And the coaching carousel goes round and round....  

Posted by Walter

Coaching is not an easy job, especially at schools that demand near perfection from their football program. Unsurprisingly, there is substantial turnover in the coaching profession. That said, in the past month we have seen more major coaching changes that during any time I can remember. Not counting Michigan State, North Carolina and Iowa State (who have already fired and hired head football coaches), there are four major Division 1 programs without leading men:

1) University of Miami
2) University of Alabama
3) Arizona State University
4) North Carolina State University

Now believe me, outside of perhaps Mike Shula I am not shedding a tear for any of the fired coaches. Larry Coker, Dirk Koetter and Chuck Chuck all deserved to go. Shula had a magical season last year, but even still he probably deserved to go as well. (Frazier moment: Shula probably should have been given another chance after carrying the team through NCAA sanctions. The Tide owed him after he stepped up in a very bad situation.) The real fun is examining some of the candidates that will be bantered about for these openings. For your convenience we have divided them into three handy categories:

I) Up and Comers - Either head coaches at smaller schools, or coordinators at bigger schools who appear ready for the big time.

(a) Steve Kragthorpe - Head Coach, Tulsa

Walter: I've been driving the Steve Kragthorpe bandwagon since the preseason. He is a fantastic coach and has done an otherwordly job bringing Tulsa from the depths of college football to a yearly bowl contender. One thing Kragthorpe has going for him over most of the other named candidates is that he runs a pro-style (aka non gimmick) offense that is likely to attract top talent. He probably isn't ready for a job like Miami but he would be a gutsy and inspired choice for either of the other three.

Prediction: Kragthorpe becomes the head coach at Arizona State.

Frazier: Kragthorpe is getting tons of love recently, and deservedly so. He is an excellent coach, and the time is now for him to step up to a bigger program. I agree with the big man that a step into the bright lights of a nationally recognized situation might be a little too much to ask, but he would certainly improve any of the schools on this list, and plenty more to boot. His future is definitely bright.

Prediction: He's moving on, to a second tier school, which is still a huge step up from Tulsa.

(b) Lane Kiffin - Offensive Coordinator, USC

Walter: Kiffin is a very interesting candidate. He has several things going for him, none any more important than his tutelage at the hands of Norm Chow. Kiffing is a young, dynamic, creative offensive mind, but it is still unclear whether he has the adminsitrative and leadership skills to be a head coach. Kiffin would be an incredibly gutsy choice. A traditionally offensive team like Arizona State will certainly be tempted to hire Kiffin, but remember, even Drik Koetter had head coaching experience before being hired at ASU.

Prediction: Kiffin gets serious consideration to replace Kragthorpe at Tulsa, but stays at USC.

Frazier: The Eric Mangini of the college ranks. He has the pedigree, he has the success, but he also has the baby face. A slew of smaller schools would love to have him on board. He has all the creativity in the world, and learned from a master. He also has the USC shine on him, which doesn't hurt. But it's unclear if any major school would be willing to give him the keys to the car, when it seems like yesterday he lost the training wheels.

Prediction: Kiffin decides to stick around USC for a couple of more years, have a couple of cracks at winning some more titles, and then takes his improved resume to a nationally prominent program.

(c) Chris Peterson - Head Coach, Boise State

Walter: Another interesting name, and one that should, frankly, probably be ahead of Kiffin given his year of head coaching experience. Peterson inherited an incredibly talented team from Dan Hawkins, but he did what Hawkins, Koetter, and John L. Smith before him could not do: get the Broncos to the BCS. Given that those three men all got major head coaching jobs it seems almost a foregone conclusion that Peterson will follow suit. That said, neither Koetter nor Smith had huge success at Arizona State and Michigan State respectively (though Smith did well at Louisville) and the verdict is still out on Hawkins. The four AD's looking to hire this winter may be slightly more gun shy for Boise State coaches that in previous seasons.

Prediction: Not his time, he has to wait at least another year.

