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UPDATED:  January 9, 2008

 

Coaches Hot Seat Coaching Changes Analysis

We are going to evaluate every coaching change this season, and in addition to our Commentary we are also going to have two ratings on the coaching changes.  The first one is our Quality of the New Hire rating which is based on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being an Unmitigated Disaster and 10 being a Home Run!  Our second rating is the Opposing Coaches in the school's conference on how they feel about the new hire and the thought of coaching and recruiting against the new coach.  The Opposing Coaches ratings will break down as:

Loving It! - Not good for the hiring school

Doesn't Matter - Neutral for the hiring school

Damn! - Great for the hiring school

 

SMU

Fired:  Phil Bennett

Hired:  June Jones

 

Commentary

Reading Steve Orsini's bio on the SMU website there are a few things that catch our eye.  The first is that he was a 3-time letterman at Notre Dame as a fullback and that he was one of four captains on the 1977 Notre Dame National Championship team.  That alone sets him apart from most other ADs, but the next paragraph in his bio is interesting as well.  After college Orsini spent 3 years working in New York as an accountant/CPA for Deloitte, Haskins and Sells, before he started his athletic administration career.  Those two experiences give Orsini an unique perspective on the world and explain to us why he has reached so high in his two head coaching hires at UCF (George O'Leary) and June Jones at SMU.  It is hard to explain to people that have not had the experience, but once you have had the opportunity to achieve great things and you have worked with some of the best and brightest in our country, you will find it very hard to accept anything but the best you can get and that is certainly what Orsini got in the hiring of June Jones.  Anyone that has spent some time in the Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas and wandered around the SMU campus finds an idyllic place with stunning athletic facilities, which brings up the obvious question to football fans:  Why has the SMU football program been so pitiful since the probation?  There really is no good answer to that question, but we know that up to this week the one thing that is for sure, no one at SMU really took football seriously.  That is no longer the case.  The dogged pursuit by Orsini of June Jones and other upper-tier coaches has landed one of the top football coaches in the game at one of the most unlikeliest places in the country.  June Jones is not your ordinary football coach, and that is because he brings a very unique offensive approach to the game (learned by playing for and coaching with Mouse Davis) and a personal style of coaching that encourages players to go out and make plays.  Jones believes football should be fun, and 18-22 year old young men respond to that philosophy in spades.  Jones is unlike like any coach that has coached football at this level in the state of Texas, save Mike Leach and Bum Phillips, but the SMU fans will certainly recognize his dedication to the game and his single-minded determinedness to win football games.

 

A very good point was made to us recently that a lot of high schools in Texas and elsewhere are now running an offensive system similar to what Jones runs, and that it will be very easy for Jones to attract recruits to SMU that want to play in what will be the most powerful offenses in the country.  Anyone that caught June Jones interview on ESPN in the latter half of the season could discern that he has somewhat of a chip on his shoulder from people questioning the seriousness of his coaching ability and his Hawaii football teams.  Certainly, one of the considerations that went into accepting the job at SMU is the opportunity for Jones to prove his wares in a large media market like Dallas where the media will most certainly be paying attention.  We have tossed around the question here at Coaches Hot Seat the last few days:  What can June Jones do at SMU?  He will win first of all, and win a lot.  12 win seasons will be far and few between, but with the current make-up of Conference USA there is certainly the opportunity for Jones to quickly place SMU in the top of the conference and bring home some championship trophies.  Steve Orsini has mentioned the importance of athletics at SMU being in the Top 25 in the nation, and we believe that is easily within Jones grasp at SMU.  The important thing for SMU fans is to keep Jones arrival in perspective and realize that it will take at least a couple of games next season for him to get the ball rolling!  Seriously, Jones' style will win lots of football games at SMU, and the best thing for SMU fans to do is to sign up, hang on, and enjoy the ride.

 

Quality of the Hire:  10

Opposing Coaches:  Triple Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - June Jones is a great hire for SMU. 

 

 

UCLA

Fired:  Karl Dorrell

Hired:  Rick Neuheisel

 

Commentary

UCLA AD athletic director Dan Guerrero says he looked Rick Neuheisel in the eye and that he is satisfied that Rick understands he cannot continue his past behavior at UCLA.  Really?  In 2001 President Bush said about Vladimir Putin, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.  I was able to get a sense of his soul. He's a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship," Mr. Bush said.  Really?  Right now the man (Vladimir Putin) that Bush said was "straight-forward and trustworthy" is putting back together the former Soviet Union and consolidating power in Moscow under the ruse of a democratic country.  Free speech is being snuffed out as journalists are increasingly under threat of losing their lives if they dare question the government, and the US sits on the sidelines and does nothing.  No, the hiring of Rick Neuheisel at UCLA has nothing to do with war and peace, but if you have to say that you trust someone, is that really a person you want to hire as the most public face of an university?  We say no to that question, but it is Dan Guerrero laying his job and career on the line with the hiring of Neuheisel, and let there be no doubt if something does happen during Neuheisel's reign at UCLA that causes Rick to be fired, the next person out the door will be Dan Guerrero.  We have talked with a few people that sit in positions of power above the Chancellor at UCLA, and they made it very clear to us that this was Dan Guerrero's decision to hire Neuheisel, and it is his job on the line with this hire.  We have never questioned Guerrero's integrity or straight-forwardness towards tough problems, but he has put his career on the line with the Neuheisel hire, and he knows it.

