Just when you think this silly season's coaching carousel has stopped, it still seems to be spinning.
We're looking for closure. We continue to get Urban Meyer. On Dec. 25, Meyer was Florida's coach. On Dec. 26, he resigned. On, Dec. 27 he was back, taking an indefinite leave of absence which hasn't really started yet. Has it?
|Teams that mess with Skip Holtz's Bulls are gonna get the horns. (AP)|
"It could be six months," Florida president Bernie Machen told reporters after the Sugar Bowl. "It could be a year. It could be never. It's all about Urban."
Yes, it is. Until the next decision to come out of Gainesville, we're going to go out on a limb and rank what we think are all of the new hires in I-A for 2010.
The good: Almost a third of the 22 coaches, seven, are African-American. Five had never been a head coach on the I-A level.
The bad: Bobby Bowden was run out after 34 years. Lane Kiffin bailed out after less than 14 months. Mark Mangino was bought out and Mike Leach and Jim Leavitt were just plain out (fired), because of alleged mistreatment of players.
The strange: Only two sitting coaches from BCS conference schools were among the new hires -- Brian Kelly and Kiffin.
1. Skip Holtz, South Florida: Louis Leo Holtz chose South Florida rather than the other way around. The program was wounded due to the Leavitt controversy. Skip had his choice of several other jobs over the past couple of years. The fact that he "picked" South Florida shows you the quality of the job and the quality of the coach. The program is poised to join Miami, Florida and Florida State to make it a "Big Four" in the state. All it needs is a steadier guiding hand. Everything else is going to be played out in court. Let's not forget Lou's kid won in Greenville, N.C.. There were four consecutive bowls and two straight Conference USA titles for East Carolina. Something tells me he's going to do OK with his skills recruiting to a BCS program in Tampa-St. Pete.
2. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech: After Leach, Texas Tech was never going to find another coach who was going to a) stay 10 years and b) win 84 games. Tubs was hungry to get back, running out of BCS conference opportunities after sitting out a year. This is the perfect match, then, for a wounded program. Tech is grateful to have a laid-back non-lawyer in the fold while Tubs is grateful for the chance. The Red Raiders will run more than they did under Leach and definitely play better defense. Translation: It's back to being about chasing BCS bowls more than "electrical sheds" in Lubbock.
3. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: Charlie Weis could call plays. Kelly knows how to run a program. This hire made sense from the moment Weis' seat starting heating up. Kelly is a Roman Catholic from Boston who has been successful as a head coach at every level. Now comes the crushing pressure that goes along with the most visible football job in the Western hemisphere. Kelly gets that he is chasing a national championship, or should be, every day of the year. For the moment, he will have to upgrade the defense (a lot) and develop a quarterback. Remaining to be seen is whether his staff can recruit on a national level.
4. Mike London, Virginia: Like Kelly, this hire made too much sense. London spent seven years previously as a Virginia assistant. He left to become a head coach and promptly won the I-AA national championship in 2008 at Richmond. If London doesn't restore Virginia to George Welsh-like levels in the winnable ACC, something is wrong somewhere. Virginia can't stay this irrelevant for this long. The Cavs should be ready to take off under London.
5. Charlie Strong, Louisville: Every good AD literally has a list of candidates in his back pocket in case his coach bolts/is fired/signs Craig James' son. Tom Jurich is that good AD. He hired John L. Smith, Bobby Petrino and Rick Pitino. Steve Kragthorpe, though, was a clunker. Krags was a friend of Jurich and seemingly good coach until the whole thing went bad quicker than day-old salmon at Louisville. Jurich redeemed himself with the Strong. Louisville had become stale. Strong had been ignored for far too long. Now he and Jurich will unite to launch Louisville back into the stratosphere.
6. Turner Gill, Kansas: Gill had met Kansas AD Lew Perkins at an offseason gathering in Phoenix a few years back. The two hit it off. When Mangino's position became untenable late last year, Perkins centered on Nebraska's former superstar quarterback. One of the few concerns is whether Gill can assemble a staff able to coach and recruit in the Big 12. Coordinators Chuck Long and Carl Torbush are a good start.
7. Butch Jones, Cincinnati: Kelly set Jones up with a program that won't stop competing for BCS bowls. Before he left, Kelly made people (media, fans, more media) care about Cincinnati. Like Kelly, Jones comes from Central Michigan to Cincinnati and should keep the momentum going. Having coached under Kelly and Rich Rodriguez, Jones has an offensive background that Cincinnati needs to keep media, fans and more media interested.
8. Joker Phillips, Kentucky: Joker knows Kentucky. Joker knows the SEC. Joker knows the job. This is a coach-in-waiting transition that was non-controversial. Rich Brooks named Phillips his successor two years ago. Phillips has played, coached and loved Kentucky. His offensive background should allow the Wildcats to dream about making the next step in the SEC -- winning the East.
9. Doc Holliday, Marshall: Marshall is desperate to matter again. The respected Holliday should help even if he does come from rival West Virginia after a three-decade career as an assistant. Recruiting shouldn't be a problem. Holliday is one of the best in the business. Look for Marshall to get deeper into Florida.
10. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: No more speculation. Bobby's gone and Jimbo has to get it done -- now. That means fixing a defense that had grown soft under Mickey Andrews and a program that has lost national relevance under Bowden. Aside from Kelly at Notre Dame, no new coach is under more pressure. Early indicators are positive: Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and running backs/special teams coach Eddie Gran are nationally known talents.
11. Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina: Terry Holland lucked into this one. In other words, he was lucky that Leach got fired. When Holtz left, the Pirates AD was lucky Texas Tech's defensive coordinator was available. Ruffin is a former East Carolina coach and player who said, "This is my destination job. Let's get that out front right now. This is not a steppingstone hop for Ruff. This is where I want to be until you tow me away from here. You'll have to drag me away." Not too many folks say that about Greenville, N.C.
12. Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs will put the ball in the air and score. That much is assured with the hiring of Dykes. For seven years, he was a big part of Leach's record-breaking offenses as Texas Tech's receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator. In three seasons at Arizona, the Wildcats went from torture to watch to finely tuned on offense. As the carousel spun, Louisiana Tech was left at the bottom. Dykes isn't a bad hire in a pinch.
13. Larry Porter, Memphis: Tommy West trashed the program on his way out the door saying Memphis isn't committed to football. One columnist cited the program trying to live off of "SEC rejects." In came Porter, a former Memphis player, saying the opposite. "The Memphis job is the perfect job, in a perfect place, for me," Porter said. "I understand the Memphis brand. I believe in it unconditionally." He will have to if Porter wants to keep the traditionally rich local talent from bolting to SEC and other BCS programs.
14. Mike MacInytre, San Jose State: Dick Tomey probably kept this program from folding when he arrived in 2005. Now it's up to MacIntyre, Duke's defensive coordinator, who "blew away" the search committee. San Jose State has lost several scholarships in recent years due to Academic Progress, so coming from Duke went a long way for MacIntyre. Now the Spartans have to win. Tomey went an impressive (for San Jose State) 25-35 in five seasons plus a bowl game in 2006. Duke's defense in 2008 allowed its fewest points in 20 years. MacIntyre's youth (44) will help along with his NFL experience (four years with the Cowboys).
15. Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky: The guy who coached the Heisman runner-up is going home. The program is 91 years old. Only four players in Western Kentucky history have had their jerseys retired. Taggart is one of them. That's a good place to start for Division I-A's youngest program. The Hilltoppers have a ways to go before competing in the Sun Belt, but Taggart understands the hurdles, having coached at Western Kentucky from 1999-2006. As Stanford's running backs coach, Taggart oversaw Toby Gerhart the past three seasons.
16. Lane Kiffin, USC: For Mike Garrett's sake let's hope his latest fourth choice works out. The last time USC's AD went fishing, he came up, luckily, with Pete Carroll. Kiffin comes back "home" having left a trail of NCAA violations at Tennessee but perhaps facing more in the future when the NCAA gets through with USC. In the short term, Kiffin has been able to keep a top recruiting class together even when Ed Orgeron isn't on the phone. We still don't know if Coach K can coach, though. Should USC be the place where you learn on the job?
17. Derek Dooley, Tennessee: Suddenly, David Cutcliffe looks like Vince Lombardi in Knoxville. Early word is that a lot of recruits are bailing on UT. That might be the ultimate penalty Mike Hamilton pays for Kiffin's quickie divorce. Dooley wasn't a "name" and faces a huge task of learning how things work at a top 15 program. Getting Louisiana Tech to the Independence Bowl is one thing. Fighting Florida in the SEC East is another.
18. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo: This two-time interim coach (when Kelly left Central Michigan and Cincinnati) finally gets his own gig at Lake Effect U. All it took was 27 years of college coaching to get Quinn ready. When everything went right for Gill, the Bulls still lost six games in 2008. We'll see if Kansas' new coach has left enough behind for Buffalo to remain competitive in the MAC.
19. Rob Ianello, Akron: Ianello is at least the fifth former Notre Dame coach to be hired in the MAC since 1986. Notre Dame's former recruiting coordinator got a lot of credit for Weis' early success and blame for late failures.
20. Dan Enos, Central Michigan: Enos takes over what has become the best program in the MAC. The GMAC Bowl win completed a 12-2 season that landed the Chips at No. 23 in the final AP poll. The bad news is that Dan LeFevour is gone and the rest of the league will be gunning for the rookie head coach. Central whipped Michigan State, where Enos was running backs coach, last season and faces the Spartans four times in the next nine seasons.
21. Bobby Hauck, UNLV: A great choice if you consider Hauck's 80-17 record the last seven seasons at Montana. A questionable choice if you consider the coach's childish, immature behavior toward the student paper caused at least one columnist to call him a "bully."
22. Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe: I love Todd Berry. He was the classy coach who was at Army during 9/11, leading a team of future warriors through a troubled football season. It was hard to concentrate on the game when a player might be in Afghanistan in a couple of months. That said, Berry ran a passing offense at Army, which was like forcing the Lakers to run the four corners. The Warhawks' former offensive coordinator (2004-05) will try to turn around a program that hasn't had a winning season since jumping up to I-A in 1994.