Frazier: I love the way he adapted his approach to best compliment the skills of his players. He went into SoCal and grabbed Johnson who has turned out to be a total revelation. I love that his team has stayed focused, and avoided a let-down game which would have ruined their season. However, he's pretty new to Boise, and I think he may actually like it there. The job offers will eventually come, but he his one year at the helm might not be enough to garner serious interest. Hawkins season at Colorado will not help his chances this year, but I don't think he's even looking right now.

Prediction: No action on this front, it's too soon, and Idaho is lovely this time of year.

(d) Randy Edsel - Head Coach, UConn

Walter: Not two seasons ago Edsel was one of the top up and coming coaches in the NCAA ranks. His feat of taking UConn from a middling 1AA team to bowl contender in under 5 seasons is nothing short of amazing. That said, Edsel's coaching future has lost some of its luster over the past few seasons as he was unable to build upon UConn's initial success. In my opinion Edsel is a tremendous coach, but because of the lack of football talent in the Northeast, he is going to have to make a lateral head coaching move before he gets a shot at the big time. Replacing someone like Kragthorpe at Tulsa would make a lot of sense for him.

Prediction: Edsel does just that, he replaces Kragthorpe at Tulsa.

Frazier: Edsel is great at building programs. He pulled a miracle at UConn, and has gotten a lot of love for that effort. He also has seen what some other Big East coaches have been able to pull off, and he knows it could have been him. He needs to tap that southern recruiting pipeline if he wants to get much better in Storrs. Of course, it won't help that UConn is a basketball school first. But, so was Louisville. I think recent seasons have slowed his momentum, and he won't get as much interest at major programs. I also think he has seen that Big East schools have a chance to get in the title picture if they win out. Moving away from a BCS conference just doesn't make sense. A place like North Carolina would have been good for him (especially since he knows how to recruit at a basketball school). He won't go anywhere that isn't a BCS school.

Prediction: Nothing really fits the profile right now. He's a good coach, and can really build a program, but he probably takes a couple of cracks at the Big East title before moving his show down the road.

(e) Norm Chow - Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans

Walter: How this man is not already a head coach is so far beyond me I cannot even fathom comprehension. Chow is undoubetdly one of the finest offensive minds the game has seen in the last 20 seasons. His offenses have performed no matter where he has gone (BYU, NC State, USC, Tennessee-NFL) and no matter who was under center. The biggest coup a top program would get from hiring Chow would be that he would ultimately attract the top high school quarterbacking talent. Given his track record with top picks like Phil Rivers, Carson Palmer, and Matt Leinart, what high school passer dreaming of the NFL wouldn't want to play for him?

Prediction: Norm Chose becomes the head coach at NC State. It just makes too much sense and is long overdue.

Frazier: It is an outrage that this man hasn't been a head coach anywhere. I am completely dumbfounded by this fact. I hate to say this, but if Norm Chow were white he would have been a head coach a long time ago. He is simply too good to ignore. Maybe athletic directors have a hard time picturing an Asian-American man as a hard nosed football coach. He certainly doesn't resemble Rockne or Bryant, but he is a damned good coach. I am usually loathe to play the race card, but the facts are pretty hard to ignore. He is probably the most successful coordinator, offensive or defensive, in the history of college football. Of the 30 best passing seasons in history, 11 are by players he coached. And keep in mind, most of these seasons were coaching in Utah at a Mormon school. Hardly the easiest place to recruit, even if BYU was a national power at the time. He's coached three Heisman winners, won three national titles and has barely sniffed a head coaching position anywhere. If not now, when?

Prediction: How can you guess? I mean, he should have had a job ages ago, so what's so different this time? If it isn't NC State, it won't be anywhere. Who wouldn't hire this guy?

(f) Bo Pelini - Defensive Coordinator, LSU

Walter: Another guy who really deserves a chance to lead a major program. Pelini has long been an unbelievable defensive coordinator, first at Nebraska (leading the blackshirts), then for a year at Oklahoma, and now at LSU. Pelini is a great defensive mind but is has never really been able to gain momentum as a major college head coach. He may be at a career crossroads where he has to decide whether he wants to be a career defensive coordinator, perhaps going to the NFL at some point, or make a push to be a head coach which might mean taking a step back and accepting a job at a middle of the road Division 1 program.

