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College Football Random Thoughts From Around the Country: Coaches, the Money, and the Fear

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NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Kickoff-Alabama vs Florida State
See ya soon, Jimbo. MWAH-HAHAHAHAHA!
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY... MONEY!

Do you recall when Mal Moore first lured Nick Saban to Tuscaloosa how so many media members were aghast with an eight-year deal for $32 million? Back in them thar days, $4 million per year seemed like an astronomical amount.

Flash forward ten years ahead to this headline:

Jimbo Fisher’s signs guaranteed $75 million 10 year deal with Texas A&M

That “guaranteed” means Jimbo gets that money no matter how his teams perform over the next decade or if he gets fired tomorrow.

Saban himself, who has far proved to be worth every penny, is excepted to clear somewhere north of $11.25M after incentive bonuses. However, some of the contracts getting thrown at other coaches these days are downright silly. And it’s not just the money. It’s also the guaranteed money, the length of contracts, and the fear-inspired extensions. Consider some of the recent moves:

  • Rookie head coach Jeremy Pruitt will make an annual salary of $3.8 million at Tennessee. He has never been a head coach at any level.
  • Poor Chad Morris may have to buy one less solid gold toothbrush this Christmas than Pruitt after agreeing to six-year $21 million contract with Arkansas. He was 14–22 (8–16) in three seasons at SMU.
  • Dan Mullen will reportedly earn $6 million per year for six years at Florida. Only once at MSU did he finish higher than fourth in the SEC West.
  • New Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost has agreed to a seven-year, $35 million contract, which would rank third in the Big Ten behind Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, according to USA Today. I like the guy but $5 million per year for a guy who has been head coach for 25 whole games?
  • New Oregon football coach Willie Taggart has been offered a five-year, $16 million contract. It hasn’t been signed yet but it is inevitable. FSU will pay Oregon a buyout of around $1.7 million for the man with a 47–50 lifetime record.
  • UCLA brought Chip Kelly on board as football coach to the tune of $23.3 million for five-years, and I get the feeling he doesn’t even want to be there. Kelly has a fine college track record but it seems he took this job because no other NFL team would take him. It is pure speculation on my part but I believe Kelly does not want to be a college coach. He doesn’t like recuiting or hand-holding or NCAA rules. You shouldn’t expect bad teams out of Westwood. But don’t expect playoff contenders either.
  • Matt Luke, who would still be a coordinator if Hugh Freeze had not booty-called his way out of Ole Miss, signed a four-year, $12.6 million contract with a starting salary of $3 million for 2018 and earning an additional $100,000 per year through 2021.
  • While Barry Odom deserves credit for turning Mizzou’s season around, we can’t forget the miserable start to the Tigers’ season. As a reward for a 7-5 record (4-5 against P5 teams), Odom received a two-year extension from Missouri locking him in through the 2023 season. Were they really afraid that some team was going to swoop in and snatch him away or something??? He is 11-18 (SEC 6-10) in two seasons at his alma mater.
  • Iowa State’s Matt Campbell also got rewarded for going 7-5. He agreed to a new six-year contract worth $22.5M. His annual salary will increase from $2.1 million to $3.5 million!
  • Pitt went 5-7 this season but beat an overrated Miami team late in the season. For such a @fantastic@ campaign, Pat Narduzzi was handed a contract extension with the Panthers that will keep him the Steel City through the 2024 season.

The numbers are staggering. What drives Athletics Directors to gamble so much money on guys after seeing so many fellow ADs lose their jobs over such moves (Arky’s Jeff Long and Nebraska’s Shawn Eichorst for example) that often end up in crippling payoffs, is just baffling. Is there really such a great fear of losing a Barry Odom or a Pat Narduzzi?

Mamas, don’t let you babies grow up to be cowboys football players... Let ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such college football coaches. Three current FBS coaches never played college football: Mike Leach (Wazzu), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech).

