All Aboard the College Coaching Carousel
In the MLB the off-season is called the ’Hot Stove League’. In the world of F1 their off-season is called ‘Silly Season’. The NFL, NBA, and NHL need to get themselves some fun names for their off seasons. Maybe ‘There Won’t Be a Day ESPN Ain’t Covering Us’, ‘Gonna Get My Buddies To Come Play With Me’, and ‘New Hard to Pronounce Names Coming to My Team’ respectively.
For NCAA football it’s the ‘College Coaching Carousel’. And that time of year is here! Hop on and try to keep from getting dizzy as I give you the so far list of some big name schools where their coach resigned or was fired or lured away a coach creating another opening.
USC-fired Clay Helton
LSU-Ed Orgeron resigned
Texas Tech-fired Matt Wells
TCU-Gary Patterson resigned
Washington-fired Jimmy Lake
Washington State-fired Nick Rolovich
Virginia Tech-fired Justin Fuente
Florida-fired Dan Mullen
SMU-Sonny Dykes resigned
Louisiana-Billy Napier resigned
Oklahoma-Lincoln Riley resigned
Notre Dame-Brian Kelly resigned
That’s 3 PAC-12 schools. 3 from the Big-12. 2 out of the SEC. 1 each from the Sun Belt, AAC, ACC and probably the biggest program in the nation, independent Notre Dame.
(I mention Louisiana from the Sun Belt and SMU from the AAC because even though they are non-Power 5 conferences, the better programs in those conferences usually get their coaches poached as we are seeing already this year)
There are some trends to look at here when you consider where some conferences are as a whole, recruiting, and what is most likely the start of super conferences with Oklahoma and Texas set to join the SEC in 2025. I’ll comment on a few of what I think are the biggest.
Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma for USC
The Sooners have been the class of the Big-12 for a long, long time. The Big-12 has been as high as the 3rd best Power 5 conference and as low as 5th depending on the year. Teams from the Big-8, Southwest, and then the Big-12 were often poached to join the bigger confrences. Like what is going on with Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC. Where do the Sooners figure into the SEC power rankings? Not sure. But the SEC is going to become even more of a meat grinder than it already is. If you were the head coach at Oklahoma how excited are you to recruit against Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M, and still Texas? It’s going to be a bloodbath. Pair that with having to face those schools year after year and try to survive with less than 2 losses I see what Riley is doing by going to a lesser PAC-12 conference, recruiting kids to come to sunny Los Angeles, and the history and name recognition of USC. Better shot there to go undefeated or 11-1 than the SEC is going to become. He will have 3 years to put the Trojans on a championship path when the SEC starts to eat itself in 2025.
Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for LSU
Everything stated above about what the SEC is and is going to become is what Kelly is stepping into. I love LSU. That is a great place to play football. Super enthusiastic and rabid fan base geaux-ing to Tiger Stadium at off beat start times make it a damn cool place to play. A little more isolated than some other areas the SEC covers. And they are the biggest school in the state. Keeping the top Louisiana kids in state and playing at LSU is probably easier than in the states of Florida or Texas or Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania. But top recruits will always consider Notre Dame. Espically now that they are back into the National Championship picture. There is pressure to win at LSU but it isn’t quite the same you face at Notre Dame. Winning at Notre Dame is expected, winning at LSU can be rewarded. If Brian Kelly can win a title or 2 at LSU he’d never have to buy himself a meal in the entire state, and there’s some good food to be found on the bayou, I gah-rawn-tee!
Billy Napier leaving Louisiana for Florida
Have I not given you enough about the SEC already? If you can rule the SEC like Nick Saban has they will build statues of you, but there won’t be another Saban for quite some time. The Gators are among the college football elites, a little so-so as of late, but it is a school like USC that has some warm and sunny weather to draw some players in. Can Napier become a Spurrier or a Meyer? Time will tell. But this is one of those deals where a coach that built a good program at a smaller school gets brought into the big leagues. All college coaches start somewhere small, build a good team, then move somewhere better. You almost never see a guy with no head coaching experience get offered a job like Florida. Schools like that have the resources to pick the next hot new thing. That is what’s going on with Napier to Florida. Not gonna knock the guy for taking the gig, the minute ESPN or Sports Illustrated offer me a job I’ll be making a Kool-Aid man sized hole in the wall, just kidding about that, there’s gonna be a statue of me one day out front of the Motion Sports Network headquarters, or at least a hallway named after me. But I digress. If you are Napier you gotta take the job. There’s going to b a lot of shuffling in the SEC over the next few years and maybe he can do something to put the Gators on top.
Justin Fuente fired at Virginia Tech, hire defensive coordinator Brent Pry from Penn State
Enough SEC talk. What’s up in the ACC. Virginia Tech in the first half of the 2000s was a perennial contender. They helped stabilize football in the ACC and I think brought some competition along with Miami to keep Florida State from defecting back then. The ACC most years has a Florida State or Clemson or Virginia Tech or Louisville that can make some noise at the top of the college football rankings. Not 2 or 3 that could help lift the conference into a bigger spotlight like the SEC and Big-10 often do but are a Power 5 conference. Tech is a school with some national recognition and Lane Stadium is a crazy atmosphere to play in. The Hokies haven’t announced a new coach yet, but this is another really good job where you can easily win recruiting in your state, play some premier nationally televised games, contend in your conference, and every so often be in playoff contention. They should be able to land a very good coach.
Head coaching vacancy at Notre Dame
As the late Keith Jackson would say, it’s ‘the granddaddy of them all’. With Notre Dame games broadcast nationally each week and taking in all that revenue themselves, they have the #1 recruiting tool in the country. Even if the SEC is the best conference that love has to be spread out to all member schools, and it is a more regional type of love. There are Fighting Irish fans from sea to shining sea. As the last major independent their days of national prominence may be numbered. It hasn’t hurt them up until now and it may not for quite some time. This isn’t a regional school like Penn State, Oregon, LSU, Florida, Florida State, or Miami. They have a wider reach than even Ohio State, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, and even Alabama. Then there is the storied history of Notre Dame. 13 national titles is 4th most behind Princeton, Alabama, and Yale-yet none since 1988 letting Alabama pass them. There were a few lean and down years in South Bend but Brian Kelly was looking like he fixed that and got them on the right path. If they were to break through and win a title I could see them starting a new dynasty. But nowthey are seeking a new head coach, and with some of the moves already happening they might be a bit behind the 8 ball. With Riley being lured to USC and Kelly to LSU could the Irish pull a similar move? Luke Fickell from Cincinnati? Manny Diaz from Miami? Mike Gundy from Oklahoma State? Dave Aranda from Baylor? Dabo Swinney from Clemson? Or what about Urban Meyer from the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars? Meyer has said he doesn’t want to go back to college but he has some Midwest connections from his time at Ohio State. Then there’s some baggage having to do with the video of him in an Ohio bar after a Jaguars loss. He might be a stretch but he’s maybe the biggest name of all and has a very successful college coaching resume but his negatives may be to much for Notre Dame.
The college coaching carousel has only begun to spin. Wait until bowl season where some teams that didn’t live up to expectations will only be adding to the total number of vacancies. Just focus on one point and don’t let yourself get to dizzy, there ain’t no barf bags.