Kiffin-ed

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Lane Kiffin is unemployed. He was fired as the Head Football Coach at USC on Sunday. It comes after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State which is the seventh loss in the last 11 games dating back to last season.

Lane Kiffin

Belive it or not, Kiffin has a winning record as a head coach (40-37). While his record is better in college (35-21) than it was in the pro’s (5-15) no one would say that his tenure’s have been a success. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and University President Max Nikitas pulled the trigger on Kiffin and put former Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron in charge for the remainder of the season.

Pat Haden

What sealed Kiffin’s fate was not win’s and losses although that did play a big factor. It’s the fact that wherever he goes problems seem to follow and no one really seems to care for this guy.

From a fall out with the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis where Davis fired Kiffin with cause to recruiting mistakes at Tennessee that ended up putting them on probation.

The problems continued for Kiffin in how he handled just about every situation. From the way he left Tennessee to his walking out of a post practice press conference at USC. He doesn’t give anyone a chance to like him.

But don’t cry for Kiffin. He’s not yet 40 years old, he’s made millions, and will be able to sweet talk some AD or NFL owner into giving him another chance.

In the end, Kiffin just didn’t seem ready to take on the jobs that he talked others into giving him and really has no one to blame but himself.

The NFL’s Black Monday

The NFL has there own version of the coaching carousel just like the collegiate ranks do. In the NFL though all of the firings seem to happen on the same day. That day is sometimes known as ‘Black Monday’ and it takes place the Monday right after the final regular season games. This year seven coaches got handed their walking papers which was almost a record. What did they all have in common? Not one Super Bowl win as a head coach.

Of the seven coaches (there were also five General Managers fired too) three of the coaches had led their teams to a Super Bowl but lost. All of them had been to a Super Bowl or won a Super Bowl as an assistant coach. This can be interpreted in manu different ways but the main one is that success as an assistant doesn’t always translate to success as a head coach in the NFL.

Some of the seven fired coaches have already interviewed for other head coaching positions in the league. No concern that the coach couldn’t win a Super Bowl during his last job but this is being done while there are at least four former Super Bowl winning coaches who have at least expressed some interest in returning to the sidelines.

Changing head coaches in the NFL and in the collegiate ranks doesn’t fit any other hiring or firing practices in business. Non compete’s go out the window, it’s highly doubtful that references are called and existing contracts are nearly completely neglected (except of course for the millions paid out for a coach to leave town). On the other hand most coaches, unlike their private sector counterparts, can see it coming a miles away.

While football doesn’t follow any of the normal business rules when it comes to hiring and firing it does pervert the hiring and firing process in other industries. Because it is such a public event people sometimes take this as a guide (right or wrong) of how   their company should go about making changes. Perhaps if the process was more transparent people would be more understanding of the unique nature of the coaching business. Then again, maybe not.

The Silly Season

UT-HIRE

Some people call the last week of November and the first two weeks of December the “Silly Season.” Why? It’s when the college football media explodes into a frenzy of speculation over which college football coach will be fired and hired.

Hot jobs and hot coaches vary year to year. The best example of that is former Florida International Head Coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal was let go after a 3-9 season. The two previous years he led FIU to bowl games and even tied for first place in the Sun Belt conference. He was considered one of the hottest coach’s in the college football head coaching rumor mill last season. Now he’s out of a job.

This years hot name was Louisville’s Charlie Strong. He led Louisville to a co-Big East Championship and BCS Bowl berth in his third season at the helm. Strong eventually turned down a reported $4 million a year from the University of Tennessee to remain at Louisville. His reasoning and passion are very evident as you can see in his speech to the media and fans.

A name that was not on anyone’s list but at least he thought he’d keep his job was John Embree at Colorado. He’s was let go after two season’s at his alma mater. There is an argument about what the biggest surprise was, Brett Bielema’s move from Wisconsin to Arkansas or Tommy Tuberville’s move from Texas Tech to Cincinnati.

Arguably the “best” job available this year was the head coaching position at the University of Tennessee. After several subpar years (four losing seasons in the last five years to be exact) Athletic Director Dave Hart went looking for someone to bring back the glory days to the Volunteer Nation.