FROM THE WTF DEPARTMENT

Arizona State fired their head coach and replaced him with a 63-year old television personality/motivational speaker with a spotty NFL record (54-74) who hasn’t coached a real game since 2008. While Todd Graham’s recent Sun Devils teams have not been so great, this year’s edition did finish second in the Pac-12 South with wins over in-state rival Arizona and Washington. Regardless, they probably needed a change. But sticking Herm Edwards in there as his replacement just seems odd on so many levels.

Speaking of the Grand Canyon State, how in the heck does Rich Rodriguez keep his job in Arizona. Even with Khalil Tate under center, he still finished 7-5 (5-4). He has gone 7-6, 3-9, 7-5 in the last three seasons.

ALONE ON PROM NIGHT

A few coaches surprisingly did not get that multi-million dollar call they were hoping for.

  • Mike Norvell, Memphis - 8-5 and 10-2 in two seasons; beat UCLA and almost beat UCF in 2017; beat #18 Houston in 2016; made Riley Ferguson into a NFL prospect.
  • Neal Brown, Troy - 10-3 and 10-2 in last two seasons; beat LSU in 2017; almost beat Clemson in 2016.
  • Mike Leach, Washington State - 9–4, 8–5, and 9–3 in last three seasons; beat Southern Cal in 2017, beat Stanford lat two seasons; made Luke Falk inti an NFL prospect.
  • Lane Kiffin, FAU! - He is a bit of a wildcard but for a program that needs a fire lit under them (Arizona State?), he might be just the spark needed. On the other hand, Kiffin might just be digging the Joey Freshwater scene in South Florida.

SABAN’S EVER EXPANDING INFLUENCE

The concept of the Coaching Tree is a subjective one. However, there are several college football coaches moving up the ladder who were greatly influenced by their times with Alabama’s Nick Saban.

  • Kirby Smart, UGA - Ten years under Saban at LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and Alabama.
  • Jimbo Fisher, TAMU - Saban made him OC under him at LSU for five years and he stayed on two more seasons under Les Miles before heading to FSU.
  • Will Muschamp, SC - Five years under Saban at LSU and the Miami Dolphins.
  • Mario Cristobal, Oregon - After being unceremoniously dumped as head coach by FIU, Saban took him under his wing at Alabama. Now he is in charge of a Power P5 (P52).
  • Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee - eight total years at Bama, one under Jimbo at FSU.
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State - Six years under Saban at Sparty before returning to East Lansing to be the head man in 2007.
  • Lane Kiffin, FAU! - He has been head coach before but he undoubtedly learned a few things in three years at the Capstone.
  • Jim McElwain looks like the former Tide OC plans to take a year off from coaching and collect those Gators paychecks. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t return to lead a team this time next year.

+ Fun fact: New Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren was an Alabama Graduate Assitant from 1999 to 2002. While at Alabama, he earned his master's degree in higher education administration with a 4.0 GPA.

HIGH SCHOOL HIGH

Another new trend among college football coaches is one of former high school coaches ascending to the level of FBS head coach. The most obvious of these is Gustavo Malzahn who went from 15 years of coaching an Arkansas high school football to OC at University of Arkansas in 2006. Six years later he was head man at Arkansas State and then to Auburn a year later. Before this experiment, a high school coach taking that kind of path was unheard of (or a flat out disaster).

Jeremy Pruitt and Chad “Don’t Call Me Zack” Morris have followed similar paths. Pruitt spent eight years at the high school level but never as a head coach. Saban made him Director of Player Development in 2007. Now he is in charge of a program with 833 all-time wins. Morris spent 16 years under Friday Night Lights of Texas high school football before becoming Tulsa’s OC. He followed that up with four seasons at Clemson before SMU made him head coach.

South Alabama v South Carolina
Joey Jones. Future Alabama analyst?
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

COUSINS

South Alabama - Oh, what could have been. Two years ago, a 3-star juco wide receiver from Monroe, GA was trying to decide between the only two FBS schools that offered him a full ride. He was not recruited out of high school, so he signed with Butler CC in godforsaken El Dorado, Kansas. After his completion there, he was still not getting much attention ranked the 108th best juco player by 247sports. Being number 108 might sound good but being the 108th juco player is not a high ranking. The Jags and Colorado State were battling over the signature for one Michael Gallup. Gallup chose the Rams and just capped his second straight 1,000 yard receiving season. He has been named to several All-American teams and was one of three Biletnikoff Award finalist. Meanwhile in Mobile, the only head coach USA has ever known, Joey Jones, resigned after a 4-8 campaign. You have to wonder what fate might have held if Gallup had gone Mobile.

