"Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."
- Winston Churchill
One of the hardest things a program can suffer is losing seasons. In the nature of all things football, winning is survival as death is measured in field goals, two-point conversions, and clock-management.
It's how coaches and athletic directors get their walking papers. It's how players transfer, or just give up.
Any combination of these things finds you a program that is walking on thin ice. The stronger teams find a way to make it across, while others fall through and sink into the cold murky depths hoping for a life-line.
These programs, listed randomly, find themselves experiencing troubles of various sorts that could lead to their downfall. This season could be the beginning of the end for these coaches and their once great programs.
It's make it or break it time for these storied institutions.
Who will fall and who will rise from the ashes?
Mick Jagger sang it best, but as it stands it's recognizably true. Lloyd Carr's shoes are still sitting by the front door, they're much too big for Rich.
Rich Rodriguez is a poor substitute for Lloyd Carr. He was awesome for West Virginia but he wasn't ready for Michigan. He should have stayed with the Mountaineers, but the Wolverines offered him the job, and he jumped at the opportunity.
Since taking the helm late in 2007, Rich Rod has taken a struggling program with potential and completely bled it dry of motivation and talent. The top talent has jumped ship and the new talent is shying away due to R.R's popularity with NCAA investigators.
There really isn't an option now. Why is Rich still in Ann Arbor? This season will be no different than the previous two debacles. The biggest question is whether Michigan will wait or act.
Rick Neuheisel will be doing well at season end if he still has a job and Norm Chow hasn't departed for cardinal and gold pastures.
Lane Kiffin would like nothing better than to get his hands on the old offensive coordinator. And if Norm is a smart man, he might to want keep ol' Laney boy on his speed-dial.
Rick, on the other hand, should grab his old law school notes. He passed the state bar in Arizona and Washington D.C. and if history repeats itself, the NCAA will again come knocking at Neuheisel's door. If that doesn't get him, there is always an errant basketball bracket floating around.
UCLA deserves better than 11-14 after two seasons. Looking at this year's schedule serves notice that Bruin fans should expect more of the same. To add to the misery, UCLA plays Texas at home on September 25th. I cannot, and will not watch this game.
The offense is way too sketchy. The line is teetering on mediocre. They'll be able to pop a few holes open for Derrick Coleman but will fall short protecting Kevin Prince, should he be named the starter.
Rick Neuheisel should just step down now and let Norm Chow salvage what he can for the Bruins.
The high point of the last five years for the plagued Huskies was beating the conference bully, a ranked USC, last year in front of an astonished Husky crowd.
The Huskies were due, going 16-44 for the last five seasons and losing every game in 2008. It was and still is a bright spot in a very dark time.
However, Steve Sarkisian has brought charisma and hope to the team. The previous head coaches Willingham and Gilbertson were unable to provide this.
This alone won't save Washington, but Sark has a respectable resume as a QB coach for several programs (including the Oakland Raiders) and a brief stint as OC for USC, which was vacated when an anxious Lane Kiffin bolted for the Raiders.
Sarkisian will be looking to better his record, and in the process beat his comrade in arms, Lane Kiffin. If the Huskies can beat the Trojans at home, it would manifest Sarkisian's footing at Washington for at least another year.
If the Huskies can pull out a .500 season, then Washington may well be on its way to recovery. Nevertheless, the schedule isn't loaded with cupcakes so it will again be a situation where they are in charge of their own destiny.
Regardless of their offensive maladies and their off-season problems, now is the time to cowboy up or face another decade of failure.
When Mark Richt departed FSU and arrived at Georgia, the entire Dawg faithful heaved a sigh of relief from the Jim Donnan years. It was enough to saturate the will and hope of even the most devout fans with continuous doubt and gloom.
Luckily for Georgia, nobody has owned Richt, he has beaten all comers soundly and until last season, there were only a few critics.
However, it doesn't take losing seasons for programs to crumble. Losing to ranked opponents is not so much condoned but accepted when they are truly formidable. But when you lose to arrogant rookie coaches that belittle your proud team and staff and falter against the likes of Kentucky, then you better hope you have an excuse.
Last season was Georgia's worst outing since Richt took over. Losing to what many considered a sub-par Oklahoma State team. Georgia went on to escape future defeat by narrowly beating its next three opponents.
Troubles resurfaced in Athens when ranked LSU came calling, then Lane Kiffin's unranked, temporary volunteers beat them in an embarrassing fashion at Neyland Stadium. Vanderbilt suffered the Dawg's wrath but the passion ran out at the cocktail party as the Gators killed their hopes for an SEC showdown.
