Published December 13, 2010 - 5:15am
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Huge news over the weekend in the SEC. First up, the announcement that somewhat overshadowed the predictable Heisman Trophy presentation in Florida announcing the hiring of Will Muschamp as their new head coach. Sunday followed up with the report that hot Auburn OC Gus Malzahn may potentially take the job at Vanderbilt.
The coaching carousel in college football and in the Southeastern Conference demonstrates a few things. First, the money is bigger than ever these days in college football, with programs being able to throw multi-million dollar deals at coordinators who have never been head coaches. Second, it demonstrates how difficult it is to keep a program at the top of the rankings year after year.
Let’s look at some examples.
Exhibit A – The 2010 Florida Gators
The regular season the Gators just completed can be described as disappointing to say the least. The Gators finished the season 7-5, but worse yet, they looked terrible, confused, and uncoached. The Gators lost a ton of talent to the NFL the previous year, but you could easily make the case, that the bigger losses have been his assistants. Urban lost Dan Mullen to become head coach of Mississippi State after the 2008 season, and then defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to Louisville after the 2009 season.
Urban had to make a number of quick hires in the offseason to replace these key losses in his staff. The result was not a well-coached team and rumors during the season of major disagreements between coaches in terms of mid-season adjustments. Clearly, the attrition of highly successful coordinators takes a toll on a program, even one with top recruiting classes and top talent every single season.
Exhibit B – The 2010 Texas Longhorns
If there was a more surprising fall from 2009 to 2010 than the Florida Gators, it was definitely the Texas Longhorns. Now to make a disappointing season worse for Texas fans, Florida goes and gets their coach in waiting, Will Muschamp. Muschamp’s defense at Texas put up some impressive numbers even despite a very rough season.
Despite an aging head coach Mack Brown, Muschamp couldn’t pass up the position to be the Florida head coach. There are some rumors regarding the move of Major Applewhite also to Florida to work under Muschamp, but nothing substantial yet. If this happens, it’d be another loss of a key member of the Texas staff, and both Muschamp and Applewhite are huge assets in the recruiting department.
Exhibit C – The 2010-2011 Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide under Nick Saban have achieved a very high level of success, going undefeated in two consecutive regular seasons of SEC play and a National Championship. While Saban’s staff hasn’t been picked off yet by other teams, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is expected to be a target of new Florida coach Will Muschamp. While a bidding war for a defensive coordinator between Alabama and Florida would be interesting, a big bonus of the Muschamp hire was the fact that there was no buyout penalty and the likelihood that Muschamp will make less money than Urban Meyer did. That might result in Florida being able to buy Smart away from Alabama.
This will be an interesting area to watch as SEC fans. A bidding war for a coordinator might take SEC coaching to another level.
Exhibit D – The 2011 Auburn Tigers
Lastly, we get to the Auburn Tigers. The top team in the land for 2010. For Auburn, the loss of key personnel took even less time. Word is now that Gus Malzahn, the hot offensive coordinator that led Cam Newton and the Auburn offense, has been offered the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. I sure hope that if he accepts the offer, he doesn’t leave before the Oregon BCS Championship game.
The rise of Gus Malzahn demonstrates more than anything what a high level of success can do even in an insanely short time. Remember, Malzahn was coaching in high school just a few years ago. Now he might be getting a $20+ million contract (rumored).
Auburn went undefeated this year and has a great shot at winning the BCS Championship in January. Now, they’re probably losing their Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton to the NFL, and they’re potentially losing their offensive coordinator. What are the chances of them going undefeated again next year? What are the chances of them winning the SEC? The SEC West?
This is the new reality in college football today.
If you’re lucky enough to win a championship, don’t expect one the next year. If you have a coordinator that fans of any other team know about, don’t expect to keep him.