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Turner Gill Gets Emotional After MAC Win

I don’t know much about Buffalo’s football history. I don’t know when the program was established, who their alumni are, to what conference they belong or have belonged, or if/when they’ve ever had success. All I’ve ever known about Buffalo is that they sucked. Buffalo for the last 10 years or so was perennially the worst team in college football. They probably caught my attention in ’99 when they went 0-11. Over the next several years, they went 10-58, never having more than a three-win season. Finally in ’06 they decided to make a coaching change and go with Turner Gill who doubled the previous years’ win total in his first season by going 2-10. Last year in Gill’s second season, they went 5-7, getting a handful of conference wins.

This season everything came together and the Bulls went 8-5, winning the MAC East by going 5-3 in conference play. They earned the right to play undefeated Ball State in the conference title game and upset the Cardinals 42-24 on Friday night. What Gill has done with the program in only three years is remarkable. It’s proof he can bring instant success to a program and really make a difference. Sustaining success over the years is no easy thing, nor is winning consistently in an extremely tough conference, such as the SEC. But if you want to comprehend how tough it is to take the worst team in all Division-I football and make it a winner in only your third year, all you have to do is watch Gill’s post-game interview on the field after the MAC Championship win on Friday night. Skip ahead to the 1:55 mark.

Nebraska might not have felt that Gill was ready for their job when they had an opening prior to Pelini’s hire, and they could be right. But after seeing what he’s done with Buffalo, I’d have a tough time not turning the reigns of any program over to him. What a turnaround.

Ty Willingham: Coaches Need More Time

There’s been a common theme lately here at LBS, and it involves the profession of college football head coaches. We had Houston Nutt agree that it was the hardest time in coaching, considering so many coaches with proven track records have been getting fired. While I believe Tyrone Willingham got a raw deal at Notre Dame, he certainly got what he deserved after doing very little with the Washington program. His main issue of contention with coaches is time. As in, coaches aren’t getting enough time to develop programs:

“It’s not just my issue, it’s a college football issue — we have to give coaches a chance to do their job. Because now we have coaches … especially some of the minority coaches … they are losing their jobs after 21/2 years. That’s not right.

Maybe Notre Dame got it right [retaining Weis]. But we have to change that mentality with [black] coaches. Nick Saban is making it work at Alabama in his second season. But in the majority of cases, it’s going to take longer to get things right and up to speed.

He’s not the first coach to complain about coaches not having enough time to prove themselves. I think five years is really the optimal amount for any head coach at any level, with four a passable length of time. Thing is, winning with lesser players, keeping the players competing at a high level, not getting blown out, all are signs of a coach doing a good job. There are ways to tell if a coach has it or doesn’t early on, so I can understand some coaches getting axed quickly. Whoever the coach is at Washington State for instance, certainly deserves to get fired after only one season — he clearly isn’t qualified to lead a team. But for most other situations, unless you can get yourself a Spurrier or a Saban, you really should give your head coach a chance to prove himself. Maybe Notre Dame did get it right giving Weis another shot, as he said. And if they got it wrong, at least we all get to enjoy another putrid season for the Fighting Irish!

Houston Nutt: This Is the Hardest Time Ever to Be a College Football Coach

Maybe Houston Nutt knew something about Tommy Tuberville before the rest of us did, but there’s no doubt that the recent climate amongst college football coaches has been murky at best. Seems like guys are getting fired at a rapid pace and that there is less and less patience, and higher and higher expectations. While I may call out coaches if I believe they’re doing a poor job, I always believe you must be able to hire a better coach than the one you’re firing to warrant the change. I’m on the record saying Mississippi State can’t do better than Sylvester Croom, and that Clemson should have looked for someone other than Dabo Swinney. And last year I thought Arkansas was crazy to cut ties with (or make life miserable for, depending no how you look at it) Houston Nutt, who is currently the Ole Miss coach after being blown out by Arkansas last year. Nutt did a really good job at Arkansas, and has already worked wonders at Ole Miss. He’s also pretty familiar with how tough the coaching landscape is these days. His response after being asked whether or not this is the hardest time to be a coach on The Monty Show on Sporting News Radio:

“I think it’s probably the hardest time ever to be a coach. It is a business. I think it is important for coaches not to get lost in why they’re really in it — and that’s the 18, 19, 20-year-olds and trying to make a difference in their lives. It’s too hard if you think that ‘I’m in it for the money or I’m in to do this …’ you get away from the real reason why you started coaching.”

When you see guys like Phil Fulmer and Tommy Tuberville get blown out in the same year it really makes you agree with Nutt’s comments. Everybody wants to win a title, go to BCS Bowl Games, win their conference, win 10 games a season … the list goes on. The expectations are outrageous and unrealistic. If Nick Saban’s going undefeated, then there has to be 12 teams chalking one up in the “L” column each week. There simply aren’t enough wins to go around to please everyone. And I really think teams in the SEC have just completely panicked as a result of The Saban Effect, and are firing good, reliable coaches in search of someone who can keep up with Saban.

