After the final weekend of the 2015 College Football regular season, there are some immediate topics that stand out to me. While some storylines still need to be settled during Conference Championship weekend we know for sure a few things:
1. Les Miles gets redemption while LSU shows their true colors
For a couple of weeks, rumors swirled that Louisiana State University would buy out Head Coach Les Miles contract and get a new Football coach. Despite the fact Miles has won a National Championship, two SEC Conference Titles, and is one of the top recruiters in the nation, boosters and administration wanted a new head of the football program. They wanted to use a three game losing streak and three consecutive years of diminishing record versus in conference opponents to bring in a new guy.
The saying “Where there is smoke, there is fire” applies to this disgraceful situation. From LSU Boosters putting up money to pay for the contract buyout to LSU Administrators putting out “secret feelers” to three different potential coaches speaks volumes about Louisiana power brokers. It is disgraceful to throw a great coach who has been loyal to the school and his players for years. While Miles had opportunities to leave LSU, he stayed. Just because Miles and LSU Football are not the top program in the SEC is negligible. In fact, of all active SEC Football Head Coaches Miles is the second most successful man to Nick Saban of Alabama. The truth is that it is intellectually dishonest to believe that Jimbo Fisher, Chip Kelly or any other rumored names to replace Miles would do a better job at LSU.
Moving forward LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva should be the man on the hot seat now. He was silent for weeks, waited until after the win versus Texas A&M to declare his “support” for Les Miles. This whole dilemma has been disgraceful in the way it was handled and at some point we have to hold people accountable. Also don’t forget Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called out LSU Administration over how they have handled this situation and Jindal supports Miles as Football Coach at Louisiana’s top state university.
2. The College Football Playoff committee got it right on Notre Dame
When the College Football Playoff committee dropped Notre Dame out of their Top Four rankings in favor of University of Iowa I was one of the people decrying the flip flop move by the committee. Now in hindsight of Notre Dame’s loss to Stanford it looks like the Committee got this one right.
In their last couple game Notre Dame has not played up to expectations and their litany of injuries are catching up to them. The team is starting their 2nd string Quarterback along with their 4th string Running Back; not exactly a recipe for success. Furthermore, unexpected close wins against teams such as Boston College does not help their overall resume in the eyes of the Committee. Now the loss to Stanford not only seals their fate as not Playoff Bound but they get the consolation prize of going to a good Bowl game. Kudos to the College Football Committee for seeing Notre Dame for who they are…like Dennis Green said “They are who we thought they were!!”
3. Virginia Tech’s next Head Coach will be Justin Fuente
Despite the “rise” of University of Memphis’ Football program over the last couple years, many college football fans do not know of Justin Fuente. Fuente is a former collegiate Quarterback who was the TCU Football Offensive Coordinator before being hired as Head Coach at Memphis. Over the last four years Fuente has showed he is a good recruiter and developer of talent. But he is also the “hot coach” in college football, which does not always equal success when they move on to the next job.
In the past College Coaches such as Randy Edsall, Derek Dooley, Will Muschamp, and Tyrone Willingham all were at one time the “hot name” and got the next job but then couldn’t live up to the expectations placed on them. Fuente is a good recruiter and offensive minded coach. But there is a reason why Fuente is retaining Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, and that reason has to do with Fuente knowing his limitations. Foster has been one of the top ten defensive coordinators in college football over the last two decades. Fuente knows from his experience coaching at TCU that his offensive prowess and recruiting talents will be fruitless without a defense to compliment them. Also, keeping Foster is a good faith gesture to Virginia Tech boosters to show he is not coming in to “change everything” like other “Hot Name” Coaches have done in other stops. Fuente is already off to a good start and he hasn’t even coached a game yet at Virginia Tech.
4. Mark Richt and Kyle Flood firings expose a dark side of collegiate athletics
On Sunday University of Georgia and Rutgers University fired their Head Football Coaches, opening up more positions to be filled among the major college football programs. But these firings indirectly expose the dark underbelly of collegiate athletics in today’s world.
Mark Richt was the Head Coach at Georgia for fourteen years, compiling a win-loss record of 145-51 and lead his team to finish the season ranked in the top ten in the country six times. But in a “what have you done for me lately” culture, Richt had not won an SEC Conference title since 2005. After three seasons in which Georgia did not meet pre-season expectations, Richt’s standing with the athletic department and boosters led to what the University is calling a “mutual” parting of ways.
The truth is, multiple reports tell us that Georgia Boosters and Administration had grown tired of Richt and wanted a new man in charge of the Football program. With the resources and desire to “keep up with the Joneses” of other SEC schools, Georgia will be throwing all they have to get the biggest fish in the college football coaching availability pond. There will be rumors that range from Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly to Alabama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart to University of Houston coach Tom Herman; but none of these or other potential candidates bring any guarantees of success. Richt was a symbol of stability at Georgia and hopefully the administration learns from the errors of their fellow SEC schools.
When Tennessee parted ways with their long-time head coach Phil Fullmer, the administration thought they knew how to move the football program forward. Over the last seven seasons Tennessee has employed three different Head Coaches. Meanwhile South Carolina went “big name hunting” after Lou Holtz retired in 2004. In ten plus seasons with Steve Spurrier South Carolina won 86 games but never won an SEC Conference Title. So history tells us that moving on from a Football Coach who has been in place for years does not always equal success or a real upgrade.
On the other side of the coin is the Kyle Flood firing at Rutgers. Rutgers Football program was a prominent program during the late 1950’s through early 1960’s winning three conference titles over a period of four years. Greg Schiano came to Rutgers after coaching at the University of Miami and brought a winning attitude on the field and on the road as a recruiter. Schiano built up a Rutgers program from the ground up and leading Rutgers out of obscurity to their first national rankings and Bowl Games in three decades. But after ten plus seasons Schiano wanted to take on the challenge of coaching in the NFL (an endeavor that went sour); his replacement was Kyle Flood.
Flood would get off to a hot start as a Head Coach in which he led his team to co-Conference champions and close Bowl game loss. But after that initial success, Flood’s Rutgers team would stumble, compiling a mediocre over win-loss record of 18-20. Many of the issues with Flood came to a head earlier in 2015 when several players on the football team were arrested and charged with felonies. Meanwhile, Flood reportedly had a physical confrontation with a university professor over the “mistreatment” of one of his players. What was revealed in 2015 was that Flood’s success in 2012 was with Schiano’s recruits and in Flood’s efforts to keep up the talent level of the program was more willing to take chances on recruits with troubled histories. Flood, not being the caliber of coach or recruiter Schiano was, made the mistake of sacrificing scruples to win ball games. Those choices led to the university’s football program to receive a black eye in the aftermath of past issues with the Athletic Department and Admiration over recent issues.
Now Rutgers must move forward and bring in a Football coach who doesn’t just change the culture of the program but has the moral high ground to pull the program back to a level of respectability while also being able to recruit at a level on par with their membership in the Big Ten Conference. Rutgers will also be looking for a new Athletic Director; with the firing of Julie Hermann Rutgers will replace her with Pat Hobbs who will be the university’s third Athletic Director in four years.
Universities have become multi-million dollar operations who utilize their Football programs as revenue generators. Memberships in major athletic conferences such as the SEC and Big Ten help garner the University’s Athletic Department money and exposure that they would not receive with membership. Also part of the deal is the expectations placed on these programs by Administration and Boosters; whether a coach is fired for bringing shame to the university or the coach has outstayed his welcome, the dark truth of College Football is that winning more games than you lose each season is not enough to keep a coach his job. There are numerous layers that are both public and private that go into the hiring and firing of Football Coaches.