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About this time of year, we start to hear the phrase "coaching carousel" come up to describe college football programs firing and hiring head coaches. Presumably, this process calls to mind a carnival ride spinning furiously out of control, whipping those unwary or unworthy from their seats into the bystanders. We've never fully understood how this image accounts for coaches who switch jobs or land promotions from the assistant ranks, but there you are. "Coaching Duck-Duck-Goose" just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?
We don't care much for cliches here at The College Football Report. In fact, if we were to compose a list of our least favorite aspects of college football commentary, it would include - in no particular order:
1. The coaching carousel.
2. Using metaphors of other sports to describe football plays (such gems as "Ryan Mallett brought the high heat on that one," and "The Wildcats will have to go for a home run here").
3. Mark Schlereth.
4. Hoary old chestnuts like "milking the clock," "in the shadow of their own goalposts," describing quarterbacks as "gunslingers", and the liberal (and nearly always incorrect) use of the word "literally."
5. We will allow at least one exception to Rule #4: the use of "extracurricular activity" to describe two teams at one another after the whistle. We love it. Works even when shortened to "extracurriculars."
6. Note: Keith Jackson holds a lifetime exemption from Rule #4.
7. Along similar lines, a different set of rules apply to Brent Musburger - as anyone who has played his drinking game well knows.
One thing we will give Musburger - and we wish more commentators would (with a wink) do the same - he doesn't shy away from alluding to the point spread. Late field goals, botched extra points and such can elicit a winking comment along the lines of "that won't factor into the outcome of this game, but I bet some people are still paying attention to the margin in this one!"
All that said, we will do our best to continue to avoid cliches such as the carousel. Instead, to describe the inevitable wave of forced retirements, resignations and terminations about to break out, let's add a new character to the cast here at CFR. We'll call him Sheldon, College Football Coach Serial Killer. Or just Sheldon the Shitcanner, for short.
Sheldon struck early this season when the University of Minnesota announced last month the dismissal of head coach Tim Brewster. The Gophers top . . . dog . . . went down without much of a fight after compiling a record of 1-6 this season (15-30 overall, and 6-21 in the Big Ten). Thankfully, Coach Brewster can make himself a nice pillow to cry on out of his $600,000 payout money.
Not to be outdone in underperforming, North Texas head man Todd Dodge rode off into the sunset on October 20th after racking up a total of six wins (against 37 losses) in his years in Denton, Texas. (No word on a severance package for Dodge.) UNT took a big risk by offering Dodge the job - at the time, he was among the nation's top high school head coaches. We hope he was at least allowed to empty out his locker.
But Sheldon really bagged a big name when the University of Colorado fired coach Dan Hawkins earlier this week. Yes, the same coach who intimated in the preseason that a contract extension would help ease the program's woes.
Some might remember Hawkins from his glory days at Boise, where he built the program into the BCS-buster that it is today. Yet the former Mustang couldn't get the hang of the Big 12, running up an uninspiring 19-39 record including a record-breaking collapse last Saturday. Leading by 28 with 11 minutes remaining, the Buffs allowed Kansas to score 35 points for the win.
Athletic Director Mike Bohn should probably brush up his CV as well. Over the past five years, Colorado has ramped up the recruiting budget, added football staffers, upgraded the facilities (including the coach's office) and practice field . . . and will throw $2 million in severance money at Hawkins to force him out.
Next year, the Buffs join the Pac-12 where the average (by CFR's accounting) annual compensation for coaches comes in around $1.5 million. Considering its listless fanbase - Colorado hasn't sold out all 53,613 seats in Folsom Field since 2005 - we don't see where the program will get the money to compete for a top candidate any time soon.
Former Buffalo head coach Gary Barnett, who was ousted by Bohn five years ago, agrees.
Maybe the program should consider alternate sources of revenue?
That's Coaches 0, Sheldon 3 if you're scoring at home. And by scoring, we mean keeping track.
God Bless America, Or At Least The Football Teams Of Her Service Academies
If Army can eke out one more win this year, the 2010 season will mark only the third time since 1960 that all three service academies have finished with winning records.
