Hot Seat Watch: The prognosis for the nation’s warmest posteriors in 2012
You are intelligent, good-looking people who do not need to be told that some college football coaches may lose their jobs this season. They will lose their jobs eventually because they did not win enough football games. They are in danger of losing their jobs right now because they did not win enough football games in the past. None of this is rocket surgery.
But between all the drive-time radio rants and FIRECOACH_____DOTCOM blogs, are there elements setting the temperature of coaches’ posteriors that we have not considered? To find out, we recruited a half-dozen fans and bloggers surrounding some of the most hotly debated coaching positions. Some of them wanted to defend their skippers. Some of them are Boston College fans. Read on to find out which is which:
Derek Dooley, Tennessee
• Campus Union: The point we keep coming back to regarding Dooley’s reign at Tennessee is that so many things seem to happen to the team that it’s hard to get a clear read on where the Vols really are at any given time. That said, a losing record for two straight years does not bode well for the lifespan of any coach in God’s Own Football Conference. And that’s before getting to the part where Dooley now has to live with being the guy who snapped the Kentucky win streak. So what are we missing in our rush to condemn the tenure of the SEC’s greatest active hairdo? Will Shelton of Rocky Top Talk has one answer:
• Rocky Top Talk: You remember those word problems from elementary school? “Timmy has four apples, Susan has five apples, how many oranges does Ricky have?” And at the bottom would be “D: Not enough information.” Derek Dooley is not enough information. This is not to suggest we know or even think he will be a great coach eventually. We simply do not know yet, because most of what happened at Tennessee during his first two years had more to do with the last two coaches than the current one. The Vols didn’t just suffer from having three coaches in three years or Lane Kiffin leaving in the middle of the night; a three year recruiting failure from 2007-2009 was the primary culprit. The Vols signed 31 four- or five-star players during those three years, and the return on that investment was Eric Berry, two additional long-term starters and 28 busts. Half of Kiffin’s 2009 class, including seven of its top nine signees, are no longer with the program. Dooley has done his part by recruiting closer to the level Vol fans are used to despite winning six games in 2010 and just five last year.
We might’ve learned something about Dooley last year, but the Vols lost their two most talented players in Justin Hunter and Tyler Bray by the first Saturday of October. Still, it was the inability to get that sixth win against Kentucky that really turned up the heat and probably negated the argument that Dooley truly deserves four years before any fair assessment can be made. The 2012 Vols are one of the most experienced teams in the nation and absolutely dangerous in the passing game. The first year we can truly judge Dooley on his own merits will be the only one he gets if the Vols don’t win, but there is enough talent, depth and experience to win in Knoxville now. The guy that cleaned up the mess deserves a real chance to be the guy that takes Tennessee back to the top.
Mack Brown, Texas
• Campus Union: Everything’s bigger in Texas, including expectations, amirite? Considering an 8-5 season a down year is a nice problem to have, but remember that was just one year after the infamous 5-7 campaign. Just how long can Texas’ lights-out defense carry the team, and what happens to the guy at the top if the answer is only so far? It won’t even be an issue in 2012, said Drew Dunlevie of @BarkingCarnival:
• Barking Carnival: When it comes to Mack Brown, it boils down to dollars and sense. He went 5-7 and the program still had higher cash flow than any other program, largely due to the work Mack had done in the decade plus preceding that year. It also wouldn’t really make sense to panic. Panic isn’t what DeLoss and company do. After the 5-7 catastrophe Mack made the difficult choices and effected the needed changes — bringing in a talented new OC in Bryan Harsin, a new S&C lead in Bennie Wylie and replacing the departed Will Muschamp at DC with Manny Diaz. Like a recovering addict, we’ll still have some frustrating current pains due to bad habits of the past, but any keen observer can see a program being run far better than it ever has before. I’m taking the over on 10 wins.
John L. Smith, Arkansas
• Campus Union: The Razorbacks needed a band-aid to slap over the gaping wound of the Bobby Petrino era, and found a gregarious one in John-El. We have only seen him speak in person once, and already want him to live forever and coach forever and a day. But would even a marvelous run to a BCS bowl be enough to keep him in Fayetteville past January 2013? Arkansas partisan Chris Driver says nay:
• Chris Driver: I’ve quickly grown to love John L. Smith. He is so perfectly cast to play the lead role in the telenovela that is Arkansas football that it already feels like he’s been in charge for years. John L. mixes the ridiculous (“Get your piss hot!”) perfectly with the notion that a real live human being can still serve as a head coach in the SEC. This combination has temporarily won many Razorback hearts and minds this offseason. But, even if he somehow goes 14-0 this year and hoists the crystal ball, he shouldn’t be given the program long-term. His career is winding down, not up. He went back to Weber State in the winter to retire there, not to work his way back up to the BCS. He would be nearly 70 before his first recruiting class as permanent HC finished its four/five years on campus. Jeff Long is a man who thinks about long-term program building and this will be his defining hire as athletic director. As such, this hire will need to be a coach who can also plan on molding a program for sustained success and not one who already had one foot out the door toward retirement just six months ago.
