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Hot Seat Week 3: Matt Campbell, Mike Gundy seem aimless as mega conferences form

The situations in Ames and Stillwater could reflect the predicament of second-tier programs in mega conferences.

TCU v Iowa State
Head coach Matt Campbell of the Iowa State Cyclones coaches from the sidelines in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Ames, Iowa.
Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Week 3 of the college football didn’t provide the big upsets many hoped for in what looked to be a fairly muted slate, but it did provide some potential clarity for programs hoping to remain relevant once the landscape shifts and mega conferences form. The following coaches might not necessarily be in danger of losing their jobs after Week 3, but they might lose something even greater; their place in the college football conversation.

Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Remember when Campbell was THE name for big jobs once the coaching carousel began spinning? He entered the 2021 season with a nine-win team from 2020 that had its starting quarterback and several key players returning. That 2021 team never reached lofty expectations but still went 7-6 and made a bowl game. Campbell has won at least seven games in five straight seasons and been to five straight bowl games. No one in Iowa State history has done that. Campbell could’ve had a bigger job if he wanted to, but chose to stay put at Iowa State.

After a 10-7 loss to Ohio Saturday, Campbell had to be restrained by security after hearing some words from a fan. He’s 1-2 this season after winning just four games last year. As the Big 12 gets set to add Utah, Colorado and both Arizona schools, where do the Cyclones fit in that picture? At one point it felt like Campbell was going to turn this program into a solid team that would spike here and there. Now, it just seems like he missed a chance to get a bigger gig and is on the edge of irrelevance.

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Are Cowboys fans ever going to get tired of this? If Gundy didn’t win 12 games in 2021, we might’ve seen a change in leadership in Stillwater. Gundy is probably an Oklahoma State lifer given his ties to the school, and he’s been retained despite some controversies in recent years. At some point though, the whole “be competitive but lose the big game” schtick gets old if you’re never going to be in the College Football Playoff. And trust me, Oklahoma State believes it should be in that conversation regularly. Gundy has transformed the program but is he the man to keep this going in the new era of college football? A 33-7 loss to South Alabama at home certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Brady Hoke, San Diego State

The Aztecs once again failed to measure up to stiffer competition, losing 26-9 to a ranked Oregon State squad. Hoke did win 12 games in 2021 but fell back to Earth in 2022 and is now looking at another mediocre campaign if things don’t change quickly. San Diego State has never been a powerhouse program, but realignment could actually put this school in a situation to make real noise. Is Hoke the right man to oversee that potential growth? He wasn’t able to meet expectations at Michigan and a bigger stage might not be the right situation, even at San Diego State.

Honorable mentions

  • California’s financial situation might save Justin Wilcox, but the Bears are going to have to make a decision as they head to the ACC. It took 31 unanswered points for Cal to take out Idaho Saturday, and Wilcox has failed to get to eight wins since his 2019 season.
  • Brent Pry took over for Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech after Fuente snapped the program’s record bowl game streak, but it hasn’t been great. A 35-16 loss to Rutgers Saturday brings Virginia Tech’s issues in focus once again, and the new ACC isn’t going to make things any easier.
  • The Hoosiers ultimately did cover against Louisville after getting in a 21-0 hole in the first half, but Tom Allen’s job is reportedly on the line this season. Indiana has never had major expectations in football and it’s hard to see the school actually making a change here, but Allen has not replicated his success from 2020.