Have the days of prestigious college football coaches come and gone? You remember, the good ol’ days, when it was Bo Schembechler versus Woody Hayes instead of just Michigan versus Ohio State. The days of the Bobby Bowdens and Joe Paternos of the college football world may be behind us. A sense of artificiality and dishonesty where coaches only take one position to make it to another has taken over the major college football coaching realm.
It’s not that there are no prestigious coaches left; Paterno is still kicking around Happy Valley, Mack Brown has built a dynasty at Texas, Jim Tressel has brought Ohio State back and Bob Stoops has been a stable leader for Oklahoma for over a decade. But, with the exception of Paterno, when will those coaches take their plunge into the next best thing?
The “coaching carousel,” as the major media outlets have titled it, is the end-of-the-year coaching frenzy that resembles more of a bucket of chum being thrown into a shark tank rather than a coach choosing a profession.
In all, 22 coaches have been tossed into the water to find new places to call home next year. Three exceptionally large and historically prominent BCS schools (USC, Notre Dame, and Tennessee) found themselves searching for coaches in what is left of an offseason in college football.
It all began with former Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly. Kelly built the Cincinnati football program into a powerhouse over the last two seasons winning two conference titles, with two BCS appearances. When Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis, the Golden Domer’s came a callin’ to Kelly. Of course he couldn’t turn it down; he’s a Catholic Irish, and it’s Notre Dame. Turning down that job would have been like Tiger Woods turning down a woman at the bar. Kelly never coached Cincy in their bowl game, left for Notre Dame and the rest is history. Butch Jones, please take your seat in Cincinnati.
Ah, now USC and Tennessee, they just so happen to connect. USC head man Pete Carroll, who looked to follow in the footsteps of Bowden and Paterno in building a program long term, is on his way to bigger and better things. That being the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. Could it be because USC is set to face NCAA sanctions of recruiting violations and may be hit with probation in the very near future? No, Carroll wanted another challenge (and trust me, the Seahawks will be one) but wouldn’t USC have been a challenge coming off of one of its worst seasons in a decade and under NCAA probation? Well perhaps it’s not enough of one.
Tennessee never expected to be in the mix for a coach after its once again gloomy 7-5 record in Rocky Top. But the celebrity of a coach in Lane Kiffin never expected his dream job, USC, to open up either. Kiffin bolted out of the Volunteer state and headed straight for the southern California sun at USC. It was just one year after the coach promised to bring Tennessee back to the national contender they once were in the days of Phillip Fulmer. He was going to sing “Rocky Top” all night long. Remember the famous speech he gave us when he was hired? “No one is going to outwork us, no one is going to outwork me as a head coach, and no one is going to outwork our staff that we put together.” That’s not bad, Lane. Maybe you can use that one at USC now too, and it’s only a year old.
It’s sad to see that in an already corporate-run world, college coaches are being persuaded by money and punched around by athletic directors. What happened to love of the game? When will we see a coach turn down a Notre Dame or an Alabama job to build a team from the ground up like Kelly could have done? The classification of a college football coach has become ‘what have you done for me lately’ and since only one coach a year can win a National Championship, the answer to that question is almost always: not enough.