Regarding Jones’ replacement, Steve Campbell, they may have found a real gem.

RS-Patriot

SALUTE TO OUR TROOPS

  • Army (9-3) - The Black Knights win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1996 after a snowy 14-13 win in Philadelphia. Next, the Cadets meet San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.
  • Navy (6-6) The Midshipmen play in the Military Bowl against Virginia.
  • Air Force (5-7) - Season over.

HAWT TAEK OF THE WEEK

Tennessee has had four decommits since Jeremy Pruitt was named head coach at Rocky Top. Are they unhappy with the coaching choice or is Pruitt doing some weeding?

The Vols have had TEN decommits since October 4 and 16 in the calendar year.

Kristi Malzahn

Krazy Kristi's "SHUT UP!" of the Week goes to the Willie Taggart for leaving Oregon after one year. The excuse his fans use is that he left Eugene for his "dream job". I seem to recall another coach who left a big time P5 team after 1 year for his "dream job". Can you guess how that turned out? BTW, Todd Graham left Pitt after one season for Arizona State and he is currently unemployed while his replacement, Pat Narduzzi, just got an extension for going 7-5 (see above).

Gump 4 Heisman

HEISMAN HYPE

With the exception of TWO YEARS, the Heisman Trophy voting is basically a hype award. Last year was yet another exhibit of the voters falling in love with someone way too early. That being the case, we'll bring you "Who Will Win" and "Who Should Win".

What a strange year in college football. The parity and lack of dominating teams was a reflection of the players. No one player really stood out this year so by default they gave it to a 22-year old child.

Who Will Win -

  • Baker Mayfield (QB Oklahoma) From walk-on to Heisman, Mayfield earned the fourth highest winning percentage at 86%. He is also the first senior to win it since Troy Smith (who?) of Ohio State in 2006 and Southern Cal’s Carson Palmer before him in 2002. Mayfield has so much talent but he cannot control his emotions and that formula won’t work in the NFL. The Sooners QB is one part Jameis Winston, one part Jay Cutler, and one part JFF. If the stars align, he will end up on the Browns or Jets. That would be LOLs galore. You heard it here first: Damien Harris will get drafted before Mayfield.
  • Bryce Love (RB Stanford) The Trees feature back had a nice year running the ball - when he wasn’t on the sidelines nursing injuries. He had 1,973 yards and 17 TDs on the ground but only 33 yards receiving and 0 scores.
  • Lamar Jackson (QB Louisville) If you are a regular to Random Thoughts, you know how I feel about this guy. He wasn’t going to win it unless he absolutely blew it up and the Cards were at least in contention for a playoff spot. But some NFL team will draft him, probably way too high. He’ll be a starter for awhile but he isn’t winning any Super Bowls.

Who Shoulda Won -

  • Cosmo Cougar (Mascot BYU) for this:

LDS in the HOUSE, y’all!!!

LSU v Mississippi
“I am sure things will be SO much better in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh wouldn’t lie to me”
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

