2023 College Football Hot Seat, Buyouts, & Replacements

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FILE - Boston College coach Jeff Hafley walks the field before the team's NCAA college football game against Florida State on Sept. 24, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Boston College opens their season at home against Northern Illinois on Sept. 2.(AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)
(AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM Sep 25, 2023, 9:19 AM

Twenty-nine college football teams had a first-year head coach in 2022. Another 24 teams had a first-year coach in 2023, including Northwestern after firing Pat Fitzgerald and promoting defensive coordinator Davie Braun as interim coach. 

Which teams might follow Northwestern and Michigan State with a coaching change during and after 2023?

Here are hot seat coaches, buyouts, and potential replacements if fired.

Danny Gonzales – New Mexico

It’s been an underwhelming homecoming for Danny Gonzales.

The Albuquerque native, former New Mexico player, and former Lobos’ assistant has eight wins (and only three Mountain West wins) in his first 34 games. They closed the 2022 season with nine straight losses and will struggle to win more than two games this season.

Danny Gonzales Buyout: Gonzales’ five-year, $3.5-million contract includes a buyout of just $400,000 if terminated in its fourth year. Even for a cash-strapped program like New Mexico, that probably wouldn’t be a job-security factor.

Danny Gonzales Replacement: Athletics director Eddie Nuñez checked a lot of boxes with the hire of Gonzales – i.e., local ties and Mountain West experience.

Maybe he does it again with Gary Patterson, a former assistant who interviewed for the job upon Dennis Franchione’s departure in 1998. Rocky Long was hired instead, and Patterson joined Franchione’s staff at TCU. 

Missouri running backs coach Curtis Luper could also be in the mix. He was considered for the job in 2019 — then as TCU’s co-offensive coordinator — before the Lobos hired Gonzales.

Jeff Hafley – Boston College

Boston College’s Week 1 loss to Northern Illinois was enough to put Jeff Hafley on the hot seat. Their Week 3 effort against Florida State was a step in the right direction but not enough to warrant long-term optimism.

After a blowout loss to Louisville in Week 4, the Eagles are 16-23 under Hafley and, despite a weak schedule, will need a miracle to reach bowl eligibility.

Jeff Hafley Buyout: After losing six of the final eight games in 2021, Hafley was given a five-year extension at the end of the season. While his contract details are unknown, several insiders have estimated a 2023 buyout would be in the range of $10 million.

Jeff Hafley Replacement: It might be time for Boston College to try something new after finishing below .500 in ACC play 11 of the last 12 seasons. That could mean triple-option coach Jeff Monken.

Others to consider: Sean Lewis, Curt Cignetti, Jamey Chadwell, and Chris Creighton.

Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M

Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork claimed in September 2021 that Jimbo Fisher had Texas A&M on a path toward “championship-level success.”

Since that comment, the Aggies have lost 12 of 29 games — including 10 of 17 SEC games — and become a national punchline.

Even with a friendly conference schedule, A&M might struggle to win more than five games again this year.

Jimbo Fisher Buyout: Jimbo Fisher’s termination buyout would be the largest in college football history. If fired after the 2023 season, he’d be owed approximately $77 million.

Jimbo Fisher Replacement: If Texas A&M’s donors are willing to pay a $77-million buyout, they’re presumably willing to pay big money for a replacement. Why pay a fat buyout and then go cheap on his replacement?

What would it take to land Kalen DeBoer or Dan Lanning? 

It could be a wide-open search with potential interest in Mike Elko, Jake Dickert, and others.

Butch Jones – Arkansas State

From 2002-20, Arkansas State had never won fewer than four games in a season. They’ve done it twice in two seasons under Butch Jones.

Jones’ return to head coaching has been a disaster. He has two total conference wins and lost five games by at least 20 points in 2022 (after losing four games by at least 20 points in 2021). 

Before a win over Southern Miss in Week 4, the Red Wolves had been outscored 110-3 by FBS opponents this year.

Butch Jones Buyout: In June 2022, after a two-win debut season, Jones’ initial five-year deal was extended one year. He’s now under contract with an $825,000 annual salary through the 2026 season and would be due a buyout of $500,000 for each remaining year. 

If fired after the 2023 season, Jones would receive approximately $1.54 million.

Butch Jones Replacement: This would be the first football hire of athletics director Jeff Purinton’s career, so it could be a who-knows, wide-open search. 

Maybe they go back to the successful script of Power Five coordinators and call Jeff Lebby, Phil Longo, or Kendal Briles. If not, maybe Seth Littrell gets another shot one year after he was fired by North Texas. 

Brent Pry – Virginia Tech

Justin Fuente left behind a broken program. And while Brent Pry deserves time to pick up the pieces, getting blown out by Rutgers at home is bad enough to kill any rebuilding schedule.

The Hokies aren’t recruiting well — barring late commits, they likely won’t sign a top-40 class for the third straight year — and could finish with one or two wins this year.

Brent Pry Buyout: Pry’s six-year deal includes a buyout equal to 70% of the remaining contract. That would be roughly $13.7 million if fired after this season, which would be just two years after Virginia Tech paid nearly $9 million to Justin Fuente.

Brent Pry Replacement: Dave Clawson was reportedly a finalist — along with Billy Napier — before they hired Pry two years ago. He could be a finalist again.

Jamey Chadwell and Charles Huff could also be candidates.

Ryan Silverfield – Memphis

Is Ryan Silverfield a victim of overachieving predecessors? Or is he failing to sustain success after his predecessors took the program from the sewer to annual New Year’s Six contender?

It’s probably some of both for Memphis’ fourth-year coach.

After an eight-win COVID debut season in 2020, Silverfield had just 12 total wins the next two years, the program’s worst two-year stretch since 2012-13. And while he has a chance to land the first top-50 recruiting class in program history, another .500 season could be problematic.

Starting 3-1 with a strong showing against Missouri is nice but not enough to get Silverfield off the hot seat.

Ryan Silverfield Buyout: Silverfield’s initial five-year, $9.25-million contract — signed in December 2019 — was extended after the 2021 season by one year, making it a six-year, $11.25-million deal that runs through 2025.

If fired after the 2023 season, his buyout is less than $2 million.

Ryan Silverfield Replacement: Former Tigers’ assistant Barry Odom was reportedly considered for Mike Norvell’s successor before Silverfield was promoted.

He’s in his first season at UNLV and might not need another stop to parlay that job into another Power Five shot. But with the Memphis ties, a better geographical fit, and potentially more money, he could be in play again.

If not, perhaps Silverfield’s former offensive coordinator Kevin Johns — now in his second season as Duke’s offensive coordinator — could make the short list.

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About the Author

Andrew Doughty

Read More @DoughtyBetMGM

Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.

Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.