Giving it the old college try

Bill OBrien Penn StateAll I want for Christmas is a slightly above average football coach.

That’s probably the sentiment of most college football fans in America, for if it’s one thing we’ve learned lately, having a coach who is too successful can be hazardous to a program’s health.

Take Penn State for example.  Bill O’Brien is their head coach… for the time being.  Two years ago, he took over a program that was amid a crisis no other school had ever seen.  O’Brien righted the ship as best he could, earning back its respectability.  Now he is rumored to be the next head coach of the Houston Texans.  Some of his bags weren’t even unpacked.

Five hundred miles to the west, every college football fan on the University of Louisville campus has to be nervous that Charlie Strong will listen to more lucrative offers elsewhere.  And they should be.

If it’s one thing that Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and others before them have taught us, it’s that loyalty in college football is a thing of the past.  Striking while the iron is hot is career advice that’s never been more apropos.  But it goes both ways.  For all intents and purposes, Mack Brown was forced out of Texas, a place where he had coached for fifteen years and won a national championship.  His program had become irrelevant.  A few years earlier, Bobby Bowden was forced to resign at Florida State for the same reason.  The Seminoles are now playing for a national championship.  It’s a dog eat coach world.

FrankBeamerFrank Beamers are a thing of the past.  Beamer has been coaching at Virginia Tech since 1987, the last remaining dinosaur.  Rest assured, however, after few more mediocre seasons like the ones he’s had lately and it’s only a matter of time before he gets run out of town as well.

Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) and Kirk Frerentz (Iowa) have been coaching their respective programs since 1999.  Other than that, not a single head coach of a BCS conference team has been employed at his school since the 21st century began.

Crave stability?  Don’t look to the college football coaching ranks.

In the Southeastern Conference, Gary Pinkel (Missouri) and Mark Richt (Georgia) have been at their schools since 2001.  Les Miles has coached LSU since 2005.  The same goes for the Ol’ Ball Coach at South Carolina.  Other than that, and Saban at Alabama, we’ve got nothing but fresh faces in the SEC.  Similarly, ten of the twelve coaches in the Pac-12 arrived at their schools in 2011 or later.  The same goes with eight of the coaches in the Big Ten.

Like a one night stand, we barely got to know ya’.  Just lock the door on your way out.

It has to be dangerous hiring the coach you want most knowing he’ll always be looking for something better.  Urban Meyer left Florida for Ohio State.  Saban was rumored to leave Alabama for Texas.  James Franklin has made quite a name for himself after only two years at Vanderbilt.  Because of his success, he’s been linked to every coaching vacancy under the sun.  Why wouldn’t he be?  After all, the grass is always greener.  So are the dollar bills.

OBrien Penn StateWe selfishly criticize college basketball players, the “one and dones,” for not staying in school despite the fact that a $4,000,000 is staring them in the face.  But what about college coaches?  Will we criticize O’Brien from jumping from one job to another after only two years for a larger paycheck?

Are we approaching an era where athletic directors think twice about hiring the “best” available coach knowing he can leave as soon as he makes a name for himself?

And so the coaching carousel continues with nary a criticism of the coach who abandons a program.  Never mind the kids he’s recruited to play for him.  Never mind the roots he’s established in that town.  Heck, he probably wasn’t even there long enough.  So why blast a kid for looking out for his own interests when that’s what his mentor taught him to do all along?

When it’s all said and done, your program is probably better off having a good coach but not a great one.  We wouldn’t want to attract the vultures.

24 thoughts on “Giving it the old college try

  1. The coaching carousel will continue because of the money. Upward mobility has never been more present than now in both college and pro coaching ranks.

    With salaries averaging nearly two million in colleges, coaches, who are nothing if not great salesmen, promote themselves as the answers to a college president’s prayer to appease rabid boosters who demand more wins.

    Coaches either move up, move out, or retire. It is more often out and that makes room for another coach to move up.

    Seldom do coaches go beyond the John Madden-Lou Holtz line of ten years because the pressures are too great.

    It will always be thus because of the strangle hold football has on the American populace. Win, win, win is the mantra.

  2. I get all that, Jimmy, and I understand the importance of the almighty dollar, the need to win and win now and the fat cat boosters behind the scenes.

    I have to say though, in researching this piece, it still surprised to me to hear how few coaches had been with their programs for that long.

    I guess parting isn’t such sweet sorrow after all, huh?

  3. Let’s really put things in perspective. When the 21st century began, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury was the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders.

  4. Beag…

    First of all, it doesn’t surprise me that former college stars later get a chance at the coaching ranks. It surprises me less that once they fail, they get a job in the broadcast booth.

    Second of all, I have some good news for you.

