Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Coaching Circus

Being in politics is like coaching football. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important. ~ Eugene J. McCarthy

And vice versa.
~ The Gog

All sports have silly seasons, that point during the year or after the end of the season when the rumors start. In pro sports, this is usually about big name players (or drivers in the racing world) moving from one team to another. In college it's about coaches getting fired or jumping ship to follow the money, er, excuse me, follow their "dream jobs." Strangely, the "dream jobs" normally seem to involve getting paid a lot of money.

No, this isn't going to be a rant about misplaced priorities at our colleges. I've done that one already, although I won't say that I won't again some time. There are advantages to having only 2/3 of a reader. Repeating yourself is one of them.

No, I wanted to dwell a little on the annual insanity that is the coaching carousel in big-time college football. Let's see, Dennis Franchione and Les Carr "resigned", along with the Southern Miss coach (whose name escapes me at the moment). Bill Callahan and Ed Orgeron were canned outright. Houston Nutt resigned from Arkansas only to turn up the following day as Ed Orgeron's replacement at Ole Miss.

Tommy Tuberville is the absolutely, positively number one candidate to replace Franchione at Texas A&M, except that they hire someone else and never even ask permission to talk to Tuberville. Meanwhile, Michigan talks about everyone but Les Miles, who everyone knows is their first choice for the job vacated by Carr. Then, they suddenly ask permission from LSU to talk to Miles, which LSU allows very publicly. But such talks are not to begin until after the championship game today.

Then the LSU AD announces today that a contract for Miles to stay at LSU has been hammered out and is only waiting for Miles signature. Then the coach calls a press conference to issue non-denial denials about Michigan, which translates into, "I'm waiting for the counteroffer after the game, but I want my players to think I'm staying for sure so they won't tank today's game."

Meanwhile, Tommy Tuberville goes hunting in Arkansas (a scheduled outing for the coach and his assistants) and an Arkansas media outlet promptly announces he's accepted the job to Replace Nutt. Tuberville, on the other hand, issues his own non-denial denials and continues working on his new contract. Initially, the sticking point is supposed to be facilities and longer contracts and higher pay for his assistants. Now it seems that none of that was at issue; he wants to remove the buyout restrictions in his contract. In other words, he wants Nick Saban's deal.

And Nick Saban is going back to LSU, even though there's no job opening there.

Still with me?

With Saban, it's been all highs and lows with nothing in between. Early on, Bama fans were ready to have him declared a saint (only because Savior might have been presumptuous). Now, he's down to getting lukewarm accolades, (keep in mind, though, that Mr. Finebaum expected Rich Rodriguez to be coaching Alabama this season) basically saying, "Well, he's better than Mike Shula." Heck, anyone would be better than Mike Shula. Well, maybe not Charlie Weis, but most anyone would be.

As usual, yours truly takes a more balanced view.

The problem here is that colleges keep signing coaches to ridiculous long-term contracts when they are willing to drop them in a heartbeat if they have a single off year. The end result is that we have colleges, which should be spending money on education, instead paying people not to coach for them. On the other hand, we also have coaches signing contracts that they have no business of honoring if something better comes along.

Coaches should be signed to one-year contracts with an automatic option year that can be voided by either party. If the school doesn't pick up the option, they owe the coach a year's salary (or some severance amount). If the coach doesn't want the option, he's free to do whatever he wants.

Please don't start moaning about coaches needing security. Their willingness to switch jobs would indicate that security isn't one of their major concerns; making big bucks, on the other hand is. Colleges, meanwhile, are worried they may go a year without a national championship. This way, they can change coaches every year if they want. It's a simple yet elegant solution that leaves everyone doing exactly what they're doing now.

I may copyright the idea.

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