TGS SPECIAL REPORT...BOWL PREVIEW AND COACHING CAROUSEL
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor
The college football bowl system bounces along its merry way and remarkably continues to grow without any apparent public demand for it to do so. Two new bowl games have been added to the postseason mix in college football after the bowl lineup expanded by three games a year ago. Predictably, with bowls having added ten more slots since 2013, there are not going to be enough teams with winning, or non-losing, records to be invited to all of the contests, hence a handful of teams with 5-7 records will find themselves bowl participants within the next month! And, given the recent bent for bowl expansion, expect the postseason lineup to continue increasing. The days of 4-8 and even 3-9 teams qualifying for bowl games might not be too far in the future!
But there is another side to the bowl proliferation that has been curiously overlooked of late by much of the sports media. More curious since the shady nature of the bowl system was a hot topic not long ago. Especially in 2010, when we presented an in-depth review of the critically-acclaimed Death to the BCS book, authored by Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel along with Josh Peter and Jeff Passan, and five years ago one of the highlighted sports books of the holiday season. The advent of College Football Playoff last year would eventually cause most to forget about the old "Bowl Championship Series" and, regrettably, Wetzel, et al's excellent book. But we still have our copy, and it reads just as well today as it did in 2010. That's because much of the Wetzel book did not deal directly with the BCS, but rather the highly-objectionable bowl system. Though Wetzel often reminds his readers on Yahoo Sports about the backroom shenanigans that annually take place with the bowls, no other journalists seem to have picked up the ball on the subject. It's as if the advent of the mini four-team playoff has fumigated away the stench of the bowl system. When nothing could be further from the truth.
Death to the BCS introduced plenty of evidence that read more like an indictment of the bowls, and what a ruse the power brokers of college football continue to pull with the bowl system. Portions of the book's material addressed points that we had been making on the pages of TGS and on our website over the years, including the power base of college football that still rests with a handful of college presidents and conference commissioners all looking out for their own self-interests and making sure to never cede any power to the NCAA or other forces.
But some of the more shocking revelations in Death To The BCS regarded the bowl games themselves, especially the mid and lower-level bowls, which along with the big postseason extravaganzas, also have a very small cadre of administrators pocketing fabulous coin, which also often lines the pockets of coaches and athletic directors who stand to profit handsomely thanks to contractual "bonuses" for bowl appearances, despite the fact the adventure is often a big financial loser for most schools. But the sleight-of-hand involved in the much-discussed "bowl payouts" resembles the most-deceptive spin from Capitol Hill. The myth that the many "not-for-profit" bowls are charity-like (a perception the bowls and their organizers would love you to believe) is about as far from accurate as one of Charlie Rangel's tax returns.
As Wetzel & Co. reminded in Death to the BCS, "charitable" contributions from bowl games are hard to detect; in fiscal 2007, for example, the Sugar Bowl, its coffers further swelled by $3 million in taxpayer money, gave nary a dime to Hurricane Katrina reconstruction efforts, the New Orleans after-school program, or to the Habitat for Humanity, high-profile charities with local ties.
Wetzel & Co. further illustrated the deceptive tactics of the bowl officials by citing testimony to Congress from Alamo Bowl CEO Derrick Fox, who appeared in front of the House's Energy and Commerce subcommittee on behalf of the then-functioning BCS, which would hardly put the bowl system in a positive light. "Up to one-quarter of the proceeds from the bowls are dedicated to the community," said Fox, whose overall testimony moved Texas Rep. Joe Barton to suggest that Fox's comments might qualify as perjury or "contempt of Congress."
As Wetzel & Co. pointed out, however, in a purely semantic way, Fox might have been correct. "Up to one quarter" also includes zero. "And zero is not the impression I got," said Rep. Barton.
Unmasking the disturbing financials of the bowls were not the only hot buttons in Death to the BCS, which also dealt with the mechanics and deceptions within the bowl infrastructure. Mostly, however, Wetzel & Co. fingered many of the real culprits in debate, especially the "legion of henchmen" including executive directors of the bowls, plus some high-powered athletic directors and university presidents. This group continues to position itself to consolidate the power in the sport and never let it go, no matter how much revenue the new playoff is beginning to generate.
