Skip to main content

Where Were They Then? 2022 edition

Want to be a head coach by 2032? If so, take a look at where these head coaches were in 2012.

Ten years ago, Butch Jones was the head coach at Cincinnati, a season away from leading a program in the SEC. Ten years ago, Michael Desormeaux was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Catholic High School in New Iberia, La. A good season there would land him the head job at Ascension Episcopal. On Oct. 22 they'll meet at Cajun Field as equals, leading their respective squads in the chase for the Sun Belt title.

Such is life in the coaching profession. In an industry that sorts half its workforce into winning and losing buckets each weekend, it's no surprise that coaches are constantly rising and falling like the sun each dawn and dusk. If you're up today, just wait. If you're down today, just wait.

The goal of this semi-annual exercise (our first since 2020) is to encourage climbers that their goal is within reach, so long as they're willing to grind for a decade straight... or longer.

Plotting the coaching industry deepens our understanding of it. Just like the civilian world at large, the fundamental paradox of job hunting applies: the best way to get the job you want is to already have the job you want. Ten of the 131 FBS head coaches (welcome, Curt Cignetti of James Madison) have been in their jobs for a decade or longer. Sixteen were head coaches at Power 5 jobs different than the one they hold today, 13 were at Group of 5 jobs, and nine were in head coaching positions at a lower level of college football. When you add in two NFL head coaches and two Texas high school coaches, 40 percent (52 of 131) of current head coaches were also head coaches a decade ago. 

The next-largest bucket also comes as no surprise. The largest individual group is Power 5 coordinators, with 21. Seventeen 2022 head coaches were Power 5 position coaches in 2012. Add all the aforementioned groups together and more than two-thirds of jobs (89 of 131) were taken by head coaches or Power 5 assistants. Not exactly encouraging news if you're an FCS position coach with FBS head coach dreams.

But that does not mean one should crumple their dreams and deposit them in the nearest trash can.

Ten years ago, Dan Lanning was a GA at Arizona State. He's now the head coach at Oregon. 

Ten years ago, Marcus Freeman was the linebackers coach at Kent State. He's now the head coach at Notre Dame. "It makes me keep an open mind to the opportunities to the future and not limit yourself to opportunities that may or may not come up," said Kent State's current linebackers coach, Lee Stalker. 

2012 JobTotalPercentage

Power 5 Head Coach

28

21.4%

Power 5 Coordinator

21

16.0%

Power 5 Assistant Coach

17

13.0%

Group of 5 Head Coach

16

12.2%

Group of 5 Position Coach

12

9.2%

Group of 5 Coordinator

10

7.6%

Divisional Head Coach

9

6.9%

Divisional Assistant

5

3.8%

NFL Assistant

4

3.1%

FBS GA

3

2.3%

High School Head Coach

2

1.5%

NFL Head Coach

2

1.5%

High School Assistant

1

0.8%

Out of Coaching

1

0.8%

Before we begin, a few nuggets.

-- Obviously, it helps having a personal connection no matter where you are. And it doubly helps to be a quarterback. Desormeaux likely doesn't rise from Louisiana high school assistant to Louisiana head coach without being a former Louisiana quarterback. Same for SMU GA-turned-Hawai'i head coach Timmy Chang.

-- You surely knew South Florida head coach Jeff Scott, Virginia head coach Tony Elliott and Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables were assistants together at Clemson a decade ago. You probably didn't know Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm and Western Kentucky head coach Tyson Helton coached together at UAB, that BC's Jeff Hafley and Minnesota's PJ Fleck were assistants on Greg Schiano's Tampa Bay staff, that Louisiana Tech's Sonny Cumbie worked alongside West Virginia's Neal Brown at Texas Tech, that Missouri's Eliah Drinkwitz and SMU's Rhett Lashlee coached under UCF's Gus Malzahn at UCF, or that Mike Elko worked under Dave Clawson at Bowling Green.

-- A decade ago, five of the seven SEC West head coaches were Power 5 head coaches, while not a single SEC East head coach had spent a day as a head coach at any level. 

At last, here is our best attempt to map where each FBS head coach was on April 5, 2012. 

