By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The college football season always sees its fair share of coaching changes. I’ve been over them in this space before and last week gave a candidate who should be getting more consideration for job openings. However, there seems to be a disturbing trend among fan bases and programs within the Power 5 conferences in particular. Getting rid of coaches who consistently produce wins year after year just because they “don’t win the big games.”
The latest example hasn’t been finalized yet, but the rumors abound. Les Miles is seemingly packing his bags and buying his plane ticket out of Baton Rouge just three weeks after having his team ranked #2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Three straight losses can take you from the proverbial penthouse to the outhouse quickly.
Miles’ last two seasons in Baton Rouge have been “rough,” I’ll grant you. But, the man has won 10+ games seven times in his time at the school. His winning percentage is the highest in school history. Yet, since the 2012 title game he’s been unable to beat Nick Saban (as if that’s an easy task) and because of that, he’s being looked at as a buyout candidate.
It’s not just Miles either. Last year, Nebraska got rid of Bo Pelini because they were tired of nine win seasons. This year? They’ll be lucky to get to six. Georgia fans are upset with coach Mark Richt. The list of coaches who have found themselves in hot water for this type of reasoning continues to expand. Which begs the question: why?
The simple answer is this. Fans, athletic directors, and boosters find themselves looking at Nick Saban and Urban Meyer and thinking: “We have to get ourselves a guy like that.” That thinking would imply that there are a ton of guys out there who can come into your program and immediately turn it into a national title contender within three years. Or that you can find a coach who will come in and roll up a 48-4 record in his first four years the way that Meyer has done at Ohio State.
Newsflash: there aren’t that many coaches out there who can do that. AD’s across the nation are searching for “that guy” who can come in and make an impact similar to those two coaches, but in reality there’s none that can. Saban and Meyer are on a different plane. They’ve wrecked the curve for coaches throughout the country. If you aren’t making a run at a national title within three years? Turn up the heat. After four? Start packing your bags.
Consider this, fans, when you’re dreaming of finding the next Meyer or Saban: Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, and Bear Bryant are widely accepted as three of the best coaches in the history of the sport. In each of their first four years they became legends of coaching (Penn State, Florida State, and Alabama, respectively), but none came close to the ridiculous 48-4 mark Meyer’s put up at Ohio State. Nor did they approach the 43-11 start that Saban put up. Paterno went 35-7, Bowden 34-12, and Bear Bryant was 31-7-5.
The point is, to expect your team to find the next all-time great coach, and make no mistake that’s the territory we’re talking about with Meyer and Saban, is unrealistic. If you feel your team has stagnated under the current head coach as UGA fans do with Richt or LSU fans do with Miles, that’s fine. By all means, express your fandom and call for his firing. Dream your rose colored dreams of making a genius hire who will leave their mark in the history books.
But, be careful what you wish for. Look no further than Meyer’s old school: Florida. The Gators replaced him with a guy who was, at the time, a widely applauded hire in Will Muschamp. Yet, just four short years and a 28-21 record later, they were back on the market again. The grass always looks greener on the other side, that doesn’t mean that it is.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.