Not that the Black Knights need extra encouragement - the program hasn't had a winning season since 1996.
Oddly enough, Army must win one of its next two despite three games remaining on the schedule. The traditional Army-Navy game takes place on December 11, too late to count toward the minimum of six wins for bowl eligibility.
Update From The Cap-and-Gown Department
A recently released NCAA study places Rutgers (4-4, 1-2 in Big East) atop the rankings of public institutions in graduation success rate.
Compared to the entire nation, Rutgers still lands in eighth place behind seven private schools - Notre Dame, Duke, Northwestern, Rice, the U.S. Naval Academy, Boston College and . . . Vanderbilt. (Good for Vandy, by the way - they should be good at something.)
The study covered the 2000-2003 enrollment years during which the Rutgers football program registered a graduation success rate of 88 percent. Compare that to the woeful 67 percent average across all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Even if the NCAA grades on a curve, many of those 120 programs should be deemed failures.
Add the #1 ranking posted by the Scarlet Knights in the Academic Progress Rates released in June, and head coach Greg Schiano should earn some consideration for The Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award - regardless of record.
Finally . . . Andrew Gachkar, This Rib's For You
We don't often go in for human interest stories here at the Report, but we will make an exception this week. Outside linebacker Andrew Gachkar leads the defense of the #20 Missouri Tigers in tackles this season, despite needing four emergency surgeries and three weeks in the hospital his sophomore year.
Gachkar, now a senior, suffered a sudden blood clot in his chest during spring workouts two years ago, was rushed to the hospital and eventually needed to have a rib removed to restore a normal bloodflow. Rehab took months, during which Gachkar lost 40 pounds.
He will take the field this Saturday for Senior Day as Mizzou hosts Kansas State. Regardless of the outcome, remember this Andrew - chicks dig scars.
The Pick Sheet - Warming Up
Don't call it a comeback, we've been here for . . . well, a year at least. And so, Week Eleven - for entertainment purposes only, including gambling.
First, The Sports Seal offers up the following anchovy-smeared picks for your consideration:
Boston College @ Duke (+3.5, Saturday 11:00AM)
We need Duke to close on a 3-0 tear to validate our "Blue Devils make a bowl game" preseason prediction.
Minnesota @ Illinois (-21, Saturday 11:00AM)
We didn't know (shh!) the Gophers had been playing without a head coach all this time. Is it too late to take advantage?
Army @ Kent State (pick 'em, Saturday 1:00PM)
A belated honorary pick for the Black Knights and their postseason bowl hopes. Go Army! Beat . . . um, Kent State!
And, for your viewing pleasure (given that none of the above, at least outside the Big Ten "ESPN Plus" TV territory will be televised) here are the CFR Top 25 picks:
#4 Boise State (-34.5) @ Idaho (Friday 8:00PM)
That's a lot of points for a rivalry game, especially in front of a small but hostile crowd at the (get this) Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho.
Little love is lost between these two programs, made worse by Boise's disinterest in continuing the annual matchup after moving to the Mountain West Conference. This will be the last meeting between the Mustangs and Vandals until at least 2013. And yet Boise must put up a big number to stay on the radar screen for the BCS.
#1 Oregon (-19.5) @ California (Saturday 6:30PM)
Maybe the better option for this one would be the 58.5 "over", but we doubt the Ducks will squander this opportunity to stay on top even on the road against the sometimes-scrappy Bears.
Georgia (+7.5) @ #2 Auburn (Saturday 3:30PM)
The Dawgs can trade touchdowns with just about anyone and enter this game fresh off scoring 55 points in a tune-up last week over Idaho State. And we desperately need someone to end this Cameron Newton national nightmare. The Heisman voters want it. Mississippi State wants it. We don't know of a better way for the underachieving Bulldogs to partially salvage a disappointing season than to upset the Tigers on the road. Wishful thinking? Probably. But we've lost for less compelling reasons before.
Mike Luce and the Beachwood Sports Seal bring you The College Football Report in this space every week. They welcome your comments.