Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC…Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to LSU.
Shocking stuff. Then again, I’m surprised that people are as surprised as they are.
College football has been on a winner-take-all path for quite a while.
When a college coach wins—sometimes when he merely shows the capability to win—athletic directors, boosters and many presidents don’t hesitate to give him the Moon.
Why should we be surprised when they want Two Moons?
As for loyalty. . . seriously?
No question, Kelly’s departure—with Notre Dame still in position for a College Football Playoff berth if a couple of things break right for them—is most unseemly.
But this is a guy who a lot of Irish followers wanted fired after he went 4-8 in 2016. A guy a lot of athletic directors—especially SEC athletic directors—would have fired.
Loyalty? From him?
Guessing that Kelly, who worked in politics when he was young, has very carefully thought out all of that in his machiavellian mind, saying something like, “If they can fire me when things aren’t going well, I can leave when they are going well.’’
And it isn’t just coaching.
Since the beginning of college football, the essence of the game has been based on a very one-sided deal in which the players who matter most are exploited, receiving a small fraction of their economic value.
And now the remedy is that players can use the Transfer Portal. They are free to leave, to find a better opportunity to be exploited in the hope that they will find more glory and improve their chances of a big NFL payday.
And it’s OK for Oklahoma and Texas to pick up and leave the Big 12 in the lurch for the Southeastern Conference. “They didn’t do anything wrong,’’ the refrain went. “They made a smart decision to better themselves.’’
If the Sooners and Longhorns can tell people who have been their partners for many decades, “See ya. Leaving for a better deal,’’ they shouldn’t be shocked when their coach says the same thing.
And what exactly is a better deal?
The money thing, of course, is paramount. It’s actually bordering on insanity at this point.
When Penn State’s James Franklin and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker squared off last weekend, it was a matchup of $95 million coaches. One has won one Big Ten championship in eight years. The other has one promising 10-win season that made him a threat to bolt.
The money, of course, is boggling. What if the combination of the money and a better opportunity to win a national championship was irresistible to Kelly, who hasn’t had enough horses when he has jockeyed Notre Dame into the national-championship picture?
Or maybe he just likes Cajun food.
If second-stringers can move on, if storied programs can pick up and leave their conferences, why can’t coaches?
The truth is, it has alway been this way, to a degree. The two best coaches since Knute Rockne, the guy that Brian Kelly just passed as the all-time winningest Irish coach—Bear Bryant and Nick Saban, made a lot of stops before settling in at Alabama.
Bryant went from Maryland to Kentucky to Texas A&M, three places that dearly wanted him to stay.
Saban went from Michigan State to LSU to the Miami Dolphins before landing in Tuscaloosa. All of the colleges he left were disappointed.
Oh, and by the way, Rockne once signed a contract to jump to Columbia when he was at the top of his Notre Dame game, then changed his mind.
The dollars are different. Many other things are not all that different.
On top of that, this is a strange time we live in.
The right of the individual, in many minds, allows people to reject the pleading by public-health experts to get vaccinated. And, to walk around with assault weapons.
Feeling the urge in a society with more and more fancy stuff, lawbreakers overwhelm fancy stores with sophisticated smash-and-grab schemes.
Airlines sardine their passengers into tighter and tighter spaces, then are surprised when some passengers become violent.
Wealthy parents have no qualms about bribing colleges into admitting their children who didn’t have the grades.
The examples could go on and on.
Do coaches show no loyalty when they bolt for a better job? Yes, they do.
It’s part of a larger trend in modern life. We may be troubled by it. But we need to deal with it.