MEJO 121



As a result of skyrocketing expectations for major college football coaches, turnover rates in college football are enormous. According to Bleacher Report’s article “Quantifying the Coaching Carousel,” the average firing rate is 11% annually. They cite a “follow the leader” culture, where “once a healthy season of terminating gets rolling, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.” Statistics show that new coaches are typically given an average of 6 years to succeed- and if their record after that amount of time isn’t satisfactory, they are typically let go. 


The graphic below represents the career path of Robert Gillespie, the running backs coach for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was hired in 2018. Of the 12 members of the 2018 coaching staff, he and Tommy Thigpen were the only two who remain working at UNC-CH after Larry Fedora was fired at the conclusion of the season. Fedora was with UNC-CH for 7 seasons. Because of the nature of football and the extensive coaching staffs it requires to remain competitive, many new head coaches will bring in new hires of their own and the staff chosen by the previous head coach will be let go — so it isn’t just head coaches that are frequently hired and fired. Those who were not kept on Mack Brown’s coaching staff include:

     – Deke Adams (Defensive Line Coach) who was at UNC-CH for 3 years

     – Henry Baker (Cornerbacks Coach) who was at UNC-CH for 1 years

     – Mike Ekeler (Linebackers Coach) who was at UNC-CH for 2 years

     – Keith Heckendorf (Quarterbacks Coach) who was at UNC-CH for 8 years

     – Lou Hernandez (Strength and Conditioning Coach) who was at UNC-CH for 7 years

     – Chris Kapilovic (Offensive Coordinator) who was at UNC-CH for 7 years

     – John Papuchis (Defensive Coordinator) who was at UNC-CH for 4 years

     – Luke Paschall (Wide Receivers / Safeties Coach) who was at UNC-CH for 3 years

     – Chad Scott (Tight Ends Coach) who was at UNC-CH for 3 years


Business Insider has accurately named this phenomenon the “coaching carousel” of college football. Because schools are able to decide to fire coaches and buy them out of their contracts at any time, and coaches can quit to move schools if a better opportunity presents itself, coaching personnel changes often. This has immense implications for not only the coaches, but also for the athletes playing for them. At the time the article was written in 2017, of the 130 Division I programs, 89 of them (would have coaches going into the 2018 season that had been there for fewer than 5 years. This meant that over 68% of fifth-year seniors — which there are lots of, considering most freshmen football players are redshirted for their first year — wouldn’t finish their collegiate careers under the same leadership that they committed to during their recruitment process. 


  •  Gaines, Cork, and Mike Nudelman. “Most College Football Players Will Be Forced to Change Head Coaches at Least Once in Their Career.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 6 Dec. 2017,
  • Daughters, Amy. “Quantifying the Coaching Carousel: How Many CFB Coaches Lose Their Job Yearly.” Bleacher Report, Bleacher Report, 28 Sept. 2017,