 

Beyond the thought if you can trust Neuheisel or not is what kind of football coach is he?  We believe that Neuheisel is a very good X's and O's guy and that he has run an innovative offense in the past that is somewhat similar to what USC ran when Lane Kiffin was the co-offensive coordinator.  Neuheisel should be able to hire a good defensive coordinator, so there is no reason that UCLA should go into any game with the fundamentals of their coaching being a question mark.  The problem with Neuheisel and his head coaching ability does not lie with his technical ability, but rather the animosity that Rick builds among his players and coaches over a period of time.  Let's look at Neuheisel's record:

Colorado

1995  10-2

1996  10-2

1997  5-6

1998  8-4

Washington

1999  7-5

2000  11-1

2001  8-4

2002  7-6

The first thing that jumps out to us is that Rick lost 4 or more games in 5 of his 8 seasons as a head coach.  In fact, if you throw out the first two years of him coaching  the program that Bill McCartney built at Colorado, Neuheisel is a very average 36-26 (.581).  The above records tell us a lot, but what people have told us will tell everyone a lot more.  The following is from a guy that played at Colorado for Neuheisel and a staff member within the Washington athletic department.  These two people have never met each other, or even know that the other person exists, but they tell remarkably similar stories on Neuheisel's behavior at both Colorado and Washington.

Here is how both of them describe Neuheisel:

He arrives with great fanfare, with everyone warming up to Rick's personality.  He drops into everyone's office and says hello, and there is a buzz around the offices and team as Rick brings his obvious energetic personality to the job.  Everything goes great as Rick promises great things and he touches base with everyone on how important they are to the success of the football program.  The first impressions by people that are experienced in the world of athletics is that Rick promises big, and they are interested to see if he can deliver.  Rick works very hard, putting in long hours, with a keen focus on recruiting, which is natural because recruiting is the lifeblood of successful college football teams.  Everything is going great, until.........the first time something goes wrong, and at the moment both of the people mentioned above relate to us the fundamental weakness of Rick Neuheisel.  He blames other people for problems, instead of taking responsibility for bad decisions that he has made.  As more and more things go wrong, or when the losses start to pile up, Rick continues to blame other people, including his players and fellow coaches and slowly over time a tremendous amount of animosity builds up among the players and coaches.  In Neuheisel's last year at Colorado and Washington there was a lot of infighting and finger-pointing, and the players were distracted by all of this and it led directly to them not performing on the field.  At the end chaos reigned with people not knowing whether Rick was mad at them or not, and that went for players, coaches, and staff members, and that chaos led to just a tremendous amount of built-up animosity that affected everyone associated with the football programs.  At the very end the athletic departments at Colorado and Washington were divided into Rick's camp and everyone else, with one group defending everything that Rick did, including incredibly stupid things if not outright lies he had told, and on the other side people that wouldn't trust Rick if he told them the sky was blue.

 

What does the above mean for Neuheisel and UCLA now?  Well, it lays out a road map and a pattern of behavior, and it allows people to look at Rick and directly see if he reacts in the same way, blaming others and not taking full responsibility for everything that happens within the UCLA football program.  In his press conference, Neuheisel said he was "taking ownership" of his past mistakes, which is a very odd way to phrase that, because that implies that he believed at one time that he was not responsible for those past mistakes.  That is almost the definition of narcissism, and it wouldn't strike anyone as odd that has known Rick that he is someone that thinks a lot of himself.  If there is one thing that UCLA fans can be optimistic about, it is that Rick says he is taking responsibility for his own past mistakes.  If this taking of responsibility continues for Rick for all of the mistakes that he will make at UCLA, and he will make some, then Neuheisel has a chance to win some football games and hang around for awhile.  If on the other hand he blames someone else, be it player, a coach, a staff member, or anyone else for a mistake that he makes, then the pattern of behavior that he displayed at both Colorado and Washington will have reared its ugly head again.  Dan Guerrero knows exactly where he can look for possible cracks in Neuheisel's reign at UCLA, and if Dan is smart he will keep his ears and eyes wide-open and continuously talk to people within and around the UCLA football program.  If Dan starts to hear that Rick is not "taking ownership of his mistakes" then that will signal that there is a problem, and something that must be dealt with immediately.