Prediction: None of the jobs seem to fit for Pelini, he stays at D Coordinator at LSU.

Frazier: AD's hate re-treads. And sadly, that's what people will see when someone mentions Pelini. People will say if they didn't want him at Nebraska, it won't work anywhere for him. Now, those people are dead wrong, but I'm not sure that's what really matters here. I'm not sure how much he wants to be a head coach, that certainly isn't clear.

Prediction: He should get a shot. Will he? Probably not.

II) Head Coaches Already at Big Programs but Ready for the Big Time

(a) Bobby Petrino - Head Coach, Louisville

Walter: I still think Bobby Petrino ends up coaching the Oakland Raiders in the very near future. His vertical west coast scheme (I know it seems like an oxymoron but it really is the only way to describe it) fits perfectly with what Al Davis wants. Nonetheless, he is a top name and any program would be lucky to get him. He is a brilliant offensive mind and has proven that he has what it takes to lead a major Division 1 program. All that said, he probably has more talent and a better recruiting base at Louisville than he would at any of the vacant head coach positions other than Miami (and the Louisville facilities are head and shoulders above those in Coral Gables). It would take a godfather type offer to get him.

Prediction: Petrino stays in Louisville one more season before replacing Art Shell in Oakland.

Frazier: Petrino has been rumored to be moving for a long time now. Yet he keeps sticking it out at Louisville. I'm not really sure what is different this time. It's rumored Alabama may take a run at him, but he'd have to be crazy to want to deal with their insane boosters and overhyped expectations every year. He is one of the hottest coaches in all of football, and so his phone will definitely be ringing. But, he seems to like it where he is.

Prediction: Only Miami makes sense for him, especially since what they really need is an offensive improvement. However, if might be an NFL team that tempts him away. I think Brohm whispers in his ear that he's declaring for the draft, and Petrino decides that his stock ain't getting any higher.

(b) Greg Schiano - Head Coach, Rutgers

Walter: Probably the odds on favorite to be the next Miami coach, and he would be an outstanding choice. More of an emotional leader than an x and o's guy, Schiano has worked wonders in Piscataway the past three seasons. His connections to Miami make him an obvious target for them, but Schiano himself has said he wants to stay in his home state of New Jersey. Though it may sound crazy, there is a ton of football talent in New Jersey and Schiano, like Petrino, may have a better recruiting base at his current position than he would at any other school other than Miami. Say what he might, Schiano just seems like he destined for greater things.

Prediction: Schiano seems like a sincere guy to me, and I'm not even certain he is Miami's top choice (keep reading). He stays in Piscataway like he wants.

Frazier: The guy wants to stay home, and that's admirable. He loves New Jersey (for whatever reason) and that's super. He's also one of the hottest coaching prospects in the country, and people are definitely interested. I'm sorry, but this is what happens to smaller schools, they get poached, and Schiano is not going to retire from the Scarlet Knights twenty years from now. Sorry, folks.

Prediction: A major school is going to show up with a suitcase full of money, and will make an offer he can't refuse.

(c) Ralph Friedgen - Head Coach, Maryland

Walter: 4 seasons ago Friedgen was the toast of college football. After several subpar seasons he became and afterthought before gaining attention this season with a surpise run in the ACC. The bottom line is that Friedgen is, and always has been, a fantastic offensive coach with strong administrative skills. He has more head coaching experience than any other candidate on this list, and is somewhat of a safer choice for programs like Miami or Alabama than some of the younger, more dynami, up and comers. He would be an inspired choice for a team like Alabama whose offense always seems several steps behind the defense.

Prediction: As a huge Alabama fan he looks like a perfect fit to me. He has the pedigree, coaching experience, and offensive creativity the Tide have been sorely lacking. Perhaps its just wishful thinking, but my guess is the 'Bama job is his if he wants it.

Frazier: The Fridge has fallen on some harder times of late. He may be realizing that it's hard to build a perennial power in College Park. So now that his team has gotten some national attention, it might be time to leave. But, if he didn't leave a couple of years ago, then why would he now? Either he's leaving now, or he ain't.

