Final Thoughts on Fired CFB Coaches
It's that time of year again. It's the time when we see universities decide to make changes with their respective programs. After the weekend's games, we have seen many schools make decisions to remove coaches from programs. Of these coaches, the most noticeable to have been fired are: Gene Chizik (Auburn), Tom O'Brien (N.C. State), Derek Dooley (Tennessee) and Danny Hope (Purdue). With all of the commotion in set just before bowl season, one must ask themselves: Is this madness, or is it brilliance?
1.) Danny Hope Gone at Purdue.
Danny Hope was fired after leading the Boilermakers to a 6-6 record and beating arch-rival Indiana 56-35 on Saturday.
Under his leadership, the Boilermakers have been nothing but mediocre.
During his reign as the head coach of Purdue, Hope compiled a 22-27 coaching record. Those figures do not look promising. However, that being said, he also compiled a 3-1 record against the top-rival Hoosiers, a 3-1 record against rival Illinois, a 2-1 (2-2 if you include Ohio State's vacated win from 2010) record against Ohio State and a 4-6 against ranked opponents. Combined together, that's 8-3 in rivalry games and 4-6 against ranked opponents. He also has a bowl victory to his record.
Hope might not have been a great coach, but he definitely was not bad. Purdue has never been a football school (and they never will be). The factor which ultimately worked against Danny Hope this year was the high expectations on Purdue football. With the Big Ten being as weak as it was this year, Purdue had an opportunity to play for a conference championship and maybe even a Rose Bowl.
The unfortunate circumstances which led to the end of Hope's tenure at Purdue ultimately will not be good for the football program at Purdue. Hope was one of the really good coaches in the Big Ten conference that had potential for changing the image and reputation of their teams (the others being Kill, Fitzgerald and Wilson).
On the plus side, the buyout for Purdue is much lower than for other major schools who have fired their coaches this season: Purdue will pay Hope $600,000 for the termination of his contract. Whoever Purdue decides to replace Hope with will face many (if not all) of the same challenges that Hope has faced during his time as head coach.
2.) the O'Brien Era Is over at N.C. State
If any coach needed to fired from a major college program, it was Tom O'Brien. Don't get me wrong, O'Brien was a wonderful coach at Boston College.
Then he left.
O'Brien went to N.C. State with big expectations. Unfortunately, O'Brien and N.C. State never did pan out in the ACC.
What will ultimately be remembered about the O'Brien era at N.C. State is how he let one of the most talented players in the country leave and go to another school. The relationship between O'Brien and Russell Wilson will be remembered for decades as a relationship doomed to failure.
The fact remains simple and clear: O'Brien never appreciated Wilson for his talent, and O'Brien never supported his interest in baseball. O'Brien will be remembered as a mediocre coach who had a star player and let him go. Had Wilson played one more season for the Wolfpack, O'Brien probably would not be unemployed.
3.) Bye, Bye, Dooley
Whatever was running through the mind of the athletic director at UT when he hired Dooley as the head coach is beyond me. Kiffin had one year. Kiffin left. Kiffin was a good coach. Kiffin was the kind of person that you want coaching an SEC football team: cocky, arrogant, charming, good lucking, smart and (oh, yeah) a good coach.
Dooley has none of these qualities. Instead, his image is that of a quiet intellectual with no real world experience in his new job. Prior to coaching the University of Tennessee (an elite program that has a wonderful history and tradition), Dooley coached at Louisiana Tech University.
At Louisiana Tech, Dooley led the Bulldogs to a 17-20 record. He did, however, have a really good year in 2008 when he led the Bulldogs to an 8-5 record and an Independence Bowl victory over an average Northern Illinois team (coached by Jerry Kill). His other two seasons at Louisiana Tech, though, showed the Bulldogs struggling to stay remotely relevant in the WAC.
So, how was Dooley (already a mediocre coach at this time) rewarded? A big contract and the chance to coach an SEC football team. Tennessee had been having problems for a few years. Kiffin had changed some of the atmosphere in Knoxville and people were beginning to become optimistic about Tennessee's chances in the east post-Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer era Florida. Dooley inherited a program with lots of talent and ran it into the ground.
The Derek Dooley years will be remembered as the lost years. He may even be remembered by Volunteer fans the same way as John L. Smith is to Michigan State fans: pathetic and someone who is not fit to ever be a head coach at any other school in the nation. Period.
4.) Gene Chizik
Gene Chizik did not deserve to be fired. Chizik was a good coach for Auburn. He was a good fit, and he did good things in his short time as the head coach on the Plains. Four seasons, three bowl wins, top-ten recruiting classes every year, and a national championship: That was the career of Gene Chizik at Auburn. He lead the Tigers to a national championship, something that no other Auburn coach (except for "Shug" Jordan) ever accomplished.