 

Overall we think Neuheisel's hire at UCLA is OK.  Not in a million years would we have hired Rick Neuheisel at UCLA, because we have an affection for the university and an interest in UCLA doing well both on and off the football field.  A prosperous and healthy UCLA is good for Los Angeles, and a competitive Bruins football team is good for the Pac-10 and college football.  Pete Carroll has been given a free pass in LA for a long time now, and you can bet that Carroll relishes going head-to-head with Neuheisel in the coming years and you have to believe that Carroll thinks he will continue to dominate UCLA and possibly even expand USC's presence in LA, the Pac-10, and beyond.  If there is one thing that Rick Neuheisel should tattoo on his brain and refer to whenever he considers blaming someone besides himself for something that gone wrong with his football program it is Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's maxim for all college football head coaches:

"If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you."  Paul "Bear" Bryant

 

Quality of the Hire:  5

Opposing Coaches:  Doesn't Matter

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Rick Neuheisel is an incredibly risky hire for UCLA.  If it pays off, Rick might be able to split the next 10 games with USC and win a Pac-10 title or two.  If it fails, it will fail spectacularly and all of us will be fascinated to look in at what will be nothing less than one of the largest train wrecks in the history of college football.  This could make the Bill Callahan's hiring at Nebraska look smart, and that thought goes to the heart of why we would have never hired Rick Neuheisel at UCLA.

 

 

Michigan

Retired:  Lloyd Carr

Hired:  Rich Rodriguez

 

Commentary

Herodotus said long ago, "Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks," and no doubt about it, the hiring of Rich Rodriguez by Michigan is a great risk, for both Rodriguez and the Wolverines.  There is a comment you hear uttered by football coaches in the South, and it is usually uttered quietly and under their breath, "They think they invented football up there (at Michigan)."  No doubt Michigan is one of the crown jewels in the game of college football, but in so many ways the game has passed by the people in Ann Arbor, and Michigan's hiring of Rich Rodriguez is no doubt an effort to get Michigan back onto center stage in big time college football.  Bringing Rich Rodriguez to Ann Arbor is both a necessity by the people running Michigan football, but also a huge risk, because Rodriguez is going to be a huge shock to all that Michigan football has stood for in it's 100+ years of existence.  In addition, not only is the style of play that Rodriguez is bringing to Michigan 180 degrees to the Schembechler/Moeller/Carr regime, but Rodriguez personality is going to be a shock as well.  The Michigan media is going to find that Rodriguez is not used to being questioned, about anything, and if things do go bad early on there is a real danger it could get very ugly in Ann Arbor.  It will be up to both Rodriguez and the media to manage their relationship well, so that it doesn't turn into the blood bath that was such a big part of Nick Saban's first year at Alabama.

 

We have no doubt that Rick Rodriguez will win big at Michigan, if he is given the opportunity to both recruit his type of players and the time to fully implement his offense and style of play.  We really wonder if he will be given that opportunity though.  It is so easy to say that Michigan will welcome Rodriguez with open arms and embrace his approach to the game, but Rodriguez's arrival is going to be a massive shock to Michigan football and to it's fan base.  We also hope that the Michigan AD and president are not under any illusion that Rodriguez will be working for them in the sense that Lloyd Carr did, because it is either going to be the Rodriguez way or the highway.  Making large changes to established institutions and cultures is probably the hardest thing to do in this world today, and we have seen how two very different cultures in Nebraska and Bill Callahan crashed and burned.  The difference here is that Rich Rodriguez is a competent football coach, no make that a great college football coach, but Rodriguez is as different from the Michigan people as Callahan was to the folks in Nebraska.  No one should have any illusions here of the growing pains that Michigan is going to face in the first few years of the Rodriguez regime, and all Wolverine fans should be mindful of the wise words of Niccolo Machiavelli on the coming transition:

 

"It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one."  Machiavelli

 

Quality of the Hire:  9

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Rich Rodriguez is a daring and dynamic hire by Michigan, and will be a great hire if the people in Ann Arbor let him do the job he was hired to do.  If they, or the media gets in his way, all bets are off.

 

 

Duke

Fired:  Ted Roof

Hired:  David Cutcliffe

 