American
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati -- Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach
Mike Houston, East Carolina -- Lenoir-Rhyne (D-II - NC) head coach
Dana Holgorsen, Houston -- West Virginia head coach
Ryan Silverfield, Memphis -- Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy -- Navy head coach
Rhett Lashlee, SMU -- Arkansas State offensive coordinator
Jeff Scott, South Florida -- Clemson wide receivers coach
Stan Drayton, Temple -- Ohio State running backs coach
Willie Fritz, Tulane -- Sam Houston head coach
Philip Montgomery, Tulsa -- Baylor offensive coordinator
Gus Malzahn, UCF -- Arkansas State head coach

ACC
Atlantic
Jeff Hafley, Boston College -- Tampa Bay Bucs assistant defensive backs coach
Dabo Swinney, Clemson -- Clemson head coach
Mike Norvell, Florida State -- Arizona State offensive coordinator
Scott Satterfield, Louisville -- Appalachian State offensive coordinator
Dave Doeren, NC State -- Northern Illinois head coach
Dino Babers, Syracuse -- Eastern Illinois head coach
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest -- Bowling Green head coach

Coastal
Mike Elko, Duke -- Bowling Green defensive coordinator
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech -- Mississippi State co-defensive coordinator
Mario Cristobal, Miami -- Florida International head coach
Mack Brown, North Carolina -- Texas head coach
Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh -- Michigan State defensive coordinator
Tony Elliott, Virginia -- Clemson running backs coach 
Brent Pry, Virginia Tech -- Vanderbilt co-defensive coordinator

Big 12
Dave Aranda, Baylor -- Utah State defensive coordinator
Matt Campbell, Iowa State -- Toledo head coach
Lance Leipold, Kansas -- Wisconsin-Whitewater head coach
Chris Klieman, Kansas State -- North Dakota State defensive coordinator
Brent Venables, Oklahoma -- Clemson defensive coordinator
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State -- Oklahoma State head coach
Steve Sarkisian, Texas -- Washington head coach
Sonny Dykes, TCU -- Louisiana Tech head coach
Joey McGuire, Texas Tech -- Cedar Hill (Texas) High School head coach
Neal Brown, West Virginia -- Texas Tech offensive coordinator

Big Ten
East
Tom Allen, Indiana -- Ole Miss linebackers coach
Mike Locksley, Maryland -- Maryland offensive coordinator
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan -- San Francisco 49ers head coach
Mel Tucker, Michigan State -- Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator
Ryan Day, Ohio State -- Temple offensive coordinator
James Franklin, Penn State -- Vanderbilt head coach
Greg Schiano, Rutgers -- Tampa Bay Bucs head coach 

West
Bret Bielema, Illinois -- Wisconsin head coach
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa -- Iowa head coach
PJ Fleck, Minnesota -- Tampa Bay Bucs wide receivers coach
Scott Frost, Nebraska -- Oregon wide receivers coach
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern -- Northwestern head coach
Jeff Brohm, Purdue -- UAB offensive coordinator
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin -- Pittsburgh head coach

Conference USA
Will Healy, Charlotte -- Chattanooga quarterbacks coach
Willie Taggart, Florida Atlantic -- Western Kentucky head coach
Mike MacIntyre, Florida International -- San Jose State head coach
Sonny Cumbie, Louisiana Tech -- Texas Tech wide receivers coach
Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee -- Middle Tennessee head coach
Seth Littrell, North Texas -- Indiana offensive coordinator
Mike Bloomgren, Rice -- Stanford offensive line coach
Bill Clark, UAB -- South Alabama defensive coordinator
Dana Dimel, UTEP -- Kansas State offensive coordinator
Jeff Traylor, UTSA -- Gilmer (Texas) High School head coach
Tyson Helton, Western Kentucky -- UAB running backs coach

FBS Independents
Jeff Monken, Army -- Georgia Southern head coach
Kalani Sitake, BYU -- Utah defensive coordinator
Hugh Freeze, Liberty -- Ole Miss head coach
Jerry Kill, New Mexico State -- Minnesota head coach
Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame -- Kent State linebackers coach
Jim Mora, UConn -- UCLA head coach
Don Brown, UMass -- UConn defensive coordinator

