Monday, December 31, 2007

Nearing the end if only because of the inevitability of it all-Coach Watch Day 64

Sorry for the lack of posting this last week.  I kind of missed most of the Junes Jones development or lack thereof.  Well, I am not really sorry.  I am just about sick of waiting.  I can either post vitriolic rant or play with my kids.  I choose kids.

SMU will have a coach soon.  SMU will not be coachless as it enters the next contact period with recruits just as it will not be coachless as it enters Spring practice or next season.  That means SMU will have a new coach at the end of this week or perhaps next week.

The next full contact period begins January 13th.  I refuse to entertain for a moment the idea that a coach won’t be hired by that date.  You could also note that recruits can visits the weekends of January 4th and January 13th, but the idea that a coach can get be hired one day and turn around and host recruits the next day borders on the absurd.  Again, I will point out that aside from there not being a head coach, there is NO COACHING STAFF.  If SMU goes in any direction other than a coach that is currently a head coach, putting together a staff will take time.  That time and energy will also take away from the time and energy that needs to be devoted to recruiting.

Of course, the whole notion that it is OK that SMU doesn’t have a head coach because recruiting is in a “dead period” is ridiculous.  While it is true that during a dead period, no one associated with SMU may contact or evaluate prospects on or off campus, coaches may still write or call prospects.

If SMU essentially has no recruiting class in 2008, it will affect SMU for years.  Those players will, in effect, never exist and never be replaced on the roster.  SMU has historically come close to offering the limit of 25 scholarships every year through graduation and attrition anyway.  If there is an “empty” class, even though only half of those athletes might pan out, those athletes won’t redshirt, they won’t play, they won’t make the two-deep roster.  It will harm depth.  It will require more athletes to burn redshirts in the future.

A few thoughts on June Jones and Jon Tenuta, since their names came up in the last week.

June Jones is the head coach of Hawaii and an offensive genius.  I would hire June Jones any day of the week and twice on Sundays.  I would wait until January 3rd to hire June Jones; he is worth the wait.  I would not wait until January 3rd to talk to June Jones.  All signs say June Jones isn’t coming to SMU and most pundits say that if he did, he would be nuts.  Most likely, SMU is the only school dumb enough to chase June Jones and he intends to use Orsini to get himself a raise and new carpet for his office.

In the Dallas Morning News on November 13, 2003; June Jones said the following regarding Phil Bennett:

"I think Phil is on an island sometimes," Jones said. "He's going through some unfair requirements over there. He's not on the same playing field as the rest of us."  

Now, does that lead you to believe that Jones would even consider coming to SMU four years later, when little more than the name on the AD's door has changed?  That being said, if June Jones did take the job, it would go a long way towards restoring some credibility to SMU because he obviously would not come unless he thought he could win.

As for Jon Tenuta, his name has unfairly become a punchline for me.  The cruelest thing you can say about Tenuta is “Jon Tenuta is Phil Bennett without the personality.”  That isn’t really fair, because Tenuta is a heck of a defensive coordinator and has a better resume than Phil ever did as defensive coordinator.  However, Tenuta has wanted a head coaching job for years, rarely even gotten an interview.  Many think he lacks the personality to be a head coach.

There is a widespread rumor that he had a special deal at Georgia Tech where he did not have to recruit.  Seriously.  Even if it isn’t true, the mere fact that it is out there gives me pause.  He is a college football coach.  College football coaches recruit.  It is part of the job.  I can’t imagine any self-respecting coach allowing such a rumor to even get out there.

Tenuta will not sell tickets.  Tenuta will not sell SMU.  Not to alumni.  Not to Dallas.  Not to recruits.  End of story.

My new fear is that SMU will hire someone like Tenuta and use his current role as interim head coach as an excuse for the ridiculous delay.  "Hey, he was the interim head coach, we couldn't hire him a month ago."  Or, "He was coaching the quarterbacks for the [insert NFL team here], we couldn't hire him."  If they tried that, it would be a lie.  A lie. An untruth.  A falsehood.  Coaches have left their current teams; coaches have been announced as leaving and stayed to coach the bowl game or the rest of the NFL season.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coach Watch Day 54: Fran and stuff

Yesterday was Franchione day, which followed Coker day.  It appears that there is no new news today.

I was surprised by the Franchione story.  Like many, I am not entirely sure how this and the Coker story came to light.  The Dallas Morning News never actually says Franchione interviewed or when the contact/discussion takes place.  I said a long time ago that Fran was trying to contact SMU.  The Dallas Morning News only says that ESPN says Coker interviewed and has no other information, including when such an interview took place.  I think logic would tell you that the Coker interview took place recently.

Despite being a former frog and former aggie, I don’t have near the animosity towards Fran that I do Coker, though I vaguely recall cursing his name on a cold rainy night at Ford Stadium in November 2000.  Coker’s Miami team was worse when he left it, though I realize it couldn’t have gotten any better.  They trended downward every year and there is no evidence he was capable of disciplining his players.  He led a team that ended up being an embarrassment on and off the field.  Fran, on the other hand, put together great staffs at New Mexico and TCU.  He built up New Mexico and TCU; people forget he won 10 games at Alabama and I am not that turned off by his coaching performance at A&M.  The next paragraph will annoy some aggies (Sorry, aggie pals).

