Kiffin, Carroll and a coaching carousel fix, plus more mail
People always ask me: What do you write about in the offseason? My answer, half-jokingly, has always been "there is no offseason." But it no longer feels like a joke. This particular season literally won't end. It's gotten to the point where I'm scared to log online in the morning for fear of what crazy coaching story will have popped up next.
Is there anything we wouldn't believe at this point?
We heard this often after the
The one pertinent thing the NCAA
If the NCAA created an early Signing Day (as some coaches have been pushing for several years now) or moved it later, there wouldn't be so much pressure for schools and coaches to act so quickly. Recruits are still going to get caught in the middle one way or another -- I don't know how to avoid that other than to continue cautioning prospects that their coach could leave at any time -- but you could cut down on the awkward situations where coaches leave on the eve of bowl games or the devastating effect when they leave right before Signing Day.
I'm not sure how you got the idea that anyone (myself included) thought Kelly leaving before the Sugar Bowl was a "great thing," but it is true that I understand why he did it. I also thought that while Cincinnati players' initial bitterness toward Kelly was understandable, ultimately they and Bearcats' fans should feel far more gratitude toward the guy for transforming their program from an irrelevant International Bowl team into a two-time Big East champ and BCS participant. Kelly did far more good for that school in three years than the harm he may have caused for a few weeks prior to the bowl game.
Kiffin, on the other hand, ditched Tennessee having accomplished almost nothing. He delivered a seven-win season and one great recruiting class. Thanks for that. And as strange as it sounds, his timing was far worse than Kelly's due to the ramifications it could have on the Vols' future. I do understand why he took the job. USC was his "home" (if there is such a thing), and it's a more attractive job than Tennessee for several reasons -- the existing talent on hand; the natural recruiting backyard; and the better chance to compete for conference titles on a regular basis.
But leaving any school after just one year is poor form, especially considering the considerable leash extended to Kiffin by AD
Maybe I'm the most gullible person on the planet, but I don't believe the NCAA/Bush situation was a driving factor. As Carroll said, the issue has been hanging over the program for three-and-a-half years now. If it truly scared him, he could have bolted a long time ago. It's admittedly suspicious timing that the NCAA's letter of allegations finally arrived recently (USC will appear before the Committee on Infractions in February), but from all indications, the Seattle thing came out of nowhere. It's not like Carroll was hatching his escape.
Most importantly -- and I know this is going to disappoint many of you -- barring some surprise revelation, USC's football program is probably going to avoid anything serious. (Basketball: Not so much.) If in fact the NCAA proved Bush received extra benefits (and it would have to be the worst investigating unit in history if it didn't), the most likely ramification is that the school will have to vacate wins from that period. Unless the NCAA finds the coaches had direct knowledge of said benefits (and my guess is they didn't), there should be no docked scholarships or postseason bans. The athletic department itself is in danger of a "lack of institutional control" charge, but AD
I think Carroll's decision came down to two factors: 1) His obviously strained relationship with Garrett (which may in part be a result of the AD's handling of the Bush and
Those first five years or so at USC, he seemed truly grateful to be in college and to have the opportunity to build his own program. In recent years, however, USC started more and more to resemble a mini-NFL franchise, from its coaching staff to its offensive schemes to its seeming lack of interest in anything but the biggest games, and you have to wonder in hindsight whether Carroll was using the Trojans as his own personal NFL laboratory. If nothing else, he's made it abundantly clear he prefers a sport with a playoff. He did seem rather detached (though insightful) working for ESPN at last week's title game. I guess now we know why.
