IOWA CITY, Iowa – Rarely do I feel a need to defend college head coaches because they have it pretty good these days, especially those who coach football and men’s basketball at power five schools.
From seven-figure contracts to the ability to switch jobs without any serious consequences, college head coaches are a pampered and privileged bunch.
Until they lose too many games and are not wanted anymore. Then it’s don’t let the door hit you on the way out regardless of the timing.
Just in the past week, Randy Edsall and Dan McCarney were fired as head football coaches at Maryland and North Texas, respectively.
It’s easy to see why both coaches were relieved of their duties.
Maryland had been mediocre at best under Edsall, compiling a 22-34 record in four-plus seasons. The Terrapins have lost three games in a row and have been outscored 122-34 in those three games.
North Texas fell to 0-5 with Saturday’s humiliating 66-7 homecoming beat-down against Portland State. It was the latest mismatch in a rapid demise since the Mean Green were victorious in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
I get it. Both coaches were failing to meet expectations.
But what I don’t understand is the decision to fire them during the season? Unless there is more to each case than wins and losses, which I have no reason to believe.
How do the players benefit from their head coach being fired midway through the season? And really, how does a school benefit from it unless Nick Saban is waiting to fill the position, which is laughable in these two cases.
Maryland and North Texas both will finish their seasons in about six weeks. Why not ride it out in both cases and see what happens, while also laying the groundwork for a change behind the scenes?
That might seem dishonest, but it’s part of doing business because that’s what these two mid-season terminations are all about – big bucks, especially in the case of Maryland, which is about to launch a facility upgrade in football.
If both coaches were at risk of being fired halfway through the season, wouldn’t it have made more sense to change coaches during the offseason rather than now? That would’ve created less of a disruption for the current players, for the recruits from both schools, for fans and for the families of both coaches.
Firing a head coach midway through a season just looks sleazy and desperate unless there is some justification besides just wins and losses. It goes against everything that student-athletes get preached to about finishing what you start and about trying to fight through adversity.
Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian was fired on Monday, but his termination came under troubling circumstances that demanded immediate action. Sarkisian was reprimanded and apologized in the preseason for appearing drunk and slurring his words at the "Salute to Troy" booster event. He then was forced to take a leave absence this past weekend that ultimately led to his firing on Monday.
Sarkisian’s firing was justifiable because it reportedly involved some serious personal issues, whereas with Edsall and McCarney, their dismissals were based solely about wins and losses.
Reports surfaced prior to Maryland’s game against top-ranked Ohio State this past Saturday in Columbus that Edsall was on his way out, but that he would coach against the Buckeyes, making him sort of a lame-duck coach for one week.
What an odd setup, I thought.
Maybe Edsall asked for one more chance to coach the kids that he recruited. Or maybe school officials said, `hey, you go win at Ohio State and we’ll reconsider our decision.’
Whatever the case, I hope the decisions to fire Edsall and McCarney during the season are isolated incidents that happened at the same time only by coincidence rather than the start of a trend.
Both coaches deserved better than to be let go during the season.
They deserved for their bosses to endure what they helped to create for just a while longer. They deserved to be treated with more decency and more respect.
I seriously doubt that having an extra six or seven weeks to hire a new coach would make a big difference in finding candidates for both schools.
Maryland has promoted Mike Locksley from offensive coordinator to interim head coach. That’s the same Mike Locksley who had a 2-26 record in three seasons as the head coach at New Mexico. He also was reprimanded for an altercation with an assistant coach while at New Mexico and subsequently suspended without pay for 10 days.
The decision to dump Edsall comes at a time when alumni and boosters are being counted on to help fund a new indoor football facility that will cost a projected $155 million to build.
I understand the importance of pleasing boosters because their money plays a key role in funding athletics.
I also understand Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson saying that he wants to hire a new coach who will excite the fan base by using a wide-open offense.
“If you look at football today, fans want an exciting, wide-open offense, and I think that’s part of why we weren’t successful these last six games,” Anderson told the Baltimore Sun.
But what about the previous 50 games that Edsall had coached for Maryland? What changed in only six games to where Anderson had to fire Edsall with the shame and embarrassment of being let go at mid-season?
Getting rid of Edsell and McCarney weren’t necessarily bad or unfair decisions. The timing was just horrible in both cases.