Today, it’s Three Guys Who Never Agree, as Pepe and Diesel have so graciously allowed me to enter their space for a college football discussion. A But what about the kids?? Part II, if you will…
Much discussion, amongst the media and amongst me and my friends and family, the last few days has centered on the latest round of the college football carousel, which has lost all kind of control ever since Tommy Bowden left his undefeated Tulane squad between the final regular season and bowl game. Ironically, Rich Rodriguez was his offensive coordinator then, and he has recently done the same, this time leaving West Virginia, his alma mater, for Michigan. Another non-stop discussion on the radio dial has been Atlanta’s Bobby Petrino “quitting” on his team “in the middle of the season,” which implies there was more than the actual three games remaining of a wash-out season. Because we apparently have nothing else to listen to, and it’s football, blowhards nationwide have overreacted to both of these instances, calling these men “quitters,” “traitors” and, perhaps most comically, “guys I wouldn’t want my son to play for.”
In my best Chris Rock voice, Can we please cut the fucking shit already?
An annoyance I have is our continual holding of athletes to a higher standard than everyone else, even though, time and time again, we are reminded of how idiotic this is. It’s now crept into us holding coaches to higher standards, as if these “leaders of men” are any different. We’re avoiding the idea that coaches, just like us simpletons, want to max out their potential and have the best possible life, just like we hope to. The only difference is their window to do that is exponentially smaller than ours, based on simple time frames, pressure and short attention spans.
Plenty has been said about Bobby Petrino, so it would be redundant for me to bring them all up here – these mainly center on the outside influences that destroyed the season before it began for Atlanta, an average to slightly above average team at best heading into the season if none of those things happened in the first place. Is it wrong for Bobby Petrino to leave Atlanta during the season to head for Arkansas? Perhaps, but it’s not necessarily his fault – if he wants to move to Arkansas, he has to get started right away. By staying for those three final NFL games to see out the season, he would have lost at least one season in Fayetteville, all because of the NCAA’s reluctance to push National Signing Day, which is the root of all the December coaching changes, back a little bit.
The gap between the end of the regular season and the bowl games is too precious to lose when going after those final pieces to the recruiting class, so schools like Michigan and Arkansas have their hands forced into “stealing” other teams’ coaches while the season is still going on. It’s the same reason why Arizona had to go and get Mike Stoops, even though he was the defensive coordinator in a national championship race at the time. But that’s the business timeline the NCAA has set up. The NBA doesn’t open the free agent market on May 1st for a reason, yet college football wants everything signed and sealed by February 6th with battles taking place well before that. Teams don’t have any time to lose.
Football, college and pro (and, who are we kidding, high school), is business - a fact that everyone acknowledges but fails to understand. Everybody thinks they can contend for a national championship, even though it’s proven every year that it is arguably the hardest goal to accomplish in team sports. There are far too many obstacles to overcome and, unlike the NFL, there are no equal playing fields when it comes to competitive advantages and disadvantages.
Which brings me to Rodriguez, who’s become the latest “traitor” on the paving the path to a successful career in coaching football. Nobody bats an eye when an assistant coach, who has a far closer relationship to players than the head coach and is often the one making promises, leaves to take another job, yet we all get up in arms when the head coach moves to greener pastures.
Whether you think Rodriguez’s career move is great or deplorable, you have to understand that the timing of his decision was neither his nor Michigan’s fault. College football has the longest offseason in sports, yet there’s little breathing room between the end of this season and the beginning of next. In fact, they overlap, and the loser in most cases is the end of this season, because next year, of course, is the year we win it all!
But what about the kids? they always say. Seems like one set of them is going to be neglected either way. They should be expecting it by now - it’s the nature of the beast for college football hires to be handled like this. But it doesn’t have to be, does it?