Call it the silly season for the college football coaching carousel. It occurs just after the close of the regular season. With firings come hirings, followed by more hirings at schools where coaches departed to fill slots caused by the firings.
Then there are those schools that are impacted by vacancies at other schools whose athletic administration target your coach for their opening. MTSU went through that a few years ago when Blue Raiders head coach Rick Stockstill was offered and declined similar positions at East Carolina and Memphis.
Many national pundits wondered why Stockstill would stay. But his commitment to MTSU was rewarded with a pay raise and contract extension, often byproducts of such negotiations, even when done unwittingly by the targeted coach.
Then again, there were whispers among MTSU followers at this time last year concerning Stockstill’s future following a forgettable 2-10 season. That has now been put to rest as an aberration following this season’s 8-4 campaign that netted a Sun Belt Conference runner-up finish.
Which makes one wonder why a coach would not strike when his coaching iron is hot. Take Florida
International head coach Mario Cristobal, for example. His situation now is very much similar to Stockstill’s two years ago. This time last year, Cristobal was heralded as one of those rising stars among the coaching ranks.
He was linked to several coaching vacancies, including Rutgers University, which lost head coach Greg Schiano to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Bucs.
My, what a difference a year makes. Word came down last week that FIU had fired Cristobal after a disappointing 3-7 record in his sixth season at the helm. The Golden Panthers were picked to contend for the Sun Belt title after going to consecutive bowl games the previous two seasons.
“It was based on going 3-9 this year with 30 seniors and what was supposed to be his best team,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia told The Miami Herald of the firing. “He’s done a very good job for this program but we’ve gone backwards over the last year and a half. Over the last 22 games, we’ve gone 8-14.”
Talk about a cold-blooded business. But you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. Money drives college football at all levels, as evidenced by the pressure to win immediately and the rushing current of conference realignment that is still very much fluid.
Greg Pogue is host of the Wendy’s First Quarter on 102.5-FM The Game ESPN Radio Nashville. E-mail him at GregPogue@1025thegame.com.