It's a fair point, but I don't think a bunch of meaningless fourth-quarter appearances would make a true freshman quarterback any more prepared to enter the national championship game. Nothing could have possibly prepared
What hurt Texas far more was its lack of a running game. It wasn't a new problem -- Texas hasn't had a dependable rushing attack in two years -- but the Longhorns had been able to compensate for it due to McCoy's deadly accuracy and ability to use the short-passing game as a substitute. In an ideal scenario, you lean on your running game and put as little responsibility on the quarterback's shoulders as possible. But the 'Horns (not surprisingly) never got things going on the ground, Gilbert was forced to throw the ball 40 times and, inevitably, he made some costly mistakes. He's a true freshman. Ask
Absolutely. The final score was deceiving, but Texas played its guts out, especially on defense, which boasted every bit as much athleticism as Alabama's. The 'Horns really got to
No asterisk. Injuries -- even one as calamitous as McCoy's -- are part of the game. And while it makes for fun debate, one should never make assumptions on the outcome of a game based on hypothetical scenarios. That's particularly true considering how early the injury happened. The entire game would have played out differently, one way or the other.
Alabama won fair and square.
Sure -- just as soon as the Ivy League schools rejoin Division I-A and World War II breaks out again.
Pretty much. First of all, the atmosphere inside that stadium was electric. All those people who said the teams were relegated to a "meaningless" game apparently forgot to tell Boise State's fans. The announced attendance was 73,227, of which at least 40,000 were wearing orange-and-blue. That's pretty impressive when you consider Boise's home stadium only seats 33,000.
The TV rating -- not earth-shattering, but not the disaster many were predicting. The game did an 8.2 rating (13.8 million viewers), which put it slightly lower than the Florida-Cincinnati Sugar Bowl (8.5), but well above the Iowa-Georgia Tech Orange Bowl (6.8). It confirmed what I believed from the beginning: that fans would find that matchup more interesting than they would the other feasible options, which had Boise playing Iowa in Glendale and TCU playing Georgia Tech in Miami. Neither of those games would have rated as well. (And no other proposed matchups were realistic given the selection order.)
Of course, it also confirms once again that brand name programs will always be a bigger draw than mid-majors, regardless of record. Last year's Texas-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl did a 10.4
I stated my opinion that I thought the Broncos should have finished ahead of at least Florida, but it's not hard to see how it happened. The Gators (at No. 5) were ahead of the Broncos (at No. 6) in both polls going into the bowl games. Florida crushed No. 4 Cincinnati. Boise edged No. 3 TCU. The voters moved them up the same number of spots. I'd hardly call it an injustice.
But you raise an interesting point that gets overlooked far too often. BCS critics (like the folks behind last week's television ads) tried to use TCU and Boise as exhibits of the system's purported unfairness while conveniently overlooking the fact that there was absolutely nothing stopping the voters from placing those teams in the title game. The BCS didn't show favoritism toward Alabama and Texas; the voters did. Why was there no similar outcry over Cincinnati? The Bearcats may have had an automatic bid, but they didn't get into the title game, either.
For all the outside uproar, I noticed there was no BCS outcry whatsoever from Boise or TCU's coaches and players. (
Miles -- and it's not even close. We're about to find out just how quickly a coach can go from national championship (2007) to the firing squad (2010?) in the SEC, because right now we're watching every LSU fan's worst nightmare play out: Alabama is turning into the kind of program LSU might have become had Saban never left, at the expense of the Tigers. I've been a big Miles fan in the past, but he's lost a lot of his luster the past two years. LSU's slide to 8-5 the year after the title season was forgivable considering how much turnover the Tigers endured that offseason (including at quarterback). This year's 9-4 season seemed more disappointing both because of the Tigers' offensive ineptitude (they finished 112th nationally) and Miles' repeated game-management blunders.
There's still plenty of talent in Baton Rouge -- but it's young. LSU is only a year removed from landing Rivals.com's No. 2 recruiting class, and a lot of those guys are going to have step up to help fill the void left by veterans like
Miles' record at LSU, by the way, is 51-15.
I can't explain why that feels like the right way to end the season. It just kind of does.
While the Mailbag will go on hiatus for a few months, I'm guessing you'll still be seeing plenty of me on this site as long as Tennessee and USF are still looking for coaches and recruits are still looking for a place to sign.
In the meantime, if you aren't already, I welcome you to
That's the season premiere of