By Bill Trocchi
August 10, 2009

When the college football world endured its annual coaching shakeup after last season, several schools went against the grain and made hires that were not the most logical. Granted, several factors -- including mutual interest, athletic department budget, timing, fan base desire, etc. -- remain private during the hiring process, so it's impossible to say whether the seemingly obvious choice was even feasible.

Still, the offseason hires at several BCS schools were head scratchers. Here are five schools that should have gone a different direction with their coaching hires ... and a sixth that should have made a move, but didn't.MANDEL: Primer on 21 new head coaches

Fired: Phil Fulmer

Hired: Lane Kiffin

Should have hired: David Cutliffe

As 2008 progressed, it became clear the Phil Fulmer era had run its course. The Vols had seen a noticeable drop-off in talent since their glory days in the mid-to-late '90s. Making a change was smart; tabbing someone who had never been a college head coach was not. Kiffin's bizarre 20-game tenure as Raiders' head coach did not prepare him for running an SEC program, and his prior stint as a USC assistant didn't exactly teach him to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of SEC recruiting. The SEC is an entirely different animal, and a head coach needs to have experience to thrive in it. Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who spent 17 years in Knoxville as an assistant, was as familiar with Tennessee as any available candidate. He also already ran an SEC program at Ole Miss, where he earned SEC Coach of the Year honors in 2003. Cutcliffe isn't young, energetic and edgy like Kiffin, but he was the better choice to right the UT ship in every other way.

Fired: Tommy Tuberville

Hired: Gene Chizik

Should have hired: Will Muschamp

After 10 years, Tuberville's time on the Plains ended. Gene Chizik had plenty of success as Auburn's defensive coordinator from 2002-04, but after he only managed a 5-19 record in two seasons as Iowa State's head coach, his hiring came as a huge disappointment to Auburn fans. Chizik has run a BCS program and has experience in the SEC, so the hire has merit. But with the Tide rising in Tuscaloosa and history saying both programs are rarely good at the same time, Auburn really needed a home run hire and may have only hit a double. Texas' Will Muschamp, however, would have cleared the fences. Texas thought enough of him to name him Mack Brown's coach-in-waiting, and he has eight years of experience as an assistant in the SEC at Auburn and LSU. Muschamp was the young, hot assistant who would have energized the masses and stared down Nick Saban. Yes, it was reported Muschamp wasn't interested in Auburn, but surely booster Bobby Lowder could have flown to Austin with a plane full of dough and gotten him to sign on the dotted line.

Fired: Tommy Bowden

Hired: Dabo Swinney

Should have hired: Bobby Johnson

Clemson made the surprising decision to stay in-house after last season, sticking with interim coach Dabo Swinney. The Tigers went 4-3 in their final seven games after Tommy Bowden was fired -- hardly a stunning record considering the talent and expectations of last season's team. Swinney, 39, is fiery and emotional, but could probably use more seasoning before taking over a program that expects to win at least 10 games a year. The man who should have taken over this consistently underachieving team is a guy who consistently overachieves -- Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson. The Commodores have recorded wins over Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Auburn in the past four years and won a bowl game last December despite ranking at the bottom of the SEC annually in recruiting. Johnson spent eight years recruiting the state of South Carolina as the head coach at Furman, was Clemson's defensive coordinator in 1993 and is a Clemson alum.

Fired: Tyrone Willingham

Hired: Steve Sarkisian

Should have hired: Kiffin

Sarkisian is charged with rescuing Washington from the Ty Willingham era, which took Washington from mediocre (22 wins in four years before he arrived) to miserable (11 wins over his four-year tenure). Sarkisian's resume practically mirrors Kiffin's, as Sarkisian also built his reputation as a USC assistant during the Trojans' remarkable recent run. However, Kiffin's brief NFL experience and recruiting prowess -- he was credited with brining in Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart -- should have given him an edge over Sarkisian. That said, Kiffin and Sarkisian both fit the 'energized recruiter' mold that Washington desperately needs, and with Kiffin already off to Tennessee, Sarkisian was the next best choice. Based on his early recruiting returns, the Huskies will not be down for long.

Fired: Greg Robinson

Hired: Doug Marrone

Should have hired: Turner Gill

The Orange badly need a revival after managing only 10 wins in the last four years. Turning to an anonymous NFL assistant who hasn't been in the college game since 2001 and has never been a head coach didn't seem like the best way to ignite a fire. Marrone's relevant college experience came from 1995-2001 at Georgia Tech, Georgia and Tennessee -- two states Syracuse doesn't exactly recruit heavily. Turner Gill was a hot name last year and had already shown he could succeed in upstate New York at Buffalo. Gill's Bulls went from two wins to five to eight in his three seasons, including a MAC championship last year. Hiring Gill would have made Syracuse just the second Big East school to hire an African-American, and it would have come the same year Syracuse's Ernie Davis was remembered in the movie The Express as the first African-American to win the Heisman.

Retained: Charlie Weis

Should have hired: Brian Kelly

After losing a school-record 15 games in a two-year period, Charlie Weis was on thin ice in South Bend, but the Irish decided they would keep the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator following the team's Hawaii Bowl victory. Weis' teams have yet to consistently demonstrate the 'schematic advantage' he claimed his teams would have when he first arrived, and despite high marks in recruiting, the Irish are just 29-21 in his four years. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly was presumably available. Fresh off an Orange Bowl appearance and Big East championship, Kelly would have been a guy Irish fans could have rallied around. He's had success everywhere he has been, winning the MAC in Year 3 at Central Michigan and winning the Big East in Year 2 at Cincinnati. Notre Dame's 2009 schedule is set up for success as well, which would have given a new coach a chance to win big in his first year. The Irish may regret not making the move when they had the chance.

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