The world of cinema was saddened this Christmas season with the news of the passing of Ann Savage, perhaps the original Femme Fatale. ‘Femme Fatale’ roughly interpreted, means ‘Fatal Woman’. Get too close and you’ll lose your good judgment, get hit, or at least feel very embarrassed. Using the universal laws of attraction, the standard methodology includes luring unsuspecting people into listening to seductive language, and ultimately provoking some really bad decisions. As college football enters the annual period of depression known as winter, some programs will work hard to rebuild or at least make dog programs respectable. Coaching candidates offer seductive language, great insights and, in some cases, cause hiring institutions to make really bad decisions.
In the end, schools have to try something radical to turn losers into winners. Witness the University at Buffalo. For years a doormat show, the Bulls really achieved an incredible level of success in 2008 with a bowl look. Despite the Bulls losing to UConn in the International Bowl, this is a remarkable change for a show that, in the not-too-distant past, was simply the laughingstock of Eastern college football. Congratulations then to the Bulls and Coach Turner Gill. This is what one would call a “good hire”.
What coaching decisions will turn out to be bad? You never know for sure, but some weird stories are already forming on the surface of the 2009 season. Iowa State was very lucky to have its 2-10 coach hired by, of all people, Auburn. This saved the school from itself when Cyclone bosses offered the former coach a contract extension. Racking up victories in the 2008 season over South Dakota State and Kent State at the start of the season, the Cyclones proceeded to lose everything else. Iowa State then replaced its lost head coach with Iowa native Paul Rhoads. Rhoads brings impressive credentials, a commitment to winning in the state of Iowa, and comes to the Cyclones from – of all places – Auburn. 2009 will see which school got the best ending for this deal. Stay tuned for this one!
The college football sage (its humble author) wishes Coach Steve Sarkisian in Washington the best of luck in 2009. Coach Sark likely read the tea leaves at his previous position at USC and determined that his upward mobility would rise. better if he was looking for another institution to make it a winner. Washington goal? The Huskies finished last season winless, the first perfectly terrible season for a Pac-10 school. If the Huskies get some wins in 2009, Coach Sark will really have accomplished something significant. Then look for the purple dogs in 2012.
The opportunity to turn a loser into a winner will often override a coaching candidate’s best judgment. The Sage hopes New Mexico State Coach DeWayne Walker made a good decision. Walker is the 33rd head coach of the Aggies and has a lot of work ahead of him. The Aggies had just one conference win last season and they probably have Cornhuskers, Michigan and a variety of other schools trying to put them on their home schedule. If Walker gets a pair of wins, New Mexico’s biggest challenge will be keeping him up.
Going north from Las Cruces, the University of New Mexico also found itself in need of a new soccer head coach following the resignation of coach and student Rocky Long. New Mexico, never a powerhouse in the Mountain West Conference, needed a drafting ace to attract decent players to Albuquerque. Interestingly, the Lobos managed to convince Mike Locksley to resign his position as Offensive Coordinator in Illinois to try and push UNM in the right direction. This will require a bit of effort. However, among Locksley’s ratings is one of Sports Illustrated’s top 25 recruiting ratings. In case Locksley draws better players than those who have previously come out onto the Lobos field and scores some wins at the old UNM Stadium, other shows will want to know exactly how he did it. They will also want to hire you. Both soccer programs in the state of New Mexico should make generous contract extension offers in case any of their new coaches appear to be changing their respective programs.
Brady Hoke, a former Ball State head coach, is now in the same position at San Diego State. It’s true that SDSU could offer things Ball State couldn’t, like a beach and decent weather. Hoke traded in his Ball State Cardinals number 12 for one of the worst programs ever. If you can turn things around in Southern California, it will be one of the most popular workout products. The Aztecs better have a retention plan in case Hoke starts winning. There is no more daunting task than taking over a perennial loser and turning him around, except perhaps taking control of a program that is used to winning and keeping it that way. Witness Lane Kiffen, the new head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers and former head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. Here’s a guy who won’t be absent from church the rest of the year. Being fired by Al Davis in Oakland is not so much a disgrace as a blessing. But then land in Knoxville? A bowl appearance in 2009 would be the ‘triplet’. However, there is real pressure in Knoxville, and 104,000 fans will be at Neyland Stadium for every home game to apply it.
The annual reorganization of the head coaches ranks is now almost complete for 2009. The motivational speeches are gearing up for the Spring Games announcing a “new way of thinking”, “a winning attitude”, “leaving the past behind. “and” make something special happen. ” These are all great speeches, and they’re given to essentially every college-level player with the courage to hit the field for a losing show. Next September, we’ll finally see which shows have been lured in with sweet victory words, and which shows are actually delivered. The unfortunate part of hiring coaches is that a good decision pays off with having to come up with a large contract extension. A bad decision puts your program back in the dustbin.