Commentary

We never really understood why David Cutcliffe was fired at Ole Miss, because when a head coach is 44-29 (.603) in 6 seasons in Oxford you are pretty close to a miracle worker.  Ole Miss learned the hard way that what Cutcliffe did there was pretty special, and now Duke with a new commitment to their football program find themselves with David Cutcliffe in their employ.  Duke now has a very good football coach at the helm.  David Cutcliffe grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and went to Tuscaloosa to play QB for Paul "Bear" Bryant.  A injury early in Cutcliffe's career at Alabama landed him as an assistant to Coach Bryant, and it would have been hard to get better training than following around the Bear for 4 years.  Cutcliffe proved himself at Tennessee as an innovator on the offensive side of the ball, and as a very talented quarterback coach.  He then went to Ole Miss and took that football program to 5 bowls in 6 seasons, which is still one of the underrated achievements in the past 25 years in the game of college football.  Cutcliffe now shows up at Duke, and unlike Ole Miss or an even better comparison, Vanderbilt, Duke is not a member of the very tough SEC, but rather a member of a conference in the ACC where it can win some football games.  Only last year Jim Grobe took Wake Forest to the ACC Conference Championship, and there is no reason that Duke cannot win the ACC if Wake Forest can.  No, wins will not come overnight, but rather David Cutcliffe will put his head down, recruit players to Duke that can both play the game of football and handle the difficult academic environment in Durham, and he will coach the game of football.  There will be some very noticeable differences in the first season, because David Cutcliffe is going to put a "football team" on the field at Duke, not a collection of individuals, and with his offensive schemes he will have the Blue Devils in several games from the very first kick-off.

 

Thankfully, the Ted Roof era is over at Duke, and the people running the football program in Durham rightly decided that if they were going to field a I-A football team, then they needed a first-rate football coach.  They got that in David Cutcliffe.

 

Quality of the Hire:  9.5

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - David Cutcliffe is a great hire for Duke!

 

 

Houston

Moved:  Art Briles

Hired:  Kevin Sumlin

 

Commentary

What we know about Kevin Sumlin's ability to be a head coach could be written on the back of a napkin, which is the case with most assistant coaches that move up to head coaching jobs these days.  What we do know about Kevin Sumlin is from what we have observed of him before Oklahoma's games as the OU football team warms up.  If you want to see one of the most impressive events in the game of college football today, watch Oklahoma at a road game from the moment they leave their bus through to the kickoff of the game.  If anyone wonders why Bob Stoops win so many games at Oklahoma, just watch his team closely and you will quickly understand that OU is one of the most organized and well-coached teams in the country, and all of that coaching is not being done by Stoops.  It will be interesting to watch Sumlin at Houston in the coming years, because he takes over a program on the rise, that has been made into a perennial contender in Conference USA by Art Briles.  It will be up to Sumlin to keep Houston at that level and to improve it over the coming years.  There is another factor in play here as well, and that is can an assistant off of Bob Stoops' staff be a successful head coach.  Mark Mangino has a terrific 2007 season under his belt, but he is 36-36 (.500) in 6 seasons at Kansas.  Chuck Long is 7-17 (.292) after 2 seasons at San Diego State.  Mike Stoops is 17-29 (.370) in 4 seasons at Arizona, and is facing a make or break season in 2008.  No doubt, Bob Stoops is a great football coach, but legendary football coaches, Paul Bryant, Woody Hayes, Jimmy Johnson, Don James, and many more, always turn out an impressive number of head coaches off of their staffs.  Sumlin is taking over a much better situation than the other 3 coaches that got head coaching jobs off of Bob Stoops' staff, and Sumlin will be expected to not only keep Houston at the top of Conference USA, but to make build on the Briles' era with his own accomplishments.

 

It would have been hard for Houston to hire someone better than Briles, but if Sumlin can bring what he learned at Oklahoma to Houston, this could end up being a very good hire.

 

Quality of the Hire:  8

Opposing Coaches:  Doesn't Matter

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Kevin Sumlin is a good hire for Houston!

 

 

Southern Miss

Fired:  Jeff Bower

Hired:  Larry Fedora

Anyone attending a Southern Miss home game this past season could see that something was just not right.  Watching Jeff Bower on the sidelines, it was obvious that he had lost his passion for the game, and the Southern Miss fans reflected the mood of their head coach as the Eagles put up their 6th season out of the last 7 with at least 5 losses.  The status quo could not continue in Hattiesburg if Southern Miss hoped to keep their football program relevant even in Conference USA, and Jeff Bower was rightfully forced out after the regular season.  With Bower out, Southern Miss main task was to hire someone that could bring some passion back to M. M. Roberts Stadium and with the hiring of Larry Fedora they did just that.  We have had the opportunity to see a good bit of Oklahoma State play this season and if there is one thing that OSU can do it is score points.  Certainly if OSU could have played some defense this year they would have had at least 3 or maybe 4 more wins, and thus it will be up to Fedora to not only bring his high-powered offense to Southern Miss, but also find someone to coach up the defense.

 

You have to give the people at Southern Miss a lot of credit for recognizing that their football program had stagnated, and that the one must thing they faced was to hire someone that could bring some excitement and passion to the head coaching position.  They satisfied that one must with the hiring of Larry Fedora.  Conference USA is a conference that Southern Miss has an opportunity to dominate with the amount of recruits that are within a 3 hour drive of Hattiesburg, and it is going to be great fun watching Larry Fedora put some fire back into the Southern Miss football program.

 

Quality of the Hire:  9

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Larry Fedora is a great hire for Southern Miss!

