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On3: Five Big 12 Coaches Facing ‘High’ Pressure in 2023

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas

The 2023 Big 12 football season is starting to appear on the horizon as we prepare to turn the calendar over to July, which means it’s the perfect time to start discussing the intricacies of the upcoming year.

On3’s Jesse Simonton published a story on Thursday morning that checks the pressure of every coach in the Big 12 heading into the 2023 season. By Simonton’s pressure gauge, each coach is facing one of four levels of pressure: Low, Medium, High, and Extreme.

Of the fourteen coaches in the conference, five of them are facing at least high pressure heading into the year.


Here’s what Simonton had to say about each coach of the five coaches heading into important seasons.

Dana Holgorsen, Houston — High 

Five years ago, Dana Holgorsen bolted West Virginia for Houston to escape the basement of the Big 12. Welcome back, Holgo. While the Cougars are a program with more potential and upside than WVU, they’re coming off a disappointing 2021 season and a very turbulent offseason. 

Houston’s win total sits at just 4.5 wins in preseason markets, and for a school that’s made real investments into the football program, that doesn’t match the internal expectations. Depending on how deep the growing pains are this fall, Holgerson’s return to the Big 12 could be short-lived. 

Brent Venables, Oklahoma — High

Brent Venables faces as much pressure as any second-year head coach (see: Mario Cristobal and Billy Napier) and you could certainly make the case that his measure meter should be higher than “high.” Oklahoma had its worst season in almost a quarter century in 2022. Its defense was awful and the Sooners got blanked 49-0 against Texas. 

Venables is recruiting at an SEC clip, but with Oklahoma set to join the league in 2024, he needs to prove he can even win 8-10 games in the Big 12 this fall. 


Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State — High

The pressure on Mike Gundy is less about getting the Pokes back to the Big 12 Championship — something they in an outlier 2021 season when they went 12-2 — but about changing the vibes in Stillwater. 

After starting 6-1 last season, the Cowboys lost five of six down the stretch and then saw turnover on both the roster and coaching staff this offseason. They’re breaking in a new quarterback, too. The good news is you can practically write it in pen that Gundy will find seven wins, and Oklahoma State’s schedule is fairly favorable compared to many of its Big 12 brethren. 

Steve Sarkisian, Texas — High

Steve Sarkisian is 13-12 at Texas, and while he’s a very accomplished and successful play-caller and OC, he’s never won 10 games once in his career as a head coach at Washington, USC, or Texas. 

Is this finally the year? It probably needs to be. The Longhorns are the favorites to win the Big 12 in their final season before making the jump to the SEC. They’re loaded on offense and return the bulk of one of the better defenses in the conference last season. Sarkisian’s teams have had a propensity to cough up wins late in games and that must stop this fall.


Neal Brown, West Virginia — Extreme

Neal Brown has three losing seasons in four years at West Virginia, and with a new boss, there’s immense pressure on Brown to “win now.” The Mountaineers were hammered by the transfer portal and have a brutal schedule in 2023, which includes non-conference games against Penn State and Pitt. 

Can Brown win his way into the good graces of new AD Wren Baker? The former Troy head coach must fix an offense that has struggled mightily during Brown’s tenure.  West Virginia ranked 91st in scoring and will have its third play caller in three years in 2023. 

Make sure to check out Simonton’s article, which outlines the pressure for every coach in the Big 12 heading into 2023.

2023 Pressure Rankings: Big 12 Coaches

  1. Neal Brown
  2. Dana Holgerson
  3. Brent Venables 
  4. Steve Sarkisian 
  5. Mike Gundy
  6. Gus Malzahn
  7. Scott Satterfield
  8. Dave Aranda
  9. Chris Klieman
  10. Kalani Sitake 
  11. Matt Campbell
  12. Joey McGuire
  13. Sonny Dykes
  14. Lance Leipold
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