Friday, December 9, 2011

The Coaching Carousel’s Crazy Spin

image We call this the College Football Silly Season© for a reason. Yesterday, a normally solid reporter at the Houston Chronicle wrote that Georgia coach Mark Richt had emerged as a legitimate candidate for the Texas A&M position. Texas A&M is one of a handful of big time college football coaching jobs. Big school, big budget and big aspirations usually draw big name candidates.

It’s not hard to believe that they’d be interested in the longest serving head coach in the SEC. What is hard to believe is that the interest is mutual, especially after Richt coached himself from hotseat to SEC East Champ; from imminent termination to contract extension. The same report, citing an Texas A&M “insider,” also said that Richt moving to take over the Aggies would also send Alabama DC Kirby Smart home to coach the Bulldogs. Call me silly, but I have a hard time believing that any Texas A&M “insider” has knowledge of who Georgia would tap as a replacement. I also have a hard time believing that Georgia would hire an assistant as its new head coach. After 11 years of relative success, UGA goes with a proven head coach, or you can label that coaching search a dismal failure.

The Penn State job remains open as well, but whoever takes that job in the wake of the revolting Sandusky scandal would have to be insane, unless his name is Jay Paterno or Scrap Bradley. Both have reportedly interviewed and the Football Alumni are said to be firmly insisting on a Penn Stater as Joe Paterno’s replacement. Indeed, I’ve been told by business contacts within that community that “it’s either a Penn Stater, or else.” There had been heated speculation that the Nittany Lions would turn to Al Golden, but that seemingly came to an end when Golden signed a contract extension last month.

Out west, UCLA and Arizona State are still both looking for head coaches after firing Rick Neuheisel and Dennis Erickson, respectively. ASU appeared to have their search wrapped up early this week as reports surfaced that SMU’s June Jones was set to take over. That all fell apart only hours later when negotiations were abruptly broken off. UCLA’s search appears to be only slightly less clueless.

With four BCS automatic qualifying jobs open, there’s real potential for an entertaining spin on the carousel. The hires made by those four programs will create openings elsewhere, setting off new rounds of coaching searches, new rounds of speculation and “insider” reports and more silly season enjoyment.

A few entertaining names to watch: Kevin Sumlin, Houston Nutt (seriously), Phil Fulmer (no, seriously), Kirby Smart, Gus Malzahn, Charlie Strong and Ellis Johnson. Chris Peterson’s name comes up every year, and every year he returns to the Smurf Turf. Could this year be different?  Spin, baby. Spin!

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