 

 

Colorado State

Retired: Sonny Lubick

Hired:  Steve Fairchild

 

No matter what Colorado State AD Paul Kowalczyk tells you, he was not prepared for the reaction he and the school got when Sonny Lubick was forced out after the last game of the season.  A very good argument could be made that it was time for Coach Lubick to ride into retirement, but the clumsy way the entire thing was handled put tremendous pressure on Kowalczyk to hire someone that Lubick approved of and had at least some history with Colorado State.  Kowalczyk met both of those requirements with the hiring of Buffalo Bills assistant Steve Fairchild, because Fairchild was on the one the list of "suggested" coaches that Lubick gave to the AD soon after Lubick's "retirement."  However Fairchild got hired, it looks like Colorado State got both an alum and mini-legend at the school when he played there, but also someone who is going to bring a no-nonsense attitude and an attacking offense to Ft. Collins.  With Fairchild's hiring at Colorado State, the increasingly tough Mountain West Conference just got that much tougher, and there is now a very impressive line-up of both young and hungry and veteran head coaches in a conference that is fighting its way onto the national stage.

 

Paul Kowalczyk just may have saved his future with the hiring of Steve Fairchild, and it will now be up to Kowalczyk to reunite the fans and make Colorado State football games a must see event in Ft. Collins.  Certainly, Steve Fairchild must hold up his end of that bargain by quickly putting a competitive football team on the field and the sooner he gets to Ft. Collins and starts recruiting the better.

 

Quality of the Hire:  8.5

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Steve Fairchild is a very good hire for Colorado State.

 

 

Arkansas

Resigned:  Houston Nutt

Hired:  Bobby Petrino

 

Commentary

You cannot understand Bobby Petrino without understanding where he is from.  Helena, Montana is one of those towns that looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and if the Montana legislature is not in session the place is as quiet as Mayberry.  Bobby Petrino grew up in Helena and played football first in high school and then at Carroll College for his father Bob Petrino, who is a coaching legend in the state of Montana.  If you think Bobby Petrino is a little prickly or not the most personable man in the world, then you would be right about that.  Petrino is what he is, and that is a man raised in a state that is both beautiful and rugged, and a place that places hard work and dedication to one's job above everything but faith, country, and family.  There is a very good reason that several people at Auburn were desperate to replace Tommy Tuberville with Petrino a few years back, and that is because Tuberville is a very good football coach, but Petrino is a great football coach.  It is not just that Petrino runs an offensive scheme that is next to impossible to stop with the right players in place, although it is, it is not just that Petrino brings a passion to the college game that is unequaled, and he does, but it is that Petrino has the one "X factor" that is so rarely found inside of head football coaches these days.  That "X factor" is "IT."  What exactly "IT" is, is hard to define, but as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about something else, "I know it when I see it."  Bobby Marks who played for Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama said about Coach Bryant, "I don't know what he had, but he had a lot of it."  Both of those quotes could easily apply to Bobby Petrino, and his hiring by Arkansas and his arrival in the SEC alters the balance of power in that conference for as long as Petrino decides Arkansas is the place he wants to be.  One thing is for sure, Fayetteville, Arkansas is a lot more like Helena, Montana than Louisville or Atlanta ever could or want to be.  Maybe this time, Bobby Petrino has found a home. 

 

Houston Nutt leaves Arkansas for Ole Miss, and his presence in Oxford immediately made Ole Miss a serious contender in the SEC.  Today, Arkansas topped Nutt's move to Ole Miss by hiring one of the best college coaches in the game, and it is going to great fun watching the following line-up of coaches go at each other in the coming years.

 

Alabama - Nick Saban

Arkansas - Bobby Petrino

Auburn - Tommy Tuberville

Florida - Urban Meyer

Georgia - Mark Richt

Kentucky - Rich Brooks

LSU - Les Miles

Miss. St. - Sylvester Croom

Ole Miss - Houston Nutt

South Carolina - Steve Spurrier

Tennessee - Phillip Fulmer

Vanderbilt - Bobby Johnson

 

Don't try to tell us that the SEC is not the best football conference in the country!  Strap yourself in, this is going to be great fun!

 

Quality of the Hire:  10

Opposing Coaches:  Double Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Bobby Petrino is a great hire for Arkansas!

