When a college coach or staff member commits serious violations of the NCAA constitution or bylaws, the NCAA can impose a show-cause order on that person for a specified period time. Show-cause orders are issued by the Committee on Infractions (COI). The COI is the judge and jury in NCAA enforcement proceedings.
Any school that hires a coach subject to a show-cause order must demonstrate to the COI why the school should not be penalized for simply hiring that coach. In effect, a show-cause order is contagious; hiring an "infected" coach can infect the school that hired him or her.
At this time of year, the college football regular season is ending. Unsuccessful coaches are fired and successful coaches leave schools for better employment. This leaves fans questioning who their team's next coach will be. While coaches under show-cause orders are not technically prohibited from coaching, they are effectively prohibited from doing so.
The two most prominent former college football coaches subject to show-cause orders are Jim Tressel and Chip Kelly. Tressel was the head coach at Ohio State University from 2001 through the 2010 season, and Kelly was the University of Oregon's head coach from 2009 through the 2012 season.
Tressel is under a five-year show-order until December 19, 2016. If any school hires him before then, additional penalties can be summarily imposed on the school. Tressel is also unable to participate in any conference championship, bowl or playoff games during the time the order is effective, and he would have to sit out the first five games of his first season back in coaching.
Kelly's show-cause is less burdensome, but still essentially prevents him from coaching before the order expires at the end of the 2014 football season. If any school hires him before then, it will be subject to any number of penalties simply for hiring him.