Coaching carousel doesn’t always make sense

Spencer Chase

Very few jobs are as unstable as that of a college football coach.

When a coach is hired, there are hands to shake, boosters to meet and players to recruit in your down time. As soon as you lose your first game, those same boosters seem to want to run you out of town so fast the ink on your first paycheck has hardly dried. It’s a demanding job and only those that are hugely successful seem to last.

Take Turner Gill. He was hired to be the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks football team after bringing doormat University of Buffalo back into bowl contention. Many thought that Gill was passed up for higher profile jobs because of his race, such as the Auburn job, given to Gene Chizik. Fewer people were more deserving of a head coaching opportunity at a BCS school than Gill.

After Gill had received his golden opportunity, he promptly went 5-19 including ending the 2011 season on a 10 game losing streak. Gill wasn’t particularly discouraged, because making a winning program takes time, such as the three seasons it took for him to make the Buffalo a winner. But that didn’t stop Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger from pulling the rug out from under Gill and heading the Kansas football program in a different direction.

Kansas is still obligated to pay Gill roughly $6 million and they’ll have to come up with some money for their new head coach, whoever that may be. The Jayhawks may have trouble attracting a new head man, because their last two head football coaches have been fired, the first being Mark Mangino in 2009 and Gill on Nov. 27. Even at a traditionally weak football school, the pressure is still on.

Gill’s story is not an uncommon one in college football. Most colleges do at least get the chance to graduate their first recruiting class so they at least can’t blame the previous coach’s poor recruiting, but several are fired before they’ve been given adequate time to prove themselves.

Now-former Illinois head coach Ron Zook was fired after following a 6-0 start with a six-game losing streak, a feat unheard of in college football. Arizona fired head coach Mike Stoops in the middle of the season. There’s even a website ( that ranks the coaches most likely to be fired from 1-120, with LSU mad-hatter Les Miles being seen as the safest coach in the nation.

With the majority of these men making seven figures from their respective institutions, a lot is expected of them. With the potential to make big money off their teams, university higher-ups don’t want their school’s team to stay in no-man’s land for long. What most boosters, athletic directors and university presidents don’t understand is that college football programs don’t grow overnight. Making a winning football team takes years of quality recruiting to build the program that everyone wants.

Just ask Iowa State. They allowed Chizik to leave for Auburn, only to watch him win a BCS championship the very next year, the same job that many thought was Gill’s to lose.