Interim Head Coaches in College Football Bowl Games

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It is that time of year again, boys and girls. Bowl season is here and that means that we have a lot of head coaches going to new addresses. Interim head coaches are always a major mystery. In a lot of cases, there is an interim head coach attempting to keep things status quo while the new head coach is out on the recruiting trail or keeping a watchful eye over his new team.

Several Group of Five teams have had their coaches poached by larger universities and colleges, but a few programs have already promoted from within. There have also been a lot of coordinators on the move. I won’t specifically address them in this article, as this is solely about head coaches, but you definitely want to be aware of those scenarios.

I’ve updated this article annually for a few years now and the data goes back to the 2003-04 season. As you can see, this was a rare thing at the start, but now it is a very common occurrence at programs across the country.

So far, in a sample size of 16 bowl seasons, we don’t have any results that stick out in a substantial way. I’m taking the consensus closing line and total for my results, so it isn’t from one specific sportsbook or anything. Just the widely available line. Those interim head coaches are 35-35 straight up, 34-35-1 ATS, and the under is 36-32-2.

Before I dig into this year’s small group, a couple quick points. Because Shawn Clark (App State), Ryan Silverfield (Memphis), and Jimmy Lake (Washington) have already been elevated to head coach, I am not counting them in the results. They are not interim head coaches. In the cases of Clark and Lake, the bowl game is simply their first games as a head coach.

Let’s take a look at the interim head coaches that we have this time around for the bowl games (alphabetical order by program):

Boston College – Boston College fired Steve Addazio before the season even ended, but he stayed through the regular season finale. Wide receivers coach Rich Gunnell will coach the Birmingham Bowl on January 2. Ohio State co-DC Jeff Hafley has already been hired by Boston College, so it will be one-and-done for Gunnell, who will likely be replaced when Hafley fills out his staff. AJ Dillon has already declared that he is sitting out to prep for the NFL Draft. Gunnell, who played his college ball at BC, is getting a rare opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if his players respond.

Florida Atlantic – Lane Kiffin is now in Oxford with Ole Miss. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has taken up the reins for the Owls as they prepare for the Boca Raton Bowl against SMU. The players had been kind of vocal about giving Spencer a chance at the head coaching job, but Willie Taggart’s presence and recruiting ties in the Sunshine State were too much to overlook. Spencer has done a great job with the FAU defense and Taggart may end up retaining him. Wait and see if that picture gets any clearer before really deciding how FAU handles this.

Florida State – Odell Haggins will get another opportunity as the interim for Florida State. Haggins did this two years ago in the Independence Bowl against Southern Miss and the Seminoles rolled. Haggins has already been retained on Mike Norvell’s staff going forward, but he is beloved by the players, so they *should* show up again in support of him.

As mentioned, Clark, Lake, and Silverfield have already been hired. Some coordinators are sticking around for the bowl games and others are not. Jeff Scott (Clemson, now USF) and Hafley (Ohio State, now BC) are the two that are staying with their old employers for the College Football Playoff semifinals. The notable coordinators that left are Ricky Rahne (Penn State, now Old Dominion) and Marcus Arroyo (Oregon, now UNLV). Georgia lost offensive line coach Sam Pittman to Arkansas.

If we get any more, we’ll update this article. For now, here are the historical results dating back to the 2003-04 bowl season:

2003-04:

Bo Pelini (Nebraska): W 17-3 (-3, u49.5)

 

2004-05:

Charlie Strong (Florida): L 3-17 (+4, u55)

Kent Baer (Notre Dame): L 21-38 (+4, o51.5)

 

2005-06:

Mike Hankwitz (Colorado): W 10-19 (+10.5, u48)

 

2006-07:

Joe Kines (Alabama): L 31-34 (+1.5, o49)

Frank Spaziani (BC): L 25-24 (-8, o48)

Brian Kelly (Cincy): L 27-24 (-7, o41.5)

Jeff Quinn (CMU): W 31-14 (-8, u51)

 

2007-08:

Gary Darnel (Texas A&M):  L 17-24 (+5, u52)

Reggie Herring (Arkansas): L 7-38 (+3, u67.5)

Bill Stewart (WVU): W 48-28 (+8, o61)

Joe Tenuta (Georgia Tech): L 28-40 (-6, o54)

Dewayne Walker (UCLA): W 16-17 (+6.5, u46.5)

Chris Thurmond (Houston): L 13-20 (+6, u57.5)

Ken Niumatalolo (Navy): W 32-35 (+8, o63.5)

 

2008-09:

