2023 College Football Hot Seat, Buyouts, & Replacements

min read
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM Dec 14, 2022, 4:29 PM
  • Neal Brown is returning despite his AD's dismissal.
  • Jimbo Fisher's buyout isn't small.
  • Arkansas State has been awful under Butch Jones.

Twenty-nine college football teams had a first-year head coach in 2022. The record turnover – most first-year coaches in college football history – didn’t slow down the coaching carousel after the 2022 season.

As of mid-December, at least 21 teams will have a first-year head coach in 2023. And because none of those 21 teams also had a first-year coach in 2022, 50 teams have changed coaches in the last two years.

Which teams might change coaches in 2023? Here are hot seat coaches, buyouts, and potential replacements if fired.

College Football Hot Seat for 2023

Dino Babers – Syracuse

After a win over NC State in Week 7 gave Syracuse its first 6-0 start since 1987, it looked like Dino Babers might trade the preseason hot seat for a midseason extension.

Then the Orange lost five straight en route to a 7-5 finish.

Babers remains in no-man’s-land as he wins enough to keep his job but not enough to earn a long-term contract or broader institutional support from Syracuse.

Dino Babers Buyout: As a private school, Syracuse isn’t obligated to release Babers’ contract details, though his buyout was widely reported to be north of $10 million if fired in 2021. That number, presumably, dipped closer to $6 million for 2022 and should be negligible after the 2023 season.

Dino Babers Replacement: If new Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis leads a one-year turnaround of the Buffaloes’ miserable offense, the former Syracuse assistant and Kent State head coach could be a candidate. 

But perhaps it’s time for a change of pace for the middling program, i.e., Jeff Monken. The triple-option ceiling might be limited, as it was with Monken’s former boss Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech, but for a program constantly fighting for bowl eligibility, something new might be worth considering. 

Neal Brown – West Virginia

Late-season wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the program’s best recruiting class in 15 years, and a fat buyout of approximately $16 million likely saved Neal Brown’s job despite another lackluster season.

Despite 14 total conference wins in four seasons, West Virginia president E. Gordon Gee said they’re “very grateful to have Neal” in Morgantown and spoke highly of Brown’s connections within the school and state.

Neal Brown Buyout: For unknown reasons, Gee and former athletics director Shane Lyons gave Brown a contract extension in April 2021. The new deal includes a buyout equal to 100% of the remaining contract if fired before Dec. 31, 2024, which is approximately $12 million if fired after the 2023 season.

Neal Brown Replacement: West Virginia reportedly focused on three candidates after Dana Holgorsen’s departure in late 2018: Brown, then-defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, and Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. All three interviewed for the job.

Fickell is off the board, while Gibson – currently NC State defensive coordinator – could be a candidate again. Willie Fritz could make a short list, as could Kane Wommack and Mike Houston.

Danny Gonzales – New Mexico

It hasn’t been a successful homecoming for Danny Gonzales. The Albuquerque native, former New Mexico player, and former Lobos’ assistant has three Mountain West wins in three seasons. 

They closed the 2022 season with nine straight losses – failing to score more than 20 points in each game, including six straight games with 10 or fewer points to end the season – and have shown no signs of turning a corner toward bowl eligibility.

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. 

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 11 of 24 games – including 10 of 16 SEC games – and become the biggest laughingstock in college football.

Even with a win over LSU in Week 13 last year, Fisher’s job security is likely in question entering the 2023 season. He’s paid an extreme amount of money to compete for national championships, not finish in the bottom half of the SEC West.

Jimbo Fisher Buyout: Jimbo Fisher’s termination buyout would be the largest in college football history. If fired after the 2023 season, he’d 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. What would it take to land Josh Heupel, Dave Aranda, or Shane Beamer? Could they interest Luke Fickell with a $100-million contract?

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). 

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. Buyout terms of the contract remain unclear.

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 Graham Harrell. If not, maybe Seth Littrell gets another shot after a semi-questionable dismissal at North Texas. 

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 has just 12 total wins the last 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.

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 entering 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 – who’s now Duke’s offensive coordinator – could make the short list.

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About the Author

Andrew Doughty

Read More @DoughtyBetMGM

Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM with a focus on college football, NFL, college basketball, and NASCAR. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.

Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM with a focus on college football, NFL, college basketball, and NASCAR. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.