Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thanks Coach.

NCAA football is one shifty, big business. Yet again this year we have no playoff in place (for the BCS), and yet again head coaches seem to treat jobs like they're junior-high relationships. Here's a run-down of some the recent changes we have seen:
  • Rich Rodriguez. Leaves West Virginia for Michigan. Good choice for him. Look for West Virginia players like Pat White and Steve Slaton to take a much more serious look at the NFL now. One rumor on a West Virginia website ponders current Alabama head coach Nick Saban as a possible replacement for Rodriguez. Shocked? Not really. Should Saban seriously consider the offer, it would be his fourth team in the past four years (LSU, Miami Dolphins, Alabama).
  • Bobby Petrino. Leaves the Atlanta Falcons for Arkansas. Petrino was hired after the Arkansas faithful ran Houston Nutt out of town (now at Mississippi). This one has gotten much play in the press, mostly for the ridiculous way in which it was handled by Petrino. Petrino left Louisville after last season to coach the Falcons for 13 games this year before bolting to Fayetteville. That's three teams, two years. Don't unpack Bobby.
  • Urban Meyer left Utah for Florida. This means Ron Zook, who was canned at Florida after having the unenviable job of replacing Steve Spurrier, moved to Illinois. The Ole Ball Coach, by the way, left Florida for the Washington Redskins where he had his head handed to him and promptly returned to the SEC in South Carolina. Weeee!
  • Mark Dantonio leaves Cincinnati for Michigan State (in one of those "Right before the bowl game" moves last year, ala Rodriguez this year), prompting Brian Kelly to leave Central Michigan for Cincinnati. This scenario plays itself out every year in what I like to call Food Chain Coaching - Big Guy eats Mid-Major Guy's coach who in turn eats Even Smaller Guy's coach.
You get the idea. There are a couple of interesting points that appear when one looks at patterns in head coaching at the college ranks. Of course, I will discus those here...
  1. Contract? What contract? Maybe you heard this from your favorite head coach recently, "I have no intentions of leaving. I am committed to bringing a winner to (insert school)." Or, "I have not been contacted by (insert higher Food Chain school)." Do not believe a word of it. Did your favorite school's head coach just sign a long-term deal? For lots o' cash? Be worried, as that acts as blood in the water for the Big Guys circling the head coach feeding pool.
  2. The Players? Ha! How coaches like Saban and Petrino expect to recruit after strapping everyone in for a carnival ride I have no idea. What I find most disturbing about football coaches flipping teams like this is how the players are expected, no compelled, to ride it out. Not only has Mr. Changing-My-Mind-Tomorrow recruited these kids to play at their university with some obviously specious arguments, the players were, and are, expected to live up to their commitment to play at said university unless they would like to accept some rather extreme penalties. The message? Graduate, get a job, and feel free to blatantly lie to any and everyone to get what you want.
  3. The NFL? Don't do it. Unless you're going to Dallas. Like NCAA basketball and the NBA (Rick Pitino anyone?), NCAA football is not a breeding ground for future NFL coaches. Don't believe me? Ask Lou Holtz. Or Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Rich Brooks, Pete Carroll...and mentioning Pete Carroll...
  4. It's the program, not the coach. Maybe, but I highly doubt it. Success breeds more success in NCAA football and, as recent history would suggest, just being Notre Dame does not give you the right to actually win football games. I heard Beano Cook this morning on ESPN radio running down the top college football programs and was struck by how wrong I think he is. It's the coach, not the program, which seems to bring success. Should Florida trade Urban Meyer for Dave Shula, I doubt they are in for many winning seasons. Anyone think if Pete Carroll leaves USC for, let's say, Texas, he wouldn't take all USC's success with him? If you still think some schools have a god-given right to victory, remember that as of the third weekend in November this year we had Missouri and Kansas playing a game with National Championship implications. Where were they ranked in the preseason? Ha! Instead of ranking the top programs in college football, we should rank the top coaches.
Enjoy your coach while you have him folks, he may be on the next train to, well, somewhere else.

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