|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Friday, November 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Bud Withers / Times college football reporter
By Bud Withers
Gather round, Washington fans, and let's see if we can find you a new football coach.
How would you feel about a guy who:
Developed a pattern of falling flat in big games.
Was pretty much a .500 coach, but for one big season.
Got his team into one semi-big bowl game, the Citrus.
Had a tendency to be a bit thin-skinned around the media.
Give him the moon, would you? Courtesy cars not only for two, but for his ex-wife as well? Million-dollar annuity if he stays 10 years?
All of the above describes the last football coach hired by Mark Emmert, the University of Washington president. The perception is that Emmert plucked away the equivalent of a current-day Pete Carroll. But in reality, he threw a lot of money at Michigan State's Nick Saban, who, despite persistent rumors tying him to the pros, had some skeletons in his closet along with his coach's whistle and sweatshirt.
Saban lost three bowl games at MSU from 1995 to 1997 by 19, 38 and 28 points, the last the 1997 Aloha Bowl to Washington. The 38-0 loss at the Sun Bowl to Tyrone Willingham and Stanford came when the Spartans were a touchdown favorite.
Which, of course, is all to Emmert's credit. He saw something through the brambles, and was rewarded in 2003 when Saban's Louisiana State team suffocated Oklahoma for a piece of the national title.
Thing is, "pizzazz" relating to coaches allows for a pretty blank easel. Is it Mike Leach of Texas Tech, running up 70 points at every chance? John L. Smith of Michigan State, who climbed Kilimanjaro and ran with the bulls at Pamplona? Jim Tressel of Ohio State, who is as racy as a fat-tired Schwinn but wins 10 games-plus every year (until 2004, that is)?
Tricky business, the hiring of college-football coaches. Think about this while you're amped at the idea of Emmert importing somebody with a name like Steve Spurrier: Seven of the top 11 teams in the BCS standings this week are guided by men in their first Division I-A head-coaching job.
Tressel, nowhere near BCS territory this year but a national champion in 2002, was a Division I-AA coach. His rival, Lloyd Carr of Michigan, was a Wolverines assistant before he got the job.
Bob Stoops of Oklahoma was an assistant, as was Cal's Jeff Tedford and Georgia's Mark Richt.
I'll be a lot more impressed by Emmert and Turner if they unearth a bright mind who can coach, relate and lead than if they explain the selection by saying, "We wrote a big check because we can."
"The person hired simply for the splash it isn't long for things to start to deteriorate," said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, who hired Stoops.
Is there a real, tangible benefit, in monetary terms, to hiring a "name"?
"It's possible a program could see a short-term bump in ticket sales and/or giving because of the name or reputation," Castiglione says. "However, it's been my experience that a bump becomes a blip."
His formula: He saw Tedford's body of work as an offensive coordinator at Oregon. He felt he could separate Tedford's contribution from that of Mike Bellotti, also an offensive mind, by the fact Tedford had quarterbacked at Fresno State, "and that's usually a position that requires people drawn to leadership."
But the essentials the track record, the background, the know-how "That's probably 30-35 percent of it," Gladstone says. "The other 60-70 percent is probably intuitive. I've been a coach for 35 years, and if I can't sense the real deal ...
"In his own quiet way, Jeff is a leader. Is he noisy? Certainly not. Is he boastful? Certainly not. The key, most important piece is the person's ability to lead, draw people to a common cause and stay on message."
It's probably not coincidence, but Emmert has been described in just that way. Now he needs to remember that long after the splash has rippled out with his new hire, it's the substance that's going to matter.
Insert foot into mouth
They seem to be losing it at bowl-starved Rutgers, and that includes not only the team 4-4 entering a game at Boston College but the coach, Greg Schiano, and athletic director Bob Mulcahy.
Unprompted by a question, Schiano last week lashed out at people trying to "tear down" the program. Mulcahy then went on campus radio station WRSU and said, "I think that people frankly have very little clue. (Some fans) think we're going to bring in a bunch of thugs just to win. And that's what Virginia Tech did to get over the hump."
Mulcahy had to post a letter of apology on the Rutgers Web site.
Gnarly in November
Overall, it's that time of the season when bowls and jobs are at stake and patience grows short. Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 78 next month, took umbrage to a repeated question on his weekly teleconference about whether he feels he should return next year.
"You write your own story," Paterno snapped. "I really don't appreciate that question, to be honest with you. After 55 years, to have somebody tell me that, I don't appreciate it."
Headed toward a losing season for the fourth time in five years, State has lost five in a row for only the second time in Paterno's 39 seasons as a head coach.
Then there's Colorado's Gary Barnett, pulling another sophomoric motivational stunt (he once wore military fatigues to talk to his team). Last week, Barnett ordered the names taken off the backs of Buffs' jerseys, after which they went out and lost to Texas by 24 points.
He said the media are "making a lot bigger deal" about the issue than is called for, adding, "If the team wants to go without (names), we will."
And What's More . . .
Cheers to Baylor coach Guy Morriss, who called timeout when Baylor scored in overtime to see if his players "had that gleam in their eyes," went for a two-point conversion and stunned 16th-ranked Texas A&M, 35-34. Students tore down the goal posts, carted them to the school president's home, cut them up and the student-body president presented the team with a foot-long chunk this week after a practice.
Hard to believe, but Texas, 7-1 and No. 7 in the BCS standings, never has played in a BCS bowl. The Longhorns host Oklahoma State (6-2), which hasn't won in Austin since 1944.
Speaking of droughts, how about the one at North Carolina? Before the Tar Heels upended Miami, they were 0-36-1 since 1939 against top-five teams.
Minnesota's season, once 5-0 but now 6-3, went to the brink with its loss to Indiana, remarkably the seventh consecutive time the Gophers have lost in Bloomington.
How bad is the Big 12 North? Iowa State (4-4), which hosts Nebraska, controls its league-championship destiny.
Missouri flew to Lincoln last Saturday morning for its game at Nebraska after its plane rolled off a runway in Columbia, Mo., Friday evening and got stuck in the mud. Nebraska won 24-3.
The bowl probation suffered by Mississippi State (3-5) for violations under Jackie Sherrill isn't as benign as it might seem. Athletic director Larry Templeton noted an SEC policy prevents such schools from sharing in conference bowl revenue, which he says came to $2.7 million last year.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top