Randy Smith: How The Coaching Carousel Turns

Tuesday, July 17, 2018 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Hiring college football coaches is not an exact science. (The recent Tennessee hiring fiasco is a perfect example) Of the 14 head coaches in the SEC this season, only three have been at their current schools for five years or more. Those three are, Nick Saban at Alabama for ten years, Gus Malzahn at Auburn for five years and Mark Stoops at Kentucky for five. While it appears there is much less loyalty in college football these days, it's been this way for quite a while. Very few schools are going to have the same football coach for much longer than a decade. The Atlantic Coast Conference has six of the 14 head coaches with at least five years at the same school, and the ACC has three coaches at one school for ten years or more.
They include Dabo Swinney at Clemson, David Cutcliffe at Duke and Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech.

50 years ago guys like Darrell Royal at Texas and Frank Broyles at Arkansas could have coached as long as they wanted to. It was the same situation for Woody Hayes at Ohio State and Bo Schembechler at Michigan. In the SEC, Bear Bryant roamed the Alabama sidelines for twenty-five years, and since he retired in 1982, 'Bama has had six head coaches in a span of 36 years. As far as Tennessee goes, Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer were in place for 32 years combined and since Fulmer left at the end of the 2008 season, the Volunteers have had four head coaches in a nine year period. 

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is this-College football coaching hires are much more sophisticated than they used to be. Most coaches have agents, there are firms that will vet coaches and assist in hiring a new coach for you, or you can do what John Currie at Tennessee did and handle everything yourself but make sure you don't screw things up as Currie did..
Each coach who turns a program around and wins quickly is usually out to get the next best job. There are exceptions to that rule like Austin Peay's Will Healy. In one year, Healy went from   0-11 to 7-4, with three of those four losses coming to FBS schools. Healy turned down a nice offer from South Alabama to stay with the Governors. That's something you don't see everyday. 

Of the six new coaches in the SEC this fall, the best hire is said to be Dan Mullen by Florida. Mullen made quite a name for himself at Mississippi State before moving to the Gators in the SEC East. Next is Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M, Joe Moorhead to Mississippi State, Chad Morris to Arkansas, then Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee. I'm sure that the way Tennessee's coaching search developed, is the reason there may be some reservations about Pruitt's hire.   

The only way to declare if a coaching hire is a success is on the field. Wins versus losses, graduation rates, and ticket sales all lead to coaching success, Of course the ultimate success is a championship; first a league title, then a national crown. Even that won't save a coach if things suddenly turn the wrong way, just ask Phillip Fulmer. One thing for sure, we'll find out a lot about all these coaching hires in less than 50 days, when teams tee it up and get after 'em.
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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com


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