The hot seat, the hot seat, ohhh the hot seat. Before the season they want to tell you who’s on it. As the season starts they wait for the loss and here come the stories about must win situations and possible replacements. The media riles up the fans and the fans incite the media. It’s a formed alliance by the two parties acting against the program, team, coaches and ultimately the season.
We live in an impatient world. Even microwaves are too slow these days. It’s too much to read more than 140 characters which is less than a paragraph. We want our food fast, our feedback on the double and our results overnight. We are not interested in building anything because quite frankly, that takes too much time. We celebrate coaches that win right away and curse their name when they bolt for the next job the moment they reach that success.
Brady Hoke, Will Muschamp and Al Golden were part of several coaches entering into the 2014 season on the preverbal “hot seat”. All have provided media members with delight by losing games as 99% of coaches will do during the season. Fans of these schools have taken to social media to express their disgust, disappointment and displeasure. They do it proudly feeling they are fulfilling their duties as a die hard fan. In actuality, they are contributing to the demise of a season and in some cases, a program.
For any coach to reach the level of head coach, they have to maintain a certain amount of confidence and arrogance. You don’t enjoy success and rise through the ranks by not holding true to some principles and philosophy. A coach quick to change his mind is one that fails to establish himself. So when a successful coach has been granted the ultimate honor of being named head coach, it only makes sense that he sticks to what got him there. What got him there were his philosophies, perseverance and confidence. The layman (aka the fan / media) will see it as stubbornness.
History has shown us that a coach needs five years to build a program. Why is that you ask? Well, upon taking a job, most successful coaches construct a plan much like an army general will do when heading into battle. Also like an army general, a coach can expect some difficult times which are dealt with using all the skills you obtained to get the job in the first place. Most plans are constructed for a 5 year time frame. Coincidentally, most contracts are given for 5 years to start. Five years allows a coach to take his first recruiting class from signing day to graduation. A new coach is dealing with players recruited by the previous coach. He’s dealing with individuals with a different mind set that must be changed. In most cases, he’s changing an offensive or defensive system or both. He’s also working through assistants that are new to his way of doing things. Maturing all these elements into the final product take time and unfortunately for the impatient masses that’s longer than two or three years. Typically after four years, a coach takes a hardcore assessment of everything they are doing and decide what part of the plan they need to stick with and what part they need to abandon.
Brady Hoke, Al Golden and Will Muschamp did not forget how to coach when they landed at their current destination. All three are in their fourth year with their programs and all three are facing calls from their fans to be relieved of their duties. They are not the first to experience such unfortunate circumstances. The mighty Nick Saban was a struggling coach in his fourth season at Michigan St. and fifth overall as a college football head coach. After three seasons of complete mediocrity, (6-5, 6-6 and 7-5) Saban was sitting at 3-4 in 1998 after a loss to Minnesota. He had open the season 0-2 with one of the losses being to Colorado St. The Michigan St. fans wanted that “bum” Saban out of there. They were disgusted that the athletic director thought a man who had been a head coach for all of one season at Toledo was the one to replace the beloved George Perles. Saban would go on to save his job by defeating then #1 ranked Ohio St. only to give back that good will with a loss to Purdue the following week. When he ended the season with an embarrassing 51-28 loss to Penn St. and no bowl appearance, Spartan fans demanded his removal. Somehow, some way Saban kept his job and that off season he had the 4th year assessment where he remained solid on some things and changed his mind on a few others. Year five at Michigan St. saw Saban go 9-2 and set up a Citrus Bowl appearance for the Spartans. However, by then, the damage had been done and Saban excepted an offer to coach LSU. For his time at Michigan St., Saban worked his plan, stayed steadfast through the dark times and built a program. He didn’t quickly change his mind in year three or four when things were going swell. He stuck to his guns and made sure that before he made any changes, he was sure what he was doing wasn’t working.
