Sunday, December 21, 2014

As the Carousel Turns: What We Know Now

The 2014-15 bowl season is now underway, and most of the coaching changes have been dealt with for the 2015 season. It has been a rather quiet Carousel season compared to years past. Many schools chose to extend their current coaches, locking them up to long term deals, and therefore making them unavailable to move around. They, however, may be the lucky coaches, those who were showed faith by the schools they worked for and represented. That is a rarity these days...just ask Bo Pelini.

Here is a breakdown as to what has transpired, and a look at what is still to come As the Carousel Turns...

Coaches Fired, and Hired

Out: Jeff Quinn
In: Lance Leipold, UW-Whitewater
Quinn could never get the Bulls on track, and after a loss to lowly Eastern Michigan, he was promptly showed the door. Quinn was always a bad fit at UB, and was never going to turn any corners. Enter Leipold, who won 107 games at the D3 school, against just six losses. Now we al have to remember that it is a huge jump from D3 to FBS football, even to the MAC, but Leipold is a proven winner and he is coming off of a national title win. He won't have to worry about competing for such things now, but just winning the MAC will be tough enough.
Grade: B+

Out: Will Muschamp
In: Jim McElwain, Colorado State
Muschamp was to Florida's excitement meter as Scrooge is to Santa. Talk about a wrong way hire when Muschamp was brought in to replace Urban Meyer. Muschamp was as hated by the fan base as he was by the media in Gainesville, and he had absolutely zero support left, and so he resigned to avoid the public firing squad that was certain to come.
Enter McElwain, who is a bit of an enigma. He has some SEC roots, having been an OC under Nick Saban at Alabama, but his real roots lay out west. McElwain built Colorado State from the ground up, so he does have credibility, but there is so much damage left behind from hurricane Will, how long would it take McElwain to rebuild, and can he do it? The right hire here would have been Dan Mullen, but there were petty personality conflicts that blocked that from happening. I like McElwain, but I am not sure I like him from Florida.
Grade: B

Out: Tony Levine
In: Tom Herman, Ohio State OC
Levine was also seemingly a bad fit when he was hired off of Kevin Sumlin's staff when Sumlin bolted for Texas A&M. He never brought the same buzz as Sumlin or Art Briles, and Houston seemed to slide behind during his tenure, and that's bad news when you open a new stadium in a terrible loss to UTSA. That was the beginning of the end for Levine.
Herman brings an acumen of knowing how to run a high power offense under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, so he has certainly had the learning experience. He has helped the Buckeyes into the playoffs despite often issues with his QBs and injuries. The way Herman's offenses were able to roll from QB to QB is a reminder of what Houston used to do back in the day. This is a nice fit.
Grade: A

Out: Charlie Weis
In: David Beaty, Texas A&M WR Coach
I don't know what the hell is going on at Kansas, but checking out on Charlie Weis was a must. Weis has never been a good head coach, and quite frankly doesn't even seem to be a guy that anyone honestly likes. There was almost a jubilant feeling from Lawrence when Weis was shown the door early in the season. That was a smart move, and frankly, Kansas could have had any number of really solid candidates.
Beaty, a former Kansas assistant under such luminaries as Turner Gill, was hired after spending time as Texas A&M WR coach, and that hardly fits with the kinds of candidates I thought that Kansas was in line for. It's obvious that Kansas hired on the cheap, and that never works. Beaty is a solid assistant, of that there is no doubt, but after their run of futility, Kansas cannot take risks like this. Beaty has strong ties to Texas preps, but that hardly guarantees anything. This was a strange and senseless move.
Grade: D-

Out: Bo Pelini
In: Mile Riley, Oregon State
I can understand that Nebraska was done with Pelini. After all, all he managed to do was win nine games or more over the last seven years. Yeah, that was a putrid result...
Now let's get real. Nebraska administration and fans, listen the hell up. You people are fucking delusional! That means ALL OF YOU!!! This is not the 1970s, 80s, and 90s anymore. Welcome to the 21st century. You cannot expect to just roll up on anyplace you go and expect to destroy everything before you. Nobody can. Wake up, get with the times, and stop living off of memories of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne and realize that what Pelini did before this debacle was more than acceptable. As a matter of fact, it was quite impressive. You are not a member of the Big 2 and Little 6 anymore, nobody is rolling over for you on sight these days.
Bring on Riley, who may be one of the only people that really wanted this job after what was done to Pelini. Trust me, that event was like repellent for good coaches who want support. All Riley did was whine about facilities, and lack of support, and lack of this, and lack of that at Oregon State. Funny how Oregon State kicked in a ton of cash to improve everything the moment that Riley agreed to leave for Nebraska.
Riley was one of our hot seat candidates for 2015 before leaving, so basically Nebraska ends up with someone else's unwanted part. It's also not like Riley is a hot rising star, or is even young. At 61, how long will he stay, or have the energy to run a top tier program like this?
Grade: D