Frank Spaziani, Boston College
• Campus Union: Despite the ignominy of fielding the nation’s 100th-ranked offense and losing to Duke, this was actually the first losing season under Spaziani rule. Why so glum, strangely small swath of the Boston population actually following college football? Bill Maloney of Eagle In Atlanta explains:
• Eagle In Atlanta: If (or hopefully when) BC fires Frank Spaziani, the national media will make a point that sometimes long-time coordinators don’t make good head coaches. You know what group could have explained that theory years ago? BC fans. The faithful in Chestnut Hill knew Frank Spaziani would embody the Peter Principle if ever given the chance. That’s why no one clamored for him to take over after Tom O’Brien left in 2006 and even the most optimistic Eagles cringed when athletic director Gene DeFilippo promoted Spaz after firing Jeff Jagodzinski. The once respectable defensive coordinator has guided BC to progressively worse seasons three years in a row. From staff mutinies to head scratching game management to an anemic offense (that averaged 15.7 points per game against FBS opponents in ’11), there is little to defend about Spaz’s tenure. Not much is expected of BC this season, yet the remaining talent, new offense (Spaz’s fourth) and a reasonable schedule may lead to BC being better than the oddsmakers predict. I guess Vegas is counting on Spaz to screw up another close game and turn a potential win into another loss. And when those screwups come, BC fans will just be saying “we told you.”
Randy Edsall, Maryland
• Campus Union: Look. Maryland bought out a coach coming off a 9-4 season and a bowl win. Is it all that farfetched to imagine the school making Edsall the next Turner Gill? Not at all, even given the Terps’ stated cash situation, said Adam Claus:
• Adam Claus: U(MD)nder Armour University’s slogan of “We Must Protect This House” proved to be inexact at best in 2011. A record 22 transfers, including starting quarterback Danny O’Brien to Wisconsin, is pretty damning evidence that many do not “buy in” to Randy Edsall’s approach. Ralph Friedgen, Edsall’s predecessor, left a crater of poor recruiting and a quagmire of an academic record for the program to climb out of. In that light, it’s not surprising Maryland’s new AD at the time, on the job just 12 days, would side-step controversial options like Mike Leach and pluck Edsall, who had a reputation of being a task master and will certainly restore some much needed integrity to the program. However, Maryland’s (and Under Armour’s) stated goal of ticket sales relies on more than just jerseys. They need to stack wins. The brightest spots at Maryland — super-recruit Stefon Diggs, a top 50 class and legitimate inroads to local and national recruiting bases — can mostly be attributed to Mike Locksley’s efforts. And more importantly, they’re not likely to have a tangible impact on the program for another year or two.
Many postulate that Edsall’s job is likely safe because Maryland athletics, which is in significant debt (forcing the department to cut seven varsity programs this past year), cannot afford to buy him out … for four more years. However, it is worth mentioning that Maryland’s Byrd Stadium was converted from grass to field turf this offseason, to the tune of $3 million, proof positive that as cash poor as the administration (and/or private fund “allocators”) may be, they’re still willing to shell (sorry) out the cash for change.
Mark Richt, Georgia
• Campus Union: Did we throw Ol’ Dirty Pastor in here just so we could use the “MARK RICHT HAS LOST CONTROL OF THIS CATEGORY TAG” tag? Mostly. But that running gag came about for a reason. In our nearly three years living in and around Atlanta, we’ve noticed three things about Georgia football: ticky-tack run-ins with the hyper-vigilant Athens police department (Isaiah Crowell being a notable exception), a short-leash drug policy that puts more player offenses in the spotlight and a particular bent in certain local media outlets for painting bucolic Athens as Thugtown USA. What in red and black hell gives? Michael Brochstein of Get The Picture paints us a picture:
• Get The Picture: Much of it I would attribute to laziness. The current local media model for success is about attracting ears and eyeballs. Depth isn’t as valuable as laying out bait, so a superficial wag of the finger in Athens’ direction is often all it takes for a good day’s work. There’s also slackness on the editorial side to do much digging into the nature of the misbehavior, which is odd because the beat writers tend to do a fair job reporting that (often because it’s sensationalized, but still).
Richt doesn’t do himself any favors, though. He doesn’t intimidate, like Saban. He doesn’t have Spurrier’s arrogant wit to parry the media attention. And he doesn’t enjoy the soft bigotry of low expectations that Dooley relies on for a pass. Richt is perceived as a well mannered underachiever. Add to that a tough school drug policy, aggressive local police and an athletic department that doesn’t exactly put the clamps down on what isn’t a matter of public information (although that may be changing) and it’s easy for the Atlanta media to jump on the thug train.
It’s not that Georgia’s innocent. It’s that it’s nothing special in terms of incidents. That’s why the “Mark Richt has lost control” meme has so much traction these days.