It's a Wonderful Life...

Say you're a project manager for a financial company; imagine one week everything goes right and you succeed at your weekly project goals and make more profit than your competition, and everyone calls you a "genius." Then the next week you work just as hard and prepare your employees equally well as before, yet they do not perform and do not make as much profit as the week before. Suddenly you are the goat of the entire town and everyone questioning your abilities.

Is that completely fair? Well, thus is the life of a major college football coach.

I'm not saying that coaches should not be held accountable for the overall success and/or failures of their teams, but they certainly do not deserve ALL of the praise or blame either. They are, after all, not the ones out there blocking, tackling, and running, catching, throwing the football.

And I can't say I'm shedding tears for the many coaches around the nation who go through this every fall. In fact, every winter at least a few head coaches seem to get the pink slip, and it's hard to argue why they shouldn't. I am not defending every coach who is underachieving or failing to win, recruit, and/or run a clean program. It's a tough job and every coach knows it when they choose to pursue a career in coaching major college football yet work their tails off to be one. This is after all why there are only 117 men who are D1-A head football coaches and why they are paid the big bucks to win and win now.

However, I feel sympathy for a lot of good coaches who are unjustly scrutinized to no end about every little thing, and are eventually fired because fans/boosters turn on them when their teams are struggling or facing adversity. I think the overall treatment of coaches today is just another reflection of the instant-gratification our society seems to unfairly demand today. Sometimes I wonder if there's any room for loyalty in today's college football landscape. For goodness sakes, many Penn State fans wanted to run Joe Paterno out of Happy Valley after single-handedly making PSU football a national power and doing so many great things at the university all because a few bad seasons. Although PSU was struggling the past few years, I cannot believe people would want him to step down or be fired after all he has meant to the university.

Of course JoePa rewarded the fans who are loyal and believed in him with a terrific year this season. He let go of the reins a bit and opened the offense up and PSU is one win away from a BCS berth (1 second away from being undefeated), and the young talent on his team gives reason to believe JoePa may have another title run left in him. I think loyalty once did have a place until college football became polluted by thousands of know-it-all talking heads, sports reporters, the increasing influence that big-money boosters have on programs, big money (BCS) bowl payouts, etc. Heck, no wonder so many coaches today jump from place to place. They don't feel loyal to their program, the area, and its fans partly because they don't feel the loyalty back.

What I think most people today tend to forget is that it's a lot of hard work to turn a school into a top tier program in a relatively short amount of time, and there are definitely going to be ups and downs along the way regardless. Just think about it, many of the top college ball coaches in the nation would probably not be where they are today if not for patience.

Frank Beamer? He started 24-40-2 in his first six seasons replacing Bill Dooley at Virginia Tech. Today, he's regarded as one of the best coaches in college football with a consistent team year in and year out.

Nick Saban? Despite showing the occasional shades of greatness, he went a modest 34-24 at Mich. State before LSU showed confidence in him and hired him to run their program. He only went on to go 48-16 with a BCS title during his four years there before the Miami Dolphins grabbed him.

Kirk Ferentz? He started 11-24 in his first three seasons replacing legend Hayden Fry at Iowa. Now, two Big Ten titles later, Iowa's athletic department is beating NFL teams away with a stick for this guy. Hell, if many pessimistic Texas football fans, journalists, and talking heads had their way before 2005, Mack Brown and his 70-19 overall record at UT would be sitting in a rocking chair instead of leading his team to a BCS title showdown with USC. In a matter of twelve months, Brown has gone from a man who according to many would "never" win a big game to beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl, getting past The Ohio State University in the Horseshoe, stomping Oklahoma (finally) in the Red River Shootout, and sitting pretty at number two and headed back to Pasadena. So, in a matter of one year Mack Brown may go from a guy who was getting run out of Austin to the man who may finally give UT its first National Championship since 1970.

That's another thing that upsets me is when people measure a coach's success or worth simply by how many national championships he has won. I'm sure you've heard someone say "Yeah, but he's never won a National Title" to try and refute or negate the overall success of a coach. Personally, I feel this is a very narrow, unfair way of judging how successful a college coach has been or was. Ask legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, he never won a national championship during his tremendous career. Or ask two of the greatest college football coaches we've ever seen: Bobby Bowden and Tom Osborne. It took Bowden 18 seasons to win his first national title and it took 22 years for Osborne. Now do you really think they were just that much better overall as coaches in say 1993 and 1994 than five, ten years before? Sadly, I'm not sure if Osborne was a coach starting out today he would have had the chance to eventually win national championships at Nebraska with the added pressures the job demands today.

As the old saying goes, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". Unfortunately, sometimes with the life of a college football coach today it's more like when the going gets tough, the tough get fired.

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