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Coaching Carousel

Posted by Kevin on December 6, 2006

Just one year after going 10-2, winning the Cotton Bowl, and being named Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association, Alabama has sent Mike Shula packing.  In 2005, Shula’s squad brought home Alabama’s first victory over a top-5 team in Bryant-Denny Stadium as well as the first victory over Tennessee in Tuscaloosa since 1930.  The Tide finished the 2005 season ranked 8th nationally.  Yet it wasn’t enough.

Shula was hired rather hastily after Dennis Franchione bolted for Texas A&M and after the Mike Price scandal.  The roster was not up to par by any means, due to  NCAA sanctions.  He had just 115 days to prepare for his first game in 2003.  In other words, Shula inherited a big, stinking pile of Alabama shit.   To go 10-2 in his 3rd season was pretty remarkable.  Expecting him to repeat that in 2006 with so many holes to fill from the 2005 roster is just another example of unrealistic Alabama expectations.

But why Shula was fired probably had very little to do with going 6-6 this season.  It very much so had a great deal to do with the fact that in his four seasons at the helm his teams couldn’t get the job done against the SEC, and more importantly, rivals Arkansas, Tennessee, and Auburn.  Shula was 0-4 against Auburn which is enough to get you fired no matter how many other games you win.  His unwillingness to make sweeping changes in the staff also played a part in his departure.

People will always say that players win/lose ballgames, not coaches.  That’s only partially true.  It is the coach’s job to train and educate his players and put them in a position to win.  Coaching decisions affect the flow of a game every bit as much as players executing plays.

So now Bama is looking for its fourth coach since 2000.  The Tide has had 7 coaches in the 24 years since Paul “Bear” Bryant, only one of which has had any real success.  Gene “Bebe” Stallings won the 1992 national championship but retired in 1996.  So who’s next?  Alabama’s short list of candidates have included names like Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, and Jim Grobe.  Spurrier met with the Bama brass and told them he was staying at South Carolina.  Saban and Grobe said they weren’t interested.  Now Alabama is on their 4th pick, Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia.  Even his comments in the press make it seem as if he’s not very interested.  He said he respects Mal Moore (Alabama’s AD) so he met with him.  Then he can’t even remember how long the meeting was or what they talked about?

Who’s next after Rodriguez?  Perhaps the powers that be at Alabama need to pick up the phone and call Gene Stallings for some advice.  After all, he was wildly successful at Alabama in the “Bear’s” shadow.  “I’m not sure why they’re so anxious to get a proven coach. Somewhere along the line, there needs to be some loyalty both ways, maybe commit to a guy with smarts and see it through. I recall Bob Stoops was an assistant at Florida when Oklahoma gave him his shot,” Stallings added. “That hasn’t worked out too badly.”

Before Stoops, Oklahoma had been through three coaches in 10 years.  Since he was hired in 1999, Stoops has delivered a national championship, four conference titles, and five BCS bowl games.

I don’t know if Shula was the right guy or not.  I could care less, actually.  But Bama has really dug itself into a shithole now.  They fired Shula and were shafted by the only guy they really wanted (Spurrier).  Now they’ve been told no by their 2nd and 3rd choices.  Choice #4 put them on the spot for a quick decision and has said plenty of things to sound as if he has no intention of leaving his school.  Is it going too far to say Alabama will be in desperation mode if Rodriguez turns them down, too?  I hope so.  I love watching Alabama squirm.


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