The absurdity of in-season coaching changes

In most circumstances, it's foolish for an athletic program to fire a coach during the season, especially before a conference championship or bowl game. Same goes for a coach who decides this time of the year is suitable for shopping around for a new school. Unfortunately for SMU, a rebuilding program on the rise, June Jones is guilty of this now for two years running.

In-season coaching changes are ridiculous.

It's absurd to fire a head coach during the season, especially right before that program is about to play in a conference championship – like UCLA's Rick Neuheisel – or before a bowl game – like Arizona State's Dennis Erickson.

(Obviously there are exceptions, like what happened at North Carolina, Ohio State and Penn State this season.)

It's also unfair for a coach to leak that he's shopping around for another program – like SMU's June Jones.

These things are great for the media because it's something dicey to write about, but horrible for fan bases and the reputation of either an athletic department or a coach.

We are at the peak of recruiting season and many programs are fighting for prospects to commit and come to their school for an official visit before Feb. 1, National Signing Day. Recruiting is one of the best rhymes and reasons as to why coaches and athletic directors make these moves at this time of year.

I was talking to a friend this week and he begged the question, Why not move signing day back a month? What's so special about February?

Good point. After all, the majority of high school seniors who aren't planning on playing sports in college make their final choice in April or May.

In recent weeks, bowl-bound ASU, UCLA, Texas A&M and Illinois have fired their coaches.

In recent weeks, coaches at bowl-bound schools like SMU, Arkansas State and Houston have reportedly shown interest in coaching for what some deem a better situation than their current one.

Coaches are father figures. When stunts like these are pulled, how can they expect their players to get up over the next few weeks for practice in what should be an exciting time before the bowl game?

Jones left Hawaii for SMU in 2008 after the BCS-busting Warriors went to the Sugar Bowl. Last season, just his third at SMU, Jones met with Maryland officials for their open head coaching position before the Mustangs were set to play Army in the Armed Forces Bowl, just SMU's second bowl appearance since the Death Penalty in 1985.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Jones said at the time that it probably wouldn't be the last school he talked to and owed it to himself to listen to the offer.

This year, SMU is headed to its third-straight bowl. Not only that, but the Mustangs have accumulated what's probably their best recruiting class in 25 years. This past weekend, SMU hosted 12 recruits, seven of which are undecided with offers from myriad schools.

Saturday, Jones reportedly met with Arizona State officials in Dallas. Why would Jones, who was in the middle of hosting a crucial recruiting weekend for a rebuilding program, meet with ASU that day? Why couldn't he have waited until Monday or Tuesday?

Maybe it had something to do with the Sun Devils program. Maybe it didn't.

Regardless, the timing was wrong and Jones' reputation took a hit.

Jones has supposedly been interested in the Arizona State job for quite some time. A Portland, Ore. native, Jones eventually wants to get back to the West Coast. The ASU job just opened last week and obviously Jones had to jump on the opportunity before, say, Houston's Kevin Sumlin. But still, SMU is his team right now and to show interest anywhere but the Hilltop is insensitive and shows his mind is elsewhere.

Since Saturday, Jones' candidacy has lost traction at Arizona State because boosters do not want him as their next head coach. Why? Because the one they just fired, Erickson, is 64 years old and lacked disciplined players. Jones, 58, would be a similar hire.

ASU wants someone younger like Sumlin, Southern Miss' Larry Fedora, Oregon's offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, Alabama's defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, or someone on a hot streak like Baylor's Art Briles.

Now, the hype has subsided a bit and Jones is apparently no longer an option at ASU thanks to booster opposition. Monday, the SMU head coach sent an email to his staff saying that he would be staying put, according to a source.

Even though Jones' timing was terrible and the fact that he probably would have left SMU for Arizona State had the moneymakers been more welcoming, Mustangs rejoice - they get to hold on to Jones and his staff for at least another year.

As SMU athletic director Steve Orsini said in a statement released Tuesday, "Coach Jones has done a tremendous job of turning around our football program and he is a valuable member of the SMU community. But when you have a coach of his caliber, you will face rumors like this every year."

So for now, SMU can breathe…until the next time Jones owes it to himself to talk to another school.


For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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