Mark Richt and the Bulldogs have much to prove this season. Theoretically speaking, the Bulldogs toughest game this year should be Florida. Should the Bulldogs finish third or worse in the East, it could very well be the straw that breaks the fans' backs, and also Richt's.
Mark Mangino has left the building. Along with him goes the hopes and admiration of all the fans and players. Just kidding. Hopes are high, but was the decision to fire Mangino going from bad to worse?
Turner Gill has the keys now, but fans must be the tiniest bit puzzled as to why. He has certainly made the rounds, from a graduate assistant to a quarterback coach, then assistant head coach, and finally head coach at Buffalo.
To Gill's credit, he did take on a program considered to be one of the three worst programs in the nation. He managed to help them win games and three years after taking charge, they actually won the 2008 MAC Championship.
The Jayhawks have an opportunity to demonstrate patience. If Gill is given enough time, Kansas can be a winning program again. Gill's ability to coach at this level will be questioned with every loss and the fans will wonder if one MAC Championship makes a top-tier coach.
The end will, however, be written if they expect upsets from the beginning.
The kind, gentle folks of Kansas should not look for wins against the Longhorns and the Sooners. They should rather be extremely grateful when their big upset comes from Texas Tech.
Don't get greedy and in two or three seasons time, there will be something offered to the Sooners.
Let's be frank. When "The Ole Ball Coach" Steve Spurrier is on his game, magic happens from end zone to end zone.
He owned the 90s and set the bar for competition in the SEC East. He took over at South Carolina for an exhausted Lou Holtz in 2005 and has managed to keep the Gamecocks bowl eligible since then.
That's all the Gamecocks have really done—remain bowl eligible. That's good though, unless you are Steve Spurrier.
It's been rumored by more than one source that Darth Visor's hardest daily decisions now vary between using a 9-iron or a pitching wedge. If that holds to be true, it certainly explains why the Gamecocks are just managing to get bowl eligible.
If I was a recruit, I would definitely have a better clue as to why they don't speak to Spurrier until signing day. If I was an assistant, I would be wondering if Derek Dooley is still hiring.
The Gamecocks have lost the edge, and Steve-O is thinking retirement.
If I was one of the fans, I would definitely be camped out at every golf course within 100 miles, waiting to ask whether or not The Ole Ball Coach's heart is in Columbia, or Gainesville.
The writing has been on the wall for the last decade, but dad-gummit it just doesn't feel right.
Honestly, Jimbo Fisher has the patience of a Saint, and should be praised for waiting quietly as long as he did. Ultimately, left un-checked Bobby would have been dragging an oxygen bottle up and down the sidelines for years to come had he been allowed.
For the great, elder Bowden, I am thankful he was able to leave with his dignity intact, but the job of restoration is now at hand and Jimbo Fisher is wasting no time. From ESPN to the buzz on the web, FSU is at battle stations.
Fisher managed to lure in assistant guru, Eddie Gran, along with a host of in-state talent that had been promised elsewhere. The recruiting pool at FSU has never run dry, and with the new adjustments it seems the Seminoles will continue to swim.
If Fisher can make a stand in the ACC, he will have to get by Virginia Tech, which is no small order. The Seminoles have been patient themselves waiting for a return to glory, but victory will have to come quick or Jimbo maybe looking for a dad-gum job.
There is no arguing what Joe Paterno has done for Penn State. It has been said that no coach alive or dead can rival his accomplishments, which I think is a fair statement.
On that note, Joe's new glasses aren't going to win Penn State any more championships. As much as he's done for the Nittany Lions, he shouldn't be expected to do anything else.
There are plenty of assistants at Penn that can do Joe's job. They should be able to as he has mentored them all on some level.
He's not getting any younger and should be given a Vikings funeral before the program suffers his new glasses.
There really isn't much to say except one winning season out of five. Does he have dirt on somebody?
That's the only hypothetical I can come up with. The Fighting Illini are pushing water up hill with Ron Zook. 21-29, there has got to be a reason why.
Even Florida cut Zook loose and he led them to three straight bowl appearances. If Ron Zook remains after one more season of losses, then the problem isn't Zook, it's Illinois.
Win or lose, for as long as Lane Kiffin remains at USC, the debate will drudge along as everyone will continue to speculate if he's a hero or assassin.
The NCAA will watch and listen now for the faintest murmur of violations. It's really no wonder that all antics from Kiffin have ceased. For all of the naysayers it was simply trading gravy and biscuits for sushi.
The proof of his dedication will arrive in a few short months as two opposite coasts watch and wait. Will he remain and succeed like his predecessors? Or will he bolt and abandon them in the dark of the night without a leader?