By Patrick Snow
The end of the college football season always brings with it unfulfilled goals which translates into coaching changes. There has been quite a bit of movement in our region. Some of the firings were inevitable while others showed us just how unrealistic certain fan bases are with their expectations. I thought I would examine each job, and how it matches up on the gridiron food chain.
LSU– I believe Les Miles will leave for his alma mater Michigan so this becomes the best job available in our region. It’s a high-paying SEC gig with a rabid fan base and great in-state recruiting. AD Skip Bertman should aim very high (Stoops, Richt, Rodriguez) if/when he looks for a replacement. The main task at hand will be to continue the trend started by former boss Nick Saban of getting most -if not all- of Louisiana’s top-notch recruits.
Texas A&M – While the exit of Dennis Franchione was inevitable, the hire of Mike Sherman seems like a very risky move. I have no doubt that the former Packers head man is a quality coach, but he hasn’t been in the college game since 1996. This program has too much money and tradition behind it to keep hovering in the mid-level of the Big 12. Sherman must put together a staff that can go recruit against the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, and LSU, or this hire will be widely criticized.
Arkansas – I think this fan base is pretty delusional to believe they needed to run off Houston Nutt. He was a native son who was consistently winning in the SEC. If they can get Tommy Tuberville as many rumors claim, that will be a good “save” for a school that should have appreciated Nutt more. Arkansas must realize that they’re not in the old Southwest Conference anymore. Winning 8 or 9 games a year in the SEC is a reason to keep your coach; not to chase him out of town.
Mississippi – I think they realized what a mistake it was to fire a quality coach like David Cutcliffe, and subsequently bring in a “recruiter only” in Ed Orgeron. I believe getting Houston Nutt was about as good as this school could do. Now maybe if he gets the Rebels back to the level that Cutcliffe had them, the fan base will appreciate it more.
Georgia Tech – This is an interesting job. I believe the Yellow Jackets can be a player in the ACC race and need to hire a proven college head coach. The favorite for this gig is UConn (9-3 in the Big East) coach Randy Edsall, who was formerly Tech’s defensive coordinator. I believe Edsall or Navy coach Paul Johnson makes more since here than taking a chance on assistants Jimbo Fisher or Will Muschamp.
Baylor – This team seems like the outpost of the Big 12, but they did have some tradition of winning under former coach Grant Teaff. Obviously Guy Morriss was struggling, and I think the hire of former Houston head coach Art Briles was quality.
Houston – They lost coach Art Briles to the Big 12, and now have an interesting decision to make. Do they get a veteran, non-BCS type head coach or go for a hot assistant? I believe they should seriously consider former Texas ‘Horn Major Applewhite, who currently serves as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. I think he’s a bright young coach who’s well known in the state of Texas, and he could bring some attention to a Houston program that gets lost behind Professional sports, Texas football, etc.
Southern Miss – I do not understand what’s going on here. Do the Eagles really think they are going to do better than Jeff Bower? USM just accepted their 10th bowl invite in 11 seasons, but have decided to get rid of native son Bower because they believe he “can’t get over the hump”. What a joke. This guy was the identity of Southern Miss football, but after 29 years as a player and coach, they have parted ways. I suppose the logical candidate here is former player Tyrone Nix, who now coordinates the defense at South Carolina. I can’t imagine that any other accomplished coach, without a prior tie to the school, would want to be in Hattiesburg after they fired Bower.
SMU – This program seems barely visible in Dallas anymore. The names being rumored are veterans like Terry Bowden, Bob Davie, and Dennis Franchione. I think the Mustangs should go a different direction than those coaches. Teams like Tulsa and Houston in their conference have had success with younger, more dynamic offensive approaches, and that seems like a solid strategy for SMU as well.
Duke – When do Coach K and the fellas play again? Duke’s administration doesn’t seem to care much about football so I don’t know that I should either.
* Stop the Madness! Hey ESPN, we’ve had enough the ACC/Big 10 “Challenge”. At the beginning of every college basketball season, ESPN matches up teams from the ACC (solid hoops conference) and the Big Ten (large TV markets), and the boys from the South have won every time in its nine year existence. At least they could rename the thing to ACC-Big 10 ‘beatdown’, ‘spanking’, ‘annual whuppin’, or ‘boat race’.
* We could see a slight changing of the guard Sunday in the AFC South. If the Jaguars can go into Indy and defeat the injury-riddled Colts, they will be in great shape to win their first divisional crown since the NFL restructured the divisions in 2002.
* The NHL decided this week to adjust their league schedule back to where every team will meet at least once a season. It will be interesting to see how the strategy of ‘marketing the individual’ versus ‘building up regional rivalries’ will work in our Swampland footprint.