Please tell me I'm not the only one that's feeling like their head is about to spin right off their head with all of this coaching carousel stuff!…. O.k., good, I'm not crazy, you are feeling the same way too? Whether it's the dumpster fire that is the Tennessee coaching search (which finally, just unceremoniously concluded with the highly uninspiring Butch Jones hire), or the shadowy move by Bret Bielema to Arkansas, or the crazy firings of coaches we've already seen so far this month, it's safe to say things are beginning to border on the downright absurd.
To be fair, this isn't the first year things are crazy or will be crazy on the coaching carousel, that's the nature of the beast as they say. But things have seemingly been taken to a whole new level of absurd in the past few years. I mean we've seen coaches jump at the first offer of crazy money (Hey Todd Graham, your phone's ringing for more money, you should probably answer it again), coaches be fired before they could even have a chance to right the ship (Jon Embree at Colorado) because of money, a coach fired because they had one losing season after doing things the program had never done before (Mario Cristobal at FIU), and rumors of $4 and $5 million dollar head coaching offers. All of that is just scratching the surface of what's been going on too.
What's even more absurd than all of that? Well, try what's been going on behind the scenes in the world of assistant coaches salaries. To be sure, I don't begrudge a person wanting to get paid what they can get paid – in fact I fully support such an action, that's capitalism in it's purest form – but there is an absolutely crazy amount of money being thrown around to hire assistant coaches these days and it's only adding to the insanity of it all.
Just how bad is it? Well, check out this little nugget of research from HawkeyeNation.com – The QUARTERBACKS coach at LSU makes $700,000 dollars per season. Yes, you just read that right and as earth shattering a fact as that may be we haven't even scratched the surface of crazy yet. That's because that $700,000 dollar salary is more money than 22 of the 24 offensive and defensive COORDINATORS are making in the Big Ten! Only the defensive coordinators at Ohio State and Michigan State make more than that – and Luke Fickell at OSU only made more than that in the past year because he was the interim head coach at OSU. That one number alone just left me shaking my head.
At what point does all of this stop? What's next – every position coach in the SEC is going to start being paid a million dollars? Somewhere, someone has to step up and say "no, enough is enough" and begin to focus coaching back on what it's supposed to be all about – the kids. If not college football runs the risk of running itself right off their own version of the "fiscal cliff."
I mean, if AD's and schools around the SEC are willing to pay coaches crazy jack why aren't we even exploring seriously the option of first taking some of that money and paying the people who actually do the work on the field, you know, the players some cash. (I know, I know… who's saying they aren't already doing just that down south anyway?)
Then there's the fact that in the SEC some coordinators are making more money than head coaches at other BCS conference schools – places like Purdue for example and it's not as if the Big Ten isn't awash in TV money or anything either.
It's one thing to be talking about firing coaches and hiring new ones on the merits of what they've accomplished, but in today's world of college football it seems like we're spending more time talking about coaches leaving because they're making more money elsewhere and not because it's a better chance for them to win football games or it's a "destination" job – hell just look at the hire of Bielema at Arkansas for proof of just how head scratching some of these decisions have become.
It all adds up to one giant mess of a situation and people wonder why others around the country are so turned off by the modern college football landscape? It shouldn't be any mystery at all, it's really becoming an embarrassment.
However, for as insane a picture as was just painted and just when it seemed right to turn your back and look away from what's happening because no one was going to stand up for for integrity or doing the right thing we have two people do just that this week.
Who am I and what am I talking about? I'm talking about Wisconsin AD/interim head coach Barry Alvarez and Pitt head coach Paul Chryst.
When former Badgers HC Bret Bielema upped and left for Arkansas on Tuesday the natural speculation was to turn to a man that's all about Madison – Pitt's current head coach Paul Chryst. He immediately issued a statement via Pitt's AD reaffirming his commitment to the Panthers. Now, maybe it's just the jaded part of our brains or the fact that we've seen this a thousand times over, that the natural reaction was to be very skeptical.
However, Chryst isn't like what today's coaching carousel has been about, he's someone that actually means what he says, says what he means and goes out and shows it. At least that's what he's proven by spurning offers of huge money from the likes of Texas and offers of head coaching positions at other major universities before.
Then on Thursday Barry Alvarez stepped on the stage to announce he will coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl and the Rose Bowl only, but he also added an emphatic NO to the rumor mill surrounding Chryst to Wisconsin, making it clear that he has spoken with him and that Chryst's commitment to Pitt is real and he's not coming to Wisconsin.
Alvarez put it pretty bluntly, stating, "I think Paul has already come out and said that he's committed to Pitt. I think he should be committed to Pitt. I wouldn't think it would be right for him to leave after one year. I wouldn't feel right, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to hire him back after I asked someone to do me a favor and help him get that job."
He even went as far as to say "somewhere along the line in our business, you have to have loyalty & credibility," when talking to Scott Van Pelt on ESPN Radio later in the day. Clearly he's talking about the fact that coaches these days are losing credibility with players, AD's and the fans when the say one thing and do another on an ever increasing rate.
So, maybe, just maybe there is some hope that this insane culture in college football, one that has some AD's seemingly printing money like they've got their own line to the Federal Reserve, actually has people willing to take a stand for what's right and what's sane for a change. Of course we could see all of those words mean little and Paul Chryst end up at Wisconsin, after all it would just be another crazy moment in an already crazy ride on the coaching carousel in 2012.
For more of Andy's musings on college football, the Big Ten, and the Wisconsin Badgers make sure to follow him on Twitter @andycoppens.
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