Prediction: He ain't. The man is a mountain, and those things are hard to move.

(d) Gary Patterson - Head Coach, TCU

Walter: Becaue he coaches at TCU, Patterson is going to fly somewhat under the radar. He shouldn't. Patterson is a consummate disciplinarian, and has shown the ability to attract top high school talent to a middle of the road program (see Tomlinson, Ladainian). Patterson would be a great choice for a team like Miami that needs a healthy does of disipline, but for the same reason he probably won't be chosen. Also working against Patterson is his somewhat "gimmicky" offense. I don't think any of the major programs are going to jump at the opportunity to bring him in, although they could all do a lot worse.

Prediction: Patterson continues to fly under the radar and stays at TCU.

Frazier: Not sure why he's on this list. He's a good coach, and has been for awhile. But he hasn't gotten any better over the last year. You know who else is a good coach? Pete Carroll. He ain't going anywhere either.

Prediction: Do you have to ask?

(e) Tom O'Brien - Head Coach, Boston College

Walter: O'Brien is a very similar candidate to Patterson. An old military man, O'Brien is a true disciplinarian who demands a lot from his players both athletically and academically. While he has done wonders with little top talent at BC, O'Brien is the classic case of a great coach who is the perfect situation. A school like BC, one that is happy with finishes in the 20-25 range and demands high graduation rates, is perfect for O'Brien because he is best at those two things. O'Brien has gotten the reputation, and deservedly so, recently as not being able to win the big games. I don't think he would do too well at a program where he was expected to win close to 10 games per season.

Prediction: No reason for him to leave a perfect situation. O'Brien stays in Chestnut Hill.

Frazier: O'Brien is great at BC. He coaches well, but he's particularly well suited for his current situation. He would not be great in a situation where the expectations were crazy every year. He is disciplined, coaches at a school where character and academics really do matter, and the alumni are thrilled with a 9-win season. Also, it's Boston, where the Eagles are like the fifth most important team around. He isn't flashy, and the only programs that would be a step up for him like flashy.

Prediction: He's happy where he is, and no one is seriously trying to lure him away anyways.

(f) Terry Bowden - Analyst, ABC

Walter: Bowden is one of the alltime underrated college coaches. He got great results at Auburn that were overshadowed somewhat by his, shall we say, shaky recruiting practices. Still, if results are what you want, Bowden is a prime candidate. Two things going against him though: (1) his name, and (2) the fact that he has been out of coaching for about 10 years. With the recent struggles of Jeff, Tommy, and yes, even Bobby Bowden, Terry's last name is no longer the boon it once was. If he gets back into coaching and does well, speculation will run rampant that he will be named the successor to his father at FSU.

Prediction: It would take more guts to hire him than any of the programs have. You'll be seeing his handsome face on ABC once again next season.

Frazier: I really do love Terry. He was an excellent coach at Auburn, and the only reason he left was because their boosters are insane (the same people who tried to run an end-around on Tubberville, to get to Petrino). He is absolutely underrated, and his remarkable undefeated Auburn team has all but been forgotten (the NCAA sanctions definitely worked on this one).
I still remember the grainy footage of part of one game that slipped past the NCAA censors, but a lot of people certainly don't. Terry has been rumored to do about a million different things, including succeed his father. Of course, that probably wouldn't happen unless Terry got back into coaching first. Of course his name will come up, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Prediction: Terry's not leaving, and it doesn't have anything to do with guts. He has been offered plenty of jobs over the past eight years, but why would he leave his current one? He makes $5 million a year to sit in a studio and yammer for a couple hours on Saturdays between watching football, he calls a little radio (while enjoying a great game every week) and hosts a radio show. Oh, and he plays tons of golf, hangs out, and spends time with his family. He also works less than six months out of the year. He has proven that he doesn't have the fire to coach, and he sure is enjoying his life right now. It's kinda hard to blame him for not wanting to come back.

