Pac-12 head coaching vacancies are likely to grow

Nov 23, 2021, 7:45 PM
Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards signals to his offense during the second half of an NCAA coll...

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards signals to his offense during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Stanford Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Stanford 28-10. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

There have been 14 coaching changes at the FBS level this season.

Three of those were in the Pac-12, with Washington, Washington State and USC all dismissing their coaches in the midst of the regular season. And there’s reason to believe that number could grow before the New Year rolls around.

A look at the coaches who are gone, who may be going, and who are probably safe — for now.


This was by far the strangest coaching saga in recent memory. Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich refused to get vaccinated although it was required of state employees. Rolovich applied for a religious exemption, but the school ultimately decided it was unreasonable to accommodate him and let him go along with four of his assistants.

Rolovich appealed the decision and his lawyer has threatened legal action.

His interim replacement, defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, has the Cougars (6-5, 5-3) bowl-eligible. If Washington State wins the Apple Cup against Washington on Friday, and then wins the bowl game, it’s possible that the Cougars give Dickert the job.


Jimmy Lake was fired under unusual circumstances, too.

Lake was disciplined for swatting at and shoving one of his players during a game against Oregon. He was suspended for the following game but that essentially ended it for Lake, who took over after the departure of Chris Petersen and got less than two full seasons to prove himself.

The Huskies played just four games in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, then he was let go after 10 games of the 2021 season.

The Huskies are 4-7 overall and 3-5 in conference, and playing out the season under interim coach Bob Gregory. Washington State’s season will end with the Apple Cup on Friday.


Clay Helton was the first coach fired this season, just two games into his eighth year at USC. He was 46-24 overall with the Trojans, including a Rose Bowl victory after the 2016 season and a Pac-12 title in 2017.

After a pair of good seasons with Sam Darnold at quarterback, Helton couldn’t sustain the success. He was fired after a blowout loss at home to Stanford on Sept. 11 and replaced with interim coach Donte Williams.

The Trojans (4-6, 3-5) play No. 13 BYU over the holiday weekend and then a postponed game against Cal.

Georgia Southern hired Helton on Tuesday, seven weeks after USC fired him.


Arizona State coach Herm Edwards is considered among the coaches in danger because of a combination of factors: tough late-season losses and an NCAA investigation.

The Sun Devils began the season ranked before struggling with inconsistency. They’re coming off a 24-10 loss at Oregon State on Saturday. Still, ASU (7-4, 5-3) is bowl-eligible and likely finishing second in the Pac-12 North.

Another question mark is David Shaw at Stanford, who has had past success with the Cardinal (3-8, 2-7). Stanford upset Oregon, but a blowout 41-11 loss to Cal in the Big Game last Saturday may have sealed Shaw’s fate.

Bay Area neighbor Justin Wilcox is also a hot seat candidate. The Golden Bears (4-6, 3-4) are going to miss out on a bowl game this season. Wilcox has had to deal with a myriad of issues, including a COVID-19 outbreak and some confusing local regulations.


UCLA coach Chip Kelly may survive another year after a 62-33 thumping of crosstown rival USC on Saturday, but for a while there it looked dicey. The Bruins (7-4, 5-3) are bowl-bound for the first time since 2017. And they could finish with their best record since 2015.


Jonathan Smith at Oregon State, Kyle Whittingham at Utah, and Mario Cristobal at Oregon are clearly entrenched for now — although Cristobal has been rumored as a candidate for some of the openings.

Karl Dorrell is in his second season with Colorado. In 2020, the Buffaloes went to the Alamo Bowl. This season the Buffs (4-7, 3-5) aren’t bowling, but it’s likely Dorrell gets more time to build his program.

Can a coach be fired after just one season? Perhaps, if Arizona (1-10, 1-7) decides it has seen enough of Jedd Fisch. But he’s also inherited a mess, so he, too, will be probably be given another season at the helm.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona State Football

Arizona State DB Jack Jones celebrates an 87-yard pick-six in a 38-15 win over Arizona in the Terri...
Jake Anderson

Arizona State’s defense bends but doesn’t break in Territorial Cup win

Bend but don't break. That was the calling card for ASU's defense in Saturday's 38-15 Territorial Cup win over Arizona at Sun Devil Stadium.
1 day ago
Defensive back Chase Lucas #24 of the Arizona State Sun Devils celebrates with the Territorial Cup ...
Arizona Sports

ASU CB Chase Lucas runs into student section with Territorial Cup

ASU cornerback Chase Lucas celebrated with the fans by taking the Territorial Cup into the stands after Saturday's win over Arizona.
1 day ago
TEMPE, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 30: Head coach Herm Edwards of the Arizona State Sun Devils watches from t...
Wills Rice

ASU’s Herm Edwards after Territorial Cup win: ‘I’m the coach’ next year

ASU won its fifth consecutive Territorial Cup and after the game, the same message was repeated. "Herm (Edwards) is back next year."
1 day ago
Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels runs against Arizona in the first half during an NCAA coll...
Alex Weiner

ASU QB Jayden Daniels runs wild in 2nd half of Territorial Cup win

Sun Devils quarterback Jayden Daniels started off a commanding second half with a 48-yard touchdown run in Saturday's win over the Wildcats.
1 day ago
TEMPE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 27: Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall #19 of the Arizona State Sun Devils cele...
Wills Rice

ASU defense leads the way in 1st half against Arizona in Territorial Cup

ASU has leaned on its defense at many different times this year, but during Saturday's Territorial Cup the defense shined in the first half.
1 day ago
Arizona State linebacker Merlin Robertson (8) intercepts a shuffle pass against Washington State of...
Jake Anderson

Reports: ASU senior LBs Darien Butler, Merlin Robertson out vs. Arizona

The Arizona State Sun Devils will once again not be at full strength for Saturday afternoon's Territorial Cup vs. the Arizona Wildcats.
1 day ago
Pac-12 head coaching vacancies are likely to grow