At LSU, Saban again began building a program. After showing steady improvement the first two seasons (8-4 and 10-3), LSU took a significant step back in year three. Not only did Saban’s LSU Tigers go 8-5 but they suffered God awful losses to rivals Alabama (31-7) and Auburn (31-0). Questions began to be asked about this Nick Saban that struggled at Michigan St. Yes, that Nick Saban that we recognize as the God of college football in 2014. If Nick Saban’s 2003 season at LSU would have occurred in 2014, we would have never have known his greatness. Fans would have successfully campaigned through social media and allied with the media to have Saban run out of town. Saban persevered and in year four, the Louisiana State Tigers were crowned college football champions after going 13-1 and defeating Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. How about that?
The University of Miami faithful have made calls for the return of Butch Davis to take over a Miami program that has been glued to disappointment for the better part of a decade. Fans sure do have a short memory. Butch Davis was almost run out of town by Hurricanes fans. After going 8-3 and 9-4 in his first two seasons, Davis captained an astonishing 5-6 season for the Hurricanes in year 3. Yes, Miami was feeling the pains of NCAA sanctions but no one expected a sub .500 season or a 47-0 loss to rival Florida St. Davis would battle back to a winning season in year four but when the Canes were destroyed 66-13 by Syracuse, Miami fans had enough. They were calling for the return of Jimmy Johnson who was teasing Hurricanes fans by coaching down the street for the Miami Dolphins. Somehow, Davis survived and went 20-5 over the next two seasons thus setting up what would be widely regarded as the best college football team in history in 2001. Had that 66-13 loss for Davis and the Hurricanes occurred in 2014, more than likely that great 2001 team may never have happened. Why? Because in 2014 we love to fire coaches.
The history of college football is littered with examples in which coaches had a bad couple of seasons right before launching a program into greatness. Things worth having take time achieving. Along the way there is darkness and it usually comes before the brightest light. Coaches and athletic directors that understand that usually reap the benefits. There isn’t always steady progress in terms of wins and losses. The path will at times be uneven and ragged but when you hire a coach you have to believe in why he is there in the first place. Sure sometimes you make a bad hire but you don’t know what you have until five years have been completed.
Larry Coker replaced Butch Davis at Miami in 2001 and no man in college football history could have had a better start. The Canes won the title in 2001 in grand fashion. In 2002, they were once again undefeated before losing a heartbreaker in the Fiesta Bowl to Ohio St. After just two seasons coaching at the University of Miami, Larry Coker was 24-1. This new era of fan would have issued a Coker a lifetime contract or at least a 1o year deal. Fans nowadays think two years is enough to put a label on a guy. Coker would go 11-2 in year three but the decline of performance would ensue over the next three seasons. Eventually, Coker would be let go after his sixth season in which Miami went a disappointing 7-6.
Fans will want to point out examples like Jim Tressel and Pete Carroll as guys that came in and won right away and kept on winning. I say to those people, do a little research. Jim Tressel coached at Youngstown St. before Ohio St. and it wasn’t always pretty. Tressel’s first year was 2-9 at Youngstown St. and after going 8-4 in his second year, Tressel fell back to 4-8 in year three. How would have stuck up fans at some of these programs have dealt with that one? Tressel would eventually get it together and go 11-1 in year 5 before winning the first of four titles in year six. For those old enough to remember, Pete Carroll was widely consider to be a joke after failed head coaching stints in the NFL for the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Carroll had learned his lessons as Tressel did and was a well constructed coaching mind by the time he landed on USC’s campus.
For those that will mention Urban Meyer, I will say this. Meyer has an amazing skill known as picking the great job. He is the Leonardo DiCaprio of college football, he knows what role is best for him. You also won’t see Meyer in any one place for long. He will come in use the resources, coach hard and hit the road. He is one of a kind and not someone for a program to point to like every coach will achieve this. For those who wish they had Saban, remember Saban was a bum in Michigan St. and someone LSU fans had questions about early on in his tenure. As long as the players are still playing hard for the coach, you should be supporting the head man. Perhaps your Nick Saban is coaching your program right now going through the same tough time Saban was going through in year four at Michigan St. Maybe if you shut your mouth and supported your team, your coach can become the next Nick Saban while he’s still at your program.