It was always cold at this time of year, but you can’t remember a time when it was this cold. The chill, it climbs inside your bones and embeds itself in your bloodstream, freezing everything it touches. You go to sleep each night shivering, and you wake with your teeth chattering. It’s relentless. Even the sun provides no relief. Come to think of it, the sun seems distant, less powerful than it used to be. You can’t explain it, you don’t dare speak the thought, but you know in your bones — your dead, frozen bones — that you’re right.

You know you’re right because you see it in the faces of the people you pass in the streets. Even though they never look you in the eye — no one looks each other in the eye anymore — you can tell they’re as cold and dead on the inside as you are.

You are not right. Things are different. You are now living in FootballScoop’s Nuclear Winter.

As in previous editions, the goal here is to have some fun while illustrating how quickly and the coaching carousel could spin in the most entertaining way possible — while remaining tethered to the realm of plausibility.

*First disclaimer: This is for entertainment purposes only.

*Second disclaimer: This is for entertainment purposes only. 

*Third and final disclaimer: This is for entertainment purposes only.


FootballScoop’s Nuclear Winter is presented by:

GMTM is the largest, most sophisticated athlete discovery engine in the world.


And with that said, let’s begin.

MID-TO-LATE NOVEMBER

Chad Morris survived a 30-point home loss to Mississippi State, but he could not survive a 37-30 home loss to Western Kentucky, making Arkansas the second school to bail on a high-profile Class of 2018 hire before two full seasons have passed.

Rather than endure inevitable questions about his offensive staff following a 30-3 loss to Michigan — which, coupled with a shocking loss to Illinois the week prior, dropped Sparty to 4-6 on the season — Mark Dantonio cuts to the chase and announces he will retire at season’s end. As a show of good faith, Michigan State pays the $4 million bonus due to him on Jan. 15 upon his retirement.

When Memphis nears 50 points by halftime en route to a third straight blowout loss for South Florida, USF announces ahead of the Bulls’ season finale against UCF that Charlie Strong will not be retained for a fourth season.

USC beats UCLA to clinch a bowl trip after missing the postseason a year ago, but Clay Helton won’t join the Trojans. He is relieved of duties after the game. The news comes down with Urban Meyer on the air for FOX.

As ruthless as college football can be, the NFL once again proves it’s on another level when the Browns fire Freddie Kitchens after a loss to the Miami Dolphins drops the club to 2-9. Kitchens lasts 11 games as an NFL head coach. Ownership makes no attempt to curb speculation that Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are at the top of the wish list.

When Ole Miss loses the Egg Bowl, the Rebels respond by firing Matt Luke. Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre both immediately start lobbying for their boss’s job.

Another SEC shocker: South Carolina fires Will Muschamp after a 48-17 loss to Clemson, completing a 5-7 season.

The first hire is already off the board when Rutgers attempts to steal the thunder of its Big Ten rivals (sarcasm intended) by introducing Greg Schiano during the Ohio State-Michigan game.

Florida State fired Willie Taggart to be first at the trough when the market opens, and the ‘Noles took advantage. After a Black Friday loss to Cincinnati knocks Memphis out of the American title game, Florida State hires Mike Norvell as its third head coach in four seasons. He signs a 7-year contract with a $25 million buyout.

Derek Mason loses to Tennessee for the first time in four years, and then loses his job. Vanderbilt looks for a fresh start after a 3-9 campaign.

The following schools announce head coaching changes on Black Sunday: Colorado State, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Tulsa, UNLV, UTEP, UTSA


JOBS FILLED: Florida State, Rutgers

NEW OPENINGS: Arkansas, Colorado State, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee, Memphis, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Old Dominion, Ole Miss, South Alabama, South Carolina, South Florida, Tulsa, UNLV, UTEP, UTSA

STILL OPEN: None

TOTAL OPENINGS: 18


FootballScoop’s Nuclear Winter is presented by:

GMTM is the largest, most sophisticated athlete discovery engine in the world.



With the calendar flipping from November to December, the sport braces for a chaotic Championship Week — seven teams are in contention for four spots — and, while the air gets colder, the coaching carousel is just heating up…

EARLY TO MID DECEMBER

The Urban Meyer dream proves to be just that… a dream. Reality is pretty good, too. Behind newly-installed AD Mike Bohn, USC executes its first competent coaching search in nearly two decades in hiring James Franklin away from Penn State.

