These are the 10 worst Big Ten coaching stints of the 21st century:
10. Randy Edsall
(Maryland, 2011-2015, 22-34 overall, 9-10 Big Ten)
Maryland fired affable fatass Ralph Friedgen after he went 9-4 in 2010 and won ACC Coach of the Year, replacing him with antagonistic hardass Randy Edsall, the kind of joyless moralizer whose philosophy boils down to: “just don’t have fun.” Edsall set about “changing the culture,” banning earrings, hats, and earphones, and discouraging tattoos, dreads, and other expressions of human personality which have no place in the game of football or in life. The transfers were swift and many, and Maryland was left with a depleted roster, going 2-10 in 2011.
Edsall showed improvement on paper, if not in attitude, reaching 4 wins in 2012 and 7 in 2013 and 2014. But he started off 2015 at 2-4, with a series of blowout losses, and was fired with the program no further along than when he found it.
9. John L. Smith
(Michigan State, 2003-2006, 22-26 overall, 12-20 Big Ten)
John L. Smith is a jester, loved by every fanbase except his own. His Michigan State teams got worse every year, he went a combined 0-8 against Michigan and Ohio State, and he had a penchant for embarrassing himself and cracking everyone up.
The classics include his halftime interview in the ‘06 Ohio State game after a botched field goal attempt:
And his 2006 postgame presser in South Bend, after the Spartans were up 16 midway through the 4th quarter and pissed it away in the rain:
Unfortunately for everyone but MSU, he was fired, and went on to release several more hits at Arkansas, most notably Smile:
8. Bill Lynch
(Indiana, 2007-2010, 19-30 overall, 6-26 Big Ten)
After a promising 7-6 season in 2007, Lynch led Indiana to a 1-7 Big Ten record 3 years in a row and got fired. Those losses included a maddening number of close games where Indiana had the lead in the second half, could have won, and either blew it, or had it blown for them by circumstances beyond their feeble control.
Lynch’s unlucky tenure is typified by his 2009 loss at #23 Michigan. The hectic Hoosiers took a lead into the fourth quarter, lost it on a Tate Forcier TD lunge, got it back in an instant on a Darius Willis 85 yard run, and had a 33-29 lead in the Big House with 2:30 left before Forcier hit Martavious Odoms for a go-ahead score.
Indiana’s offense needed just a field goal to force overtime, and had over 2 minutes to work with. But on their first play, QB Ben Chappell’s pass to Demarlo Belcher was tied up by Michigan’s Donovan Warren and ruled an interception. It should have been a catch, Indiana got hosed, and Bill Lynch rightly lost it, raging down the sidelines, his face as red as his jacket. In a fit of pure apoplexy, he grabbed the gum out of his mouth and threw it as hard as he could. That gum ought to be in a Big Ten museum, it’s a symbol for Indiana football in the twentieth century, and Lynch hurling it is the defining moment of his tenure.
7. Kevin Wilson
(Indiana, 2011-2016, 26-47 overall, 12-37 Big Ten)
Most would rank Wilson’s IU tenure ahead of Lynch’s, but only Lynch had a winning season in Bloomington, and only Wilson had to leave the program due to apparent improprieties. When the Hoosiers parted ways with Wilson in 2016, it wasn’t because he had just completed a sixth straight losing season, a luxury no other program affords. “This has nothing to do with the performance of the football team, which I view as quite positive and very much heading in the right direction,” said the AD.
Rather, it was “philosophical differences,” a euphemism for Wilson allegedly disregarding players’ health and treating them with disdain. In the college football coaching world, you have to be an enormous asshole to be too big of an asshole. His needless malice is why Wilson ranks 6th, but he deserves to be on this list regardless.
There seems to be a general view that Wilson did well at Indiana, given it’s Indiana. That’s wrong. 12-37 is not close to an acceptable tenure, even for Indiana. And, considering the talent he recruited and cultivated at IU (at least on offense), he seriously underperformed. Consider that in 2015, his fifth season, Wilson went 6-7, but the Hoosiers choked away 3 games where they had a 4th quarter lead. Most glaringly, they led a detestable Rutgers team 52-33, then lost the 4th quarter 0-22 to lose by 3. Indiana should have won 8 games that year, but Wilson could never finish, could never beat all the teams he was supposed to, and certainly couldn’t beat any he wasn’t supposed to. Must have been the players’ faults.
6. Brady Hoke
(Michigan, 2011-2014, 31-20 overall, 18-14 Big Ten)
Some may balk at a guy with a winning record appearing on this list when losers like Danny Hope and Ron Zook didn’t make the cut. Especially as high as 6. And it’s true, Brady Hoke does have some big accomplishments.
He won a Sugar Bowl [in Rich Rod’s 4th year].
He beat Ohio State [during the 6-7 Fickell Interregnum].
Plus, by all accounts, Brady Hoke is a gregarious guy [whose evident stupidity embarrassed the program for 4 years].
Many Michigan fans take pity on Brady Hoke because he’s a nice dumb football man who was clearly in over his head. Not me. He got paid enormous sums by an economically ravaged state to get outcoached nearly every week with better recruits than all but one of his opponents. He could barely speak, muttering wulll ya know to literally any question, delighting Michigan’s enemies and making elitist Michigan Men cringe. The school was tarred and feathered on the national news for days after he sent a clearly-fucked up Shane Morris back onto the field and lied about it. And he was involved in a sexual assault cover up, or else was too much of an idiot to be able to control his program.