What still bothers us about the playoff, however, is the same thing that still bothers Wetzel. There were no greater playoff proponents than Wetzel, but he was never caught doing any victory laps when the plans for the four-team playoff were eventually introduced after the publishing of his book. That's because much of the same bowl system that Death to the BCS suggested was self-serving and corrupt has been kept in place...even with the advent of the new playoff.
Wetzel has continued to address the issue in his frequent articles for Yahoo Sports, which often include the same sorts of things we have been saying for years about the bowl system. Among other ignominies, Wetzel contends that the upper level of the bowl industry fought hard to keep the playoff at four teams as a means of maintaining their status as, according to Wetzel, "outrageously compensated middle-men." And after a brief pause, more bowls have been added.
Wetzel has also often reminded readers, and we concur, that the new 30-and-40-somethings of athletic administration are more bottom-line driven than their predecessors and will increasingly view the "good ol' boy" bowl network as archaic and out-of-date. Especially when there is more money to be made from a bigger playoff. Thus, expect the four-team field to grow to eight, and perhaps bigger, in the near future. We are relatively sure that the massive fan base will fuel the demand for eventual expansion of the tournament.
Like us, Wetzel believes the four-team playoff is an improvement, however slight, over the BCS model. For the moment, we'll worry down the road about getting more teams in the playoff.
In the meantime, we are now treated to multiple bowl games featuring teams with losing records. Bigger, we suppose, isn't always better.
THE SPINNING COACHING CAROUSEL
The college coaching carousel has been spinning the past couple of weeks, and more moves are likely to be made soon. Orchestrating many of the moves is super-agent Jimmy Sexton, whose name will appear frequently in the upcoming reviews. Following is the latest carousel update as of Sunday night, with some jobs already filled, and others likely to have filled (and others not listed having opened) by the time you pick up this edition of TGS.
Bowling Green...In-demand HC HC Dino Babers has taken the Syracuse job. Falcon d.c. Brian Ward will coach the team in the upcoming GoDaddy Bowl vs. Georgia Southern and is considered a frontrunner to replace Babers.
BYU...Bronco Mendenhall's surprise departure to Virginia has opened up the Cougar job for the first time since 2004. Early favorites in Provo include Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo, an LDS member whose son Va'a is a soph LB for the Cougs; Utah HC and BYU alum Kyle Whittingham; Oregon State d.c. Kevin Sitake, formerly Utah's d.c. and another Cougar alum; Stanford d.c. Lance Anderson, another LDS member; and Seattle Seahawks o.c. Darrell Bevell, a long-ago Wisconsin QB and also an LDS member.
East Carolina...After six seasons on the job, alum Ruffin McNeill has been surprisingly fired by the Pirates. Early favorites to succeed McNeill are MTSU HC Rick Stockstill, who reportedly turned down ECU in 2010; NC State o.c. Matt Canada, and recent South Carolina interim HC Shawn Elliott.
Georgia...The Bulldogs, who pulled the rug out from under longtime HC Mark Richt after a 9-3 record and a regular-season finale win vs. Georgia Tech, waited until the conclusion of the SEC title game to name Alabama d.c. Kirby Smart (another of Jimmy Sexton's many clients) to succeed Richt.
Hawaii...Looking to recapture some of the June Jones era, the Rainbow Warriors hired former "Red Gun" QB Nick Rolovich, most recently the o.c. at Nevada and before that an aide on Greg McMackin's Hawaii staff. The Rainbow Warriors had jettisoned HC Norm Chow after a 58-7 loss to Air Force on Halloween and finished the season with OL coach Chris Naeole as the interim HC.