Oregon State
Out: Mike Riley
In: Gary Anderson, Wisconsin
Riley had played out what he could do in Corvallis. He had a nice run, but recent results had shown that he was indeed growing stale. He had made my 2015 Hot Seat watch, and was not winning, and had fallen so far behind Oregon in the football world that they wouldn't be catching them anytime soon.
With Riley's departure to Nebraska, nobody cried any tears. Oregon State fans certainly received a gift when Riley departed, and the Beavers ended up with a great upgrade in Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson. Anderson brings a new brand of fire and energy, and will be uplifted to get out from under an overbearing dictator in Barry Alvarez.
Nobody will be stealing Anderson's credit or Thunder at OSU, and he can win there. Add to the fact that the minute Anderson was hired, a huge stash of cash was freed up for upgraded facilities.
All around, Oregon State wins big here.
Grade: A

Out: June Jones
In: Chad Morris
SMU made a huge splash in the basketball program by hiring Larry Brown, a move that has more than worked out. Now, they made a huge splash in the football department by hiring the most highly sought after coordinator in college football. Morris was the architect of some very nice offenses at Clemson in recent seasons, and was sought after for just about every opening. Was SMU the best gig he could have landed? No. Not even close. Is it the worst? Absolutely not.
June Jones had won solidly at SMU, but had just lost his way the last couple of seasons. A change was needed, and Jones saw it himself, so bowed out early. That was smart and classy.
Morris has a deep history of ties to Texas preps, and again, that guarantees nothing, but Morris was a better hire at SMU than Beaty was at Kansas. Morris is a gem waiting to shine in the ranks, and SMU should not be expected to linger at the bottom of the AAC for long.
Grade: A

Out: Larry Blakeney
In: Neal Brown, Kentucky OC
Brown isn't Morris, but he has been a rising star as an assistant and is certainly young at 34 years of age.
Nobody will beat up on Blakeney for what has happened at Troy in recent years. He is a legend at Troy, and will be given such treatment forever there. However, the ship was sinking, and it was time for him to go. He had the grace enough to know it. Again, this was a classy and well handled move by all involved.
Neal Brown will re-fire an offense that has always been a strong center of Troy football, and will re-fire a fan base that is hungry to re-establish their place in the hierarchy of the Sun Belt ranks. Brown has to prove himself. That's going to come. Right now, his only job is to give Troy hope that everything is going to turn around and do so soon.
Grade: B+

Out: Bill Blankenship
In: Phillip Montgomery, Baylor OC
The Blankenship era was an abject disaster. Someone at Tulsa got very excited to promote Blankenship, a former high school coaching legend who had never been a head coach in college, when Todd Graham bolted for Pitt. That was a mistake.
Blankenship sunk like a stone when he had to coach on his own volition with his own kids once Graham's influence faded. He was just overmatched. Not necessarily his fault, but it wasn't working.
Tulsa is a good job despite what has been going on, and they had no shortage of candidates that were up and coming coordinators.
What Tulsa did manage to do was a nice strategic strike. Phillip Montgomery has orchestrated the fire work loaded Baylor offense under Art Briles, and we have all seen what has been going on there. One thing that Tulsa can bank on, it's that the offense is about to explode. If Montgomery can hire a decent defensive staff, Tulsa could be a program on the rise, and soon.
Grade: A

Out: Bobby Hauck
In Tony Sanchez, Bishop Gorman High School
Hauck left with the stain of being yet another promising hire that went south in a huge way. Hauck won only two games in four of his five seasons, and just never seemed to figure out a way to get UNLV on the map, despite bowling last season. UNLV is a program that is absolutely in despair, and so UNLV went to make a move based on finances rather than on college football acumen.
Tony Sanchez was hired as a high school coach who brings major financial backing from the Fertitta family, who owns a huge piece of UFC and the Station Casino chain. That money alone could buy UNLV out of athletic deficit purgatory, but if Sanchez cannot make the transition to major college coaching, it won't matter much. Remember that UNLV took Sanchez over Jim Fassel, June Jones, and Houston Nutt, all guys who have won big on this same level. I hope they know what they are doing.
Grade: C-

Out: Gary Anderson
In: Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
It was not known largely well until now as to how much of an overbearing jackass dictator AD and former coach Barry Alvarez is. Alvarez has largely been taking credit for the successes of not only Anderson, but also former coach Bret Bielema who bolted what seemed like a relatively stable gig at UW for a train wreck at Arkansas. Now it all makes sense.
So, how does a megalomaniacal dictator replace another coaching escapee from his prison? He goes out and finds a former coordinator that he placed like a puppet in another program, and brings him home with the full knowledge that Chryst will always kiss Barry's ass with sincerity and passion. Chryst is likely the kind of guy who won't even have a problem allowing Barry to steal all of his glory in some kind of morbid Daddy obsession with Alvarez. When Barry called and said jump, Chryst screwed Pitt over faster than one could inexplicably accept.
Wisconsin fans...what you get in Chryst is a downgrade below both what Anderson and Bielema provided. Chryst has not won at Pitt, and was yet another target for our 2015 Hot Seat. All you got is a puppet supreme for Barry's ego to play with. Enjoy!
Grade: D


