2024 College Football Hot Seat, Buyouts, & Replacements

min read
Baylor head coach Dave Aranda watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM Jan 03, 2024, 1:17 PM

Twenty college football teams will have a first-year head coach in 2024, down from 24 in 2022 and 24 in 2023.

How many will have a first-year coach for the 2025 season?

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

Sam Pittman – Arkansas

Since winning the 2021 Outback Bowl to cap the program’s first nine-win season since 2011, Arkansas has gone 11-14, including 4-12 in conference games.

Pittman’s staff is still recruiting at a respectable level — top-30 classes from 2020-24, including four top-125 recruits in the 2024 class — but that’s irrelevant if you’re getting waxed at home by a bad Auburn team.

Sam Pittman Buyout: Pittman’s contract is complex with deferred guaranteed bonuses and a winning-percentage clause. Simply put, if Pittman is fired after the 2024 season, he’ll be due somewhere between $9-$12 million. 

Sam Pittman Replacement: UTSA head coach and former Arkansas assistant Jeff Traylor is the obvious candidate. His success in San Antonio suggests he wasn’t the problem during the dreadful Chad Morris era.

If Jamey Chadwell is available, he could be an option, as could Gus Malzahn and Jon Sumrall. 

Dave Aranda – Baylor

Since winning the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022, to cap the first 12-win season in program history, Baylor has won nine total games, tied for the seventh-fewest among Power Five programs.

Once mentioned as a potential candidate for a premier job, Dave Aranda might need another magical season to retain his job. The Bears have lost 13 of their last 16 games, aren’t recruiting well, and desperately need a greater NIL commitment.

Dave Aranda Buyout: Aranda’s private-school buyout is unknown. Reports from local media and college football insiders have estimated it was between $24-30 million if fired after last season. If accurate, that means his post-2024 buyout would be around $18-25 million.

Dave Aranda Replacement: Baylor didn’t promote then-associate head coach Joey McGuire when Matt Rhule left for the NFL. But McGuire did remain on Aranda’s staff for two seasons before taking the Texas Tech job. He’s the obvious aim-high candidate. If they can’t land McGuire, other candidates might include Sumrall, Billy Napier, Alex Golesh, and Barry Odom. 

Jeff Hafley – Boston College

Jeff Hafley spent the first half of the 2023 season on the hot seat before a midseason five-game winning streak likely satisfied the administration’s expectations to avoid paying a reported buyout around $10 million.

Even with Boston College’s first seven-win season since 2018, Hafley likely needs improvement in 2024 to earn another year. And he’ll need to do it against a schedule that includes a tough nonconference schedule.

Jeff Hafley Buyout: Despite 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, reports suggest a buyout during or after the 2024 season would be about $6 million.

Jeff Hafley Replacement: It might be time for Boston College to try something new after finishing below .500 in ACC play 12 of the last 13 seasons. That could mean triple-option coach Jeff Monken. Sean Lewis or Chris Creighton could also be candidates.

Billy Napier – Florida

In hiring culture-obsessed Billy Napier, Florida committed to a long-term, methodical rebuild with significant roster turnover, inconsistent on-field performances, and a lot of growing pains.

All of that has happened, though it’s still hard to accept for a program interested in competing for national championships, not Gasparilla Bowl contention.

Entering his third year, Napier is facing loads of two-deep questions, recruiting issues, and one of the hardest schedules in college football history.

Billy Napier Buyout: Under contract through the 2028 season, Napier is due 85% of the remaining contract if fired without cause. If he’s fired at the end of the 2024 season, he’d be due approximately $26 million.

Billy Napier Replacement: If athletic director Scott Stricklin is allowed to make a third hire after missing on Mullen and Napier, he’d presumably gauge the interest of big fish like Dan Lanning, Lane Kiffin, or Kalen DeBoer. Eli Drinkwitz could also be an option, as could Jamey Chadwell, and Willie Fritz.

Will Hall – Southern Miss

Once the model of acceptable consistency, Southern Miss can’t find the right formula in the transfer portal and NIL era.

Momentum from seven wins in 2022 was eradicated last year with the second nine-loss season in Will Hall’s three years. The former small-school coach is now 13-24 and might need a dramatic turnaround in 2024 to retain his job.

Will Hall Buyout: Hall’s buyout is 100% of his remaining contract, though his four-year deal expires on Dec. 31, 2024. If fired during or shortly after the 2024 season, the buyout would be low six figures or high five figures.

Will Hall Replacement: Current defensive coordinator Ron Roberts was rumored to be a candidate before Hall was hired and could be in the mix again. Blake Anderson also makes sense if Utah State makes a change.

Chip Kelly – UCLA

UCLA athletics director Martin Jarmond cited off-the-field student-athlete development as the primary reason for retaining Chip Kelly beyond the 2023 season. While it’s impossible to know if that’s genuine, it might suggest Kelly didn’t actually land on the hot seat during or after an underwhelming 2023 season.

Still, a four-win Pac-12 season before jumping to the Big Ten likely didn’t inspire competitive confidence for UCLA’s power brokers.

Chip Kelly Buyout: Kelly signed a restructured contract in early 2023 that included a shockingly small buyout for a contract that runs through 2027. If fired before Dec. 1, 2023, he’s due only $4.7 million. 

Chip Kelly Replacement: If donors hand Jarmond a blank check, Jonathan Smith could be targeted if things go well in his first season at Michigan State. Jedd Fisch could also make a short list, along with Lewis, Odom, and Troy Taylor.

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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.