I am just not sure what a number of these BCS college football athletic directors were thinking since the regular season ended only a few weeks ago. Seven major programs have fired their head coach and chosen a replacement. The seven schools are Mississippi State, Auburn, Tennessee, Clemson, Washington, Kansas State and Syracuse.
Do you see any pattern here? Three of the seven are from the SEC. When Alabama hired Nick Saban, right after New Year’s Day (2007), I made three predictions to my buddies. One, Phil Fulmer would be gone from Tennessee in two years. I got that one right on the button. The second prediction was that Tommy Tuberville (photo at right)
would be gone at Auburn inside of four years. I missed it. He was gone in only two. The third was that Alabama would play in the BCS national championship game within five years. I almost got that in two years as well, with Alabama ranked No. 1 and leading Florida in the fourth quarter of the SEC title game. Now this is not a boast, I assure you. I am not that good at picking games and predicting such things. But this much I did know—the SEC was about to change with Saban back in the league. And it did change, just faster than I thought. All things being equal I sincerely believe that you will see the Crimson Tide and the Gators playing regularly for a the title in the next five years. This only increases the pressure on the other powers in this great football league. Thus we have seen the removal of three good coaches in the SEC (if you include Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State), two of whom were hugely successful at traditional football powers Tennessee and Auburn.
But what gives with the hires these AD's made over the last few weeks? One of the best hires may actually have been at Mississippi State where Florida’s offensive coordinator Dan Mullen was "a certifiable coup" according to one college football analyst. The problem here will be what it always has been at State: recruiting.The most highly sought players in the state will still, very likely, go to Alabama or Ole Miss.
What truly amazes me is that the seven (white) men hired for those prestigious jobs had a combined head-coaching record in 2008 of 7-15. I can only ask: “What is going on here?” Here’s the 2008 record for these seven hires: 2-10 for Gene Chizik at Iowa State, 4-2 for interim Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and 1-3 with the Oakland Raiders for Lane Kiffin.
One of the seven coached an entire season as a head coach at the BCS level and he had the worst record of all. One was an interim head coach for six games and the other coached for four games in the NFL. And none of the four other coaches hired were even head coaches in 2008.
I have serious doubts about the Lane Kiffin (photo at left) pick at Tennessee but the most questionable hire of all just has to be Gene Chizik at Auburn. Chizik had a 5-19 record at Iowa State over the last two seasons but Auburn hired him anyway and pronounced him the answer to cross-state rival Alabama and Nick Saban. You have to be kidding. Many of my best friends are die-hard War Eagle fans. Most of them are sick, so far as I can tell. I would be. This is worse than Alabama hiring Mike Shula and he did have one really good year in his four seasons at Alabama.
Pat Forde, who writes on college football for ESPN, says:
Chizik needs to begin every morning by reciting the Lou Gehrig speech: ‘Today-today-today, I consider myself-myself-myself, the luckiest man on the face of the Earth-Earth-Earth.’ The fact that he somehow parlayed a 5-19 record at Iowa State into a job at one of the better programs in the country is astounding—and reflects the glorious dysfunction that is Auburn athletics. Understand this: Auburn could have kept Tommy Tuberville and his 85-40 record (Resignation? Right.) but went with a guy who opened his tenure in Ames with losses to Kent State and Northern Iowa.
Auburn could have gone after Leach, who knows something about winning in a brutal division, but instead hired a guy who went 2-10 in league play in the softer Big 12 North. Auburn could have landed the red-hot Gill, whose Buffalo team has won six of its past seven games, but instead embraced a guy on a 10-game losing streak. Maybe Chizik (photo at right)
will be the next Bill Parcells—he went 3-8 in his first year as a head coach, at the Air Force Academy in 1978—before turning out all right. But until that happens, this has the makings of the worst hire in SEC history.
So what were they thinking on the Plains when they let the proven winner, Tuberville, go and hired a proven loser with two years experience as a head coach? Something really fishy is happening here and I would not be a happy camper if I was an Auburn man. I would love to hear from you Auburn fans what you think happened, I really would. But since I am not an Auburn fan I have to think that the future in this rivalry looks pretty bright for the Tide. But then this whole world of BCS football can be turned upside down in one season. If you don’t believe that then go talk to Tommy Tuberville who was 7-2 versus their most hated rival and then went 5-7 this season and lost 36-0 to Alabama and got hammered a few days later. Tuberville was clearly Auburn's most successful coach since the late Shug Jordan. This decision just made no sense at all.