Three ACC football head coaches who enter 2024 on the hot seat and why

Of course, new Duke football head coach Manny Diaz has time to establish himself in Durham but these ACC coaches enter the season on the hot seat.
Nov 4, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal looks on
Nov 4, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal looks on / Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes will be on the ACC this fall. With the conference expanding to add Cal, Stanford, and SMU there will be intrigue to see how the now coast-to-coast league shakes out.

Of course, not every program enters the 2024 football season on the same footing. That's why some coaches are sitting pretty and others are sweating.

Duke is one of the intriguing programs because it will be under the leadership of a new head coach, Manny Diaz, who has some sizable shoes to fill. His predecessor, Mike Elko, managed to win 17 games combined over the past two years which was just one fewer than the school won from 2018-21.

Diaz, a long-time defensive coordinator who spent the past two seasons in that role at Penn State, has only limited experience as a head coach. His only head coaching experience thus far was at Miami from 2019-2021 meaning he had to not only learn how to be a head coach at a program with high expectations but also had to navigate the insane COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on building a program.

During those three seasons, Diaz went a respectable 21-15 making it to three bowl games. However, that wasn't good enough for the Hurricanes, a program that desperately wants to return to national prominence.

Certainly, Diaz will receive more grace and patience at Duke than he received at Miami. Because he's in his first year on the job in Durham, his seat is as cool as it will ever be as 2024 begins.

That won't be the case for other ACC head coaches as the upcoming season begins, though. So let's take a look at three coaches in the conference who will open 2024 needing to have immediate success in order to keep from being on the hot seat.

Pat Narduzzi. player. ACC. 444. Pat Narduzzi. . . . 1.

Longevity at one school is becoming more unusual in college football as the pressure to win immediately cranks up given the insane amount of money that is at stake in the sport. Thus, Pat Narduzzi's nine-year run at Pitt has been impressive.

During that time, he's gone 65-50 overall and 43-31 in ACC play. That includes an 11-win season in 2021 and a nine-win season in 2022.

However, last season the floor fell out for Pitt. Going 3-9 overall and just 2-7 in conference play, the Panthers took a major step backward.

The question that has to be asked is whether Narduzzi has topped out what he can do at Pitt. When he had his greatest success, he had a future NFL QB, Kenny Pickett, running the show. Another player of that caliber isn't likely to walk through the door again anytime soon.

Six of last season's losses came by double figures. That's not a sign of a program trending in the right direction. If the same thing happens in 2024, Narduzzi could be in danger of losing a job he's held since 2015.

2. player. . ACC. Tony Elliott. Tony Elliott. . 446. .

There used to be a time when the thought was that a head coach deserved at least four seasons before being judged so that the players he brought in could become upperclassmen before his fate was sealed. That thinking is changing due in large part to the prevalence of the transfer portal.

Therefore, Virginia's Tony Elliott is on the hot seat despite being in his current position for only two seasons. If he doesn't show significant progress in 2024, he could find himself looking for work.

Virginia is a tough job. In fact, it may be one of the toughest in the ACC. Still, Elliott's overall record of 6-16 and his ACC record of 3-12 won't cut it.

The good news for Elliott is that Virginia isn't a program with massive or unrealistic expectations. If he can just flirt with .500 or even get to a low-level bowl game, he'll do enough to justify a fourth year.

player. . 3. . Mario Cristobal. . Mario Cristobal. 834. ACC.

Yes, Miami's Mario Cristobal has only been in charge in South Florida for only one year. However, his is a program with a pedigree and massive expectations, one that is desperate to return to its place as a power broker on the biggest of stages.

It was considered a coup when the Canes lured the native son back home and away from an Oregon program that he had significant success with. That feeling has changed some after Cristobal managed just a 7-6 debut season, though.

Yes, Cristobal got his team to a bowl game in year one but that accomplishment was soured by losing to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. That's not the type of postseason performance Miami expected when Cristobal was brought in to fix a program that hasn't won ten games in a season since 2017.

It is hard to imagine Cristobal losing his job in 2024 unless things go drastically south. What's more, with star transfer QB Cam Ward now leading Cristobal's offense, there's hope that Miami will be able to contend for an ACC title game appearance this fall.

Still, there is no denying that the pressure is on Cristobal to show not just marginal improvement but to get his program back to being one of the bullies of the ACC. Miami isn't a program that will accept languishing in mediocrity for long so Cristobal needs to show that he's capable of winning big if he wants to quiet his detractors in 2024.