College football has not seen this kind of turn over in recent memory with 12 head coaches either being fired or “resigning.” Most of these resignations were either forced or strongly encouraged by alumni or university athletic directors. There are many angles one can use to analyze this coaching carousel that is costing colleges millions of dollars.
The fact is that most of these coaches saw the writing on the wall before the final decision was made because of the attitudes expressed about their performance from fans, bloggers and possibly even their superiors. The harder question to evaluate is whether or not these coaches truly deserved their fate, or if they were just victims of this current “win now” environment.
A few perpetually terrible programs fired their head coaches after (What do you know?) awful seasons. These newly departed individuals include Phil Bennett at SMU, Guy Morris at Baylor, and Ted Roof at Duke, all of whom are probably ecstatic that they can escape from the never-ending losing streaks their teams seem to incur. There can be no defending the performance evaluation of these coaches, but these programs will never be successful because of the lack of support from the universities.
These schools wonder why they cannot seem to win in football, even though Duke was only willing to pay Roof $370,000, or a fraction less than they spend on the uniforms for the basketball team.
No established coach will want to waste his time at any program that pays that kind of money to its football coach while giving its basketball coach a guaranteed lifetime contract for over $4 million a year. This shows a lack of commitment to winning in football that would not encourage anyone to step in so that they can be unemployed within a few years. Good luck to Art Briles, who was just hired by Baylor and will be lucky to see one class of freshmen graduate.
A few mediocre programs also let their coaches go after losing seasons, including Colorado State’s Sonny Lubick and Mississippi’s Ed Orgeron, while Washington State’s Bill Doba was encouraged to resign. Two other universities who mistakenly believe their football teams are still among the best in the country, Texas A&M and Nebraska, deservedly fired their coaches Dennis Franchione and Bill Callahan, respectively.
Texas A&M does not understand the concept that you cannot be a superior program if you are third in your own state and that the lure of College Station is not quite enough to snatch top recruits.
On the other hand, Nebraska, not comprehending the thoughts of student athletes these days, has a hard time realizing that they’re in NEBRASKA. Texas A&M has already hired former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman, whose life has regressed from coaching Brett Favre as quarterback to dealing with Steven McGee and whether or not he will be able to complete a pass this week.
Michigan’s Lloyd Carr retired on his own terms, but the three exits that make me scratch my head are Jeff Bower at Southern Miss, Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech, and Houston Nutt at Arkansas, who resigned because of division within the state and has already received a job at Mississippi. Apparently 14 consecutive winning seasons were not enough to keep Bower around, who was forced to resign seeing as Southern Miss believes that every mid-major Division I team should be either this year’s Hawaii or last year’s Boise State.
Gailey and Nutt both led their teams to the championship games of their conferences, the ACC and SEC, just a year ago and now find themselves without those same coaching positions. Both ended this year with winning seasons and Nutt even beat the number one team in the country, LSU Tigers, in their last game of the season.
The expectations that college football fans have placed on their particular programs have become completely ridiculous. That is not to say that some of these changes were not warranted, but rather that people who believe that different coaches will magically make their favorite teams contenders are either highly medicated or hallucinating or both.
The truth is that the best and worst coaches in America are not as different as people seemingly believe and the sooner these fanatics begin to digest this concept the better off we will all be.