So maybe Silly Season is the wrong description?
Let’s recap the last two days:
- Texas A&M fired Kevin Sumlin Sunday, albeit not after rumors connected him to the newly open Arizona State job. In most situations, this would be good news for the school in question, as the outgoing coach getting a new job would surely offset some of the buyout he is owed. This is not the case for A&M. Regardless of whether Sumlin gets a new gig or not, he will be owed some $10 million, payable within 60 days of his termination date. The Aggies, reportedly, will follow up this investment with another significant sum in Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher.
- Tennessee actually fired Butch Jones two weeks ago, although gosh...it seems like a lot has happened since then, right? Athletic Director John Currie met with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach), and appeared all set to make him the next head coach of the Volunteers but other people had thoughts.
- In the wake of an emotional Egg Bowl win over Mississippi State that pulled Ole Miss to a 6-6 record, the Rebels pulled the interim tag off of Matt Luke; AND
- Dan Mullen finally got the call out of Starkville, agreeing to become Florida’s head coach, on a six-year, $36 million contract.
- Arkansas fired Bret Bielema while he was walking off the field after the Razorbacks’ Black Friday loss to Mizzou. No, not while he was walking off the field, right AFTER he walked off it, before he could even talk to his team. Okay, okay, not then, but right after his post-game prayer with those players. That makes it better, right?
- It was time for Sumlin in College Station. Things had clearly plateaued there, and if the Aggies are ever going to become a true contender for the top of the SEC, it’s going to have to come with somebody else. Jimbo Fisher’s certainly the flashiest name they could get, but for the $7 or 8 million a year it’s going to cost? Fisher’s contract with Florida State, and it’s $40 million buyout is so lopsided that the Aggies would basically be doing them a favor. And making Fisher one of, if not the, highest paid coach in the country is setting the bar at championship or bust.
- But then, if Florida’s going to pay Dan Mullen $6 mill, I suppose that’s the market. Mullen at Florida will be an interesting test of my own judgment. It was third-time’s-the-charm, given that many thought he’d get the job when Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain were each hired. There’s no question that Mullen did a fantastic job at State — he’s probably the best coach in school history — but I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that things had plateaued for him as well. It’s always stuck with me that he never really seemed to box out Ole Miss in recruiting, even as the program struggled in the transition from Houston Nutt to Hugh Freeze. Was that a Starkville limitation, or a Mullen limitation? One thing’s for sure: Florida is no longer a job that “recruits itself,” not with a strong Florida State, Miami, the other assorted in-state programs, plus the rest of the country recruiting the Sunshine State.
- I’m completely willing to concede that I could be wrong, but this just feels like Florida adding a different flavor of what they had under McElwain. A good coach that can make things work with limited talent, but can’t really upgrade that talent to the top shelf.
- Speaking of Mississippi, the Rebels basically punted on this hiring cycle. Honestly, I’m not sure I blame them, either. Rumor has it Willie Taggart, who seems to be already desperate to get out of the Pacific Northwest, turned down the job, and the longer the NCAA penalty announcement drags out, the more likely it is that other candidates will pass as well. Luke, ultimately, probably got this team to about the same record they would’ve had with Hugh Freeze in charge, and maybe he just holds the rope for a few years until the sanctions pass and then Ole Miss can truly start fresh, with a full allotment of scholarships for a big-time coach.
- Although AD Ross Bjork may not be around long enough to see if that strategy bears any fruit.
- John Cohen will probably cycle through a couple relievers before he finds the right match-up for State, but coordinators like Jeremy Pruitt and Joe Moorehead make sense. Manny Diaz, with his experience recruiting to Starkvegas, makes more to me. Neal Brown or Mike Norvell would be a smart move as well. Ditto for Arkansas.
- As for Tennessee...wow. Well, first off, regardless of whether or not you believe Greg Schiano had any involvement in the Jerry Sandusky horror at Penn State — and while there doesn’t seem to be any significant evidence that he had any real culpability, just the question may be enough — the guy’s just...kind of a dick? His tenure in the NFL has to be one of the more miserable ones I can remember recently, and his success at Rutgers was damn near 10 years ago.
- Second off, if you’re John Currie, and you truly believe he’s your guy, you have to be willing to stand up and sell him to your constituency, or else why are you even making this decision?
- And on that note, it’s’ anybody’s guess as to where the Vols go from here. Old reliable, David Cutcliffe, seems like he’s ready to finish his career at Duke. Tee Martin would be an interesting choice, but more of a long-term investment that would require some on-the-job training. The simple reality is right now, if you’re an agent, you wonder whether the athletic director has any actual say in making this decision, and if you’re the coach, you have to wonder if there is any hope in uniting the stakeholders in this job behind you.
All of this is almost certainly going to lead to some stupid money getting spent. And you have to wonder what the tipping point is. Just a few years ago we were talking about somebody in the SEC West making $4 million a year to finish last. By the end of this cycle, we may be talking about nearly half the division making $6 or 7 mill. And there’s only one spot in Atlanta. We talk about markets and going rates, but at some point these ADs are just negotiating against themselves. At what point does an AD have the guts to actively tie one of these contracts directly to wins and losses?
- On a final coaching note with some local flair — Matt Canada hit the road recruiting with the rest of LSU’s coaching staff, meeting with several 2018 quarterback prospects. He will continue to do so unless he gets consideration for a head coaching job, in which case, yes, he may leave Baton Rouge after just one year. But in speaking with sources, there is no push to get rid of him, nor will he leave for another assistant gig. My review of Ed Orgeron’s comments after the Texas A&M game read them more as an acknowledgement that Canada would be looking to move on up, more so than a desire to make it happen.
- There has been some reported friction this season, much like Canada’s had at other stops. But he makes quite a lot of money and has two years left on his contract; LSU won’t be paying him to walk away, and it’s unlikely any other school would, either (without looking, I don’t think a buyout would apply to a promotion). We’ll continue to discuss this in some of our season review pieces, but I think Canada did a solid job this year, and would like to see what could happen with some continuity. That said, it’s much easier to replace an offensive coordinator these days, and I don’t think Canada would be irreplaceable at all.
As always, we’ll stay on top of things as we hear them.