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By Mike Luce
Have we all recovered from the Turkey Day festivities? Are we up or down? I'm not talking weight or waistlines here, people. How's your portfolio, if you will? Take stock now, because the season will be over before you can say "Troy-Bilt Chipper/Shredder Bowl."
Here at the College Football Report, we dabbled over the Thanksgiving holiday with a bit of cranberry sauce (not our traditional favorite), moderate alcohol intake (not something we're known for - the moderate part - and note, we had limited success) and NFL wagering (for entertainment purposes only, of course).
Now, let's get down to business. As the college football season draws to a close, we're altering our publishing schedule a bit. From here on out, we'll have one column every Friday instead of the heretofore Tuesday-Thursday combo. We recognize that we'll have to pack two columns' worth of insight, dry humor, and obscure references into 2,000 words (give or take.) But we can do it. We have faith.
Week 14 marks the start of college football's second season - and no, we don't mean the conference championships. Layoff Season begins this week. (For now, let's consider the year split up into the following parts: Creampuff Season, Conference Season, Layoff Season, Also-Ran Bowls, Vaguely Interesting Bowls, Legitimately Intriguing Bowls, the BCS Games, and Bowls You Didn't Know About Because They Come After the BCS Championship. Clear? Good.) Because every other college football column will use it, let's just go ahead and get it out of the way - the coaching carousel is spinning. There, we said it.
Most teams wrapped up the regular last week, and will now feel free to cut free some dead weight. The Notre Dame program, for example, is looking about 400 pounds lighter nowadays. We observed a weighty moment of silence last week for the passing of Coach Weis. See you in the buffet line, Charlie.
Now let's do our best Frank Costello impersonation and leave a card for the rest of the dearly departed.
Bobby Bowden: We have not been alone in mocking what has turned out to be Bowden's last year in Tallahassee. I'm not sure, but the phrase "rotting corpse" may have showed up here a time or two.
Even so, Bowden is a true living legend. Under his watch, Florida State claimed two national titles, 12 ACC championships, and won 10 or more games 14 years in a row beginning in 1987. But the "what have you done for me lately" mentality influences college football possibly more so than any other major sport.
Since 2001, the Seminoles won 10 or more games only once (2003) and lost five or more games in five seasons (2002, 2005-2007, 2009). Let's put it this way - the 'Noles lost the 2007 Music City Bowl to Kentucky.
Then again, FSU entered the bowl game missing 34 players due to injury, suspension, and the fallout from an academic cheating scandal.
Throughout his career at FSU, controversy followed Coach Bowden. Yet his image as a pious family man and the strength of his charismatic personality largely insulated the program from any serious NCAA wrist-slapping. Most recently, evidence of the academic scandal emerged to show that FSU staffers allegedly helped football players (among other athletes) cheat for passing grades - notably in an online
music history course (!) in '06 and '07. The NCAA has ordered the team to rescind as many as 14 wins in those two seasons and an appeal from FSU is still pending.
Combined with the slow slide from the heights of the '90s, the scandal served to reinforce Bowden's grandfatherly image. At times this season, he seemed content to meander the sidelines as head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fischer called the shots and sharpened his knives. The media is up in arms this week about the shameful way in which FSU pushed Bowden out the door, but we're not too sympathetic. Our card reads:
"To Bobby - You had a good run. That you were pushed out may seem unfair, but you created this beast. None of us get to choose when we go . . . well, except maybe JoePa. Happy trails."
Mark Mangino: Another victim of his own success, Mangino compounded the problem of a less-than-expected season by being (allegedly) a complete asshole.
Despite pre-season BCS projections, KU failed to qualify for bowl eligibility. To make matters worse, the neighboring Missouri Tigers put the nail in the coffin in a heated rivalry game.
The allegations of physical and mental abuse must have some legs, because we aren't too far removed from Mangino's 12-1 record, Orange Bowl win and national Coach of the Year honors in the 2007 season.
After taking the program into such lofty heights, KU rewarded Mangino with a hefty (pun intended) raise and contract extension. Reports indicate that he has reached a financial settlement with the university, possibly to the tune of a $6.6 million buy-out. To that, we say:
"Dear Coach - $6.6 million sounds like more than enough for a lifetime of chicken wings. You'll be missed. More for comedic value than anything else, but missed all the same."
Steve Kragthorpe: Three years ago, Louisville seemed like a prime opportunity for a hot young coach. The program enjoyed great success under previous top man Bobby Petrino (who ditched the program for the NFL, promptly tanked the '07 Falcons, and then slipped out of Atlanta for the head job at Arkansas) and the new guy seemed like a good man for the job. The up-and-coming Kragthorpe had brought life to the Tulsa program and Louisville AD Tom Jurich didn't waste much time bringing him aboard.