 

 

Washington State

Fired:  Bill Doba

Hired:  Paul Wulff

 

Commentary

If you have not spent any time on the eastern side of the state of Washington then you cannot understand the challenge that faced Washington State AD Jim Sterk in replacing Bill Doba.  In a place that has a very unique culture and tradition, a very unique person was needed to lead the Washington State football team.  In hiring Paul Wulff as the next head football coach at WSU, Jim Sterk met those requirements in almost every way imaginable.  Coach Wulff is only 40 years old, but he has spent 20 years of his life living, playing football, and coaching football on the eastern side of the great state of Washington.  Wulff first joined the Eastern Washington coaching staff in 1993 and 7 years later his was the head football coach at the school.  Watching a couple of the Eastern Washington game tapes that we have been able to get a hold of in recent days shows a coach that favors an attacking offense and an aggressive defense that will stand him in good stead in the Pac-10.  On top of all of the other very positive personal qualities of Paul Wulff, is that he played football at Washington State for both Dennis Erickson and Mike Price.  To give you an idea of the mindset of Paul Wulff, we found these quotes on the bio on Wulff when he was the head football coach at Eastern Washington:

 

"Our effort is really good," he says. "That's the one thing about our program and our expectations here. Our players have a great work ethic, and effort is not an issue. If it is, we address that quickly. It's something that we really pride ourselves on. We believe we play as hard or harder than anybody else."  "As coaches, we want to see improvement from these guys on a daily basis," he says. "Part of the fun that we have as coaches is finding ways to help our players get better. We know if they keep working hard, then they are going to make big strides. These players work really hard - they've done good things in the past and they'll continue to do good things again."  Players with character, competitiveness, perseverance and resiliency are traits that Wulff and his staff look for when they hit the road in search of future Eagles. "We're looking for tough players and ones that want to work hard. They need a certain element of perseverance as well as commitment and pride. They don't always have to be the biggest, strongest and fastest, because we're going to try to get them to be big, strong and fast."

 

Those could be the quotes of Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Pete Carroll, or even Vince Lombardi.  We cannot imagine a better fit than Paul Wulff and Washington State and it will be great fun to watch the youth, passion, and coaching ability that he will bring to the Pac-10 conference.

 

Quality of the Hire:  9

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Paul Wulff is a great hire for Washington State!

 

 

Georgia Tech

Fired:  Chan Gailey

Hired:  Paul Johnson

 

Commentary

Most of us have seen Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus coming down the stretch of a golf tournament, or Michael Jordan playing with the game on the line, or Bob Stoops and Steve Spurrier coaching their guts out in the 4th quarter of a game, and all of these men share one common trait.  The tennis star Billie Jean King called that trait or state of mind, "a champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning."  That is close, but not quite.  All of the above sports superstars hate to lose.  Paul Johnson also hates to lose.  Whether Georgia Tech realizes it or not they just hired a coach with the one championship trait that is un-teachable, and that is the hatred of losing, at anything.  Hatred of losing, or rather the state of mind that finds losing unacceptable is not something that you find in many people, but when that trait is married to competency, look out.  Paul Johnson has demonstrated in his coaching stops at Georgia Southern and Navy that he can overcome great odds to put winners and winning football teams on the field, and we have no doubt he will do just that at Georgia Tech. 

 

Some people may wonder how Paul Johnson's offense will fit in at Georgia Tech and the ACC, but no one on The Flats should fret much about that issue.  Johnson will take a look at his talent and figure out a way to get the ball into the endzone and score points.  Johnson will also put together a first-rate staff that will play a tough no-nonsense defensive style, that when combined with a potent offensive attack will alter the balance of power in the ACC.  We will not be doing our conference coaches rankings until the spring, but if we had to rank the ACC coaches after Johnson's hiring at Georgia Tech, we would place Johnson in the top 4 right along with Frank Beamer, Jim Grobe, and Butch Davis.  Yes, Johnson is that good.  Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich has talked about reinvigorating Yellow Jacket football and he certainly went a long way towards accomplishing that goal by hiring Paul Johnson.  Very quickly (as Tony Barnhart points out in a very good look at the situation, Johnson will get it done at Georgia Tech) Johnson will take control of the Yellow Jacket football program and he will stamp his unique blend of passion and competence that will have the Tech players singing his praises once they get past the shock to the system that is certainly on their way.  Georgia Tech will be much better, and very soon, and that spells trouble for the rest of the ACC, and for big-time college football for that matter.  Paul Johnson is on the big stage now, and he has control of the type of football program that can be put him and his team front and center.  No doubt, this will be great fun watching Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech in the coming years.

 

Quality of the Hire:  9.5

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Paul Johnson is a great hire for Georgia Tech!

 

 

Nebraska

Fired:  Bill Callahan

Hired:  Bo Pelini

 

Commentary

If only Tom Osborne had been the athletic director 4 years ago!  The search came down to Turner Gill and Bo Pelini this time around, which if Osborne had been put in charge after the firing of Frank Solich (Coach Osborne would not have fired Frank Solich in the first place) he probably would have made the same decision then that he made today.  Bo Pelini has a very impressive resume, with stints at Iowa (under Hayden Fry), San Francisco 49ers (under George Seifert), New England Patriots (under Pete Carroll),  Green Bay Packers, Nebraska (under Frank Solich), Oklahoma (under Bob Stoops), and LSU.  Wow is all you can say to that resume, and Pelini seems perfectly suited for a Nebraska program that desperately needed to return to it's roots.  Certainly Coach Osborne saw a lot of himself in Bo Pelini, and no doubt Pelini's young age was not an issue (Pelini will turn 40 in a few weeks), because Coach Osborne took over Nebraska when he was only 36.  As many people have said, as did Pelini did in his press conference today, the importance of reuniting the Cornhusker faithful after the debacle of Bill Callahan will be central to rebuilding the Nebraska football program.  Pelini will bring a dedication and passion to Nebraska that well may be equaled by other Big 12 coaches, but will certainly not be surpassed. 

