By Ralph D. Russo/The Associated Press
Mike Locksley was first to go.
Well, actually Ohio State’s Jim Tressel got pushed out this spring, but that was on Memorial Day, so does it really count for this season? North Carolina’s Butch Davis was second to go, but that was in August.
So Locksley was the first major college football coach to be fired since the kickoff of the new season. New Mexico terminated him Sunday, a day after his Lobos lost 48-45 in overtime to Sam Houston State of the lower-tier FCS to fall to 0-4 this year and 2-26 overall under the former Illinois offensive coordinator.
Who’s next to go? Who needs to start winning fast?
Making it onto this list is far from dandy if you’re a coach. These are the 12 coaches whose job status is most precarious.
1) Houston Nutt, Ole Miss (1-3 in fourth season, 23-19 overall)
Nutt was greeted like a savior in Oxford after replacing Ed Oregeron, and took the team built by his predecessor to the Cotton Bowl each of his first two seasons. The Rebels are 5-11 since and Ole Miss fans are starting to wonder if it’s time to get rid of Nutt and the guy who hired him, Athletic Director Pete Boone.
2) Rick Neuheisel, UCLA (2-2 in fourth season, 17-24)
Neuheisel’s return to college coaching — at his alma mater, no less — began with lots of bold talk about taking Los Angeles back from the grips of rival USC. Instead, even with the Trojans trending down, the Bruins have managed just one minor bowl appearance. Another losing record would likely finish this homecoming.
3) Larry Porter, Memphis (1-3 in second season, 2-14)
Most coaches get more than two seasons to implement their programs, but Porter’s Tigers have been virtually noncompetitive. Under the former LSU assistant and Memphis player, the Tigers have been outscored 148-17 by FBS teams this season.
4) Mark Richt, Georgia (2-2 in 11th season, 98-36)
Coming off a losing season, and a lackluster one before that, many Bulldogs fans already were losing patience with Richt. Now an 0-2 start (albeit to Boise State and South Carolina) have turned up the heat. An eight- or nine-win season is still in Richt’s reach. Anything less might not be enough.
5) Neil Callaway, UAB (0-3 in fifth season, 15-36)
The former Georgia offensive coordinator under Richt has yet to do better than 5-7 since taking over in Birmingham. Unless the Blazers surge to the finish, this five-year plan will be complete.
6) Mike Stoops, Arizona (1-3 in eighth season, 41-47).
It seemed as if Stoops had turned the corner with the Wildcats when they were 7-1 last season. Since then Arizona has won once, it’s opener this season against Northern Arizona. The Wildcats go to USC on Saturday before the schedule eases up. Stoops has two years left on his contract but if he can’t do better than break even that might not be enough to keep him in Tucson.
7) Paul Wulff, Washington State (2-1 in fourth season, 7-33)
It’s a little surprising Wulff made it this far. The Cougars were historically bad his first two seasons, making a strong case to be called the worst team in a BCS automatic qualifying conference. There some signs of improvement last year but only two victories, one in the Pac-10. A 2-0 record was cause for celebration in Pullman — even if the wins were against Idaho State and UNLV. But a convincing loss to San Diego State followed — and with conference play starting, Wulff needs his team taking more than baby steps forward to stay at his alma mater.
8) Turner Gill, Kansas (2-1 in second season, 3-9)
Gill’s first season in Lawrence was so bad that there was some talk about him being one-and-done. That’s what happens when the guy who hired you is in the process of being nudged into early retirement because of a scandal. So in some ways Gill is lucky. New AD Sheahon Zenger, hired in January, will give him a clean slate and chance to impress. The bad news: He better do it quickly.
9) Frank Spaziani, Boston College (1-3 in third season, 17-16)
The Eagles’ only win so far this season has been against FCS-level UMass and they have losses to Northwestern and Duke. Fan expectations for BC tend to be modest. Most are far more worried about the pro teams in town. But the Eagles could be on their way to a three- or four-win season and that would be trouble for this loyal former longtime assistant.
10) Mike Riley, Oregon State (0-3 in his 11th season, 69-57)
Riley is in his second tour of duty in Corvallis and has done a fine job of taking a program that has had little success historically and making it a consistent winner. But the Beavers look like they are in for a long season, and coming off a 5-7 record in 2010, Oregon State might start thinking it’s time to try something else.
11) Jeff Tedford, California (3-1 in his ninth season, 75-43)
Tedford is like the Pac-12′s version of Richt. He has built some of the best teams in Cal history and at one time was considered one of the best in the country, a rising star. Now there is a sense that the best days are behind him at Cal and the program might need a boost that only a coaching change can provide. That said, Cal is not Georgia. Tedford is signed through 2015 and unless the Bears have a second straight 5-7 — or worse — season he should be safe.
12) Luke Fickell, Ohio State (3-1 in his first season)
The folks at Ohio State don’t like to use the term interim, but that’s what Fickell is. He’s got a shot to earn the job beyond 2011, but losing 24-6 to Miami didn’t help and a loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten opener will make the calls for Urban Meyer to come save the Buckeyes even louder in Columbus. And don’t forget — Michigan’s still out there at the end of the season.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP