It’s just dumb luck that at almost the exact same minute that I sat down to write this column about how much the coaching carousel depresses me every year, LSU was announcing that they were letting Michigan talk to their coach Les Miles about the head coach vacancy. It’s not just the Les Miles situation that caused me to write this article, but it is a great example: the loads of disloyalty, dishonesty and disappointment that have followed and will continue to trail the Miles-to-Michigan saga are why I hate coach-swapping.
The reasons I hate the shuffling that goes on in college football at the end of every season aren‘t limited to lying to your team’s fans about how long you want to be in a contract or the fact that loyalty to an alma mater will trump some people’s legally and morally binding word. The fact that college football usually isn’t mucked up in all these personnel politics and contractual wrangling is one of the reasons I follow college and not professional football; seeing the purity of the sport demeaned, even temporarily, is frustrating. When the coaches start dropping, so do my spirits.
But it’s not even the seasonal moral depravity degrading the sport that disheartens me most. What gives me the most pause is watching talented coaches leave good programs that could be great programs if someone just stuck around and believed in them.
Some programs with storied traditions were born full-formed as college football powerhouses - Michigan and USC can make that case. But most great college teams were not born Athena-style - someone saw promise in that program and decided that they were going to build it. Not turn the program around, then jump ship for a better program - build it. This mentality is rare-to-nonexistent these days.
The coaches who built their legendary programs became legendary themselves: Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne; Ohio State’s Woody Hayes; Alabama’s Frank Thomas; Oklahoma’s Bennie Owen and Bud Wilkinson. Each of these teams is now known as a stalwart football pillar - there doesn’t seem to be a time when they haven’t been a part of college football lore.