III) Huge Names Who Will be Discussed but Ain't Going Anywhere

(a) Steve Spurrier

Walter: Spurrier is my favorite coach of the past 20 years, and one of the greatest of all time. If he jumped ship from South Carolina and went to Miami or Alabama (he would never go to the other two) he would win a championship there within 5 seasons. But therein lies the reason he won't go. Spurrier has a huge ego. He knows how great he is. He won at Duke (an amazing feat). He brought Florida from an afterthought to a perrennial national title contender. He is a legend at those schools. Try as he might at either Miami or Alabama, they're not going to build statues and name stadiums after him at either. Staying in Columbia and bringing a national title to Columbia (something he honestly believes he can do) would be much more of a crowning achievment for his career than anything he could do at 'Bama or Miami.

Prediction: Spurrier stays at South Carolina and makes an improbable run to the 2007 SEC title game.

Frazier: Spurrier didn't want to leave the Redskins, he wanted to win a Super Bowl. He just decided that leaving was better than being forced out. Look, if he wanted to take a job like Miami or Alabama he would have. There are few coaches nationally that he couldn't basically force out, and he knows as well as the next man that he could have hung around and been offered the best available coaching position that came free for the next several years. No, he chose South Carolina because it suited him. He likes the region of the country, likes sticking it to his old employers, and likes a challenge. He's working on his legacy, not just trying to rack up titles. He knows that if he wins at Columbia that he will have proven to everyone that he's one of the best coaches ever. And that's all he's focused on right now. He left Florida for a new challenge, he sure as shit isn't going to leave for somewhere that wasn't one.

Prediction: He couldn't be happier, well, unless he'd beaten the Gators again. But he has zero interest in leaving. He doesn't need the money, and nowhere else can offer him the challenge that he's looking for.

(b) Rich Rodriguez

Walter: Rodriguez's situation reminds me somewhat of Schiano's. He is a hometown guy who has his dream job as head coach of his state's university. Furthermore, he has two of the 10 best players in America (Steve Slaton and Pat White) on his team for the next two seasons. Rodriguez isn't stupid, he knows that by taking any of the open vacancies he is forfeiting a very legitimate chance to win a national title in 2007 and/or 2008. That said, he would be an inspired choice for Alabama or Miami as he would lend either program instant credibility and would immediately vault either program to the top of the 2007 sleeper list. Still, Rodriguez strikes me as a man who is happy in Morgantown and who is willing to play his hand out for the next two seasons, potentially win a champiosnhip, and then reevaluate his situation then.

Prediction: Rodriguez leads WVU to the 2008 title and then takes over for Bobby Bowden at FSU.

Frazier: There is a big difference between Rodriguez and Schiano. While Schiano likes New Jersey, and is trying to build something at Rutgers, Rodriguez IS West Virginia, and is at a school that has a much better pedigree. You really can recruit at this school, and he can dip into areas like Jersey, but also Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Also, Rodriguez has spent as much of his life in West Virginia as possible, and is basically a legend in his home state. Furthermore, the Mountaineers are the most important thing in the entire state, which is something the Scarlet Knights could never be. Rodriguez is absolutely, positively, not going anywhere.

Prediction: He's definitely staying put for now. While he may eye some other jobs in the future, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if they ended up burying him at the 50 yard line down in Morgantown.

(c) Barry Alvarez

Walter: The only reason he is on this list is because Miami has shown interest in him. Alvarez recently retired from coaching and is not the AD at Wisconsin. Believe me, he isn't about to unretire for Arizona State, NC State or even Alabama. Alvarez did a wonderful job in Madison and still is. He is on this list because he is a hot name but I would be shocked if the Miami rumor had any legs at all.

Prediction: Retirement is too sweet for Barry. He keeps his weekly tee time in Madison.

Frazier: Miami is downright crazy. If Barry wanted to coach, he would be coaching. He loves his Badgers, and would never have left them if he wasn't serious about retiring. Money certainly isn't a problem, since he's the AD of a Big Ten school and has a cushy Fox job. Furthermore, Miami couldn't offer him anything he didn't already have. He was his own friggin AD for awhile, I mean, it's not possible to have any more control over a program. He rebuilt that program, and would love to win a title there, and he still can, but he doesn't even have to put in all the long hours to do it.