Three years, a 15-21 overall record, and no bowl appearances later and the former golden boy is out on the street. Jurich has been quoted to say that Kragthorpe "didn't seem like the right fit from Day One."
Curious. This was your guy, Tom - who are we to blame if he was a poor fit? As the athletic director, aren't you responsible for assessing this sort of issue before making a new hire?
"To Steve - Maybe your teams sucked, but we don't like the Cardinals anyway. If you had to bomb, we're happy you did it in Louisville. That said, we're putting over/under line on your next head gig at 3.5 years."
J.D. Brookhart: We don't usually devote much time to happenings outside the BCS conferences, but this is the Akron Zips! This is the same program known by most football fans for a point-shaving scandal and for having a funny nickname!
Among other things, Brookhart fell victim to a plague of injuries this season - ultimately losing 27 of 84 scholarship players. Ouch.
"J.D. - We're sorry to see you go. We enjoyed wagering against your injury-riddled squad. Thanks for the memories."
Dick Tomey: Yes, the man behind the Arizona Wildcat "Desert Swarm" defense has passed beyond the college football pearly goalposts. In the mid-90s, Tomey's Wildcats were a major force in the Pac-10. He went on to spend some time in the NFL and ultimately returned as a college head coach at San Jose State in 2005. Earlier this year, he was named President of the American Football Coaches Association. (You know, the AFCA?)
"To Dick - There are worse places to spend your retirement than San Jose and/or Arizona. Enjoy the links."
Mike Sanford: Coach Sanford, fast out of the gates as the early leader in the College Football Report's 2009 "Most Bitter Ex-Coach of the Year Award"! Check out some of those zingers! This is not a happy man.
"Coach - We're still looking for your unmarked grave in the desert. Rest in peace."
Jerry Glanville: Wait, Jerry Glanville? The Jerry Glanville? He was still with us?
Well, maybe the Glanville era record (9-24) at Portland State suggests he was only with us in the loosest sense . . . but still. Jerry Glanville. Who woulda thunk it.
"Jerry - Like the Oscars, college football should have a montage of the fallen every year. Mostly so we could all be surprised by the passing of coaches thought long dead. Like you."
Hofstra: Thank you, Hofstra, for lowering the bar. No matter how poorly our favorite teams did this year, as college football fans we can take pride in knowing that at least we outperformed the, err . . . Pride. That nickname is a real shame especially considering that, despite the university handing out free tickets to home games, on average only 500 students showed up . . . including the cheerleaders and pep band.
The lesson for us here? College football is expensive. Fielding a team, staffing a program, and running a stadium doesn't come cheap.
And in a sport where winning ultimately equates to revenue, there isn't room for lovable losers.
"To Hofstra - Frankly, we didn't pay much attention to you even while you were alive. But we'll be sure to mourn you at the next reunion . . . at least for a few polite minutes."
Before we look ahead to the upcoming conference championships, here is a quick recap of last week's action among the top BCS contenders.
- Florida State 10 @ #1 Florida 37 (-25.5)
- #2 Alabama 26 (-10) @ Auburn 21*
- #3 Texas 49 (-20.5) @ Texas A&M**
- New Mexico 10 @ #4 TCU 51 (-44.5)
- Illinois 36 @ #5 Cincinnati 49 (-18.5)
- Nevada 33 @ #6 Boise State 44 (-13.5)
- Georgia 30 @ #7 Georgia Tech 24 (-8.5)***
* Don't pay too much attention to this score when thinking about the
** Thank you, A&M!
*** Boy, UGA is a weird team. This is the same squad that lost to Kentucky. At home. Strange.
Finally, here a brief look at the action in Week 14 - we're off to a hot start after taking the Beavers (+10) over the Ducks last night. The following is for entertainment purposes only, including gambling . . . with our picks noted.
- #1 Florida (-5) @ #2 Alabama (at the Georgia Dome, Saturday, 3 p.m.)
- #3 Texas (-14) @ #22 Nebraska (at Cowboys Stadium, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
- #5 Cincinnati @ #15 Pittsburgh (+1.5, at Heinz Field, Saturday, 11 a.m.)
- New Mexico State @ #6 Boise State (-47.5, Saturday, 2 p.m.)
- #10 Georgia Tech (-1) @ Clemson (at Raymond James Stadium, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.
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