Honk if you coached at Bama

November 29th, 2006

Interesting writings over at ESPN about Alabama’s search for its next head chump coach.

Ivan Maisel, Tide have struggled to find the right coach:

“Alabama is not a factor anymore,” said a former Crimson Tide assistant who still actively recruits the South.

The Alabama merchandise is not in the sporting good stores nationwide the way that USC and Notre Dame are. It is not in the ESPN catalog that arrived at my house last week.

“So much is going on out there,” the assistant said. “You’ve got to be able to market your program. With everything that Alabama has on that campus (an expanded football building, new weight room and a Bryant-Denny Stadium expanded to 92,000 seats), and all that tradition, you’ve got a chance if you can get the kid there (to visit). You’ve got to be able to get them there.”

Perhaps that’s why Spurrier and Saban’s name came up in Tuscaloosa over the last week. They both have national championships at SEC schools. But here’s the thing: They hadn’t won those championships when Florida and LSU, respectively, hired them. Pete Carroll had been fired by two NFL teams when USC hired him six years ago. Even Paul “Bear” Bryant himself had not won a national championship when he returned to his alma mater nearly 50 years ago.

It is rare that any coach who has won a national championship becomes available, and no coach has ever won a national championship at two different schools. You can’t hire the magic. You have to hire the right man, let him do his job without interference and hope for the best.

At Alabama? Yeah, right.

Pat Forde:

And then there is the cuckoo’s nest known as Alabama (10). Irrational passion and general delusion don’t just drive the bus at Alabama. They drive the wheels off it like Dale Earnhardt.

The Crimson Tide went from being in love with Mike Shula last year when he went 10-2 to firing him this year after he went 6-6. Surprise meter reading: 8.5. Then again, we probably shouldn’t be surprised.

This is, after all, Alabama.

The unpardonable sin was Shula’s 0-4 record against Auburn, but that still doesn’t make this the right move at the right time for a program craving stability.

Don’t look now, but lordly Alabama has become the single biggest burnout job in college football. The Tide’s next coach will be the eighth in the last 25 years and the fifth this century. Nobody — not even the bottom-feeding, revolving-door, dead-end schools like SMU, UNLV, UTEP, Utah State, San Jose State and so forth — has gone through five coaches as fast as Alabama.

Since Bear Bryant ascended directly into heaven on a dazzling white cloud, surrounded by a host of angels, the program flux has been ongoing. Only Gene Stallings has coached more than four years in Tuscaloosa without fleeing or being fired. Stallings lasted seven seasons in the 1990s, which now makes him look like Joe Paterno in terms of permanence.

Between the stability of Stallings and the turbulence of today, Alabama has been slammed with NCAA sanctions for buying an overweight, underproductive defensive lineman; scandalized by the indiscretions of first Mike DuBose, then Mike Price; dumped by Dennis Franchione, who convinced his players to “hold the rope” through probation but couldn’t wait to drop it himself; and now it has fired the alum who helped drag the program through the toughest part of its penalty phase.

Somebody find the prestige in that recent run.

Forde also made note of a game played on the Plains this year:

Florida at Auburn (31). Sure, Ohio State-Michigan was phenomenal, and the stadium was bigger — but the combination of an open-air press box, perfect grass, great uniforms and a nighttime Southern atmosphere made this the prime sensory experience of the season.

(I’d love to take credit for the headline, but I shamelessly stole it from a comment at Will Collier’s hilarious blog From the Bleachers.)

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