Prediction: I agree that he isn't going anywhere, under any circumstances, but I'd guess his tee time is more likely daily than weekly.

(d) Tommy Tubberville

Walter: Hmmmmm, wouldn't it be ironic. For years the Auburn brass tried to oust Tubberville from his position, only to be unsuccessful in each attempt. Well, given the success the Riverboat Gambler has had the past few seasons their failed attempts turned out to be a huge blessing. While Tubberville has played the part of the good soldier it has to kill him coaching for a program that he knows tried to fire him on two separate occasions, then wouldn't pony up the money to keep an integral part of his staff from fleeing to Austin (defensive coordinator Gene Chizik). Now I'm not suggesting that Tubberville will leave Auburn for spite, but it really would be an ultimate "fuck you" to the administration to jump ship now, especially if he went to arch rival Alabama. Well, that ain't gonna happen (Alabama hiring a former Auburn coach would be like Michigan hiring coaches from Ohio State.......wait never mind), but let's not forget that Tubberville spent eight fulls seasons at Miami before becoming a head coach.

Prediction: Tubberville sticks it to Auburn by jumping ship to Miami and bringing the program back to prominence. Tubberville finally wins the title that has eluded him his entire career (an 11-0 Miami team would never be left out of the title game) and goes on to be one of the most successfull coaches in college for the next 20 seasons.

Frazier: Sometimes I think the big man is delusional. I agree that Tubberville hasn't always had the best time at Auburn, and they do have insane boosters (see the Bowden point above) and things aren't great there, but he's not leaving, is he? Well, he has been whining that the SEC is too tough, and since he knows he isn't getting a playoff, it would probably be easier running the table at Miami. And they have the money and prestige to lure him. And he doesn't have any real allegiance to Auburn, and he does have some serious Miami history. Hmmmmm, maybe it really IS possible...

Prediction: Possible, but not going to happen. He has unfinished business at Auburn, and knows he really can win there. He probably will, too.


Anonymous   says 4:43 PM

Forgot to mention Frank Solich. Ohio University is going to a bowl game? Playing for a conference championship?

Ohio? This is a team that played in the infamous "Donut Bowl" - a season opener involving two teams that hadn't won a game in the previous season...AND LOST! This is a team that hadn't been to a bowl since losing to Richmond...yes THAT Richmond, in '68!

Frank Solich shows up on campus as one of the NCAA's winningest coaches, and, after one losing season (in which they beat Pitt), suddenly becomes sixth or seventh on the all-time wins list at OHIO?

'Bama should take a hard look at Solich, because I guarantee that Tuscaloosa aint the recruiting mecca it once was, and Solich will win games without recruits until he can restore a lot of pipelines that have been cut off by Texas, Auburn and Florida schools.

The only thing is that I don't think Solich wants to go to another hairtrigger school that can't handle those dreaded 10-win only seasons. He had enough of that at Nebraska.

I can't imagine R.C. Slocum is too happy behind a desk, either. 'Bama could get Solich and have Slocum as defensive coordinator....

As an old Nebraska fan I definitely love Solich. He got a lousy deal down there, and totally deserves another chance. He's doing great things at Ohio, and his time is definitely going to come.

However, I see him as a Mike Price guy. He just needs another year or so to totally rehab that image before anyone hires him, and even then it won't be a bigger name program.

Insane boosters and the AD's that pander to them want splashy names, and thriller hires. They don't want solid coaches who will be viewed as "re-treads", which is what many people will view Solich to be. Now, that's not fair. He did a pretty good job at Nebraska, and has been doing a great job at Ohio, but he just isn't sexy enough to get a premier job.

Alabama is going to try and appease their rabid base by either hiring a sexy name, or a guy with strong Alabama ties. I'd guess sexy name (although they got burned by two hot names, and dumped Shula and his 'Bama ties). Basically, they aren't going to get the right guy, and will screw it up yet again.

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