Jay Greeson: Time gives true grades for hirings

Jay Greeson: Time gives true grades for hirings

December 11th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

We almost can close the book on the coach-hiring craziness that was the last 20-plus days across the South. It was a roller coaster that left four Southeastern Conference schools with new coaches and two former successful SEC coaches in new jobs in somewhat shocking locales.

All six of those fan bases are looking around wondering who will fill out the staffs and who will recruit well and on and on and whether these guys are the future or the future buyout.

In the end, the only answer we have as college football fans is hope. We hope these hires turn out. We hope these guys are as good as they say and will do what they say in the introductory news conferences. We hope the feeling-good one-liners and pledges that we long to hear are true and worthy and just.

We hope as each new coach steps to the mic and goes through the mad lib of speeches.

"We'll work harder than anyone else."

"We'll get back to [fill in the blank] football."

"We embrace the challenge."

"We'll work harder than everyone else." (They say this one more than once because they really mean it.)

It's the same song and dance, really, just change out school-colored ties and pre-fabbed one-liners about family or other fan bases.

It's tempting to try to grade each hire, now that Butch Jones is on board in Knoxville. Instead of figuring where Jones fits in the hierarchy of rankings among Arkansas landing Bret Bielema, Auburn hiring Gus Malzahn and Kentucky getting Mark Stoops, let's take a deep breath.

Let's skip the reasoning and the moral hand-wringing about the hirings of Tommy Tuberville at Cincinnati and Bobby Petrino at Western Kentucky and see if those big fish can swim in those small ponds. (We're betting the fan bases at Cincy and Western Kentucky are happy with the replacements after the coaching departures of Jones and Willie Taggart, respectively.)

As Dean Wormer said to Daniel S. Day in his office in the moments before Flounder threw up on him, "All grades incomplete."

That's the only way to look at it. And it doesn't matter what the grade is today: If they win they'll be loved, and if they don't they'll be lambasted; and in the case of Gene Chizik, a lot of each in a matter of 22 months.

That's not to say public perception doesn't matter. It does. In a real and tangible way. The internal perception from a college fan base about their football coach is going to depreciate roughly 5 percent every year. Whether it's this booster who was accidentally snubbed or that group of message-board leaders who are weary of the staff, it happens. Some years, it won't be 5 percent. Some years, it will be more. Some coaches -- Saban, Spurrier -- are Teflon to the theory, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule.

So if a coach starts with a 100-percent approval rating and does a good job for a decade -- and you'll have to do a good job to keep an SEC job for 10 years -- he'll be hovering around the hot-seat-button line of a 50-percent approval rating for no other reason than day-to-day depreciation. And that's after a successful decade in the sport's most cutthroat league filled with cutthroat super coaches.

Is this fair? Of course not. It's just our theory.

The best recent examples: Phillip Fulmer, Mark Richt and Tuberville. Each delivered on a grand scale. Each had ups and downs, and each got to right around that 10-year mark and the seat started to warm despite the success and consistency.

Now, if the fan base's approval rating starts at less than 100 percent, the curve begins at a lower point, so the drop is quicker and can be happen at bigger chunks, since there already are folks in the "Anti-" camp.

What does this mean as it applies to the six coaches at new schools? That's hard to know other than they are faced with huge hurdles and are paid huge sums to clear them. Winning is the ultimate converter, of course, regardless of who wanted this guy or that rock star.

You win, you win them over. You lose, you lose your job.

And that's a fact no matter what the initial grade was.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com