What Have You Done for Me Lately?
The pay is good, but the hours are long and the job security is non-existent.
In the high-pressure world of college football, “what have you done for me lately?” seems to be the criteria being utilized by school presidents and athletic directors to evaluate their football coaches.
Yesterday the University of Colorado fired head coach Mike MacIntyre.
The same Mike MacIntyre who was named National Coach of the Year just two years ago, in 2016, when he led Colorado to the Pac-12 South Division title and a 10-2 regular season record.
Last week Athletic Director Rick George said he would wait until the end of the season to decide on the future of the program, but apparently a disappointing 31-7 loss to Utah on Saturday—which dropped the Buffs to 5-6 on the year—proved too much for him to bear.
He’ll have a tough time finding a better coach than MacIntyre, who’s not only a good coach but also a good guy.
Mac took a moribund Colorado program that had won 25 games in the previous seven seasons and in his fourth year produced one of the top 10 teams in the country.
He’d worked similar magic at San Jose State, leading the Spartans to a 10-2 record in his third season. Since Mac’s departure, the San Jose State program has imploded, sporting a 1-10 mark this year.
Thanks to escalating TV rights fees, pay for college football coaches has gone through the roof in recent years, with 44 coaches making $3 million or more this season, according to USA Today. MacIntyre was reportedly bringing home $2.9.
But there’s a lot of heat in the kitchen. On many campuses, football supports many of the non-revenue Olympic sports, and the football coach is the face of the athletic department. Between salaries, recruiting and the facilities arms race, costs have increased exponentially. There are lots of big bills to be paid, tickets to be sold, donors to keep happy.
So the pressure to win quickly—and to keep winning—is intense. Regardless of what you did in 2016, two bad seasons and you’re out the door.
The same thing happened not too long ago to Jeff Tedford, the other man pictured with MacIntyre and me in the photo above. Tedford, the winningest football coach in Cal history, was the hottest coach in the country during his heyday in Berkeley (2004-2009), turning down numerous opportunities with both NFL and top college programs. But after three subpar seasons, during which the Bears went 15-22, he was fired in 2012.
Fortunately, after dealing with a serious health issue and working as a head coach in Canada and as a consultant in the NFL and at the University of Washington, Tedford returned to the sidelines last year as the head coach at his alma mater, Fresno State. In his first season, Jeff led a Bulldog team that had won one game in 2016 to 10 wins and an appearance in the Mountain West title game. This season, Fresno State is 9-2 and once again headed to the conference championship game.
Hopefully, Mike MacIntyre will have a similar re-birth. He deserves it.
Utes Win South: Congrats to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, for our money one of the best coaches in the country, on winning the Pac-12 South Division championship.
When Whit lost his two offensive stars—quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss—to season-ending injuries three weeks ago, most of us figured his title chances were gone. Not so fast. Freshman QB Jason Shelley stepped in and led the Utes to victories over Oregon and Colorado. Running back Armand Shyne, who’d carried the ball only 37 times for 166 yards in the previous nine games, rushed for 174 against the Ducks.
Troy Taylor: Whittingham’s teams have always been known for stout defense and brilliant special teams play. The unsung hero of the Utes’ offensive awakening this year is offensive coordinator Troy Taylor, the former Cal quarterback. Taylor is one of the brightest offensive minds in the country and may be an attractive option for teams looking for a head coach after the season.
From 2012-15 Taylor was co-head coach at Folsom High School in Sacramento, helping guide his team to a 58-3 record, a state championship, and state passing records that still stand. His star pupil was current Washington QB Jake Browning, who threw 91 touchdown passes his senior year (that’s not a misprint).
Balance? In the past seven years, all six teams in the Pac-12 South have won the division championship at least once. Here’s the breakdown: 2012-UCLA, 2013-Arizona State, 2014-Arizona, 2015-USC, 2016-Colorado, 2017-USC, 2018-Utah.
As noted above, those division titles brought no job security. Other than Whittingham, all the head coaches of those divisional champions are either out of a job or on the hot seat. The list of fired champs includes: Jim Mora, UCLA ’12; Todd Graham, Arizona State ’13; Rich Rodriguez, Arizona ’14; and MacIntyre, Colorado ’16. Clay Helton, USC ’15 and ’17, may be the next to go, with his Trojans staggering at 5-6 and set to face No. 3 ranked Notre Dame this weekend.
Washington Rules: We’d written two years ago that the power balance in the Pac-12 North was shifting to the state of Washington. That year the Washington schools finished 1-2 in the division. In 2017, they finished tied for first and third.
The shift is now looking more permanent. This year Washington State (10-1, 7-1) and Washington (8-3, 6-2) will meet for the division title in the Apple Cup on Saturday in Pullman, while perennial North powers Oregon (7-4, 4-4) and Stanford (6-4, 4-3) play out the string in disappointing seasons.
SEC Cupcakes (continued): Last week we commented on the compelling SEC matchups on rivalry Saturday. Here were the scores: Alabama 50, Citadel 17; South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9; Auburn 53, Liberty 0; Georgia 66, UMass 27; Florida 63, Idaho 10; and Texas A&M 41, UAB 20. Total score: SEC 322, cupcakes 83.
The unthinkable happened during the first half of the Alabama-Citadel titanic. The game was tied 10-10 at halftime! The Citadel briefly took a 13-10 lead in the third quarter, but the go-ahead field goal was wiped off the board by a penalty and the kicker then missed his second try. This from a team that did not complete a pass during the game.
Heisman Watch: This year’s Heisman Trophy race has narrowed down to three players—quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Gardner Minshew II of Washington State. All three men are having unbelievable seasons. Just take a look at these stats:
Tagovailoa: 164-237 (69.2%), 2865 yards, 31 TDs, 2 INT, 185 rushing yards, 4 TDs
Murray; 196-279 (70.3%), 3310 yards, 34 TDs, 6 INT, 730 rushing yards, 10 TDs
Minshew: 407-578 (70.4%), 4325 yards, 36 TDs, 7 INT, 91 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Tua has been the odds-on favorite all year, but Murray and Minshew have closed the gap. Murray needs big wins and big performances against West Virginia this weekend and then against Texas, presumably, in the Big 12 title game. Minshew needs a big game and a victory in this weekend’s Apple Cup winner-take-all game against Washington and then in the Pac-12 title game against Utah. That still might not be enough, unless Tagovailoa stumbles this weekend against Auburn or in the SEC champ game vs. Georgia.
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Lots of great games on the tube Thursday through Sunday.