Gene Chizik, Frank Spaziani and Danny Hope got news that many expected was coming. All were fired after disappointing seasons.
North Carolina State getting rid of Tom O’Brien took more than a few people off guard. So did Colorado letting Jon Embree go after only two seasons.
Sunday was a tumultuous one around college football, with five coaches losing their jobs to bring the total openings in FBS to 12 — including four in the Southeastern Conference.
Chizik was fired by Auburn after one of the most stunning and dramatic falls in college football history. The Tigers won the second national championship in program history behind Cam Newton in 2010. This season, Auburn finished 3-9 and did not win an SEC game. The Tigers lost the Iron Bowl 49-0 to rival Alabama.
Auburn endured the worst slide within two years of winning a national championship of any team since The Associated Press poll started in 1936 and hadn’t lost this many games since going 0-10 in 1950. The decision came 17 months after Auburn gave Chizik a contract worth some $3.5 million annually through 2015 with a hefty buyout of $7.5 million.
“When expectations are not met, I understand changes must be made,” Chizik said in a statement.
He was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.
More than 6-6 was expected from Purdue this season, but Hope and the Boilermakers needed a late rush just to get bowl eligible.
Hope won’t get to coach Purdue’s latest bowl game. He went 22-27 in four seasons.
Spaziani’s Boston College teams have had progressively worse records in each of his four seasons. The Eagles went 2-10 this season. He finished 22-29 as the head coach.
North Carolina State finished 7-5 this season, and 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including an upset of Florida State. Not great, but not all that far away from expectations.
Still, it wasn’t enough to get O’Brien a seventh season.
O’Brien went 40-35 after coming to Raleigh from Boston College following the 2006 season. He took the Wolfpack to three bowl games, but won’t coach in a fourth when N.C. State receives its bid next week. He went 22-26 in ACC play with not nearly enough marquee victories.
Athletic director Debbie Yow said O’Brien’s buyout would be $1.2 million over four years.
“Coach O’Brien and I agree on the goal of becoming a Top 25 program. We just don’t agree on what it takes to do that, how to get there,” Yow said.
Colorado finished this season 1-11 and Embree was 4-21 in his two seasons since replacing Dan Hawkins.
The 64-year-old O’Brien, who went 75-45 in 10 seasons at BC with eight consecutive bowl berths before coming here, said at his December 2006 hiring that it was “N.C. State or bust for me.”
In his statement Sunday, O’Brien said he is looking “forward to life after football.”
His teams were just 22-26 in ACC play and finished above .500 in the league just once, going 5-3 in 2010. He was 1-14 in Atlantic Division road games.
Only three ACC teams — No. 13 Florida State (10-2), No. 15 Clemson (10-2) and rival North Carolina (8-4) — had better overall records this season than the Wolfpack, who were 4-4 in the league.
That was good for third in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson — exactly where they were picked in the preseason poll.
But consistency was a problem all season.
They opened with a 14-point loss to a Tennessee team that went on to finish 5-7. They blew a late 10-point lead and allowed an ACC-record 566 yards passing in a loss at Miami. They were routed at home 33-6 by a last-place Virginia team that had lost six straight and they gave up 62 points in a loss at Clemson.
Not even a thrilling upset of then-No. 3 Florida State on Oct. 6 could save O’Brien’s job.
O’Brien also faced some questions in the spring of 2011, when he parted ways with three-year starting quarterback Russell Wilson, who was attempting to play both minor-league baseball and football at the high FBS level.
Wilson transferred to Wisconsin for his senior season, led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and wound up winning the job with the Seattle Seahawks.
O’Brien’s choice certainly appeared justified when Mike Glennon — who took over for Wilson — led the ACC in passing this season, averaging 304 yards.
The school says a national search for O’Brien’s replacement will begin immediately.