College Bowl Game Handicapping: Coaching Changes
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 12/13/2011
There are 12 college football teams heading to their bowl games with some sort of coaching dilemma one-way or the other. There are the coaches who have already been fired but are permitted to coach in the bowl game, coordinators who have been elevated to interim coaches to replace a fired or departed coach, there are the teams with coaches looking for better jobs but stuck there for the time being, and then there are coaches who have already left for another school but will come back to coach in the bowl game.
This is nothing new, this is just college football.
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With 35 bowl games, reaching the postseason does not come with the same job security as it once did. Underachieving programs are dispatching their coaches while overachieving programs are being raided of their coaches by bigger programs.
With a long layoff between the end of the regular season and the beginning of bowl season, bowl game be damned, administrators waste no time when it comes to making coaching decisions.
There were plenty of similar situations during the 2010-11 bowl game schedule.
Pitt defensive coordinator Larry Bennett led Pitt to a 27-10 win over Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl after Dave Wannstedt was fired. Northern Illinois blasted Fresno State 40-17 in the Humanitarian Bowl under interim coach Tom Matukewicz after Jerry Jill left for Minnesota.
The Maryland job became open after Ralph Friedgen was let go, but he was permitted to coach in the Military Bowl where an emotional Terps team pounded ECU, 51-20.
An emotionally-charged Florida team knocked off Penn State, 37-24, in the Outback bowl in a game Urban Meyer promised would be his last as head coach.
Miami of Ohio interim coach Lance Guidry led the Red Hawks to a 35-21 win over Middle Tennessee State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl after Mike Haywood left for the Pitt job, of which he was fired after a week.
But for all those great performances for lame duck coaches, there are other examples of it not working last season.
Miami Hurricanes and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland were defeated handily by Notre Dame, 33-17, in the Sun Bowl after Randy Shannon was fired.
West Virginia lost to N.C. State, 23-7, in the Champs Sports Bowl as uncertainty swirled around head coach Bill Stewart, who was being phased out of his head coaching duties.
After accepting the job at Maryland, Randy Edsall still coached Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl where his Huskies were blown out, 48-20, by Oklahoma.
This year there are even two bowl games that feature both teams entering the game with lame duck coaches. Here are the bowl games affected by the college football coaching carousel and what you need to be aware of.
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
Hugh Freeze has left Arkansas State to take the head coaching job at Ole Miss. Offensive coordinator David Gunn will coach the Indians on an interim basis in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, the night before the BCS National Championship Game.
Southern Miss vs. Nevada
Larry Fedora parlayed an upset of Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game into the head coaching job at North Carolina. But he is not about to pass up a trip to Hawaii, Fedora will coach Southern Miss in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
Toledo vs. Air Force
Toledo head coach Tim Beckman has left Toledo for Illinois. Taking over coaching responsibilities for the Military Bowl will be offensive coordinator Matt Campbell.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Mike Sherman has been fired as head coach of Texas A&M after a 6-6 season. He will eventually be replaced by Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, but in the bowl game, the Aggies will be led by assistant coach Tim DeRuyter.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Illinois vs. UCLA
Illinois has canned Ron Zook and UCLA has parted ways with Rick Neuheisel, setting up the lame duck interim bowl in San Francisco. UCLA will replace Neuheisel with former Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora, but in the bowl game UCLA offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will lead the way. After a 6-0 start and a 0-6 finish, Zook was fired and he will not be coaching the bowl game. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will step in on an interim basis.
Houston vs. Penn State
Two teams with lame duck coaches for entirely different reasons will meet in the TicketCity Bowl this year. Kevin Sumlin has left Houston for Texas A&M while the disgraced Joe Paterno was fired in November and replaced with defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who has no serious chance at landing the head coaching job. Assistant Tony Levine will lead the Cougars in the bowl game. Bradley at least has a track record as a head coach, leading the Nittany Lions in the last three games. However, he is 1-2 overall.
Missouri vs. North Carolina
Interim coach Everett Withers helped lead North Carolina to the Independence Bowl after hastily replacing Butch Jones, who was fired in late July. Withers will coach North Carolina in the bowl game against Missouri, but his replacement, Larry Fedora of Southern Miss, has already been named, rendering Withers a lame duck.
Ohio State vs. Florida
Urban Meyer has already accepted the head coaching job at Ohio State. Interim coach Luke Fickell, who has guided the Buckeyes this season after the rapid dismissal of Jim Tressel, will coach against Florida in the Gator Bowl. He is not really a lame duck because Meyer has promised to keep him on his staff.
Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona State vs. BYU
This is one of those rare scenarios with the already-fired head coach being permitted to coach his team in a bowl game. Dennis Erickson is out at Arizona State but his firing date is not effective until Dec. 23, the day after the Las Vegas Bowl. The Sun Devils started 6-2 before closing the season with four straight losses to cost Erickson his job.
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