Big Ten football head coaches who are on the hot seat heading into 2024 and why

The Big Ten coaching carousel was busy last year with new hires at Indiana, UCLA, Michigan, and Michigan State. Still, next offseason could feature more turnover as these three head coaches enter the 2024 season with plenty of pressure.
Penn State v Illinois
Penn State v Illinois / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

The spring transfer portal window in college football still has quite a bit of activity left, but the coaching carousel has long been settled. So, heading into the summer, it’s time to evaluate the coaching landscape of the Big Ten conference. 

This offseason, the league had a radical shift, adding four new teams from the Pac-12 and beyond that introducing four head coaches in the first year of their tenure. Curt Cignetti replaced Tom Allen at Indiana, DeShaun Foster went back to UCLA after Chip Kelly took the Ohio State offensive coordinator job, Jonathan Smith left Oregon State to secure a spot in the Big Ten with Michigan State, and Sherrone Moore took over for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and will lead the title defense. 

Those four new coaches have a bit of job security heading into Year 1, as do the top contenders in the conference, Ryan Day at Ohio State, Lincoln Riley at USC, and Dan Lanning at Oregon. The rest of the conference could be on high alert because a bad year could be the last year at the helm. 

Coaching in college football is just one big game of musical chairs and the chairs of these four Big Ten head coaches are starting to heat up heading into the 2024 season. 

HC. player. Ryan Walters. Hired: 2023. . . Ryan Walters. 492. . Ryan Walters

When he was hired to replace Jeff Brohm, Walters became the fourth-youngest head coach in the Power Five. Prior to taking over Purdue in December of 2022, Walters was the defensive coordinator for the Illinois Fighting Illini and led one of the country’s top defenses. 

However, at Purdue, he led the 69th ranked total defense and the Boilermakers allowed 5.7 yards per play which was 72nd. It’s still incredibly early in his tenure, but a 4-8 record in Year 1 didn’t inspire much hope in the fanbase. If Walters can’t figure out his side of the ball in 2024, then Purdue could quickly cut bait. 

Walters struggled in the transfer portal. He added 17 players, but lost key pieces on both sides of the ball like defensive end Nic Scourton and wide receiver Deion Burks. Purdue could have another abysmal season in store, but the hope of his 33rd ranked 2024 high school recruiting class may save his job. 

481. Hired: 2021. Bret Bielema. Bret Bielema. . Bret Bielema. . HC. player.

In hindsight, it seems that Bret Bielema should have never left Wisconsin. Things did not work out in Arkansas and outside of a promising 2022 with Walters as his defensive coordinator, Bielema has been disappointing at Illinois. 

Over three seasons, Bielema has gone a combined 18-19 with only one bowl game appearance. A third losing season in four years could mean the end of Bielema’s tenure with the Fighting Illini and possible his last chance as a college football head coach. 

Bielema had a few very talented players on the defensive side of the ball, but now Devon Witherspoon is entering his second season with the Seattle Seahawks and Jer’Zhan Newton is preparing to start his career with the Washington Commanders. 

Bielema has not been able to restock the cupboard. His 2024 recruiting class ranked 56th and he’s yet to land a top 50 high school class. 

James Franklin. . . Hired: 2014. . HC. James Franklin. James Franklin. player. 491

The questions of James Franklin’s stability in Happy Valley really comes down to what the standard is at Penn State. For many schools, five double-digit wins seasons with five New Year’s Six Bowl game appearances over 10 years would be a golden age, but at Penn State it’s gone stale. 

Franklin recruits well to Central Pennsylvania, though he has struggled to keep some of the best players in the state. Yet, he and his staff rarely ever make a big splash in the transfer portal. Wide receiver was a glaring need this offseason and Julian Fleming was his big addition, so if the passing game with Drew Allar flops under new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, then the blame should fall on the head coach for his flawed roster construction. 

Really, Franklin’s fate at Penn State will be decided by how he performs against Ohio State, Michigan, and now Oregon. If the Nittany Lions miss the expanded 12-team playoff in 2024, then it’ll be time for a change.

Big Ten football head coach salary rankings. Big Ten football head coach salary rankings. dark. Next