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Rick Neuheisel Should Burn Timeouts Too

Look, I don’t know exactly what Pete Carroll’s doing here or what sort of motivation he has. All I know is that he wants to wear his red jerseys against UCLA on Saturday while the Bruins wear the blue. It’s something the teams did back in ’82 when they shared the Coliseum as a home, and I have no problem if they relaunch the tradition. People have been suggesting that this is a cocky move on Carroll’s part, as if he’s saying he can beat UCLA without needing his timeouts. Whatever. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what he’s saying, but that’s possible. No big deal to me. At some point something will backfire if that’s the underlying message, even if it’s not UCLA causing the move to backfire. I mean how much can you really expect out of a team whose quarterback has thrown more touchdowns to defensive players than his own team this year?

I really think this is a moot point and moot argument because the I’m guessing the NCAA will allow them to do this for the rivalry game without facing a penalty. Perhaps it’s just much ado about nothing. If not, Neuheisel should just burn the timeouts himself to make it even with Carroll. I’m all about pride and don’t like getting shown up, so that will level things out. Of course it will still be a 40+ point blowout, but at least Neuheisel can go down without losing his dignity in the process. Otherwise it would be a slap in the face to the school to say they got beat by a team willing to give up its timeouts. Why don’t they just spot us 40 points to begin with? Or maybe Carroll’s just trying to give USC fans a nice sendoff before he takes the San Diego Chargers soon-to-be-vacant head coaching/GM job …

Clemson Making the West Virginia Mistake with Dabo Swinney?

Last year West Virginia found out that Rich Rodriguez was leaving the program to take the job at Michigan. This news was revealed prior to the team’s Fiesta Bowl game and assistant head coach Bill Stewart was named the coach for the game. The Mountaineers pulled off a big upset, embarrassing Oklahoma 48-28, and Stewart was immediately named the permanent replacement for Rich Rodriguez. The move was criticized by some of West Virginia’s boosters for being an impetuous, emotional hire. Perhaps that sentiment has been manifested in the Mountaineers’ semi-disappointing 7-4 season. Clearly Clemson hasn’t learned a thing.

The Tigers fired Tommy Bowden mid-season, a move that seemed inevitable following the squad’s blowout loss in the opener to Alabama. Clemson went 3-3 before they finally pulled the plug on Bowden, naming assistant Dabo Swinney their interim coach. The team lost their first game under Swinney but wound up going 4-2 with him. Sure, winning at BC looks good, but it seems to me as if the team impetuously rewarded Swinney with the head coaching gig just for scoring an impressive win over rival South Carolina on Saturday.

If you double Swinney’s 4-2 half-season, that’s 8-4. Bowden was 8-4, 8-5, and 9-4 the last three years. Are they trying to improve the program or just maintain the same levels? Some things just don’t make sense. And when Clemson’s bitching about their lack of success in the next two years, you’ll know why.

Layla Kiffin is definitely Lane’s better half

Lane Kiffin was introduced as the new head football coach at Tennessee, but the real story was the attractive blonde by his side. That would be Kiffin’s wife, Layla.

Layla and Lane met when they were both 24. Layla was working for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (her father is former Florida All-America quarterback John Reaves), and Lane came to visit his father, Monte, who was the team’s defensive coordinator. Monte introduced Lane to Layla, things went well, and they began dating for about three months before he proposed. The two got engaged and have been married since July 2000.

Layla and Lane have two daughters and a son, Knox, who was born in 2009 and named after Knoxville.

Firing Charlie Weis May Be an Issue of Money, Like $20 Million

It appears as if Notre Dame is now paying the price of signing Charlie Weis to an exorbitant extension in the first year of his tenure. If you remember back in ’05, Weis signed a seven year extension that took him through ’15, worth around $40 million in total value. Weis I believe is three years into that extension, so the school would need to buy out the remaining seven years of the deal. Some reports last week suggested the buyout wouldn’t be as costly as initially anticipated. That logic suggested the school would only need to buy Weis out at the base salary amount of his contract, not the total value. The base salary probably reflects less than 25% of Weis actual salary.

Now WNDU is saying a buyout would cost ND around $20 million, considering they’d have to pay almost the entire amount of the remaining contract. One major problem they’re facing is that the school might not even have enough money available to even pay for a buyout. To that end, the school could be contacting alumni in efforts to raise money to fund a Weis buyout. Seriously, I cannot remember money ever being this much of an issue when it came to hiring or firing a coach in college football. How can you afford to sign a guy to such a monster deal and not leave yourself any outs? Alabama did that with Nick Saban, but at least they’re getting a run at a perfect season first. Notre Dame is being punished for their capricious actions in ’05, namely extending a coach for losing a game (against USC). As desperately as they may need a new coach, it appears as if they might be stuck!