College football’s silly season begins

This is the time of year when everyone wants to fire their coach.
MONICA HERNDON   |   TimesFlorida State Seminoles head coach Willie Taggart reacts to something during the second quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Miami, Fla. At the half, Miami was down 20 to 7.
MONICA HERNDON | TimesFlorida State Seminoles head coach Willie Taggart reacts to something during the second quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Miami, Fla. At the half, Miami was down 20 to 7.
Published November 28 2018
Updated November 28 2018

Welcome to the silly season of college football. That's when every fan in the country, except those who roll with the Tide, think there's a better coach out there than the one they have.

First, however, a disclaimer. Before we start any conversation about college football, we must acknowledge that college football fans are completely crazy.

Normal, intelligent, reasonable and otherwise friendly people will turn into raving-mad, irrational foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics when it comes to their favorite schools.

Just look at how folks behave. Ohio State fans defend indefensible behavior by their head coach. UCF fans go bonkers at the mere suggestion that UCF has no business playing for a national title. Then there's that disturbing story about the FSU fan from Orlando who sent out racist tweets because head coach Willie Taggart didn't win enough games.

This stuff isn't uncommon. Most fans, regardless of the school, are simply incapable of being sensible.

So why should we care what fans think? Because the universities do. If there are enough of those fans, including those who donate just enough money, universities actually give them a voice.

That's why this time of year has become so silly. It's when fans pick up their torches and pitchforks and look for someone to chase out of town because their team didn't win a conference championship or lost to Rival University or isn't good enough to go to the Cheez-It Bowl. (That's a real bowl, by the way.)

Michigan fans could not care less that Jim Harbaugh has gone 38-13 in four years. All they care about is that he is 0-4 against Ohio State.

Some USF fans want Charlie Strong fired even though his Bulls have won 17 games in two seasons. Do you know how many schools would love to win 17 games in two seasons?

USC had to put out a statement that it was keeping Clay Helton because the Trojans went 5-7 after Helton led them to a 21-6 record the previous two seasons.

And many FSU fans want Taggart gone even though Taggart hasn't even been there a year yet.

Crazy, right?

It seems that any time a team stumbles, even for a few games, fans want to make a switch. They always think the grass is greener on the other side of the field. And on that greener side of the field stands a coach who is a better recruiter and smarter coach than your guy.

But it doesn't always work out that way.

Ask Florida when it dumped Will Muschamp for Jim McElwain. How'd that work out?

Ask South Florida when it dumped Jim Leavitt for Skip Holtz. How'd that go?

Larry Fedora was supposed to resurrect North Carolina and he just got bounced the other day after going 2-9 in his seventh season. And just to show how thin things are out there, the Tar Heels are turning back to 67-year-old Mack Brown, who hasn't coached since 2013.

To be fair, making a moves often does work.

USF made the right call firing Holtz for Taggart. Texas would argue that firing Strong for Tom Herman is looking smart. And early returns suggest that Georgia did the right thing firing Mark Richt and hiring Kirby Smart.

But the part that has become truly stunning in all this is just how quickly schools look to make a change. Not all that long ago, coaches were given a few recruiting classes before he was given a pink slip.

These days, all it takes is one lousy season for fans to turn.

Ohio State fans will defend Urban Meyer against anything because he has lost four conference games in seven years. But if he lost four conference games in one season, you can bet some nut job would plant a "For Sale'' sign in his front yard.

How do we know?

Because it happens all the time. Actually, you don't even to have a bad season for fans to get restless.

James Franklin has taken heat at Penn State even though the Nittany Lions are a perennial top 15 team. Just four seasons removed from a national championship, FSU fans practically threw a party for Jimbo Fisher on his way out of town. And Oregon fired Mark Helfrich two seasons after he played for a national championship.

There is more to this insanity. In a desperate effort to go out and get the best coaches they can find, universities practically sell their souls by putting expensive buyout clauses in contracts in the event they ever fired their new hires. Then, universities, are caught between needing to fire its coach and hesitating to fire him because it would cost too much money.

The bottom line? It's all crazy.

Maybe more programs should be like Iowa. Coach Kirk Ferentz runs a clean program, goes 8-5 every year, occasionally upsets a highly-ranked team, wins a bowl game here and there, and finishes in the top 10 every few years. Shoot, he has been doing that for 20 years now.

It makes you wonder: how in the world does this guy still have a job?

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