Winners, Losers on College Football's Coaching Carousel
1. Rick Neuheisel: Remember the full-page ad that UCLA took out in The Los Angeles Times after hiring Neuheisel, an alum, in 2007? It showed Neuheisel pointing demonstratively below the words "The Football Monopoly in Los Angeles is Officially Over."
Later some wiseacre from SoCal added, accurately I might add, the word "There" to this ad.
Finally, Neuheisel's boast may approach reality. He is, after all, the only current head coach in the Pac-10 to have won the Rose Bowl (and has done so both as a coach and a player). Last week the Bruins landed 6-foot-4, 230-pound stud Anthony Barr, an L.A. native whose dad, Tony Brooks, and uncle, Reggie Brooks, both played running back at Notre Dame.
Neuheisel's Bruins beat Lane Kiffin's Vols in Knoxville last season. And USC could be headed for NCAA penalties in the coming months. The monopoly may be over, and chasing USC for Hollywood hegemony is not longer a trivial pursuit.
2. Butch Jones: The Cincinnati hire has found a lucrative niche for himself filling whatever vacuum Brian Kelly creates. When Kelly departed Central Michigan for Cincy, Jones stepped in and did a more than estimable job, leading the Chippewas to a 20-3 record in the MAC in three seasons. In December, Kelly left Cincinnati for South Bend and the Bearcats wisely did not over-think the dilemma. Enter Jones.
3. Notre Dame: According to Brian Kelly, seven Irish football players threw up on the opening day of "Camp Kelly" earlier this month -- and that was just by the end of the stretching exercises (note to Irish gridders: lay off the breakfast burritos). No coach will put in more hours than Charlie Weis did, but Kelly possesses the energy and acumen that these players have been begging for.
4. Mike Riley: Name another coach whose team lost its final two games and yet has seen his stock soar higher in the interim. When Pete Carroll bolted Heritage Hall for the NFL, Riley, 56, was the first coach USC sought to hire. Despite never having taken the Beavers to a January bowl, Riley turned down the Trojans -- and received a three-year contract extension through the 2019 season.
5. Vol Nation: Tennessee as a sympathetic figure? Lane Kiffin really is a miracle-worker.
6. Ruffin McNeill: One day you're working for a pirate (Mike Leach), the next you're coaching Pirates (at your alma mater, East Carolina). McNeil is to the Texas Tech shed fiasco what Ted Koppel was to the Iran hostage crisis.
7. Grampa Lou: Lou Holtz, an Orlando-area resident, gets to see his grandchildren more often as son Skip migrates from Greenville, N.C., to Tampa.
1. USC: In Lane Kiffin athletic director Mike Garrett hired a coach who has a history, albeit a brief one, with playing fast by the rules and talking too proud. This in the city where TMZ, the muckraking site Sports by Brooks, and a newspaper (the L.A. Times) that stockpiles Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalists, is based.
Somewhere Shelley Smith is pining for Pete Carroll to pull a Leno.
It is only a matter of time before someone launches a "Lane Violations" site enumerating the secondary violations that Kiffin and his staff commit in their reckless quest to maintain USC's west-of-the-Rockies dominance.
2. Bobby Bowden: Someone who wins 389 Division I football games (or, according to the NCAA, 375) can never be considered a loser. If you saw the look on the legendary Florida State coach's face as his wife planted a smooch on him during his final postgame press conference after the Gator Bowl win, you know that even at age 80 he's in no mood to retire.
3. Coaches Who Never Played: For a while there, Mike Leach, Mark Mangino and Charlie Weis made for fascinating copy. Three guys who never played a down of college football and yet led their respective programs (at Texas Tech, Kansas and Notre Dame) to either a BCS bowl or a top-five ranking or both.
Now all three are out of a job in college coaching, the first two after allegations of player abuse culminated in their removal.
4. Grand Valley State: In the last nine seasons the Division II Lakers have compiled a 116-6 record and four national championships. Alas, the two coaches who led them to that record, Kelly and then Chuck Martin, will be posing for the Notre Dame team photo come August. Then again, big-shoes filler Matt Mitchell was the defensive coordinator at GVSU: that's the same job both Kelly and Martin held before ascending to the top job in Allendale, Mich.
5. Buffalo: Everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before Turner Gill returned to his Big 12 roots, but that does little to dissipate the pain of his exodus.
6. Texas Tech: Mike Leach was unorthodox but he sure was entertaining (remember when he installed the student kick-contest winner as the team's new kicker?) and his passing offense was revolutionary. Under Leach the Red Raiders were the type of team that could fall behind 38-7, and they were the type of team that could still win (as they did against Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl). They also never won fewer than eight games the past six seasons. Good luck succeeding the winningest coach in school history, Tommy Tuberville.
7. Craig James, Michael Irvin and Sean Salisbury: Texas-based ESPN commentators who were jettisoned by the bosses in Bristol. Is James next? Whatever discontent the Pony expressed to his son's head coach in Lubbock and whether it was warranted, it may be difficult for ESPN to keep such a polarizing figure on the payroll.