Head coaching in college football has become a high profile, cut-throat, instant result demanding job. For the selective few who get the chance, most seemingly can't cut it for more than a few seasons.
We've seen that trend in the ACC with head coaches being fired almost yearly. Most recently UVA's Al Groh was booted after unmet standards on the field caught up to him. Additionally last season, the rock of ACC head coaches, Bobby Bowden, was effectively forced to retire thus promoting head coach-in-waiting, Jimbo Fisher to the lead role at FSU.
The coaching turnover is simply part of football now.
Names like Amato, Gailey, Bowden (Tommy), Jagodzinski, Roof, Bunting litter our record books with unfulfilled expectations and frustrating memories.
Currently, teams like Maryland (Ralph Friedgen) and NC State (Tom O'Brien) have head coaches who despite triumphal entries, have failed to live up to expectations and might be next in line to have their names listed above.
With that however, there appears to be some promise for the ACC. Virgina Tech's Frank Beamer is one of the most revered coaches in the nation. His teams have consistently been at the top of the conference and they show no signs of giving ground without a fight.
The very coach who might bring that fight, Paul Johnson of Georgia Tech. He appears to be the league's most feared and heralded recent addition. The installation of his Flex-bone triple-option based offense at a BSC conference level was thought to be a high risk move by many college football pundits. Two ACC Coach of the Year awards and a championship trophy in his first two seasons show the Jackets have a head coach that will stop at nothing to put his team near the top of the league each year.
Other solid coaches in the league include Wake's Jim Grobe and Duke's head man David Cutcliff. Coach Grobe has turned his small school's program into a perennial competitor, while Duke's Cutcliff looks to mirror that same path. Both have shown a propensity to improve their teams on a regular basis.
Outside of those few, the league's coaching question marks are numerous.
The name at the top of that list, Miami's Randy Shannon, a players coach who cannot seem to find consistency with the storied program's current cast of all-star players.
Boston College's Frank Spaziani has yet to do anything wrong in the head role, I guess that's a good thing to say about a head coach? For that matter, there is not much he's done to judge up to this point, so not screwing up totally must count for something.
UVA's new leader Mike London, sure has his work cut out for him. Cavalier fans should give him a year to regroup, but expectations for steady improvement will be thrust upon his young team soon. Year two will be more of an accurate barometer of who Coach London is.
Speaking of new coaches, what's that old saying? "You never want to be the guy who follows a legend"... Welcome to Tallahassee Captain Jimbo! FSU fans want to get back to the glory days and they expect it this year. If the Seminoles progress over the past two seasons is any indication of what they will actually be this season, they should be good, but no where near those expectations of past grander. You wanted to follow papa Bowden... well, you got it.
Butch Davis is another coach that has really done little to prove his worth at UNC. A stellar defense will be his best weapon this fall. Will it be enough?... It better be, because it will be gone next year and there is little on the horizon to keep the Tar Heel fans from questioning the growth of their football program.
Finally, Dabo Swinney of Clemson. Personally, he drives me nuts with his sideline convulsions and over the top Rah-Rah antics. But in year one of his full time tenure, his methods appeared to work. Granted it's hard not to score points giving the ball to C.J. Spiller 25 times a game, but to give credit where credit is due, Dabo recognized it and exploited it.
Can Coach Swinney repeat that success without the nation's most dynamic player? Will his chaotic behavior wear thin with the Tiger fan-base? Will his coaching style maintain a disciplined team? Those are the questions that might be answered this season.
All in all, the head coaching situation in the ACC isn't much to brag about. With only two top notch head coaches in the conference, the league's perception looks to stay well under the strong held positions of the SEC and Big XII.
The ACC needs to have a dynamic 2010 season to prove its national worth and give its fans something to be excited about. But, in general, the current cast of ACC head coaches make it seem improbable those national perceptions will change anytime soon.
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