THE SICK REPORT

  • Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson has announced he will transfer to Michigan. I am torn here. I have lulz on #WAOM but the classless way that Jim Harbaugh swooped in just rubbed me the wrong way. I wish Shea nothing but nothing. But don’t cry for the Rebels, Argentina. Jordan Ta'amu will be back and he looked pretty good.
  • Six other Ole Miss players have announced their intentions to transfer. Only wide receiver Van Jefferson (42 rec, 456 yds, 1 TD) is truly impactful. Safety Deontay Anderson had a nice freshman year in 2016, but sat out this season with a fractured bone in his hand sustained one week before the season began. The others are role players at best: cornerback Jalen Julius (9 GP, 10 solo, 5 asst), linebacker Jerrion Street (8 GP, 4 solo, 6 asst), wide receiver Tre Nixon (1 rec, 19 yds, 0 TD), defensive back Breon Dixon (6 GP, 2 solo, 3 asst). It would be funny/sad if nobody wanted them.
  • The Freezegate fall-out is still claiming victims as Ole Miss announced that Lee Tyner, who has served as the university's general counsel since 2003, will resign from his position at the end of the year. How Ross Bjork is still AD is beyond me.
  • It was a dubious start for Jimbo Fisher in College Station with Texas A&M starting defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson being arrested on multiple felony assault charges. College Station police said Henderson pointed a firearm at several people at an apartment complex and threatened to kill them around 2:30 a.m. Officers charged both Henderson and one other man with possession of marijuana after pulling over a car trying to leave the apartments, adding a charge of tampering with evidence for Henderson after finding the alleged weapon nearby in the woods. The senior is suspended indefinitely and has probably played his last football game.
  • Mike Leach was so ticked off at not escaping the wilderness of eastern Washington that he kicked his leading receiver off the team. Well, it wasn’t exactly that reason but the Pirate must have been irate when he learned that Tavares Martin (70 catches for 831 yards and nine touchdowns) had “violated team rules”. Second-leading receiver Isaiah Johnson-Mack had left the team earlier in the week due to “homesickness”. Martin and Johnson-Mack were high school teammates in Belle Glade, FL. Johnson-Mack had 60 receptions for 555 receiving yards and five touchdowns. I would be shocked if Lane Kiffin had not rung them up by now.
  • Former Arkansas DC & Interim coach Paul Rhoads will join Chip Kelly’s staff at UCLA. Rhoads was head coach at Iowa State from 2009–2015 going 32–55.
Black and White TV

And so it begins. There are a plethora of dogs but if you watch one game on Saturday, let it be the Las Vegas Bowl.

Saturday, December 16

NEW ORLEANS BOWL

Troy vs North Texas noon/1pm ESPN - Another great year for the Trojans (10-2). If you are a fan, count yourself fortunate that nobody snapped up head coach Neal Brown who is 20-5 over the last two seasons, soon to be 21-5.

CURE BOWL, Orlando, FL

Western Kentucky vs Georgia State 1:30/2:30 CBSSN - Oddly enough, GSU was 1-4 at home and 5-1 on the road. The only road loss was to Penn State. WKU should take this one.

LAS VEGAS BOWL

Boise vs Oregon 2:30/3:30 ABC - The first big test for Mario Cristobal will be to see if his P5 team can defeat this mid-major of Smurfs.

NEW MEXICO BOWL, Albuquerque, NM

Marshall vs Colorado State 3:30/4:30 ESPN - Mike Bobo was looking like a hot coaching commodity after a 6-2 start. Then his team lost three in a row.

CAMELLIA BOWL, Montgomery, AL

Middle Tennessee vs Arkansas State 7pm/8pm ESPN - ASU’s Blake Anderson was another coaching name making the rounds in Twitterville but it looks like he is staying put for another season.

FCS SEMIS

There is also the FCS Semifinals but for my money, it just isn’t the same. FWIW...

Friday, December 15, 7pm/8pm

#6 Sam Houston State (12-1) at #2 North Dakota State (12-1) ESPN2 - Potential for a SHSU “underdog” win.

Saturday, December 16, 3:30/4:30

#5 South Dakota State (11-2) at #1 James Madison (13-0) ESPNU - JMU should have no problem.

Alabama v Auburn
#GiveDamienTheBall #GDTB
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

#ALABAMA

Peace and blessings to you all!

#RollTide!

Poll

How will Shea Patterson do in Ann Arbor?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    He will blossom and Michigan will win the B1G.
    (54 votes)
  • 55%
    Different quarterback. Same ol’ Michigan.
    (282 votes)
  • 25%
    UM loses 3 starting OL. He is gonna get killed.
    (129 votes)
  • 6%
    He won’t beat out Brandon Peters.
    (35 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (see my amazing insights in the comments section).
    (9 votes)
509 votes total Vote Now