Wiedmer: College football in mean season

Wiedmer: College football in mean season

December 3rd, 2009 by Mark Wiedmer in Blogssec

A few weeks before this football season began former Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley addressed the hiring and firing of assistant coaches to protect a head coach's job.

"I never fired one," said Dooley. "But I reassigned a few of them. You've got to know when something isn't working and move on."

On Wednesday, current UGA coach Mark Richt -- whom Dooley hired nine years ago -- moved on. He fired defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, reportedly a close friend. He also let go linebackers coach John Jancek and longtime defensive ends coach Jon Fabris.

It won't guarantee that the Bulldogs will be better in 2010. It will make Richt's off-season booster club meetings far more pleasant than if he'd kept Martinez around another year.

It also proved that Richt is willing to put the program ahead of his probable personal preferences, which has sometimes been debatable.

But what it most did was again underscore that college football's mean season is reaching its zenith, as if the recent ousters of Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and Florida State's Bobby Bowden hadn't already hammered that point home.

This isn't to say that the arrogant Weis didn't deserve his fate, or that Bowden shouldn't have retired long before FSU felt the need to squeeze him out.

But there is also no guarantee that change will always reverse one's fortunes. Four years ago, just after a 49-0 loss to LSU, nearly every football fan in the state of Kentucky wanted UK coach Rich Brooks' head on a platter.

Three-and-a-half years on the job, Brooks stood 12-29. He couldn't have been less likely to coach the Cats a fifth season if he'd said he preferred greyhound racing to the Kentucky Derby.

But UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart stood by Brooks. The team won five of its last six, including a Music City Bowl victory over Clemson. UK hasn't had a losing season since and is headed to its fourth straight bowl.

Not that loyalty always equals lucidity. One year after giving Mike Shula a new contract, Bama fired him and hired Nick Saban, who has the Crimson Tide in its second straight SEC title game in his third year on the job.

Similarly, Mississippi State upped Sylvester Croom's contract, then fired him the next year. Ty Willingham took Stanford to the Rose Bowl before jumping to Notre Dame, where he accomplished little. Surfacing again at Washington, he went 0-12 last season before getting axed.

And let's not forget about Michigan. Convinced that Lloyd Carr had lost his touch, the Maize and Blue canned him in favor of Rich Rodriguez. Two losing seasons later, one of college football's proudest programs has never looked worse.

Beyond that, the obsession to win big now means that even a program such as Florida or Alabama can no longer rest easy when a Notre Dame comes open. Even the staunchest Gator or Tide backer won't sleep easy until the Fighting Irish job is filled with someone other than Urban Meyer or Saban.

After all, how many times did Saban say he had no interest in the Alabama post before he left the Miami Dolphins for the Capstone?

Nevertheless, college football's mean season of hirings and firings is once more upon us. Too bad it may take years to know if those who moved on also moved up.