Crimes of Emotion and Perception

Jay SchrimpfCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 22:  A fan shows her support for head coach Phillip Fulmer of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Life is not fair. At a young age we learn this. However, we are also taught that you will be rewarded for your achievements. Simply put, get the job done and you will be compensated.

And then there is college football.

It seems in the landscape of college football, no one is happy. If you win seven games this year, you want eight next year, and nine the after that. Of course 10 wins and the National title follow this pattern. 

If the team fails to meet these expectations, attainable or not, the coach then is placed on the "hot seat."  Which simply means, it's only a matter of time before the next coach comes in with promises of a National title and Conference title.

We will take a look at four programs who elected to dismiss their coaches. As we examine these programs and coaches, we will focus on the data. Simply put, we will look at games won and lost. 

I am sure there are "reasons" or fan and administration "perceptions" about the direction of each of these programs under the dismissed coach. I also concede that these perceptions drive ticket sales and booster income that can not be ignored. But if one can remove the emotional factor from the equation; you will see the winning percentages will justify our "lucky" four coaches keeping their job.


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Larry Coker went 60-15 while at Miami. He won a National title and also had three Conference Championships to boot.  He won 71 percent of the time when he coached against Bobby Bowden and FSU. He also beat the Gators every time he went up against them. Yet in the end this was not enough. He had "lost control of his team" and the direction in which the team was headed in was not acceptable by the standards of Miami. 

The 'Canes saw fit to hire up and coming Randy Shannon. An "emotional" fix to the problems of player control and morale. After all, Shannon would never allow a 'Canes team to drop to a seven win season. Shannon inked a four-year deal that would earn him slightly more than $1 million per season. After two years, Shannon has an overall record of 12-13 and sports a 37.5 winning percentage in conference play. The preseason magazines have coach Shannon on that "hot" seat.


Phillip Fulmer was Volunteer football. A loss clearly hurt him and you could see that in his eyes. His teams were prepared and most of the time they won their games on Saturday. He posted an incredible 152-52 record that included one National title, two Conference titles, and seven Divisional titles. He became the poster boy for "what have you done for me lately," when dismissed at the end of the year. 

In 2007, Tennessee won the Divisional title. The Volunteers played LSU in the SEC Championship Game and lost by just seven points. LSU went on to win the National title. Tennessee followed that game up with a win over a good Wisconsin team in a Bowl.  However the short term memory memory of fans and the administration seemed to be the reason for Fulmer's dismissal in 2008. 

Tennessee elected to hire Lane Kiffin, age 33, to replace Phil Fulmer. Kiffin signed a deal for six years that would pay him $2 million in the first year. The contract would grade up to average him $2.375 million over the course of the next six years. That is not bad for a coach with an overall record of 5-15 and no college football head coaching credentials.

If you need to ask if college football and the professional football are different, I can give you the number for a university in South Bend. A very young guy to be put in the Tennessee pressure cooker.


Tommy Bowden never had a losing season at Clemson. His teams were always competitive, until a fiasco in Atlanta last year (which had more to do with the pundits having them over-ranked).

Bowden won over 60 percent of his games and was 7-2 against the hated Gamecocks. His teams went to Bowl games and were always in the hunt for the Divisional title.

Bowden was dismissed because he simply could not win a Divisional title like Clemson fans say they were accustomed to winning. But in the decade of the 90's, Clemson won just one ACC crown. That hardly sounds like a team that is accustomed to winning titles. The odd thing was that Clemson fired him in mid season after a Thursday night road loss to Wake Forest (Thursday night road teams lose almost 80 percent of the time). Wake Forest owns a three-game winning streak over FSU and was the last team from the Atlantic to win the ACC, and it was just a five point loss.

The perception was Clemson should win this game. Do you see that little word creeping up again, "perception?"  In any case, Clemson was in a week of turmoil leading up to the Georgia Tech game, a game they lost by four points. Keep your coach, win that game, and guess who is playing for the Conference crown?

Clemson hired the emotional choice, Dabbo Swinney.  A position coach would now agree to a five-year deal worth $1 million per year. His relationship with CJ Spiller and the rest of the players along with his incredible ability to recruit should hold him for a while. He did finish the season out 4-2 with losses to GT and FSU.


Tommy Tuberville was let go as the Tigers had a sub-par season in 2008. However, the overall numbers he posted were outstanding. He went 85-40, had an undefeated season, one Conference title, five Divisional titles, won 65 percent of Conference games, eight Bowl appearances, and beat Alabama an incredible 70 percent of the time.

There are some questions if Tuberville was dismissed or resigned; but usually if someone resigns they are not awarded with $5.1 million.  Certainly, these numbers are impressive.

Auburn then went and hired emotional favorite and former defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Gene Chizik and his overall 5-19 (2007 and 2008) record from Iowa State will be making $2 million per year. Not bad for someone who could not get the job done at Iowa State. I know it is hard to win at Iowa State, but consider the most wins Chizik was able to muster in any one season was a total of three. 

In 2000, Iowa State won nine; in 2001 Iowa State won seven; in 2002 Iowa State won seven; in 2004 Iowas State won seven; in 2005 Iowa State won seven, and in 2006 Iowa State won four. I am not sure the data warrants the hire or the fire at Auburn. 

Tuberville, Bowden, Fulmer and Coker did nothing but win on a consistent basis. But for reasons that deal more with perception and emotion they were all dismissed. In the end, winning was not enough. 

In this "McDonald's World" of having it now,  I want a new coach, a national title and a hamburger please...


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