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  • This week's #DearAndy mailbag looks at coaches who could stick around in their current place for a long time, the ideal broadcast team and Lynn Swann's status at USC.
By Andy Staples
April 03, 2019

We’re ODing on basketball, but you still have college football questions...

From KC: #DearAndy, if you had to form your favorite color/play-by-play booth in the sport who would you choose? As a #PurpleReign fan I love Brock Huard, and Keith Jackson was my all time favorite.

If we’re allowed to bring someone back from the Great Beyond, I’m definitely going with Jackson for play-by-play. His was the voice of college football. Every game he called felt more important because he was calling it.

If we’re only allowed to select living (but retired) play-by-play folks, I’m taking Verne Lundquist. Uncle Verne could toggle between folksy and voice-of-God better than anyone except Jackson.

But if we’re going with people currently calling college football, I’ll take Sean McDonough on play-by-play. When Joe Tessitore—another of my favorites—moved to Monday Night Football, McDonough moved back to college. His return was welcome, because he also has one of those voices that tells you that you’re watching an important game (even if it’s not that important). McDonough is always prepared and always seems to adopt the proper tone. He also has a dry wit that he sharpened dealing with Jon Gruden as the NFL gave the MNF crew a parade of stinkers in the past few years.

I love KC’s suggestion of Brock Huard, because Brock is knowledgable, thoughtful and unafraid to share a controversial opinion. Quick Huard story: A few years ago, I visited Tessitore in Connecticut for a dinner at his brother-in-law’s excellent Italian restaurant. Joe’s wife picked me up at the train station and delivered me to their house, where Brock had Joe going back through that day’s College Football Live like Jim Lambright probably went through Brock’s practice film. He wanted every critique Joe could offer, because he wanted to get better. He didn’t want to coast on being a college star and an NFL quarterback. Later that night, Brock kept eating short rib after even I had tapped out. The man is a bottomless pit as well as a bottomless wellspring of football knowledge.

But could I be so bold as to suggest a three-man booth? I’d like to see those two matched with Fox’s Joel Klatt, who really is talented enough to be either one of the best analysts or the best play-by-play voices if he wanted to. Like Brock, Joel always does his homework. I learn something every time I watch a game he calls. If there was any lull in the game, those three could fill it with intelligent conversation.

And since we’re creating a big-game crew here, let’s put a reporter on each sideline. ESPN’s Maria Taylor was a two-sport athlete at Georgia and has risen quickly up the network’s ranks because she’s prepared and unafraid to ask the question on everyone’s mind. Sometimes that gets her yelled at, but we know Maria isn’t scared of Nick Saban. On the other sideline, let’s have ESPN’s Laura Rutledge. I’ve known Laura since she was a student reporter filing stories for recruiting sites. No one worked harder then, and that didn’t change when she hit the big-time.

If you can get me a game with that crew, I’ll sack out on the couch and let them handle all the analysis.

From Curt: If you could see into the future, which current coach do you see being at his current school 10 to 15 years from now?

This is a tough one, because the increased salaries have created an environment where a coach can go from beloved to a waste of money in a matter of years. But let’s give it a shot.

I think Dabo Swinney will retire at Clemson. I don’t know when that will be, but he’s 49 years old and probably has at least 10 more good years in him, if not more. Obviously, alma mater Alabama will come calling when Nick Saban retires, but I can’t see Swinney leaving what he’s built at Clemson to be just another great Alabama coach.

I think Kirby Smart will still be at Georgia. The Bulldogs came within a miracle pass of winning the national title in Smart’s second year, and I think they’ll break through at some point and join Clemson and Alabama as the best programs in the sport. Smart is home, and he has the best recruiting ground in the nation. There is no need for him to go anywhere, and he’ll keep giving the Bulldogs what they want.

Speaking of 90s-era defenders coaching their alma maters, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald now has everything he’s asked for with that palace of a facility on Lake Michigan. He also came through with a division title last season. Fitz has turned down NFL interest and interest from other schools. It’s tough to imagine him coaching anywhere else.

Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part, but I think Lincoln Riley will stay at Oklahoma and Tom Herman will stay at Texas and that rivalry will be a blast for a long time to come. I realize Riley may have to turn down NFL overtures almost every year, but he also has Barry Switzer down the road whispering to stay happy in Norman. Herman may find himself with the same choice if Texas keeps improving, but he also seems like he’d be a better college coach.

The other name I’d list will surprise a lot of people. I think Ed Orgeron will last a long time at LSU. The hot seat talk last offseason came only from the uninformed, and Orgeron continues to upgrade LSU’s roster. It’s his dream job, so he isn’t going anywhere as long as he wins enough to keep the fans happy. That’s quite the trick, but Saban isn’t going to coach forever. If Coach O can hang on until the GOAT hangs it up, he might be able to retire in Baton Rouge.

From Erik: Is Lynn Swann daring USC to fire him?

Reading Patrick Hruby’s Los Angeles Times story about Swann’s decision to go across the country to sign autographs for money while USC trustees and senior staff discussed governance issues at a retreat in Santa Barbara, it certainly seems like Swann isn’t very concerned about his day job. No, Swann wasn’t required to be at the retreat. But with the school going through a series of crises that includes a bribery scandal that involved one of Swann’s chief lieutenants, shouldn’t the AD be very interested in the governance of the university?

Swann has every right to sign autographs for cash. He is, after all, a very famous former professional athlete whose signature is in high demand. But good ADs are concerned about what is happening in the administration building as well as at the stadium. Swann is probably not a good AD, and that’s probably because he had no experience administrating an athletic department when he was hired to run one of the nation’s highest profile departments.

If Tuesday’s big USC headline is any indication, Swann may have been signing instead of attending the retreat because he isn’t long for the job. The school announced that provost Michael Quick and general counsel Carol Mauch Amir will retire in June ahead of the arrival of new president Carol Folt, who takes office July 1. The departure of the chief academic officer and the general counsel suggests Folt is cleaning house at the top, and she of all people should know that issues within the athletic department can make life more difficult for everyone at a university. She also knows how having a good AD can make a president’s job easier. Folt had nothing to do with the academic scandal at North Carolina that led to a major NCAA investigation—it happened before she was named chancellor at the school—but she did have to shepherd North Carolina through the fallout on the athletic and academic sides. Fortunately for Folt, she had AD Bubba Cunningham handling the business of the athletic department. Like Folt, Cunningham had nothing to do with the mess—only the cleanup. And he handled it masterfully, pursuing a bold defense thanks to a great working knowledge of NCAA procedure that left the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions with no choice but to close the case without punishing the Tar Heels.

If Swann is still USC’s athletic director once Folt is firmly entrenched in office, it likely would be cause for great concern. But if Folt is sweeping out the old, USC may have a new AD by the end of the football season—which could be important if the Trojans falter on the field for a second consecutive season. If the job does open, here’s a piece of free advice that a search firm will charge $100,000 for: Instead of hiring someone because they played football at USC, maybe just try to hire someone who has proven capable at being an AD.

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