A Tale of Two Schools (Auburn & Tennessee)

Dec 11, 2012 -- 9:35am


Auburn and Tennessee have caught a lot of flak recently about how they handled their head football coaching positions. Ignorance has run amuck from the computer keyboards and microphones of the media covering the stories.

First, the Auburn story.

How can a school fire a coach a mere two years after he leads his school to an unbeaten season and a national championship? The firing of Gene Chizik has prompted stories about how college athletics is truly nothing more than big business and how loyalty and commitment are as dead as Elvis. Sadly, big time college athletics is big business and loyalty and commitment are dead, but that’s not what got Chizik fired.

He was fired for doing an absolutely miserable job. Auburn went from national champion to punching bag; from unbeaten to laughing stock. Chizik proved his 5-19 record at Iowa State wasn’t a fluke. Auburn made a mistake in hiring Chizik. It made another mistake in giving him a lucrative, long-term contract after the 2010 season. Firing him was the first smart move the school made since it bought . . . errr, I mean recruited Cam Newton.

Second, the Tennessee story.

The way it’s being told, the Volunteers embarrassed themselves by begging for someone, anyone, to take the job. Hiring Butch Jones from Cincinnati reportedly was the school’s third or forth choice. We’re now being told the Tennessee job is no longer a premier job.

That, of course, is hogwash. So why’d Jon Gruden turn it down? Because he has one of the best gigs in the world at ESPN: No pressure, lots of money and a short work week. Why’d Charlie Strong turn it down? Because he got a major pay raise to stay at Louisville, where the top isn’t as high but the security is infinity better.

Okay, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy played the Volunteers and he, too, got a nice pay raise.

Jones, by the way, has proven himself to be a good coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. For the record, he followed Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly at both jobs. If Jones comes close at Tennessee to matching Kelly’s record with the Irish, the hound dogs will be howling all night.

It should be noted the Tennessee job isn’t as good as it used to be. For one thing, South Carolina’s emergence as a power in the SEC East means one more giant the Vols must slay annually. For another, Tennessee is cursed by stupidly firing a long-time and successful coach, Phillip “Elmer Fudd” Fulmer, after the 2008 season.

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