They call it the hot seat, an imaginary warmth that develops for coaches who are struggling to get things going the right way.
But there are different versions of being in the hot seat. There are real ones and there are perceived ones.
The real ones usually involve the athletic director who either made the hire or inherited a coach. The perceived ones usually involve angry phone calls to talk radio shows and conversations on Twitter.
There is a big difference.
And many levels.
Level 1 — El Scorcho
The ADs around the country in different sports are usually the ones who make the decisions, but it doesn’t help if the big-money boosters are involved and want a coach out.
Some athletic directors will resist the power brokers, but they will definitely turn up the heat. And if the president of the university gets in the ear of the AD about the possibility of making a change, it just makes it that much hotter.
Often, it depends on the pool of coaches who are available as a replacement. Another factor is how well a coach gets along with the people in the athletic department and the boosters.
And one of the biggest factors is when the environment around recruiting gets toxic, as it did for Will Muschamp in his fourth year as Florida’s football coach.
Put them all together, and it’s difficult to sit down.
Level 2 — Habanero hot
Fans can make a difference here, not by complaining but by not showing up for games, cutting into the revenue the schools count on.
Go back and find the actual crowd for FSU’s game last year against Louisville at home and you’ll understand why Willie Taggart was in trouble in his second year. It was stunningly empty.
A coach can do himself damage, not only by losing games but by putting a team on the field that is undisciplined on and off the field or court.
Again, this is where booster contributions — or a lack of them — can have an effect on the future of a coach.
Level 3 — It’s warm in here
Coaches around the country not only have to worry about how their team is doing, but how their rivals are performing. It’s why Auburn coach Gus Malzahn keeps going back and forth between warm and cool.
(Auburn is a school that fired Gene Chizik two years after he won a national title.)
There also is the issue of NCAA trouble that can heat up the seat, although somehow the FBI probe into basketball cheating hasn’t claimed any head coaches. Mostly because they keep winning.
Level 4 — It’s a dry heat
We have been surprised to see coaches get fired because we didn’t know a lot about what was going on behind the scenes. We’ve also seen coaches hang on despite a lack of success because the athletic directors believe things are trending in the right direction despite a poor body of work.
There is also the buyout factor. The buyouts in college sports have become insane and make it difficult at times to pull the trigger because of how much it will cost.
It will be interesting to see how the lack of revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic will save coaches’ jobs because the schools simply can’t afford to pay one coach not to work and spend serious money on a new coach.
Level 5 — The AC works fine
Fans (and national talking heads) love to complain after every numbing loss and even after some wins. The reality is that the noise in the system usually has no affect on a coach’s immediate future, especially when it’s coming from fans who don’t even go to games.
The white noise just comes with the job.
Mike White is a perfect example. I got so many questions during the last basketball season about whether or not he was in trouble despite the fact that — if there had been a tournament — he would have been taking Florida to its fourth straight.
Replacing a legend is never easy, and Ron Zook would be the first guy to tell you that.
But White has nothing to worry about because he is doing things the right way, has done a great job in recruiting and recently signed a 10-year deal.
This is the ultimate in a perceived hot seat. It doesn’t really exist.
But that won’t stop people from talking about it.
Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley. This column appeared in the latest issue of Gainesville magazine, a publication of The Gainesville Sun.