Chizik has always been unfairly criticized by some of the Auburn faithful. It started when he was hired after leaving Iowa State with a 5-19 record. Prior to being a head coach, he was a very successful defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas (going 26-0 in two seasons in which Texas would win a National Championship and Auburn would be denied a championship after having an undefeated 2004 season).
The largest complaint against Chizik that is often cited by fans is that Chizik could not win without Cam Newton. If you look at his record without Newton, Chizik stands at 19-19 and 7-17 in the SEC. Numbers do not lie, but they do not tell the whole truth.
In his first year, Chizik and his coaching staff developed many young players into future stars of the program, including Onterio McCalebb, Kodi Burns, and Neiko Thorpe. In his second year, he led the Tigers to a national championship after recruiting Cam Newton and developing many key offense players such as Philip Lutzenkirchen, Michael Dyer, and Emory Blake.
One of the key aspects of the national championship team was that they played as a team. Sure, Cam Newton put up amazing numbers, which would lead to him winning the Heisman Trophy, but he had a lot of help from the rest of the team. The Auburn Tigers sent four players to the NFL Draft following the season, and were led by a group of upperclassmen that had seen their fair share of struggle at Auburn.
Without the talent of the entire squad, Cam Newton would not have been successful, and Auburn would not have won a national championship. There is more to winning championships than just a single player. Its a team effort and the Auburn Tigers of 2010 were one of the best to ever take the field.
Now that Chizik has been fired, things are sure to change down in the Plains. Some of the rumored candidates for the job are Guz Malzahn, Bobby Petrino and Jimbo Fisher.
If Auburn decides to hire Bobby Petrino, they will get a good coach, but they will also be selling out there own morality. If Fisher becomes the next coach at Auburn, expect to see more disappointment and a coaching change in another four years. However, if Malzahn becomes the new ball coach, things might start to look up for the Auburn Tigers.
Whoever inherits this team will not have an easy job ahead of them. Auburn has to compete for talent in its pipeline states with monster programs like Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida, all of whom have much better chances at making it to a national championship game than Auburn.
The next coach at Auburn will have to pick up the pieces of this broken team, bring in competitive recruits and play good ball in order to keep a job.
It's not going to be easy.
We have seen a massive shake-up in the coaching spectrum for major FBS teams heading into bowl season. One of the common themes which led to all of these coaches being fired was lack of performance. Some coaches, like Chizik and Hope, have been unfairly criticized, while others have been justifiably let go.
In the cases of Tom O'Brien and Derek Dooley, N.C. State and Tennessee made the right decisions to let the coaches go. Tennessee will have to pay a lot of money to Dooley for the contract that he had, but ultimately, it is better for the organization.
Tennessee will have to bring in a hot, fresh face that is arrogant, cocky and intelligent if they want to fix the problems that they have had over the past three seasons. Someone like Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern would be a good fit for the Volunteers.
N.C. State is going to have to find a new leader that is more effective at understanding the needs of the players. O'Brien was not a bad coach, but he simply did not have the awareness to be as effective as he should have been to turn the Wolfpack into one of the most feared teams in the ACC.
Chuck Martin of Notre Dame would be a nice fit for the Wolfpack. As the head coach of Grand Valley State University, he won two division II national championships, leading his teams to a 74-7 record.
In the cases of Purdue and Auburn, it is unfortunate that the head coaches were fired. Danny Hope brought a lot of promise to Purdue. He was a good coach that should have been given a few more chances before he was released.
Auburn's decision to fire Gene Chizik was a mistake. Auburn had something in Chizik that they had not had in many other coaches. Chizik had his ups and downs, but he brought talent and excitement to the Plains for the first time since 2004.
Whoever Purdue and Auburn decide to replace Hope and Chizik with will face all of the same problems that their predecessors had. The SEC is the most competitive and talented conference in all of college football. The Big Ten has talent and lots of tradition. Purdue has to be competitive with big-name opponents like Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, both on and off the field.
For Auburn, the new coach must be brilliant and have some sort of history with the organization. He must also understand the importance of the Alabama and Georgia rivalries. The last thing that Auburn needs is someone like Rich Rodriguez to come in and not care about the tradition of the program and its rivals.
I would like to see Guz Malzahn take over the helm. As an offensive coordinator at Auburn, he led one of the most potent offenses I have ever seen to a national championship. As the head coach of Arkansas State, he has proven his talent as a head coach. Malzahn would be a refreshing face to see back on the Plains and will bring back the optimism to the Auburn faithful. If Malzahn is not hired, a fresh face like Chuck Martin would be a very nice fit for the program.
Purdue is going to have challenges in finding a new head coach. Of all of the teams who have released coaches so far this season, Purdue is one of the less likely to attract a big name like Jimbo Fisher or Guz Malzahn. A possible fit for Purdue would be someone like Frank Solich or Darrell Hazell. Solich has consistently been a winner and Hazell has turned around the Kent State football program.