Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez both on ESPN’s hot seat list entering 2017

Dec 1, 2016, 6:00 AM | Updated: 11:20 am
(Associated Press)...
(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

After disappointing seasons for Arizona State and Arizona, head coaches Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez enter 2017 on the hot seat.

Even though both ASU athletic director Ray Anderson and Arizona AD Greg Byrne said they support their head coaches heading into next season, ESPN writer Adam Rittenberg ranked Graham No. 4 and Rodriguez No. 7 on his list of NCAA football coaches on the hot seat to begin 2017.

Graham, hired in 2012, finds himself on Rittenberg’s list after leading ASU to a 5-7 season. The past two years, he has put up an underachieving 11-14 record. During Graham’s first three seasons as head coach, he tallied a 28-12 record, which included winning the Pac-12 South in 2013.

Graham’s struggles mostly come on the defensive side of the ball.

ASU ended the year ranked as the sixth-worst overall defense in the nation. The Sun Devils gave up seven yards per play and 520 total yards, which are both the second most of any team. While many teams weren’t able to pound the ball on the ground, they were able to soar through the air as ASU allowed an NCAA-high 357 passing yards per game. The Sun Devils allowed the sixth-most points per game this year (39.8).

The trend line here is troubling as Arizona State is 11-14 since consecutive 10-win seasons and a Pac-12 South division championship in 2013. A $14 million buyout prevented ASU from making a change, but Graham must show improvement next season. This season is just the second time Graham will miss a bowl game as a head coach, and he has improved academics and off-field conduct. But Arizona State wants to take the next step after making significant investments in the program.

Rodriguez’s seat is less hot.

After being hired in 2012, the Arizona coach has tallied a 36-29 record. His only negative record during his tenure at Arizona came at 3-9 this year and featured an eight-game losing streak that was snapped when they beat the Sun Devils in the Territorial Cup.

Arizona’s overall offense was ranked in the bottom half in the nation, much in part due to an injury-riddled season. The defense was a no show as well, ranking 10th-worst in the NCAA by allowing 38.3 points per game and recorded the fourth most first downs allowed (25.17). Discipline was clearly an issue as well on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats ranked second in number of penalties (8.50).

That there was so little talk about Rodriguez’s job status despite his worst season since 2008 at Michigan speaks to a few factors. Arizona isn’t in a position to pay Rodriguez to walk away. Also, would Arizona be able to land a more accomplished coach than RichRod, who was coveted by other Power 5 schools as recently as last year (South Carolina)? He will need better results on the field and better results on the injury front in 2017. If not, the school likely will have to pull the plug.

Arizona Football

Arizona State University president Michael Crow interviews with Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona'...
Kevin Zimmerman

ASU, Arizona presidents: Not preparing to leave for Big 12

The presidents of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona went on the record reaffirming their commitment to the Pac-12.
17 days ago
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark speaks to the media during Big 12 NCAA college basketball media d...
Arizona Sports

Report: Big 12 recently contacted ASU, Arizona amid Pac-12 uncertainty

As a Pac-12 media rights deal remains undetermined, the Big 12 has recently had contact with Arizona State and Arizona, according to reports.
26 days ago
From left to right: Jerry Colangelo, Dan Bickley, Michael Bidwill and Vince Marotta on Tuesday, Feb...
Kevin Zimmerman

The Cardinals bring fresh voices and more Newsmaker Week 2023 highlights

Bickley & Marotta welcomed 25 guests representing Arizona's teams and events to their show on Tuesday through Friday. So what did we learn?
1 month ago
TUCSON, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 25: Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats looks over his play ca...
Kellan Olson

Arizona football shifts vision of growth from offense to defense for 2023

While the previous regime didn't leave much room for anything but improvement, Arizona football is trending positively.
1 month ago
Arizona Diamondbacks CEO and president Derrick Hall visits the Arizona Sports studios on Tuesday, F...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Sports’ 2023 Newsmakers Week recap

The important figures making the biggest decisions in Arizona sports join Bickley & Marotta throughout a one week span each February.
1 month ago
Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort speaks with reporters during his introductory press conference...
Jake Anderson

Arizona’s Jedd Fisch: Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort will bring an ‘unbelievable attention to detail’

Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort and Arizona Wildcats football head coach Jedd Fisch go back over 20 years.
2 months ago
Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez both on ESPN’s hot seat list entering 2017