Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hot Tempers Cost Money & Reputations


Will these NCAA Football Coaches ever learn?

I doubt it. In recent weeks there have been three major coaches that have lost their jobs due to allegations of player abuse.

I'll never forget when former Ohio State Buckeyes Coach Woody Hayes was fired on my birthday, Dec 29, 1978 for punching Clemson Tigers nose guard Charlie Bauman on the sidelines during a 17-15 loss at the Gator Bowl. The Buckeyes finished the season with a 7-4-1 mark while Clemson ended its season 10-1.

But more importantly, this turned out to be the end of an era. Can you imagine how much publicity this Hayes incident would have gained in today's Mass Media Internet Market?

Hayes would have been crucified in the press and would have lost millions of dollars.

So instead of the public remembering that Hayes guided the Buckeyes from 1961-78 to three National Titles, 13 Big-Ten Championships, is ninth all-time in FBS coaching victories with a 238-72-10 record in 28 years as a head coach, he'll be remembered for "The Punch."

Former Kansas Jayhawks Coach Mark Mangino departed Lawrence after reaching a $3 Million settlement for insensitive comments made to his players.

Mangino was hired as coach in December of 2001 and led the Jayhawks to a 50-48 record, 3-1 in Bowl Games. He has the second most victories in school history. Mangino guided Kansas to a 12-1 record in 2007 as the school went to their first BCS Bowl defeating Virginia Tech 24-21 in the Orange Bowl.

In this day and age, tough love isn't something student athletes respond to. Coaches have to deal with parents, lawyers, nervous administrators, boosters and alumni as they become conscious of a schools image, yet know there is a high demand to field a winning program on the field as well a high revenue producer.

The lawyers are looking for a piece of the pie and administrators are quick to take swifter action to remove the coach.

Time will tell if Mangino ever gets another college job again. If not, he'll find work in the NFL as an assistant coach and will be taking orders from a head coach who can keep his temper under control.

Fortunately for Kansas, the Jayhawks made a great hire by landing former Nebraska QB & Buffalo Coach Turner Gill.

When Gill was named head coach at Buffalo on Dec 16, 2005, the 23rd coach in Bulls history, previous coach Jim Hofher led the school to an 8-49 mark and this was one of the four worst FBS programs. By 2008, Buffalo finished with an 8-6 record, landed in the International Bowl marking the first bowl game since joining the FBS in 1999.

This transformation enabled Gill to get consideration for the Auburn Tigers head coaching position. He was bypassed in favor of Gene Chizik, who was 5-19 with the Iowa State Cyclones. On December 15, 2008, former NBA Superstar & Auburn player Charles Barkley cited race as the No.1 factor as to why Chizik was hired comparing the records of the two candidates.

Gill concluded this season with a 20-30 record in four seasons at Buffalo. Now Gill's annual salary at Kansas is $2 million per-season and at age 47, has his big coaching job because he demonstrated enough class to keep his mouth shut therefore his patience enabled him to return to the Big 12.

I don't know if former Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach knew anything about Hayes but the timing of his departure does link these two individuals together near my birthday.

The Red Raiders were the last stop for legendary Basketball Coach Bobby Knight who recorded his 902 victory for the Lubbock based university. They handled Knight's fiery personality well and then hired his son Pat to continue leading the program.

In February of 2009, Leach signed a 5-year $12.7 Million contract and was due an $800,000 bonus if he remained head coach on December 31, 2009. Leach was fired on Dec 30, 2009 pending allegations of inappropriate treatment of Adam James, son of former SMU and New England Patriots running back and current ESPN College Football Analyst Craig James.

I'm sure Leach's comments about "Fat Little Girlfriends" didn't score any points with his bosses. Yet, he did compile an 84-43 record and was 5-4 in bowl games. In 2008, Leach guided the Red Raiders to an 11-2 record and had them contending for a national championship.

Perhaps Leach's biggest mistake was he didn't come out publicly and try to square up his problems with James as well as his bosses. But as we have found out in this case, no matter how good your record is, you can't think that you can say and do whatever you want because there are enough quality coaches available that would relish the opportunity to build on what you've created. It also didn't help that he was looking at other jobs at Auburn & Washington while employed by Texas Tech and his contentious contract negotiations became a public spectacle.

Leach took his situation for granted and his replacement Tommy Tuberville will reap from the benefits.

It's obvious that his lawsuit with Texas Tech will get ugly. Even when it gets resolved, will Leach ever get another high profile job let alone any college head coaching position?

I have a gut feeling that he will especially if he gets the right situation where the university knows what its buying as Tech did when it hired Knight. His worst case scenario is landing in the NFL or even with his wide open passing attack, Leach would be a good fit for the CFL.

I'll guarantee you one thing that if Mangino or Leach ever demeaned an NFL player, these players would put them into the emergency room. I'd be curious to see how well Leach would work with San Francisco 49'ers Coach Mike Singletary, who does happen to be the man in charge of turning the former Red Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree into a productive player.

Singletary wouldn't tolerate Leach's off the wall behavior.

Finally, the incident which bothers me the most is what has transpired at my alma-mater the University of South Florida.

This is another major mess.

Leavitt just completed the second season of a seven year $12.6 Million contract and was the only coach in the program's 13-year history. He finished with a 95-57 record and I truly thought he'd be there many more years and even have a building named after him.

When he was hired in 1995, USF operated out of trailers on campus and the Bulls made a swift progression from Div I AA to a BCS Conference Member. He turned down major offers to stay at USF and build his own tradition.

But the incident which finished off Leavitt was that he is alleged to have grabbed sophomore Joel Miller by the throat, slapped him in the face twice during halftime of the Louisville game. Leavitt's departure was not only due to the physical incident but also interfered with the investigation by having direct contact with material witnesses during the review process.

Nevertheless, the coach who has had USF ranked as high as No. 2 in the polls in 2007, has played in a bowl game in every year since joining The Big East in 2005, finds himself out of work. His teams have started out 5-0 the past two seasons but have suffered collapses in conference play and slid out of the top 25. This season, USF finished 8-5.

Now the question remains, like Mangino, and Leach, where will Leavitt land when this is all settled? He could have more options than these other two since he built USF from scratch.

Of course there is the pros.

It would be amazing to see him continue his coaching career at Raymond James Stadium as a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs. He's well liked and known in the community.

For those schools looking to build another program from scratch or looking to eventually reach FBS, he has a track record plus has put players in the NFL.

Ironically, when coaches leave the NCAA with their careers in shambles, they wind up in the pros.

Two-time probation Basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson wrecked programs at Oklahoma and Indiana but has landed as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. All he has to focus on his motivating, strategy and dealing with men that concentrate on basketball not the external distractions "Outside The Lines."

But I do believe that the common bond between Mangino, Leach and Leavitt is they put three programs on the college football map. Now Gill, Tuberville and Skip Holtz simply have to build on what they started. As for Leach and Leavitt, there newly appointed assistant coaches are now the lawyers and we haven't heard the last of all three situations.

These guys will land again because they have proven that they can build and build winners. In the end, winning does mean something.

Yet the question remains, unlike Hayes, will they learn from their mistakes, so they can salvage their careers and their reputations?

Stay tuned, I'm very curious to see how all of this plays out in time.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at and his blog can be seen at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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