2021 College Football Coaching Changes for the Bowl Games

Coaching changes

One of the most important factors in handicapping bowl games is following the coach and his past performances in bowl games. Unfortunately, there were many coaching changes during and after the regular season that has an effect on the bowl games. You’ll also have some games where an interim coach has taken over when the head coach is either fired or left for another job. There's also the rare instance at Notre Dame, where defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is promoted to head coach, taking over for Brian Kelly, who left for LSU. Here are the most recent changes for bowl teams and we’ll name the interim coach of each team. Also, several bowl teams have lost their coordinators to other schools.

Out: Dan Mullen
In: Billy Napier
Interim coach: Greg Knox
Napier had a 39-12 record at Louisiana and seems like a solid out-of-the-box hire. Running backs coach and special teams coordinator Greg Knox takes over during their trip to the Gasparilla Bowl. Knox did coach in the Gators’ regular-season finale win over Florida State.

Fresno State:
Out: Kalen DeBoer
In: Jeff Tedford
Interim coach: Lee Marks
DeBoer is headed to Washington to take over the Huskies. Veteran coach Jeff Tedford takes over for Fresno State for the second time after this bowl game. He retired in 2019 due to health reasons. Lee Marks will be the interim coach for the New Mexico Bowl, when the Bulldogs face UTEP. Marks was the running backs coach, assistant head coach and run game coordinator with Fresno State this season.

Louisiana (UL Lafayette):
Out: Billy Napier
In: Michael Desormeaux
Louisiana has won 12 straight games including the Sun Belt Championship game over Appalachian State last Saturday. All that success meant that Billy Napier was a hot commodity. He left for Florida to replace Dan Mullen. Michael Desormeaux took over as head coach after serving as the tight ends coach/co-offensive coordinator so they do not have to name an interim coach. The only major change will be at defensive coordinator where Patrick Toney left to join Napier at Florida. Wes Neighbors will serve as the interim defensive coordinator.

Out: Ed Orgeron
In: Brian Kelly
Interim coach: Brad Davis
Kelly shockingly left Notre Dame, a team that barely missed out on the CFP. He took the LSU job and all of a sudden, developed a Southern accent, despite being from New England. Brad Davis will guide the Tigers in the Texas Bowl. Brad Davis is the offensive line coach in his first season, who coach the offensive lines at Arkansas, Missouri and Florida previously.

Notre Dame:
Out: Brian Kelly
In: Marcus Freeman
Kelly will move on to LSU and instead of hiring a new coach outside the program, the Irish decided to promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach instead of naming him coach on an interim basis for the Fiesta Bowl.

Miami Hurricanes
Out: Manny Diaz
In: Mario Cristobal
Interim coach: Jess Simpson
Miami decided to fire Manny Diaz after just three seasons and a 21-15 record that saw him go 0-2 in bowl games. Miami will bring in Cristobal from Oregon In what should be a home run hire. However, for their Sun Bowl game against Washington State, defensive line coach Jess Simpson will coach the team with wide receivers coach Rob Likens will call plays. That’s because offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee left for SMU to become head coach. Likens has OC experience at Kansas and Kansas State.

Out Jay Norvell:
In: ?
Interim: Vai Taua
Jay Norvell went 33-26 in five seasons with Nevada and replaced Steve Addazio at Colorado State. Running backs coach Vai Taua will be named the interim coach just for their trip to the Quick Lane Bowl game on Dec. 27. According to reports, OC Matt Mumme and three other assistant coaches are leaving with Norvell for Colorado State.

Out: Lincoln Riley
In: Brent Venables
Interim coach: Bob Stoops
Venables comes over from Clemson, where he was the defensive coordinator. Riley bolted to USC after a loss to Oklahoma State. Former head coach Bob Stoops will take over during the Alamo Bowl game.

Out: Mario Cristobal
In: ?
Interim coach: Bryan McClendon
So Cristobal flirted with the Miami job while Manny Diaz was still head coach. Then Miami fired Diaz and Cristobal moved out East. The Ducks also lost defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter to Texas Tech. McClendon is the receivers coach for Oregon who also served as Georgia’s interim head coach for the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl. He’ll be the interim coach for the Alamo Bowl for Oregon against Oklahoma, who will have Bob Stoops coaching them. Another interesting tidbit is that OC Joe Moorhead will remain as the coordinator in this bowl game, before heading to Akron as their head coach.

Out: Sonny Dykes
In: Rhett Lashlee
Interim coach: ?
Sonny Dykes moved on to take over for Gary Patterson at TCU. Rhett Lashlee takes over as the head coach. The 38-year old Lashlee comes from Miami, where he was the OC. He spent time at UConn and Auburn. He was also the OC and QB coach at SMU from 2018-19. The Mustangs will have a question about who will be coaching at the Fenway Bowl against Virginia and Bronco Mendenhall, who is retiring after the game. That’s because Offensive coordinator Garrett Riley left with Dykes to join him at TCU.

Texas Tech:
Out: Matt Wells
In: Joey McGuire
Interim coach: Sonny Cumbie
Matt Wells was fired on Oct. 25 after going 2.5 seasons with a 13-17 record at Texas Tech. OC Sonny Cumbie was named interim coach and then moved to Louisiana Tech as their new head coach. Joey McGuire was hired as the new coach and was going to keep Cumbie on his new staff. So Cumbie will coach one final game for the Red Raiders, before heading to Louisiana Tech.

Out: Bronco Mendenhall
In: ?
Mendenhall is retiring after this season and will coach one more game in the Fenway Bowl against SMU. He was 36-38 in six seasons and was 6-6 this season. Virginia has not named a head coach at the time of this article, though reports have Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott as the leading candidate.

Virginia Tech:
Out: Justin Fuente
In: Brent Pry
Interim coach: J.C. Price
Brent Pry was the former Penn State defensive coordinator who is trying to formulate his staff. J.C. Price will coach the Hokies in the Pinstripes Bowl against Maryland. He was also hired as an associate head coach and defensive coach by Pry. Price was the defensive line coach after service as co-defensive coordinator at Marshall.

Washington State:
Out: Nick Rolovich
In: Jake Dickert
Dickert took over for Rolovich in the middle of the season after the head coach decided not to comply with Washington’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Dickert did a solid job and became the permanent coach on Nov. 27 after they beat rival Washington in the Apple Cup. That means Dickert will coach in the Sun Bowl against a Miami-Florida team with an interim coach in Jess Simpson.

Author Profile
Ben Hayes

Ben has been a sports writer for over 35 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for nearly 30 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13! Ben has had great success in handicapping college football, the NFL, college basketball, the NBA and MLB for 27+ years. His Twitter handle is @BenHayesWAW