Is College Football's Coaching Carousel Getting Out of Hand?

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIDecember 18, 2013

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 23:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide leads his team on the field to face the Chattanooga Mocs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bowl season hasn't even started, and 13 college football teams have already dumped their coaches. More firings and resignations will come.

For the past two weeks, Mack Brown and Nick Saban have dominated college football headlines—not the coming bowl season or the improbable national championship matchup.

The Brown-Saban circus has been showing for months, only growing to a climax this past week. When the carousel stopped spinning, Brown stepped down at Texas and Saban signed an extension at Alabama.

Now, with Saban counting his reported $7 million per year, the Longhorns will command the headlines once again as they look to bring in an elite coach.

For the entire season, the saga featuring Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, several professional coaches and Steve Sarkisian played out at USC.

This season's hoopla is far from unique. It comes each year. But it all begs the question: Is this all getting to be too much?

Well, absolutely. But that just leads to another question: Should the NCAA act on the uncontrollable coaching carousel?

In short, no. Although it might be a nuisance each season, it is a necessary evil that can be the difference between a failing program and a dynasty.

The whole coaching carousel is rarely a positive from a fan's perspective. With so many rumors failing to come to fruition, it's impossible to even know what's what.

An extreme example of that came with USC this season. In a matter of months, USC had Kiffin, then Orgeron, and was reported to be courting Jack Del Rio, Jon Gruden and others. Then, it finally settled on Sarkisian.

The revolving door can be downright nauseating. It also serves as an unnecessary distraction ahead of bowl games, as players have to prepare not knowing whether their coach will be boxing up his office tomorrow, next week or never.

As talk shows, websites and newspapers cover coaching instead of bowls at this time of the season, it takes more attention away from the already watered-down bowl season.

It also puts recruits in a difficult spot, not knowing if the coach they committed to will even be around much longer. As Dawn Denny of reported, some Texas commits are left waiting to see who the 'Horns will hire as their next coach:

Twenty-two players have verbally committed to play UT football in the fall, and only five of those are taking a "wait and see" attitude after Brown's resignation. The other 17 are reportedly ready to play for the Longhorns, no matter who the new coach is.

It's not a desirable position for recruits to be in, but if there were restrictions, would that even help?

Probably not. In fact, it might make the situation even worse. Let's say the NCAA instituted a deadline on which coaching changes had to be announced.

It would create a frenzy rivaled only by National Signing Day. Just as with recruiting, rumors and leaks would build hype for weeks ahead of time.

While that Twitter free-for-all would swirl hysterically, a designated announcement day would also hurt the schools.

In general, the earlier a coaching change can be made, the better it will be for that next coach. He can take up his new post, settle in and begin recruiting right away.

It lets the recruits know what they're dealing with and generates just a bit more stability than a late change.

That stability is the best thing a coach can bring.

When a college program looks to identify a new coach, it isn't just looking for a guy with a whistle, a visor and knowledge of a spread offense.

The coach is the face of the entire organization. Unlike professional sports that are player-centric, college sports are coach-centric. At the next level, the stars rule. They're the face of the franchise and, if the team holds on to them, they will contribute to the betterment of the organization for years to come.

In college, players stick around for, at most, five years. Sometimes, student-athletes see just one or two years on the field. 

Auburn learned this the hard way with Cam Newton. Tigers fans watched him play in eight home games, capture the Heisman Trophy and win a national title before vaulting into superstardom. He was there, then he was gone, and the Tigers weren't left with the right coach to maintain that level of success.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson (R) and head coach Gene Chizik look on as quarterback Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers accepts the MVP trophy after their 56-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Cha
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A handful of NFL programs have well-known coaches. New England and Bill Belichick are the best example. Belichick is an outstanding coach and the Patriots are an excellent organization—but if Tom Brady had left after three years, where would they be?

As popular as Belichick is, Brady is the face of the franchise.

Down at Alabama, it's different. The Crimson Tide have had throngs of All-Americans and first-round draft picks, Heisman finalists and even a Heisman winner.

But as those players moved through the system, they were replaced with the next stars. Quarterback AJ McCarron, the closest thing to Brady to come through UA recently, will leave after this season.

He has started for three years, won two national titles as a starter and another as a redshirt, and was the recent Heisman runner-up. He'll leave as one of 'Bama's most beloved players.

But next year, Alabama will carry on just fine without him. The Tide will probably be right back in the national-title hunt.

Why? Saban.

Alabama's success has every other program out there trying to find the next Saban, or perhaps trying to pursue the actual Saban.

Coaches make the difference between sustained success and failure. That dynamic persuades boosters to donate and fans to purchase season tickets. That, in turn, sends more money back through the program which can be used to upgrade facilities, hire new coaches or give the head coach a nice raise.

As Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated detailed, Saban is en route to becoming one of the highest-paid coaches in any sport at any level:

Still, $7 million is an enormous number, and not just in the abstract, it's-all-Monopoly-money way that we view the salaries of celebrities. It is enormous compared to what other coaches make. As and The Big Lead pointed out this week, Saban is one of the highest-paid coaches in all of sports, college or pro. He may only trail Sean Payton ($8 million per season).

It may sound absurd that a college coach would be making exponentially more than many professional coaches, but it makes sense considering everything a coach can do for a program.

Athletic directors and school presidents know this. They understand that football success can directly result in higher enrollment and spikes in application numbers, which Chris Smith of Forbes aptly detailed.

So when a season is lost, they take this time to build toward their future. If they distract their current student-athletes, detract from the bowl season or even slightly jeopardize recruiting, it doesn't matter.

If they can snatch up the next national-title-winning coach before a rival, it'll be more than worth it.

The coaching carousel is a necessary evil in the sport, and it isn't going anywhere.


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