Apparently Hart was turned down by former Super Bowl winning coach and current Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden. After he said no Hart then turned his attention to Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong. Both ended up saying no but not before the folks at Tennessee believed fully that Strong was their guy. The belief was so strong that people were tweeting the plane tail number of Tennessee’s major donor Jimmy Haslam claiming that the plane was either on it’s way to pick up Charlie Strong or was on it’s way back with him. After all the false hope Tennessee, the supposed best available job in college football, was still vacant and the Volunteer Nation was left wondering, “would former coach Phil Fulmer come back?”

By Friday morning Tennessee found it’s guy with the hiring of Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones. Jones was also ending his own coaching interview tour. He interviewed and turned down the jobs at Purdue and Colorado respectfully. He and Hart met for the first time Thursday evening in Lexington, Ky which would be about the mid point between Knoxville and Cincinnati. Around 5:45am Jones informed his Athletic Director that he was going to Tennessee and at 2:30pm EST he was formally introduced as Tennessee’s twenty-third head coach.

JONES-UT

He and Hart apparently hadn’t slept and until Thursday had never spoken about the coaching position.

With the “best” job filled and other potential candidates signing long term extensions you can see why it’s called the “Silly Season.”

As of Sunday December 9th the following head coaching positions are still available:

Wisconsin, Texas Tech, Colorado, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas St., FIU, Kent St, Southern Miss, Temple, Western Kentucky, and Western Michigan.

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The Next Wave

 

By Brad Hubbard

Coaching changes are nothing new in football. In the professional ranks, replacing a coach in the middle of the season isn’t ground breaking but in college, it’s pretty earth shattering. More importantly the cracks are there for it to happen more often.

After a 30-13 at home in Week 1 the University of Houston fired their Offensive Coordinator. After a 10-7 loss at Oregon St the University of Wisconsin fired their Offensive Line coach. Before a battle against Washington the Portland State Vikings relieved their Defensive Coordinator of his duties. This is an unprecedented rate in college football.

The results haven’t been good for any of the three schools since the move. Houston has yet to win a game, Wisconsin had to rely on a missed Utah State field goal at home for a W and Portland State got taken behind the proverbial woodshed by Washington in Seattle.

Two of the three coordinators were in their first season with the schools and to last a grand total of three games is mind boggling. Coaching changes happen a lot. The past few offseason’s they seem to be happening later and later giving coaching staff’s even less time together before coaching in the limited time frame that is college football. It’s also giving them less time to recruit fickle high school athletes.

If Coordinators are being fired so quickly at the start of the season what does that mean for the Head Coaches at the end of the season? After three weeks you could argue that the SEC could see as many as four coaching changes by the end of the year. Is it too far off to believe that a Head Coach could be fired after game four or five?

I don’t believe it is.

We’ve already seen it last year in the PAC-12 when Arizona kicked Mike Stoops to the curb after a 1-5 start. This time the change will either be in the SEC or a mid-major conference like the Mountain West or Conference USA.

There is too much money on the line for schools and too much talent to go around on the field. At some point in the near future an Athletic Director will realize that they just paid a smaller school some ridiculous amount of money to be fodder and then that school turned around and played like the 1989 San Francisco 49ers. There are too many examples to go around but here are a few:

-Appalachian State upset of Michigan in 2007

-Wyoming defeats Tennessee in 2008

-UNLV beats Wisconsin in 2003

-Richmond beats Duke 2011

-Sacramento State beats Colorado 2012

-Cal Poly defeats Wyoming 2012

-Texas State beats Houston 2012

While this is still college athletics it’s about as much of a business as you can find. When a school like Colorado in a major conference like the PAC-12 gives up 55 points by halftime against a school from the WAC you have to think that the Athletic Director and even the school President have to look at making a change. If I was alumni or a major donor the last thing I would do is give money to a school that gets embarrassed like that. If I was quality player I would reconsider my options.

Whether you like it or not college football is a major promotional tool for the school.  It’s also a massive revenue generator. If the football team is being upset by a smaller school or being blown out on national TV it hurts the school financially. Head Coaches are on the hot seat like never before and they better realize it. If the losing continues after the assistants have been let go there is no one left to pin the blame on. 2012 may end up being the year the flood gates opened on in season firings.