Friday, December 5, 2008

Free Kicks, Coaching Carousel Edition

I was divided inside on Wednesday night. As many of you can probably tell from my occasional references to Rich Rodriguez and trips to Ann Arbor, I am a Michigan alumnus (spare the football jokes, I have heard them all). I would have been happy regardless of the outcome, but I didn’t even want to watch it. Intellectually, I knew it was more important for Maryland to win. Michigan is not going to the tourney unless something miraculous happens- Maryland at least has an outside shot (Get it? “Outside shot?” It’s a gift.). Terps are still number one in my heart, but God I hate it when they play each other. Whatever, let's just line up for the kick...

A Victim of the SEC
I know that with a vacancy being created at Auburn, filled in Tennessee, and (unwisely) avoided at Notre Dame, not enough attention has been paid to the “resignation” of Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom. At the time Croom was hired 5 years ago, it was hailed as a huge leap forward for football in the south, as he was the first African American head football coach in the Southeastern Conference. Last year, the Alabama alum was able to lead the Bulldogs to an 8-5 record in 2007 marked with a bowl win, as well as wins over Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, and last year’s surprising Kentucky squad. Unfortunately, this year’s 4-8 mark as well as Croom’s lifetime 21-38 record was simply unacceptable. He was given 5 years, and I suppose that he may not have met expectations, but this is a sad moment for college football. Croom was so completely dedicated to this institution, and it seemed at some points in his tenure that this team was ready to turn the corner. I am not entirely sure that he didn’t give Mississippi State the best chance to win, either- I mean, it is incredibly difficult to crack the top of the SEC; he can’t be held to the same standard. It will be tough to find a top candidate willing to take over a losing program in the best conference in football.

A Coach Off the Market
While some teams are out creating vacancies, others are guarding against them. Much has been made of Will Muschamp’s status as “coach-in-waiting” at Texas, particularly with the possibility of Auburn pursuing the defensive coordinator to become its new head coach. Today on the Dan Patrick show, Mack Brown stated that he had spoken to Muschamp and had received his emphatic assurances that nothing would take Muschamp away from Austin. However, the entire “coach-in-waiting” concept should be revisited- not just for the sake of candidates who miss out on an interview, but to protect the heir apparent. If Texas’ defense is awful for the next few years, is there any chance they will keep Muschamp around? No, they will probably fire him- where will that leave him? All this does is keep Muschamp off the market for other universities while still leaving him at the mercy of Texas if they decide to keep him around or not. While he is waiting for Mack Brown to retire, he prevents himself from going out for other jobs- it is as one-sided as an NFL contract. The team can terminate him at any time, but he can’t walk away from the team nearly as easily. Mack Brown might coach for 5 more years. He might coach for 15 more. And he will expect his faithful “Coach-in-waiting” to stick around as long as that takes.

This goes for every one of these coaches in the country, as they are increasing every season- and we should be much more worried than we are, and it isn’t only have to do with minority candidates. What happens if Jim Mora Jr. decides he wants to be the coach for the University of Washington like he practically begged for as he left Atlanta? Too bad, he is made his commitment. Don’t think that if things don’t go well for Mora the Younger in the first few years that the Seattle Seahawks will honor their commitment to him.

A Product of Catharsis
Don’t worry, I wouldn’t talk about the coaching carousel without a mention of Tommy Tuberville’s ousture at Auburn. Sure, he “resigned”. Either way, I have always been on Tommy’s side ever since they were left out of the Championship game in the BCS debacle of 2003. However, this year he signed his own death certificate when he failed to allow Tony Franklin to run his offense effectively, leading to a team that wasn’t running any offense well and by the time they decided to completely waste the wealth of potential in Franklin’s spread they were too invested to change offensive systems mid-seasons. So essentially they never picked an offensive style despite hiring an offensive guru in the offseason. A lot of coaches fail despite doing everything they can to succeed. This one failed by choosing not to use the resources available to him. Nice job, Tommy.

1 comment:

windsor said...

You are so UNBELIEVABLY far off with your analysis on the Tuberville firing. He is a coach who has brought nothing but consistent excellence for YEARS in the SEC, which has been by far the most challenging conference in this century. He beat Alabama six straight times, and 7 of the past 8 times before this year's loss. Just a few years ago he put together an undefeated season, barely missing the national championship.

Tuberville made at most two mistakes this season; hiring the offensive coordinator and giving up on him midseason. And yes, as a result Auburn has been a dismal team this year. But this is ONE YEAR! The fact is, he has been one of the best coaches in the college game for some time now and he deserves far far more than this junk.

Auburn will sorely, sorely regret this move.