Once Franklin leaves Penn State, Michigan State moves quickly to secure its top target before the Nittany Lions can pounce. Luke Fickell is a Spartan.


Previous Nuclear Winter Installments: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018


Penn State chuckles — quietly, to itself — because their smokescreen worked. Fickell was never their top target. Matt Campbell was. Campbell is a Nittany Lion.

Two straight winless SEC seasons have the Hogs feeling, well, hungry for victory. They need someone who knows how to win in the ESSS EEE CEE. They need someone experienced, intimately familiar with the lay of the land. Arkansas hires Hugh Freeze.

The College Football Playoff rankings are out: (1) LSU vs. (4) Alabama in the Peach Bowl, and (2) Ohio State vs. (3) Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. The nation has still yet to recover from Clemson and Oklahoma’s Championship Saturday losses.

To compete with Clemson and Georgia, South Carolina needs players. To get players, the Gamecocks turn to a guy who learned how to get players under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney. Fresh off a Sun Belt championship, Billy Napier leaves Louisiana-Lafayette for South Carolina.

With Norvell off the board and Freeze back in the conference, Ole Miss panics. They call Urban Meyer. He doesn’t answer.

Sometimes, you really can go home again. South Florida re-hires Willie Taggart.

Vanderbilt returns to the good old days — the good old days being the James Franklin era — by hiring Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry.

Cincinnati’s interim AD asks Bearcat baseball player Nate Meyer to call his dad, just as a favor, just to see what he’d say. He says no.

Colorado State turned to an outsider in hiring Mike Bobo. To replace Bobo, the Rams look inside the family, hiring former Colorado State running back and current Ohio State assistant head coach Tony Alford.

It’s not often that a former Texas high school coach with SEC coaching experience comes on the market, and when he does, UTSA pounces. Chad Morris is a Roadrunner.

Liberty calls Urban Meyer. It goes to voice mail.

Clay Helton planned to take some time off after his firing from USC, but that plan goes kaput when Memphis, where he served as an assistant from 2000-09, calls and offers its head coaching job. He accepts.

With Urban off the board, Cincinnati hires Toledo’s Jason Candle.

Realizing four years with the Buccaneers and the Browns gave him all the NFL he’ll need for 10 lifetimes, former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken returns to college football as Tulsa’s head coach.

Iowa State quickly rebounds from Campbell’s departure by promoting offensive coordinator Tom Manning to head coach.

Frank Solich leads Ohio to a Camellia Bowl win over Louisiana-Lafayette — playing without Billy Napier, who already left for South Carolina — and then calls it a career. Solich walks away with 172 wins in 21 seasons as a head coach.


JOBS FILLED: Arkansas, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Iowa State, Memphis, Michigan State, South Carolina, South Florida, Tulsa, USC, UTSA, Vanderbilt

NEW OPENINGS: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Liberty, Louisiana-Lafayette, Ohio, Penn State, Toledo

STILL OPEN: Liberty, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Old Dominion, Ole Miss, South Alabama, Toledo, UNLV, UTEP

TOTAL OPENINGS: 25


The carousel takes a brief pause for the Christmas holiday, but do not be mistaken. It’s merely the eye of the storm passing overhead. As the College Football Playoff begins and the NFL regular season ends, the storm will come alive once again…


FootballScoop’s Nuclear Winter is presented by:

GMTM is the largest, most sophisticated athlete discovery engine in the world.


LATE DECEMBER

Following Matt Luke’s firing, Ole Miss chancellor Glenn Boyce enters the Rebels’ staff room. “We need an experienced hand to guide this ship,” he says, “someone who’s navigated some choppy seas. Someone who understands what it takes to take this program to the top.” As Both Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre begin rising from their seats, Gene Chizik enters the room. Rodriguez and MacIntyre slink back into their chairs.

Success comes at a cost, and following a 9-4 season — tying the school record for single-season wins — Indiana loses offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer to Ohio.

Middle doesn’t overthink it. The Blue Raiders make the 6-hour roundtrip drive to bring Tee Martin from Knoxville to Murfreesboro.

Jeff Sessions officially jumps in the Alabama Senate race. Seeing flashbacks to when he faced Nick Saban on his home field, Tommy Tuberville considers dropping out of the race to take the South Alabama job.

