You remember this time a year ago, don’t you? Penn State was a couple weeks removed from the drubbing in Madison, prepping for the TicketCity Bowl, oh, and that little matter of a coaching search. In PSU’s case, that of course dragged on into the new year, before hitting what sure seems like a grand slam with Bill O’Brien’s hiring.
Here we are, a year later, and the only excitement we’ve had in our Happy Valley is the brief, albeit absurd, speculation about O’Brien’s future with PSU. Watching the ridiculous, and at times borderline insane speculation and rumors fly around the Twitterverse has been equal parts hysterical, stupid, and shocking, and that’s just Tuesday with Arkansas. In just a few days, they went from Les Miles, to Mike Gundy to….Bret Bielema?
It was the Bielema move that finally got me. If you follow me on Twitter (and you really should), you know my feelings on the man I lovingly refer to as “Bert”. But this has little to do with him, I think. As more money finds its way into the coffers of athletic departments across the country, and the game of college football grows in power, the desire to win is increasing exponentially, and coaches are both paying the price, and getting paid.
We’ve seen a coach (Gene Chizik) just two seasons removed from winning a national title, now collecting a paycheck to sit back and relax, because he didn’t win enough. Mario Cristobal, just one year removed from status as the hot young coach, was shockingly relieved of his duties by Florida International after taking a step back this season. And on the other side you have Steve Addazio, who bolted Temple after just two seasons to take over perennial also ran Boston College, Butch Jones who seems to be playing every job opening against each other looking for the best deal to get out of Cincinnati, and Bielema, who was apparently looking to get out of Wisconsin as early as September. I don’t know what bugs me more. Schools spending millions of dollars to get rid of a guy that isn’t winning enough, or coaches ditching rosters full of kids for the next big payday.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of situations that I fully understand. Darrell Hazel will be making nearly 6 times his Kent State salary with Purdue, and all joking aside, the Big 10 is a huge step up from the MAC, at the very least with exposure (and I loves me some #MACtion). Sonny Dykes apparent hiring at Cal is a move from the WAC/Conference USA to the Pac 12. Moves like that happen in every area profession, and the sad fact is that in the world of college athletics, the kids are the ones who get hurt. In a perfect world, the NCAA would create some sort of provision in their rules to allow students to transfer much more readily when their coaching staff skips town. But that’s another topic.
I don’t know what the answer is, and as the dollar signs get bigger, I don’t know if there is one. I just don’t like this path we are on, and dare I say, this culture in major college athletics, specifically football, that is growing more out of control by the day. Gone are the days where are coach turns down a lucrative deal, to become a lifer and grow a program. You might remember the man who famously did that when NFL riches came calling. Joe Paterno.
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