Six coaches who’ll be leading teams into bowl games this month were not permanent head coaches during the regular season.
Since the coaching carousel begins spinning in October, picks up speed in November and reaches a crescendo in December, it’s commonplace for a handful of staffs to have new looks by the time bowls begin. Someone is always under new leadership at this time of year, either because the former head coach was fired, elevated from an interim role or, most likely, accepted a position on a different campus.
Of the 80 coaches leading teams into bowl battles, six had different titles during the regular season. Here’s how they were promoted and what to expect from them in the postseason and beyond.
Tom Allen, Indiana
At this time last year, Allen was coordinating the South Florida defense. Today, he’s leading the Hoosiers into their second straight postseason game, the Dec. 28 Foster Farms Bowl versus Utah.
Allen made the unlikely—and overnight—journey to permanent head coach after Kevin Wilson was dumped amid allegations he’d mistreated players. The D took a quantum leap under Allen in 2016, but it was his connection to the kids, leadership style and deep Indiana roots that prompted AD Fred Glass to waste no time extending an offer. This trip to Levi’s Stadium affords Allen a particularly sweet opportunity to make a good first impression since IU hasn’t won a bowl game since 1991.
Major Applewhite, Houston
Applewhite was not the Cougars’ first choice to succeed Tom Herman. Fingers are crossed that he blooms into the best choice.
The tires of others, most notably Les Miles and Lane Kiffin, were kicked, but circumstances prompted Houston to remain in-house with a young coach who’s been on staff the past two seasons, but will face a ton of pressure to maintain what Herman started. Applewhite provides stability and continuity, and he’s far less likely to bolt following a breakout season, an issue every few years in these parts. He can begin allaying concerns about his hiring by leading the Cougars to a win over San Diego State in Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl.
Ed Foley, Temple
Matt Rhule is in Waco. Geoff Collins is on his way to Philly via Gainesville. Foley will hold down the fort as the Owls prepare for their Dec. 27 Military Bowl meeting with Wake Forest.
Foley made perfect sense to be named the interim coach. He’s in his ninth season with the program, and he’s already participated in two coaching transitions, when Al Golden left for Miami in 2010 and after Steve Addazio accepted the Boston College two years later. Golden hired Foley and Addazio and Rhule retained him because he intimately knows the region and the local high school programs and coaches. Collins, whose last eight jobs were in the south, ought to make keeping Foley on staff beyond the Military Bowl one of his top priorities.
Nick Holt, Western Kentucky
Holt wanted to be the permanent Hilltopper head coach after Jeff Brohm left for Purdue earlier in the month. But after the school hired Mike Sanford instead, Holt’s future beyond Saturday’s Boca Raton Bowl is in doubt.
Holt is a sideline veteran, helming Idaho in 2004 and 2005 and coordinating a number of defenses over the years. He certainly could join the new staff in West Lafayette, especially after Brohm made it clear he planned to hire some of his key assistants from Western Kentucky. Holt has helped move the Hilltopper D in the right direction, allowing just 24 points per game in 2016, while ranking No. 5 nationally in yards per carry allowed.
Ed Orgeron, LSU
Orgeron earned the gig of a lifetime on Nov. 26, when his interim title was stripped and he was named the Tigers’ permanent head coach.
Orgeron beat the odds by parlaying a 5-2 record as Les Miles’ short-term successor into one of the top jobs in the country. Now, he can coach the New Year’s Eve Citrus Bowl versus Louisville with the knowledge and security of knowing exactly where he’ll be next spring and fall. And how the Tigers perform against Heisman-winning QB Lamar Jackson could set the tone for the 2017 season in Baton Rouge. Orgeron is always fired up on gameday, but he’ll be operating at peak intensity in his debut as LSU’s full-time head coach.
T.J. Weist, South Florida
For the second time in his career, Weist is keeping the seat warm until the permanent head coach takes over.
Back in 2013, Weist led UConn to a 3-5 record after Paul Pasqualoni was fired and before Bob Diaco was hired. This month, he’s the conduit bridging outgoing Willie Taggart and incoming Charlie Strong in Tampa. Weist will lead the Bulls into the Dec. 29 Birmingham Bowl with South Carolina, despite being on staff for just one season. In his three decades as a coach, he’s held jobs on eight different campuses, mostly coaching receivers. What’s next for the 51-year-old veteran? Well, he and Taggart have a long relationship together, going back to their days at Western Kentucky, so he could be working with the likes of Darren Carrington, Charles Nelson and Jalen Brown in Eugene next season.