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It’s Coaching Change Season

By on December 19th, 2011 in Football Comments Off

Hey, you'll watch ANYTHING if you're desperate enough.

Anyone else underwhelmed by the coaching market so far this month? Yea, Auburn needs coordinators, but I feel sorry for the rest of college football trying to rebuild a program on this withering crop of talent. No existing coach is the hottest name out there and none of the coordinators have any fire to them either. Where does a team start?

One thing’s for sure, they can’t poach at Auburn this year. We have had had the most (two) Frank Broyles award winners in that honor’s brief history (1996). Guz Malzahn won it last year and Gene Chizik won it in 2004. We’ve had our share of good coordinators and coaches hold tenure on the Plains in the last two decades, a time when assistant coaches have come out of the shadows to become rock stars themselves.

Names like Petrino, Muschamp, and Chizik vaulted from the ranks of Auburn assistants in the last decade to eventually become SEC head coaches. We thought Gus Malzahn might be another name who had meteoric rises added to those but it looks like he’s going to have to do a stint in triple-A ball first.

Maybe that’s the way the tide is shifting once again in college football. It never stays the same for long. Top tier programs, including most BCS conference schools, may no longer be looking for the hottest coordinator to fill a slot, but may be looking instead for someone with some (any) executive experience under their belt. That may have been the case with Ole Miss, who hired Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze, and even North Carolina, who passed on Malzahn and took Southern Miss HC Larry Fedora.

Maybe schools might have gone cold on the notion of an assistant jumping right into the fire given Will Muschamp’s problems this year. To my knowledge, no big name coordinator has landed a FBS job this season, even though there have been a few rumors, including Alabama’s Kirby Smart. Maybe teams are just waiting for Bowl season to end before they start their poaching. It’s probably why Auburn is coordinator-less, currently. Count on someone making a play at LSU’s DC John Chavis in mid January, this year’s Broyles Award winner.

Malzahn’s story may one day be a case study for aspiring coaches on when to get while the gettin’s good. If the rumored millions with Vanderbilt last year were true, many may think that Malzahn waited too long to answer the door when opportunity knocked. Granted, we’re not in his head to know his motivations and not every coach is soley going to jump for the first big money offered. It does make you wonder though. These guys have to be concerned about taking that big leap and falling flat on their face.

I think the Gene Chizik story of redemption is about the most that any hot prospect coach can wish for if he does face-plant in the wrong first job. While getting plucked out of Iowa State with a 5-19 record to win a national championship two years later may be on par with Cinderella, perhaps AD’s and Trustee boards are starting to look beyond just win and loss records when selecting a head coach and build on virtually anything.

Seemingly, any turn-around at one school is now measured as a success for a head coach and the prospects for advancement seem unlimited. If you ask me, betting on these short track records is ill-conceived and at best is just asking to languish in mediochrity for years, something out of the playbook of LSU’s head coches in the 1990s. The system is built on hype, though, and hype is usually half right. Do you just throw it long then?

Derek Dooley wasn’t long established at LA Tech before Tennessee came calling, but that’s probably not a fair analogy considering the dire straights they were left in following Lane Kiffin. Regardless, I think Dooley has one more year in Knoxville to wow somebody or that Rocky Top carousel will be active yet again. Pedigree or not, you have to produce at some point.

Even retreads are back in play during this coaching bear market, with Mike Leach and Charlie Weiss landing at Washington State and Kansas, respectively. It wasn’t long ago when Leach was the hottest commodity in CFB and Auburn had a vacancy. I was convinced that we needed to land the BIGGEST name we could. We had Leach if we wanted, even though it would have been a square peg into a round hole. I fell for the hype. I’m glad others thought differently.

Yea, this might be the most bland coaching market we’ve seen in a while. Maybe it’ll heat up here soon. All the firings have been done. Now we wait for the dust to settle. I’ll be honest: For Auburn, I wouldn’t mind a Malzahn protege. And let’s go get us a DC that eats nails for breakfast. I want a defense again.

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