Dabo Swinney (Clemson): L 21-26 (-2.5, u55)

Stan Parrish (Ball State): L 13-45 (+2.5, u70.5)

 

2009-10:

Ruffin McNeill (Texas Tech): W 41-31 (-7.5, o59.5)

Jeff Quinn (Cincy): L 23-51 (+12.5, o59.5)

Rick Minter (Marshall): W 21-17 (+3, u49.5)

Steve Stripling (CMU): P 44-41 (-3, o63.5)

 

2010-11:

Jeff Stoutland (Miami-FL): L 17-33 (-2.5, o48)

Phil Bennett (Pitt): W 27-10 (-4.5, u51.5)

Tom Matukewicz (NIU): W 40-17 (-1.5, o56.5)

Lance Guidry (Miami-OH): W 35-21 (+2, o48.5)

 

2011-12:

Tim DeRuyter (Texas A&M): W 33-22 (-9, u68.5)

Tom Bradley (Penn State): L 14-30 (+7, u55.5)

Vic Koenning (Illinois): W 20-14 (-3, u44.5)

Keith Patterson (Pitt): L 6-28 (-3.5, u48.5)

Mike Johnson (UCLA): L 14-20 (+3, u44.5)

Tony Levine (Houston): W 30-14 (-7, u55.5)

Matt Campbell (Toledo): L 42-41 (-3.5, o69)

 

2012-13:

Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin): L 14-20 (+2, u46)

Patrick Higgins (Purdue): L 14-58 (+17, o68)

Chris Thomsen (Texas Tech): L 34-31 (-13, o55)

Dana Bible (NC State): L 24-38 (+7.5, o52.5)

Steve Stripling (Cincy): W 48-34 (-9, o62)

Kent Baer (San Jose St): W 29-20 (-7.5, o46)

Rod Carey (NIU): L 10-31 (+13.5, u58)

Lance Guidry (WKU): L 21-24 (-6, u55.5)

John Thompson (Arkansas State): W 17-13 (-3.5, u64)

 

2013-14:

Clay Helton (USC): W 45-20 (-6, p65)

Marques Tuiasosopo (Washington): W 31-16 (-3.5, u65)

Bob Gregory (Boise State): L 23-38 (+3, u66.5)

Adam Scheer (Bowling Green): L 27-30 (-6.5, o49.5)

John Thompson (Arkansas State): W 23-20 (+7, u65)

 

2014-15:

DJ Durkin (Florida): W 28-20 (-7, u53.5)

Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin): W 34-31 (+6.5, p65)

Barry Cotton (Nebraska): W 42-45 (+7, o63)

Joe Rudolph (Pitt): L 34-35 (-3.5, o54)

David Gibbs (Houston): W 35-34 (+3.5, o54)

Dave Baldwin (Colorado State): L 10-45 (+2.5, u57)

 

2015-16:

Brian McClendon (UGA) W 24-17 (-6, u44)

Larry Scott (Miami) L 13-20 (+3, u62)

Darrell Dickey (Memphis) L 10-31, (+3, u64.5)

Jason Candle (Toledo) W 23-17 (+2, u49.5)

Brian Ward (Bowling Green) L 27-58 (-7, o63)

Dell McGee (Georgia Southern) W 58-27 (+7, o63)

 

2016-17:

Major Applewhite (Houston) L 10-34 (-4.5, u51)

Tom Allen (Indiana) W 24-26 (+3.5, u54)

TJ Weist (South Florida) L 46-39 (-10.5, o58.5)

Ed Foley (Temple) L 26-34 (-10.5, o41.5)

Nick Holt (WKU) W 51-31 (-6.5, o79)

 

2017-18:

Odell Haggins (Florida State) W 42-13 (-12, o48.5)

Greg Knox (Mississippi State) W 31-27 (+7, u63)

Jeff Banks (Texas A&M) W 52-55 (+3.5, o62.5)

Jedd Fisch (UCLA) L 17-35 (+6, u60)

 

2018-19:

Frank Maile (Utah State) W 52-13 (-7, u67.5)

Matt Ivey (Appalachian State) W 45-13 (-6.5, o49)

Ed Foley (Temple) vs. Duke L 27-56 (-3.5, o56.5)

 

2019-20:

Rich Gunnell (Boston College) – vs. Cincinnati in the Birmingham Bowl

Glenn Spencer (FAU) – vs. SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl

Odell Haggins (Florida State) – vs. Arizona State in the Sun Bowl

 

OVERALL RECORDS:

SU: 35-35

ATS: 34-35-1 (49.28%)

TOTAL: 32-36-2

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