Alabama State
Out: Reggie Barlow
In: Brian Jenkins, Bethune-Cookman
The board chased Barlow and his AD out the door for what amounts to no good reason, but then again, it seems to me that this is the way the SWAC seems to work...without direction or order. Why Jenkins, a succeasful and winning coach at Bethune-Cookman, would bail on a great job and stability for this wreck is beyond me, but ASU gets very lucky with this hire.
Grade: A

Missouri State
Out: Terry Allen
In: Dave Steckel, Missouri DC
Allen never was able to get the Bears rolling, despite his experience coaching the FBS ranks. Steckel had some serious successes at Mizzou, and should bring a new energy to MSU that should get the Bears headed in the right direction. The new staff is strong, so this should go down as a good get.
Grade: A

Out: Mick Delaney
In: Bob Stitt, Colorado Mines
With Delaney's retirement, Montana had two choices to make, neither one bad. Stitt won out over former Montana championship coach Bobby Hauck, and there was no wrong direction there. Everything falls Montana's way in the football world.
Stitt has long been a candidate at several larger openings, and brings a high energy passing game to the Grizzly attack. This was a home run.
Grade: A

Murray State
Out: Chris Hatcher
In: Mitch Stewart, Murray State OC
Chris Hatcher leaving for Samford makes little sense, but he has always had a bit of a wandering, mercenary spirit.
Murray State went in the right direction by retaining Stewart, who has had some decent offenses in recent seasons. Stewart brings back Casey Brockman, a legendary Racer QB, to coach QBs, another smart move.
Grade: B+

Nicholls State
Out: Charlie Stubbs
In: Tim Rebowe, UL-Lafayette
Stubbs retired due to health concerns, and Steve Axman came over from retirement to fill in for the rest of the season. It didn't go well.
Rebowe comes over from ULL to try to fire up a program that has been a wreck for a very long time. He certainly has local connections, but he has never been a coordinator, so this could take some time. It's not a great job, so I am sure they did the best they could.
Grade: B-

Norfolk State
Out: Pete Adrian
In: Latrell Scott: Virginia Union
Scott had some success at VUU, but this is more of a retread of the same kind of hire that MEAC schools go for. They stay within the ranks of the HBCU, so the locals are happy, but it wasn't an inspirational hire that I can see taking NSU to the top of the MEAC in short order. Good hire, but not great.
Grade: C+

Out: Al Bagnoli
In: Ray Priore
Penn has been sinking like a rock, and Priore is largely believed to be the guy to get it right again. Penn was an absolute mess this season, and Priore had already been in line to take over. He has to prove he has the mettle now.
Grade: C

Portland State
Out: Nigel Burton
In: Bruce Barnum
Barnum was already on the staff, and was named interim coach all the way through the end of 2015 due to a prolonged AD search. Hell, at that point, you should have just held on to Burton for one more season.
Grade: D

Prairie View A&M
Out: Heishma Northern
In: Willie Simmons
Simmons was in line for the Florida A&M job, and is a solid grab for the Panthers. However, Northern wasn't a bad guy to have in the job either. This is just a trade of like coaches.
Grade: C

Out: Pat Sullivan
In: Chris Hatcher, Murray State
Sullivan left for health reasons. This is a good job and attracted a solid candidate in Hatcher. Hatcher, however, never stays anywhere for long. So there's that. Still, Hatcher should lift the profile of the program.
Grade: B+

Out: Sparky Woods
In; Scott Wachenheim, Virginia OL
The leading candidate was largely believed to be Chattanooga OC Jeff Durden. VMI zigged when it was supposed to zag, and went with Wachenheim instead, despite Durden's experience at VMI. Wachenheim brings solid experience from within the state, but this program needs a strong leader, and Wachenheim has no experience there.
Grade: D

Out: Walt Hameline
In: Jason Houghtaling
Houghtaling has plenty of experience with this staff, and should slide right over to take over for Hameline. This is a decent, if small job, so Wagner was limited as far as candidates. Good hire.
Grade: B+

Youngstown State
Out: Eric Wolford
In: Bo Pelini
Wolford could not keep up the winning tradition at YSU, and never got the Penguins to the playoffs. YSU made the home run hire of the year by grabbing Bo Pelini, who was never respected at Nebraska. Pelini brings a drive and a chip on his shoulder, a dangerous combo for opponents. North Dakota State's grip on the Missouri Valley Conference just got tenuous.
Grade: A+

Jobs Still Open

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