Why College Football Programs Fire so Many Coaches Looking for "The One"

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Why College Football Programs Fire so Many Coaches Looking for
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The late owner of the NFL's Oakland Raiders, Al Davis, had his "Just Win Baby" mantra, but perhaps he missed his true calling all along—that of a college football booster.

Judging by the number of coaches on the hot seat and being let go on an annual basis in college football, his penitent for firing coaches would've fit right in with the college football game of today.

Winning the majority of the games you play or doing things your university has never done before isn't good enough anymore—you better win, do it with style and keep the boosters, who keep the cash flowing, happy, or risk losing your job. 

This offseason, there have been 17 coaching changes to date, and of those changes, a full 10 have been due to "resignation" or the coach being let go. 

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Sure, some of them have been for cause, with the group being let go holding a combined record of 168-254 as head coaches at their respective schools (minus Texas' Mack Brown, who went 158-48 before resigning at the end of the season).

That's a whopping .398 winning percentage for the nine coaches who handed in their resignation or were fired. Clearly, there was cause in most of those cases.

However, at the highest levels of the game, administrators and fans are on an ever-increasing hunt for the next big thing in college football. 

Win big at a school that normally doesn't do it, and all the eyes of a big university's boosters will turn to you at the first sign of weakness in the current regime. 

It isn't just at the five big conferences that made up the old BCS system, either; it's trickled down to the likes of the MAC and Conference-USA, too. 

Of the nine coaches let go this past offseason, six of them had been at their school for four years or less. 

Four of those six coaches gone this season were from so-called "mid-major" programs.

Ron English spent four years at Eastern Michigan (11-46), Don Treadwell managed to get fired in two-and-a-half years at Miami (OH) (8-21), Charley Molnar lasted two years in UMass' transition to FBS (2-22) and Carl Pelini "allegedly" smoked his way out of Florida Atlantic in under two years (5-15). 

No longer are you going to be allowed to build a program and cycle through at least one class, not with the money being spent and the boosters to keep happy (Yes, even at Eastern Michigan there are boosters to keep happy). 

Then, there are the special cases, the Lane Kiffin's and Mack Brown's of the world—two coaches who produced winning records at schools that expect greatness, and yet it still wasn't good enough. 

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At Texas, it was Brown's 18-17 record in Big 12 play over the last four years that had multimillionaire donors screaming for his head. So, Brown did the classy thing and stepped down with grace and dignity at a university he loves because he knew how the game is played these days. 

For Lane Kiffin, it was going from No. 1 to unranked and then losing two Pac-12 conference games at the start of the season that left him alone on an airport tarmac while his team sped away heading back to campus.

When a rough patch hits, the grass is always greener on the other side to those who open up their wallets and expect a return on their investment.

At Texas, that meant going out and naming the price that the hottest name in college coaching the past three offseason's—Louisville's Charlie Strong—couldn't refuse any longer.

There's no doubt he was a great success at a school that struggled greatly before his arrival, but success at Louisville doesn't mean automatic success at Texas. 

Sure, Strong and Co. will be set up with every advantage to succeed, but let's remember Mack Brown had the same advantages throughout his 16-year career, and only the last four years mattered to the boys running the show—the boosters. 

Just because the grass appears to be greener doesn't mean it will actually work out. Just ask Tennessee or Michigan what it's like to push a proven winner out the door for the next "it" coach. 

Last time we checked, both were still struggling to be relevant since those firings. 

That's not to say that, in some cases, it doesn't work out, either.

Just ask Auburn, who let a national champion head coach (Gene Chizik) go just two years after the national title, only to see its new head coach, Gus Malzhan, lead the program from a 3-9 season (0-8 in SEC) to the SEC title and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game the very next season.

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However, that has been the exception and not the rule. 

Just look at Kansas, who fired Turner Gill after one horrific season in 2011 and replaced him with the "hot name" of Charlie Weis, the ex-Notre Dame head coach. 

Since Weis has taken over, Kansas has amassed a grand total of one Big 12 victory (1-17) and is 4-20 overall. 

Kansas's boosters thought making a big-name hire would bring them closer to the days of historic success under Mark Mangino, only the return on their multimillion dollar investment has been rather poor.  

With another offseason of coaching changes upon us, we're reminded now more than ever that the almighty dollar is king of the mountain in college football—no matter what your resume is as a head coach. 

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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