All 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.
Frank 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.
We 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.