 

We are certainly high on the hiring of Bo Pelini at Nebraska, but there is one very key element to Pelini's move from assistant to head coach that must be addressed head on before he ever coaches a game at Nebraska.  When watching Bo Pelini on the sideline at LSU he reminded many of here at Coaches Hot Seat of someone, but we couldn't quite put a finger on just who.  After talking about it some more, the person we were thinking about was finally identified.  Bob Stoops, when he was an assistant to Steve Spurrier at Florida was that person.  The passion that Pelini so obviously has for his players and the game of football is clearly worn on Pelini's sleeve as he stompes around the sidelines at LSU exhorting his defense to play hard, to play smart, and to play like a champion.  That passion though can also be Pelini's Achilles Heel, because as Bob Stoops learned at Oklahoma, being a head coach is much different than being an assistant.  All of the players, all of the fans, and everyone else that has a stake in the outcome of Nebraska football, will look towards the head football coach for leadership and direction, and it cannot be overemphasized the importance of the head coach keeping his cool and staying in control at all times on the sidelines.  Tom Osborne is a great example for Pelini, but Bob Stoops is even better, because both Stoops and Pelini bring a similar passion and outlook to the game, and Stoops has learned the importance of staying in command and in control while coaching a football game.  Yes, there will be times when passion and fire are appropriate, but Pelini must master the transition to being a head football coach if he really wants to win big at Nebraska.  As Paul Bryant said long ago, "If you hoot and holler all the time, the players just get used to it."  It will be Pelini's job to learn when to hoot, when to holler, and also when to shut up and just coach.

 

Quality of the Hire:  8.5

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Bo Pelini is a very good hire for Nebraska!

 

 

Baylor

Fired:  Guy Morriss

Hired:  Art Briles

 

Commentary

If a school is going to bother to field a team at the highest level of college football, then they need to make a commitment to compete and win at that level.  With the hiring of Art Briles, Baylor has put down a marker that it is no longer going to accept being a second class program in the Big 12.  Art Briles is one of the rising stars in the college coaching ranks and over the past five years he has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country at Houston.  Briles will now bring his unique brand of spread offense to Baylor coupled with an intense coaching style to a place that was badly in need of a change in direction.  Ian McCaw the Baylor AD conducted a thorough and efficient coaching search, including talking to Baylor legend Mike Singletary, and he finished strong by landing one of the brightest minds in the game in Art Briles.

 

Expectations at Baylor are always a tricky thing since they play in the Big 12 South, so Briles first goals will be to get the Bears to a .500 or winning season and that will not be an easy goal with the current state of the program.  Taking a peak at the 2008 Baylor schedule

 

Aug. 30      Wake Forest

Sept. 6       Northwestern State

Sept. 13      Washington State

Sept. 20     at Connecticut

Oct. 4         Oklahoma

Oct. 11        Iowa State

Oct. 18       at Oklahoma State

Oct. 25       at Nebraska

Nov. 1         Missouri

Nov. 8        at Texas

Nov. 15       Texas A&M

Nov. 22      at Texas Tech

 

….it is hard to imagine that Briles will be able move the needle much in his first year.  There really is only one sure win on the schedule, Northwestern State, and all three of the non-conference games will be very tough to win.  Baylor is surely counting on a long-term commitment to Briles to turn around their floundering football program, and with the toughness of the Big 12 the rebuilding project at Baylor will be much tougher than what Briles faced at Houston.  Nevertheless, we fully expect Briles to right this ship, and for the first time in a long time make the Baylor game for other teams in the Big 12 something that they will really have to pay attention to and worry about.  No doubt, head football coaches across the Big 12 yesterday sighed in resignation that Baylor was indeed going to start taking football seriously again, and that is not good news in a conference that now has very few weaknesses anywhere in the conference.

 

Quality of the Hire:  9

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Art Briles is a great hire for Baylor!

