin Steele’s four years at Baylor. In his first campaign with the school in 1999, Steele went 1-10. Her followed it up with a 2-9 season, then two straight three win years.
Steele’s final game was a 62-11 loss to Texas Tech. Although he was fired with three games left in the 2002 season, Steele chose to coach the final three games as a lame duck coach. When the season ended, the school replaced him with Guy Morriss.
Paul Wulff Left Washington State With The Worst Winning Percentage In School History
Paul Wulff became the second alumni of Washington State to become he head coach when he was hired in 2008. Proving that sometime you shouldn’t go home, Wulff went 9-40 over the next four years and was fired with the worst winning percentage in school history.
Wulff’s career didn’t end there. He may not be a head coach anymore, but he is still a respected coordinator. He even spent the 2013 season in the NFL as an offensive assistant on Jim Harbaugh’s staff with the 49ers.
Dave Wannstedt Never Made A Bowl Game With Pitt
Dave Wannstedt was a decorated NFL coach when the University of Pittsburgh hired him in 2004. With his pedigree, the school expected instant success and bowl games to come their way. Despite a 42-31 overall record, he failed to advance the school to a bowl game, which signaled the end of his tenure.
In 2010, Wannstedt resigned. On year later he joined the coaching staff of the Buffalo Bills under head coach Chan Gailey. His last job was in 2013 as the special teams coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bo Pelini Was Good, Just Not Good Enough
Bo Pelini was the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 2008 until 2014. During his tenure he never won less than nine games and probably doesn’t desereve a spot on this list. Except he does, because he couldn’t get over the “hump” despite all his success.
At a certain point in a successful head coaches career, wins stop mattering. Pelini had no problem winning games, he had a problem winning the big one. The University fired Pelini after the 2014 season, despite his 67-27 record, because the school never won the conference with him.