There’s malevolence in the kind of stupidity and obliviousness Brady Hoke displayed. He damaged his program more than a lot of coaches with worse records.
5. Tim Brewster
(Minnesota, 2007-2010, 15-30 overall, 6-21 Big Ten)
After they fired Glen Mason in a fit of hubris—the guy who’d taken the Gophers to 7 bowls in 8 years (more than all other coaches combined)—Minnesota hired Denver Broncos TE coach Tim Brewster, the big shot who’d recruited Vince Young at Texas. He came in with bluster, a first-time coach talking big about Rose Bowls. Minnesota fans were susceptible to such airy flattery. Having risen to respectability under Mason, they thought they could take the next step with an exciting, hungry new coach. Brewster proceeded to go 1-11 in 2007.
He went 13-13 the next two years with twin Insight Bowl losses. In 2010 he started 1-6, including a home loss to FCS South Dakota, and was fired midway through the season. As the Star Tribune wrote at the time, Brewster “came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.” By then, Glen Mason sure looked good in Minnesotans’ greedy eyes.
4. Rich Rodriguez
(Michigan, 2008-2010, 15-22 overall, 6-18 Big Ten)
Sure, Rich Rod was set up to fail by unrealistic expectations, the misleading terms of his West Virginia departure, Michael Rosenberg and the media, Lloyd Carr and his empty cupboard, and a hostile Michigan old boys network that rejected him immediately, on tribal lines. But man did he fail!
3-9 with a loss to 3-9 Toledo in 2008, the worst season in Michigan history, ending a nation-long 33 year bowl streak. Preventable NCAA violations that resulted in sanctions. 0-6 versus Michigan State and Ohio State. A failure to recruit the players needed to implement his scheme quickly enough, a failure to tailor that scheme to extant talent (Steven Threet running the spread!), and a criminally mismanaged defense.
Rodriguez’s inability to understand and adapt to Michigan’s delusional football culture got him in trouble over and over. He just kept stepping in it, and the turnaround on the field didn’t come fast enough to save him.
3. Gerry DiNardo
(Indiana, 2002-2004, 8-27 overall, 3-21 Big Ten)
No one’s favorite BTN studio analyst Gerry DiNardo is the worst Indiana coach of the last half century, and that’s saying something.
He was fired by LSU in 1999 and replaced with Michigan State’s Nick Saban in perhaps the greatest coaching upgrade of all-time. No one wanted to hire him. So, down on his luck and beyond the point of shame, DiNardo turned to the football coaching equivalent of doing porn: he took a job as head coach of the XFL’s Birmingham Thunderbolts, where he went 2-8 and finished in last place.* When the league folded after the first season, it cemented DiNardo’s status as the worst coach in XFL history.
That was all Indiana needed to hear! DiNardo took over the Hoosiers in 2002 and won 8 games in 3 years. 2 of those 8 wins were against non-FBS competition. 2 were against Central Michigan. And bizarrely, 3 of those 8 wins were huge upsets against the #23 team in the country, an obscure truth which surely fuels Big Ten conspiracy theorists to this day.
DiNardo was fired in 2004 and never coached again.
*Not coincidentally, last-place Birmingham was also the lone team in the XFL with no Big Ten players on its roster, an obscure truth which surely fuels Big Ten supremacists to this day.
2. Darrell Hazell
(Purdue, 2013-2016, 9-33 overall, 3-24 Big Ten)
Oh, Purdue. Falling for the siren song of an 11-3 Kent State team that didn’t even win the MAC or its bowl game. It was only Hazell’s second year as a head coach, but Purdue, seemingly lacking better options, decided to play Up and Coming MAC Coach Roulette. Hazell went 1-11 in 2013 and it never got much better.
He won 9 games in 3 and a half years, but 4 of those were against FCS teams. 2 of his 3 Big Ten wins were against Illinois. Yes, Illinois: you lost to Darrell Hazell twice. He was fired 6 games into the 2016 season, far too late. The highlight of his woeful tenure is beating a shitty Nebraska team in Mike Riley’s first year. Yes, Nebraska: you lost to Darrell Hazell too.
And speaking of Up and Coming MAC Coach Roulette blowing a program’s brains out, let’s turn to #1 on this ignominious listicle.
1. Tim Beckman
(Illinois, 2012-2014, 12-25 overall, 4-20 Big Ten)
Tim Beckman is the dumbest asshole to coach a Big Ten team this century. The dumb part was amusing, the asshole part was deplorable.
Let’s start with the dumb:
He did clumsy shit like getting flagged for running into a ref, then fell over, then scooted back to the sidelines on his ass:
He was the least articulate coach in the conference. Listen to his infamous O.S.S.K.E. speech:
Listening to him talk is so unpleasant, reporters didn’t want to ask him questions:
But Tim Beckman’s is the worst Big Ten coaching stint of the 21st century because of what a colossal asshole he was.
When Penn State players were given the right to transfer in the wake of the Sandusky scandal in 2011, Beckman was the only coach in the country crass enough to send a bunch of his staff to State College to recruit them. It didn’t even work.
More damningly, Tim Beckman was fired for allegedly mistreating players and lying to injured players about their health. He is alleged to have rushed players back from concussions and lied to players about the severity of their injuries to get them to play. In a bizarre move, he made rehabbing players wear purple jerseys, the color of rival Northwestern, as if they deserved to be ridiculed. Tim Beckman is a toxic loser. May he never soil a sideline in another Big Ten game.
Also receiving votes: Danny Hope, Kyle Flood, Tracy Claeys, Ron Zook, Jim Tressel