College football season is still months away. At this point, fans are still in the glow of national signing day and spring football, which has wrapped for many teams, with others are hosting their spring games this weekend. Virtually every fan base can get themselves excited for the upcoming season.
Inevitably, many of those programs will wind up disappointed. While there are a number of very distinct levels to which fan bases expect their teams to perform, there are some that have seemed to fall short of expectations relatively consistently.
Whether it is being on the outside looking in on the College Football Playoff race, or only winning eight games when everyone expected 11, there are a number of ways that college football programs can disappoint their fans. Five big programs have done so with incredible consistency over the last decade.
Five college football programs that have consistently disappointed in the last decade:
There has been an upswing under Jim Harbaugh. It is hard to argue that things are not better now than they were under Brady Hoke or Rich Rodriguez. However, when Michigan was able to poach the famous alumnus from the NFL, national championships were the goal.
On paper, the results have been pretty solid. After back-to-back 10-win seasons, the second of which was pretty close to a College Football Playoff berth, the Wolverines slipped back to 8-5 in 2017, losing in the Citrus Bowl.
While it is very premature to suggest that Jim Harbaugh could be fired after this year, some vocal Wolverines fans seem ready for his seat to get warm. There is a valid point to be made about Harbaugh's success with his own recruits. The team slid last year in large part due to roster overhaul, and upperclassmen from the Hoke years leaving. On paper, Harbaugh's recruited at a higher level, but most probably didn't imagine that kind of transition when Hoke's upperclassmen gave way to the first few classes of Harbaugh's Michigan Men.
That all being said, the second that Harbaugh beats Ohio State, much of this will be forgiven. Those wins have been extremely hard to come by. The Wolverines have exactly one win over the Buckeyes since 2003.
Younger college football fans, and basically every recruit, may not realize that Tennessee was a bona fide SEC power, and it wasn't that long ago. Unfortunately for the Vols, the halcyon days of Peyton Manning and Tee Martin get farther and farther in the rear view mirror.
Plenty of teams have fallen short of their peaks in the last 10 years. Few have fallen so far below where fans expect them to be.
In 2008, the Vols went 5-7. That was the final year of Phil Fulmer as head coach.
Since, UT had a one-year affair with Lane Kiffin, which ended with the coach off to Los Angeles and a very angry campus. He was followed by an unmitigated disaster of a tenure by Derek Dooley, and a slightly less disastrous yet still disappointing run by Butch Jones. The 10 year stretch that started with a 5-7 season ended with a 4-8 one. Tennessee has not knocked off Alabama since 2006.
And this doesn't even take into account the absolute hot mess that was this year's coaching search...
3. Notre Dame
For a long time, Notre Dame was the power in college football. The Fighting Irish still have a very unique, national fan base - a coalition of people from all over the country, comprised of alumni, and those with no actual connection to the school.
Other fan bases hate Notre Dame, but that kind of national attention, aided by the program's NBC deal, brings plenty of scrutiny from the team's own fans as well. Notre Dame expects to compete for national championships.
Technically, it has in the last 10 years. The Fighting Irish had a pretty infamous national title appearance back in 2012-13. It didn't go very well, as the team was waxed by Alabama 42-14. Most programs would sign for a trip to the title game, but Notre Dame didn't even look like it belonged on the same field as the Crimson Tide that night.
Overall, Notre Dame's 10-year stretch hasn't been an on-field disaster. ND has gone to eight bowls in that stretch, and won at least 10 games three times (including that 2012 season which has had wins vacated by the NCAA.) Still, it has fallen well short of the program's stated goals, and winning eight or nine games isn't enough on an annual basis for most fans of the program.
If there's one team on this list that is feeling very good about the future right now, it is Nebraska. The Huskers have replaced Mike Riley, whose three years in Lincoln were largely a disappointment, with alumnus Scott Frost.
Having a team's former quarterback come back to coach the team can always be exciting. However, Frost brings the coaching chops as well. After years on staff at Oregon under Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich, he took over as UCF head coach, with the Knights coming off of a winless season. He took that same program to a 12-0 mark in just two years.
Frost may very well turn things around at Nebraska. Husker fans have been waiting for a true national contender for a while. The team was one of the best of the 1990s, but in the post-Tom Osborne years, things have really cooled off. Bo Pelini took over in 2008, and was definitely consistent. He lost exactly four games in every single season at Nebraska, but could never get the team over that hump, and his fiery personality eventually burned too hot for the administration.
Mike Riley was basically the opposite from a demeanor standpoint. He too had a four-loss year, but unfortunately for him, it was sandwiched between two losing seasons.
Nebraska fans are among the best in the sport. They will turn out every single Saturday, no matter what. They definitely deserve a big year soon.
Few college programs have captured the imagination of college football fans Miami from the 1980s through the early 2000s. The 'Canes were a dominant force on the field, and produced many of the best players in the NFL for decades.
"The U" hasn't been the same program in a long time. There are some solid early returns from Mark Richt, who took over ahead of the 2016 season, and has gone 19-7 in two seasons. In 2017, he took The U to its first division title since the team joined in the ACC in 2004.
The two coaches before him turned Miami into a middle-of-the-road ACC program. Randy Shannon was just 28-22 and 16-16 in ACC play from 2007-10. The program was hit with a two year post-season ban after Shannon was fired in light of the Nevin Shapiro scandal, leaving a tough situation for Al Golden to inherit. Golden improved recruiting, but his on-field results were reminiscent of what Shannon was doing. He left Miami at 32-25, and was 17-18 in the ACC.
Attendance numbers—or just, screenshots of most non-Florida State vs. Miami home games over the last 10 years—show how quickly the local fans fall off when the team is mediocre. With Richt in tow, things appear to be moving in the right direction, but it will take a real run at being a national powerhouse once again to win the city back.