Illinois...Perhaps boxed in with a situation that included an interim AD and interim school chancellor, the Fighting Illini effectively made Bill Cubit an interim HC for two more years by extending his contract into the 2017 season. Cubit, a longtime offensive coach and former HC at Western Michigan, had taken over for the dismissed Tim Beckman prior to the opening of this season.
Iowa State...The Cyclones finally hit the eject button on Paul Rhoads after a late November loss to Kansas State in which ISU blew a 35-14 lead. The Cyclones moved quickly to name Toledo's up-and-coming Matt Campbell as Rhoads' replacement, though some longtime Big 12 observers wonder if this historically tough job will prove a career roadblock for Campbell.
LSU...This job didn't open, as many expected, when AD Joe Alleva announced after the reg.-season finale win vs. Arkansas that Les Miles would return as coach in 2016. SEC sources, however, say that Miles was helped when main target Florida State HC Jimbo Fisher, the o.c. at LSU during the Nick Saban era, had no interest in returning to Baton Rouge. Though sources say that Fisher does not have the best relationship with administrators in Tallahassee, and while having one of the nation's plum jobs could still be a candidate to make a move sometime in the near future.
Maryland...The Terps surprised some mid-Atlantic insiders by opting for Michigan d.c. D.J. Durkin to succeed the dismissed Randy Edsall and interim HC Mike Locksley after AD Kevin Anderson had been quoted as wanting "an exciting, wide-open offense" with his new hire. Anderson might authorize those changes for the offense, but he is a defensive coach by trade. The Durkin hire scuttled the most fascinating rumor that we heard last week in which Gus Malzahn, whispered to be looking for an escape hatch out of Auburn before facing a must-win year in 2016, was on the Maryland radar because alum and major donor Kevin Plank, also the CEO of Under Armour, was reportedly enamored with the thought of luring Malzahn from the SEC.
Miami-Florida...The Hurricanes have named alum and former Georgia HC Mark Richt as their new coach. Miami had dismissed Al Golden at midseason and had made a mild rally for interim HC Larry Scott, though he was not considered a serious candidate. One who apparently had real interest in the Hurricanes was Mississippi State HC Dan Mullen, who reportedly has become more curious than ever about potential openings as he worried that the Bulldogs might have peaked on his watch, and with QB Dak Prescott graduating. As soon as Richt became available, however, Miami moved quickly. Richt is not only a Miami alum, but also hails from nearby Boca Raton, so he returns to familiar territory.
Memphis...After HC Justin Fuente moved to Virginia Tech, and the Tigers were spurned by Missouri d.c. and former Memphis assistant Barry Odom, the school announced that it was hiring Arizona State o.c. Mike Norvell to replace Fuente.
Minnesota...The Gophers made a quick transition to interim HC Tracy Claeys, offering him a three-year deal shortly after Claeys took over the Gophers for a second time in three years due to health concerns of HC Jerry Kill, who had to retire for good during the 2015 campaign.
Missouri...The Tigers have promoted well-regarded d.c. Barry Odom to replace the retiring Gary Pinkel. Odom, hired this season off Justin Fuente's Memphis staff, was considered a favorite for the Memphis job until his name floated to the top in Columbia. Mizzou had apparently earlier reached out to Bowling Green HC Dino Babers, who reportedly told the Tigers he had no interest in the job.
North Texas...After dismissing grouchy HC Dan McCarney at midseason, the Mean Green hired North Carolina o.c. Seth Littrell as the new HC on Saturday.
Rutgers...Following Kyle Flood's dismissal (and that of AD Julie Hermann), regional sources noted a groundswell of support for former HC Greg Schiano, actively looking for a new job since being dismissed in 2013 by the NFL Tampa Bay Bucs. Rutgers has instead hired Ohio State co-d.c. Chris Ash to succeed Flood.
South Carolina...Chalk up another one for super-agent Jimmy Sexton, who helped client Will Muschamp land the Gamecock HC job. Some SEC insiders are nonetheless baffled, as Muschamp was rumored to be on his way out as Auburn d.c after being fired last year after four seasons as HC at Florida.
