The clear losers today in the coaching carousel are SMU and Arizona State. That’s two schools with coaches under contract.
That’s part of the problem.
The SMU administration already has taken back June Jones who dumped his employer of four years and had all but left for Arizona State last week. The ASU administration apparently learned nothing. It “quickly” went out – well, six days – and hired Todd Graham from Pittsburgh.
The story is not that Graham stayed exactly 337 days with the Panthers. It's not that Arizona State took 17 days in a sun-splashed desert paradise to find a replacement for Dennis Erickson.
It’s that either of these schools are actually honoring signed contracts. The guys they currently employ haven't. Graham has made the word “vagabond” seem like permanent employment over the course of his career. Carpetbaggers think he is disloyal.
Meanwhile, Jones has told SMU through his actions that he doesn’t want to be there. He knows that. The school knows that. Yet it has taken him back.
At some point, administrators are going to start treating coaches like free-lance workers. There will be no-compete clauses where coaches can’t talk to a potential employer. Their salaries will be end-of-the year retention bonuses. If a coach leaves within three years he owes a buyout: You name it, $2 million, $5 million, $10 million. It’s already been done.
Yes, coaches are not loyal. You’ll be reading a lot of that over the next several days. It has turned into an offseason angle du juor. But what about the schools? A week after the season ended, Texas A&M Bill Byrne was forced to fire Mike Sherman. The school president and a booster wanted change. They eventually got their man in Houston’s Kevin Sumlin.
That’s why coaches have buyouts too.
Shame on administrations, though, for repeating their mistakes. It’s often cited that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. What, then, about either school’s conduct tells anyone that they have changed?
Pittsburgh is Graham’s second school where he spent one season before bolting to the next best thing. Except in this case, going to Arizona State is a lateral move. At best. ASU traded a 6-6 coach (Erickson) for a 6-6 coach (Graham). The difference in the two jobs is the weather. Both Pittsburgh and Arizona State have been a chronic underachievers for years.
At least in Tempe, it’s a dry mediocrity.
If I’m an SMU player I have a hard time playing for Jones at this point. A coach who asked his athletes for dedication and loyalty has shown none. Even worse, Jones came back after swinging and missing at another job. Still worse, the school took him back.
I recommend you start following Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street on Twitter (@D_Street_15) for a street-level view.
Sample: I'm literally sick.. That man [Graham] pulled me in his office one on one and lied to me.
The poor players are caught in the crossfire. The Todd Grahams of the world have absolutely no remorse when they reportedly inform players of their departure by text. If the technology had been available when Dennis Franchione left Alabama he still wouldn’t have used it.
Simple human decency clauses need to be inserted in some of these contracts.
And the vicious circle continues. Wednesday’s magic number was 4: That’s the number of jobs Charlie Weis has held since December 2009. Also, the number of coaches Pittsburgh will have since December 2010 when it gets around to replacing Graham.
This is lovely karma for those who despise the actions of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg. His name has been cussed in Big East circles for three months now. After once pledging loyalty to the Big East, Nordenberg led a surreptitious move to the ACC in September.
What comes around, Markie Mark.
As Hypocrite Week continued, someone tweeted these words an Arizona State administrator as Graham was introduced: "What we sought in a football coach was someone who would be in it for the long term at Arizona State"
And no one laughed.