  5. The schools have built in release clauses in their contracts with head coaches to protect them in case the coach gets an offer he or she can’t refuse. So much for protection insurance… I believe the Houston Texans will pay Penn State somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million for the right to whisk Coach O’Brien away… It blows my mind! Yes he coached under Bill Belichick and he turned around a storied college football program as a head coach, but can’t the Texans find someone with as much potential as this man and do it for a lot less money? I look at the Arizona Cardinals for a recent example of a long-time NFL assistant coach finally given a chance and the money was secondary. He made over 200 (!) roster moves in 2013 and coached the team to a 10-6 record narrowly missing the playoffs. Want more examples? Look at the holy grail of NFL coaches… Bill Walsh, Tom Landry and none other than Vince Lombardi. They all came up after being assistant NFL coaches. Do you think the owners of the Cards, 49ers, Cowboys and Packers were happy with what they got? Today’s owners evidently love to throw their money around (away?)…

  6. BTW… The Cleveland Browns’ owner will pay Crudzinski around $10 million while he fools around for the next few years… What in hell are these people thinking?

  7. Chris

    Dinosaurs are things of the past are they not ? Yet , how is it that the NFL annually recycles garbage or coaches with spotty records of achievement into coaching positions ? Look at the bloodbath that took place in the last twenty-four hours as proof of that fact . More is likely to come I believe in terms of o assistant staffs and general managers .

    The Falcons retained Mike Nolan as an assistant and defensive coordinator for the franchise . Yet look at the team’s defensive stats for the season and where they finished in the league overall . Utter stupidity within the front offices of so many NFL teams at present .

    Mark Dominik is given the go ahead to fire Greg Schiano , but yet his dumb @ss is allowed to keep his position after two debacle and disastrous hires during his tenure as the Bucs’ general manager . The Glazers have less intelligence than a person in a vegetative state , having suffered a traumatic brain injury .

    tophatal …..

  8. If we regular folks were offered the same amount of velocity in our careers…a new, bigger, better-paying job every other year…we may very well act the same way, agreed? We call them team sports but the reality is a team – and its leaders – are all individuals at the end of the day, making their own decisions and doing what is best for them. The humorous thing is once these folks jump from place to place they then try to get everyone to buy into the “team” all over again…their new “team,” that is.

  9. I’m not so sure about that, Burnsy.

    I think there’s something to be said for loyalty and a lot of us who still believe in it… as long as it’s reciprocated.

  10. Chris

    Apparently there are rumors circulating tht the lame @#sed Glazers will seek to gauge Rich McKay’s interest in returning to the organization . McKay is currently the team President of the Falcons and overseeing the franchise’s move from the Georgia Dome to a new state of the art venue . Why the hell would he want to return to the Bucs whose ownership was noticeably critical of the former executive ? . Was it not Gruden and his sidekick Bruce Allen who in having won a Superbowl, then sent the franchise spiraling downwards all at the Glazers’ behest , without one member of the family showing any damn intelligence to correct to ongoing idiocy of the front office decisions being made by Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen , that hamstrung the Bucs financially .

    You once made the suggestion that there are intelligent Bucs’ fans about within the locale ? How is it that , none came forward questioning Gruden’s mindset and that of Bruce Allen ?

    Lovie Smith has a vague interest in the Bucs’ head coaching position , but I can’t understand why , given the ongoing incompetency within the franchise and a complete lack of direction .

    Trust you and the family enjoyed the New Year’s Eve festivities ?

  11. Chris

    It now appears , all but signed sealed and delivered , yet to my surprise it’s going to be Lovie Smith as the next head coach of the Buccaneers . . The Ledger has been bold enough to make it their top headline story in today’s edition on the front page as well amongst their chief sports’ story .

    What I’d like to know , is who now succeeds Mark Dominik , if Rich McKay turns down the team’s overtures in him returning to the franchise ?

    I see UCF stunned Baylor in their Bowl game in what turned out to be a high scoring and competitive contest . .

    tophatal ………

  12. Lovie wants to coach, Al, even if it is for a dysfunctional organization such as the Buccaneers. He’s gotta recognize the talent that exists on that roster though. Maybe I’m mistaken but I do think the right coach can make a playoff contender out of this team.

    Or perhaps I’m just delusional.

  13. Chris

    Please tell me that the Bears know what they’re doing ? It seems they’ve just given Jay Cutler a multi-year deal (seven years) that will pay him $120 million plus with over $50 million in guaranteed money ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!! The Bears’ front office are simply clueless .

    Mark Dominik and the Glazers put the ” D” back in dysfunctional , in terms of the Bucs this past season . Greg Schiano was overrated as a head coach and he simply lacked discipline . Even Stevie Wonder would have realized that , even with his disability .

    Hopefully Lovie Smith can display the traits that made him a success with the Bears as well as the lessons learned as a disciple of Tony Dungy .

    My take on the College Football and Basketball season .

    A year in review , part two

    tophatal …………

  14. I mourn the lack of loyalty Chris. Heck, I still pine for the days when no players could go pro until after their senior season…and coaches’ tenures were measured in decades and not days. There’s just too much money involved now and some decisions are unfortunately made with loyalty in mind…but it is loyalty to the almighty dollar. I’ll continue to be a fan of those who have priorities towards people.

  15. Al…

    Let’s just say I can see both ways on the Bears decision to make Cutler a very rich man.

    Either they don’t sign him, admit they’re ready to start from scratch and go with an unproven commodity, which the NFL has shown lately is not the smart thing to do OR they re-sign him and know what they’re getting, a guy who can clearly throw the ball around the yard and who is probably a top 15 quarterback in the league.

    I’m not saying they made the right decision. I’m just saying I can see why they did it.

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