Southern Cal...What could have been the biggest job in an open market never really opened at all when Trojan AD Pat Haden tabbed interim HC Clay Helton (another Jimmy Sexton client), promoted from offensive coordinator earlier in the season after Steve Sarkisian was dismissed, following the Nov. 28 win over UCLA. Sources told TGS that Haden had decided weeks ago that he didn't want to hire from the pro ranks because he didn't want to wait for the NFL season to end before naming the full-time coach, which effectively nixed much-discussed Philadelphia Eagles HC Chip Kelly, or other NFL coaches with USC ties (such as alums Jeff Fisher and Jack Del Rio, and ex-Trojan assistant and current NFL Bengals aide Hue Jackson). Sources suggest Sexton told Haden that Helton could be off the table and hired by Memphis, which might have prompted SC to move quickly. All of which causing some Trojan boosters to roll their eyes when recalling how Alabama gladly waited for the 2006 NFL season to end and for Nick Saban to leave the Miami Dolphins after enduring a month of intense speculation. That move worked out well for the Crimson Tide. Some SC insiders also believe that Haden, dealing with health issues, is likely to step down within the next year, creating the real possibility that Helton will soon be working for an AD who did not hire him.
Syracuse...After recently dismissing Scott Shafer after three years on the job, first-year AD Kevin Coyle hired Bowling Green's Dino Babers, one of this year's hot flavors. Sources report Babers had recently rejected overtures from Missouri.
Toledo...After HC Matt Campbell took the Iowa State job, the Rockets promoted from within and named o.c.Jason Candle as Campbell's successor.
Tulane...The Green Wave dismissed HC Curtis Johnson after the season-ending 45-34 loss to Tulsa. The early favorite is LSU RB coach Frank Wilson, though there are rumors that recently-dismissed NFL Saints d.c. Rob Ryan is interested in the job. Baylor o.c Kendal Briles (son of HC Art Briles), current Green Wave d.c. Lionel Washington, and Penn State d.c. Bob Shoop are also reportedly in the mix.
UCF...After being rumored to be ready to tab Bowling Green HC Dino Babers, the Knights instead opted for Oregon o.c. (and onetime Nebraska QB) Scott Frost as their man early last week. UCF, two years removed from a BCS Fiesta Bowl berth, disappeared into the abyss in 2015 with an 0-12 mark that prompted HC George O'Leary's resignation at midseason, with interim Danny Barrett never seriously considered for the job. A reported groundswell among a handful of boosters to make a run at former South Carolina HC Steve Spurrier, who resigned in October with the Gamecocks, never advanced very far with administrators.
UL-Monroe...After dismissing Todd Berry in November, the Warhawks are apparently looking at several names, though well-regarded LSU assistant Frank Wilson will reportedly not be interested in the job, as he has been rumored to set his sights on the opening at Tulane instead. Another LSU aide, Ed Orgeron, former Ole Miss HC and Southern Cal interim HC, is said to be on the Monroe short list, as are former Tulane HC and alum Chris Scelfo, Kentucky o.c. Shannon Dawson, Mississippi State co-o.c. John Hevesy, Southern Miss o.c. Chip Lindsey, TCU RB coach Curtis Luper, and SE Louisiana HC Ron Roberts.
Virginia...Mike London spared AD Craig Littlepage the dirty work by offering his resignation after the season-ending loss to Virginia Tech. In one of the surprise moves of the carousel, the Cavs have lured BYU HC Bronco Mendenhall to Charlottesville. Temple's Matt Rhule and Air Force's Troy Calhoun were considered as top candidates until the surprise Mendenhall announcement.
Virginia Tech..Sources say that the Hokies rather immediately identified Memphis HC Justin Fuente (one of the many Jimmy Sexton clients) as their man within a couple of days of the retirement announcement of longtime HC Frank Beamer in November. VPI made it official early last week by hiring Fuente, who will supposedly keep Beamer's longtime d.c. Bud Foster, for years considered to be the heir apparent to Beamer, on staff.
Return To Home Page