MAC 
East
Joe Moorhead, Akron -- Fordham head coach
Scot Loeffler, Bowling Green -- Auburn offensive coordinator
Maurice Linguist, Buffalo -- Buffalo defensive backs coach
Sean Lewis, Kent State -- Eastern Illinois inside receivers coach
Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) -- Notre Dame offensive coordinator
Tim Albin, Ohio -- Ohio offensive coordinator

West
Mike Neu, Ball State -- Tulane quarterbacks coach
Jim McElwain, Central Michigan -- Colorado State head coach
Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan -- Drake head coach
Thomas Hammock, Northern Illinois -- Wisconsin running backs coach
Jason Candle, Toledo -- Toledo offensive coordinator
Tim Lester, Western Michigan -- Elmhurst (D-III - IL) head coach

Mountain West
Mountain
Troy Calhoun, Air Force -- Air Force head coach
Andy Avalos, Boise State -- Boise State defensive line coach
Jay Norvell, Colorado State -- Oklahoma wide receivers coach
Danny Gonzales, New Mexico -- San Diego State safeties coach
Blake Anderson, Utah State -- North Carolina offensive coordinator
Craig Bohl, Wyoming -- North Dakota State head coach

West
Jeff Tedford, Fresno State -- Cal head coach
Timmy Chang, Hawai'i -- SMU graduate assistant
Ken Wilson, Nevada -- Nevada linebackers coach
Brady Hoke, San Diego State -- Michigan head coach
Brent Brennan, San Jose State -- Oregon State wide receivers coach
Marcus Arroyo, UNLV -- Cal quarterbacks coach

Pac-12
North
Justin Wilcox, Cal -- Washington defensive coordinator
Dan Lanning, Oregon -- Arizona State graduate assistant
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State -- Boise State quarterbacks coach
David Shaw, Stanford -- Stanford head coach
Kalen DeBoer, Washington -- Southern Illinois offensive coordinator
Jake Dickert, Washington State -- Southeast Missouri State defensive backs coach

West
Jedd Fisch, Arizona -- Miami offensive coordinator
Herm Edwards, Arizona State -- ESPN NFL analyst
Karl Dorrell, Colorado -- Houston Texans quarterbacks coach
Chip Kelly, UCLA -- Oregon head coach
Lincoln Riley, USC -- East Carolina offensive coordinator
Kyle Whittingham, Utah -- Utah head coach

SEC
East
Kirby Smart, Georgia -- Alabama defensive coordinator
Billy Napier, Florida -- Colorado State quarterbacks coach
Mark Stoops, Kentucky -- Florida State defensive coordinator
Eliah Drinkwitz, Missouri -- Arkansas State running backs coach
Shane Beamer, South Carolina -- Virginia Tech running backs coach
Josh Heupel, Tennessee -- Oklahoma offensive coordinator
Clark Lea, Vanderbilt -- Bowling Green linebackers coach

West
Nick Saban, Alabama -- Alabama head coach
Sam Pittman, Arkansas -- Tennessee offensive line coach
Bryan Harsin, Auburn -- Texas offensive coordinator
Brian Kelly, LSU -- Notre Dame head coach
Mike Leach, Mississippi State -- Washington State head coach
Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss -- USC head coach
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M -- Florida State head coach

Sun Belt
East
Shawn Clark, Appalachian State -- Purdue offensive line coach
Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina -- Delta State (D-II - MS) head coach
Clay Helton, Georgia Southern -- USC quarterbacks coach
Shawn Elliott, Georgia State -- South Carolina offensive line coach
Curt Cignetti, James Madison -- Indiana U. of Pennsylvania (D-II) head coach
Charles Huff, Marshall -- Buffalo Bills assistant running backs coach
Ricky Rahne, Old Dominion -- Vanderbilt quarterbacks coach

West
Butch Jones, Arkansas State -- Cincinnati head coach
Michael Desormeaux, Louisiana -- Catholic (La.) High School offensive coordinator
Kane Wommack, South Alabama -- Ole Miss graduate assistant
Will Hall, Southern Miss -- West Alabama (D-II) head coach
Jake Spavital, Texas State -- West Virginia quarterbacks coach
Jon Sumrall, Troy -- Tulane defensive line coach
Terry Bowden, ULM -- Akron head coach