What's Next?

As Alabama undergoes the all-too-familiar process of finding a new football coach, it is not unfair to assess whether the job is now considered to be a good one. It is likely to fall into the category of "eye of the beholder."

The job of head football coach at Alabama is the biggest in the state. The voters of the state elected a new governor a few weeks ago and that news pales in comparison to Mike Shula being fired as Crimson Tide coach.

The job once held by the most famous coach in college football history, Paul Bryant, is too big for some. That is the same situation that made it so attractive to a man like Gene Stallings and made it a nightmare for others.

There is no doubt that Athletics Director Mal Moore, who fired Shula Sunday night, has had a list of candidates to replace Shula. That list has either been whittled down – ideally to one – or will have to be expanded if his original list does not provide the successor.

There is also the immediate work of keeping the team on course. It is likely that Joe Kines, who is assistant head coach as well as defensive coordinator, will be the interim as Bama returns to workouts. Alabama is bowl eligible and will be in workouts this week. Assistant coaches are still under contract and will be expected to continue recruiting efforts. Historically, a coaching change has little or no effect on recruiting.

While the job of head coach at Alabama is daunting to some, it will be attractive to others. A coach who wants to win a national championship will believe it can be done at Alabama because of the Crimson Tide's history.

Certainly the salary will be competitive, and like it or not, big time college football is a business.

A new head coach will also be appreciative of facilities that are second to none. Coaches know that facilities are a key factor to success in recruiting.

Mike Shula will walk away with a bundle, up to $4 million in severance (though spread out over a number of years and possibly reduced by other Shula income). The assistant coaches will find themselves in more precarious circumstances, either hoping to continue under the next head coach (possible for defensive assistants, unlikely for most offensive assistants)or looking elsewhere.

The focus has already moved from Shula to his successor.

No athletics director at the level of Alabama wants to hire a head coach with no previous head coaching experience. This will be Moore's fourth hire. He hired proven head coaches in Dennis Franchione, who bolted for Texas A&M, and Mike Price, whose personal shortcomings resulted in him being fired by President Robert Witt. Searching for a head coach in May, 2003, Moore had few choices, finally selecting Shula over Sylvester Croom and Richard Williamson. All three are former Bama players and NFL assistant coaches.

The names will be familiar, headed by South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier. Spurrier knows how to win a national championship and would likely think he could do it at Alabama. There is no reason for Spurrier to have any love for Bama, but as a football man he would appreciate the commitment of the Crimson Tide to the sport.

The hot names include Bobby Petrino of Louisville, best known as the man the top dogs at Auburn wanted to replace Tommy Tuberville a few years ago. Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano is also in that "hot" category, though most expect him to fill the opening at Miami.

Rich Rodriguez is an alumnus of West Virginia, where he has done an outstanding job (the Mountaineers' shocking loss to South Florida last week nothwithstanding).

Although he doesn't have a winning record, no one who knows football would doubt the ability of Jim Grobe at Wake Forest. The Deacons went 6-0 on the road and 10-2 overall this year.

Nick Saban did an excellent job at LSU before going to the NFL's Miami Dolphins. Although his name will be mentioned, Saban seems to have made it clear that he wants to coach in the NFL.

Others whose names will be bandied about include Jeff Tedford of California and Paul Johnson of Navy.

And Moore moves in circles that makes him aware of men that others would not be as familiar with.

The biggest minus for Alabama is likely its turnover rate of late. But things like that tend only to eliminate those who wouldn't be up to the task.


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