Glory, glory Hallelujah, it’s a Christmas miracle. UNLV announces on Christmas Day that Houston Nutt is the Rebels’ new head coach.

Toledo most certainly has a type. Matt Campbell played for Mount Union and later became a successful head coach for the Rockets. Jason Candle played for Mount Union and later became a successful Toledo head coach. Next up? Former Purple Raider and current Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

New Mexico initially has trouble filling the job amid news reports of a shootout between a meth kingpin and a white supremacist gang, but the job quickly fills when an irate Rich Rodriguez makes a beeline from Oxford to Albuquerque.

Tuberville stays in the Senate race, and South Alabama makes the sensible hire by brining home Kane Wommack — a former Jags defensive coordinator, the youngest in the nation at the time — as head coach.

Shocked to lose Hugh Freeze to Arkansas, Liberty turns to another Southern-bred head coach who can easily slide between the sideline and the pulpit. The Flames hire Derek Dooley.

Given a year off to brood, Matt Canada decides he’d love nothing more than to be a thorn in Ed Orgeron’s side for as long as possible. He replaces Billy Napier as the Cajuns’ head coach, and within a week Alabama, Texas and Texas A&M are scheduled to co-host a series of satellite camps in Lafayette.

After he leads Incarnate Word to a win over New Mexico State on Nov. 16, a bidding war for Eric Morris breaks out between Battle of I-10 rivals NMSU and UTEP. UTEP wins.

Michigan turns in a lifeless performance in the Pinstripe Bowl — a 30-3 loss to Miami. A day later, just as Ohio State is kicking off in the Fiesta Bowl, ESPN’s crawl screams across the screen with news that Jim Harbaugh has retired from coaching. Michigan does not call Urban Meyer.

LSU is devastated when it loses its rematch to Alabama — a repeat of 2011 — and then is devastated again a day later Joe Brady returns to Virginia as the head coach at Old Dominion. It’s said Ed Orgeron is so despondent afterward, his Red Bull diet drops to just four a day.


JOBS FILLED: Liberty, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico, Ohio, Old Dominion, Ole Miss, South Alabama, Toledo, UNLV, UTEP

NEW OPENINGS: Michigan

STILL OPEN: New Mexico State

TOTAL OPENINGS: 26


FootballScoop’s Nuclear Winter is presented by:

GMTM is the largest, most sophisticated athlete discovery engine in the world.


New Year’s is a time for celebration, of rebirth, of yet another round of carousel chaos as college football prepares for its title game and the NFL carousel cranks up….

EARLY JANUARY

Recognizing their mistake from a year ago, the Jets bail on the Adam Gase era one year in and hire Baylor’s Matt Rhule. He can bring whomever he wants along this time.

Michigan looks to revive an old brand by hiring the most excitable coach on the market, even if he’s not really on the market. The Wolverines fork over $10 million to buy PJ Fleck out of his contract at Minnesota.

In 2016, he was a position coach for a 2-14 team. Then he was a position coach for a college team. Then he was promoted to coordinator. Then he was promoted to head coach. Then he won a national championship in his first season as a head coach. And now he’s the highest-paid coach in the NFL, taking over a desperate franchise in win-right-freaking-now mode. Ryan Day is the Cleveland Browns’ head coach.

With Day unexpectedly gone and Matt Campbell and Luke Fickell already paired off, Ohio State goes into a panic, worrying it won’t find a partner this late in the dance.

With nothing left to lose, New Mexico State takes a swing for the fences — and connects. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro High School head coach Jason Mohns, fresh off his seventh straight state title, takes the New Mexico State job.

Minnesota thought a $10 million buyout would keep Fleck’s oars contained to its 10,000 lakes for the foreseeable future. Having thought wrong, the Gophers promote offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca to head coach.

Rhule brings most of his staff with him from Waco to New York, but Joey McGuire sticks around as head coach.

He’s fielded all the calls, he’s had a year to think about it, and he’s found the perfect job for his inevitable return to football. Urban Meyer is back.

— THE END —


JOBS OPENED AND FILLED: 29

Special thanks to Nuclear Winter’s presenting sponsor, Gametime.

GMTM is the largest, most sophisticated athlete discovery engine in the world.

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.