 

 

Ole Miss

Fired Ed Orgeron

Hired Houston Nutt

 

Commentary

There are two things can never be questioned about Houston Nutt, those being Nutt’s love for his players and his passion for the game of college football.  Without a doubt Ole Miss made a very good hire by bring Houston Nutt to Oxford, and his presence at Ole Miss will alter the SEC West for years to come.  For many reasons things went wrong for Nutt at Arkansas and we here at Coaches Hot Seat sat in disbelief in the days after the LSU game that Nutt might actually try to stay on in Fayetteville.  Judging by the e-mails we have gotten from Arkansas fans and the response from those same fans when Nutt’s name was brought up in person, Nutt's actions and continued presence created a toxic environment at Arkansas and both sides were wise to recognize that this could not continue.  With all of that being said, Pete Boone (AD) and Robert Khayat (Chancellor) pulled off a coup of sorts in getting Nutt to Ole Miss and they should be commended for recognizing that both competence and a big change was needed in Oxford.  The only thing we would quibble with on this hiring is the lack of a process that included qualified minority candidates, but we can certainly understand Ole Miss’ need to move quickly to nail down a competent coach to right its floundering football program.

 

The first and most obvious question is what are the expectations for Houston Nutt at Ole Miss?  People tell us that Orgeron piled up a lot of talent in Oxford, and as Nutt said in his press conference, he certainly plans on making Ole Miss a winner, so that is a good place to start.  The first goal at Ole Miss should be to get to at least a .500 record and get their team bowl eligible, and we have no doubt that is an achievable goal in year 1.  Beyond year 1, there is no reason that Houston Nutt will not be able to make Ole Miss a perennial contender and a winner of the SEC West division.  Houston Nutt said in his press conference that, “The way you spell fun is W-I-N.”  No doubt Houston Nutt will bring a lot of fun to Ole Miss, and it is going to be great fun watching Nutt as he brings his passion to Rebel football over the next few years.

 

Quality of the Hire:  9

Opposing Coaches:  Damn!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Houston Nutt is a great hire for Ole Miss!

 

 

Texas A&M

Fired - Dennis Franchione

Hired - Mike Sherman

 

Commentary

When you go 32-28 in 5 seasons at Texas A&M you should be fired.  Forget the "Secret VIP Newsletter" which was only window dressing to the main reasons that Franchione was sent packing.  Franchione was a bad hire by A&M from the word go, and we surely thought that A&M would hire someone that would change a football culture that is badly in need of change.  Which brings us to Mike Sherman, who was hired to be the next head coach at Texas A&M today.  If you have ever entered your house and thought that something was just not right, then you know how we feel about Mike Sherman.  Something just doesn't feel right about this hire, and that is always a very troubling feeling.  Many of us felt the same way when Bill Callahan was introduced in Lincoln, and John Mackovic at Arizona, and both of those hires were unmitigated disasters.  Yes, Mike Sherman is a nice guy, and he did have a nice run as head coach of the Green Bay Packers (on the arm of future Hall of Famer Brett Favre many would add), but he is not the right hire for Texas A&M at this moment in time.

 

Standing on Kyle Field leading up to a Texas A&M football game is not only a very special thing, it is pretty damn near a religious experience, and in so many ways embodies all the best in America.  First you have the Corps of Cadets, and then the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, and always there with a passion unequaled anywhere else in this game are the Aggie fans.  The lead-up to an A&M football game could bring tears to the hardest of men, and swell up the heart of even the most cynical American.  The Aggie War Hymn, the Ballad of the Green Berets, and the theme to Patton fill the air and the thought crosses your mind for a moment that you just might suit up and hit someone.  Anyone with a heart cannot help but stand in amazement and awe as the A&M football team enters Kyle Field and the Aggie Nation rises up in support of it's boys, and it is that very passion of the Aggie Fans that so badly needs to be harnessed by an A&M head football coach.  Not in our memories has any coach at A&M been able to lasso up the power of Kyle Field and direct it towards the opposing team, and that is a mighty force that has been very badly misused.  This is the problem we have with Mike Sherman, who is little different than his predecessors, Franchione, Slocum, and Sherrill.  At the very moment that A&M needed to strike and hire a change agent that could bring passion and fire to Aggieland, along with uniting the fan base and alumni, Mike Sherman shows up at the podium.  What really is the point in replacing Franchione with another Franchione, and that is why we think this is a terrible hire for A&M, and one which we feel will lead to another coaching change within 4 years in College Station. We fervently hope that Mike Sherman proves us wrong, because there are coaches we cannot help but root for, Ron Zook and Ty Willingham come to mind, and we do hope that Sherman and Byrne makes us look foolish.  Finally, it really is unbelievable that Mike Sherman is being allowed to finish the NFL season as the Houston Texans offensive coordinator, when he should be devoting all of his time to his new job in College Station.  Does anyone really believe that the Texans need Sherman to finish the season for a last place team, who has a head coach in Gary Kubiak who was an offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos for 11 seasons?  Not only was the hiring of Mike Sherman a mystery to us, the fact that Texas A&M is allowing him to continue coaching with the Texans defies all explanation. 

 

Quality of the Hire:   2

Opposing Coaches:   Loving It!

 

Coaches Hot Seat Bottom Line - Mike Sherman is a terrible hire for Texas A&M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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