A&M is a school with high expectations, but people forget that A&M has been trending downwards since 1998, which coincides with the arrival of Mack Brown.  R.C. Slocum’s last season was a disappointing no bowl 6-6 season in 2002. A&M was solidly behind OU and Texas in the Big XII South; lost to Tech two years in a row, the last years of RC in conference were 7-1, 5-3, 5-3, 4-4, 3-5.  While Fran had two sub .500 years at A&M, where is A&M today?  Arguably a little better, but A&M is not worse off today than it was under Slocum.  .500 in conference, two consecutive victories over Texas and still can’t beat Texas Tech (but that is a problem they have had for over 10 years).  I know that is faint praise:  “Fran didn’t make them worse,” but I think it is accurate.

The VIP newsletter doesn’t concern me.  It is the kind of thing nobody cares about when you are 8-4, but when you are not living up to expectations, it is a real issue.  

I still think Fran can recruit and put together a staff.  Fran, of all the mentioned candidates, in my opinion, is in the best position, to do good things at SMU.

A couple of follow up notes on my most recent posts.  Apparently, Coker only had three players die while he was head coach:  two car accidents and a shooting death, though at least one of the car accidents was alcohol related, there was another accidental shooting of a player by another player and an indicted felon was signed to a letter of intent (albeit the trumped up charges related to an incident at another school’s recruiting trip).  The “bludgeoning” took place while Butch Davis was head coach and Coker was offensive coordinator.

Also, I forgot to mention something else about recruiting.  It takes more than a head coach to recruit.  It takes an entire staff.  You can’t reasonably hire a coach, especially a coach like Coker who has been out of football, and expect him to have an entire staff immediately and ready to recruit.  That is one thing that the other two available jobs have over SMU in this process-both are bowl teams with staffs in place where some assistant coaches hope/expect to be retained.  At SMU, the entire staff was fired; they are gone.

I am working on a "What I would do if I were Orsini" post.  I am sure everyone is waiting with baited breath.  I halfway expect SMU to hire a coach before I am finished.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Coach Watch Day 53

As far as I am concerned, there are only two opinions one can have on the SMU coaching search. The first is that the SMU coaching search is going badly. The second is that the SMU coaching search is not going badly. I don’t think you can rationally argue the search is actually going well as it reaches day 50. This post is to officially inform you that I have changed my position from the latter to the former. The coaching search is not going well and the evidence is all around us.

When I started blogging again, it was with the assumption that the coaching search would take around a month. And I also thought I would be blogging about, you know, news. So now we are in week eight and there is no coach in sight and there has been very little news.

I have been thinking about this for a week now. I have reread every article on the SMU coaching search. I then saw something in Kevin Sherrington's column that I had missed earlier and that crystallized things in my mind.

Orsini says he hasn't offered the job to anyone, not even Navy's Paul Johnson, who opted for Georgia Tech. Orsini says coordinators could be candidates, though he prefers head coaching experience.

We are considering coordinators now? I went and reviewed the Orsini press conference after Bennett was let go. When asked what he was looking for in a head coach, the first words out of his mouth were "head coaching experience." Orsini does hedge his comments later, but it was clear head coaching experience was key.

Unlike many at SMU, hiring an assistant suits me just fine. Hiring a lower division head coach suits me fine as well. But it seems to me that if Orsini is widening the net, it must be because he isn’t catching any fish.

I used to believe that if the SMU search was going badly, we would know it. There would be a lot more reports like the one that said Paul Johnson was going to Navy, Steve Kragthorpe had no interest in the job or Air Force’s Calhoun publicly declining to interview. I also used to believe that SMU and Orsini’s silence was a mistake. I have changed my mind on both counts. If not for Orsini’s lockdown on all information related to the search, SMU fans would know just how badly the search is going.

On November 30th, President Turner said he hoped a coach would be hired within a week. That was over two weeks ago. Turner, Orsini and everyone involved know the search has gone on too long.

When Orsini was on with Norm Hitzges last week, Orsini made a point to mention that a dead period for recruiting began today which extends through January 3rd. A full contact period does not begin until January 13th. This is true. However, it is also true that national signing day is February 6th. There are now just 21 full contact days between now and February 6th.

While it is easy to say SMU doesn’t need a coach for recruiting when a coach cannot meet with recruits personally, that ignores the bulk of the recruiting process. Coaches can write or telephone prospective student-athletes during the dead period. More importantly, coaches can assess needs, evaluate film, target players. It is important to note that none of this has been happening in any real or meaningful way since October 29th (and really, long before that). You simply cannot hire a coach in January and expect him to hit the recruiting trail running.

Furthermore, signing day for midyear junior college transfers is December 19th, which, for those of you keeping score at home, is Wednesday. You are blind if you don’t think SMU needs help on both sides of the ball immediately.

If you don’t think the search is going poorly, you have to have blind faith in Orsini, because Lord knows you can’t have faith in SMU. Some people assured everyone that SMU had a deal with a coach and it would be announced after SMU’s season was over out of respect for Bennett. When that time passed, some said SMU clearly had a deal with a coach and it would be announced after the coach had finished his season because he had another game to coach. When that time passed and Paul Johnson went to Georgia Tech and silence has since followed, some people now say SMU has a deal with a coach and it will be announced after the coach has coached his bowl game or maybe it is an NFL coach or assistant that has to finish his season.

At other schools, current NFL assistants (and even an NFL head coach) have been hired. Schools with bowl games to play have lost their coaches and assistants in the shuffle as recently as last week. It is possible that a particular coach that interests SMU has said they preferred to wait out the season, but that certainly isn’t likely. Any coach knows the value of recruiting and knows that they needed to be out on the recruiting trail for their new school if they were taking another job.

There are no deals in place and if there are deals, they are worth no more than any deal SMU ever had with Paul Johnson who is currently house shopping in Atlanta. While Orsini claims he never offered the job to Paul Johnson, that statement is only true in the technical sense. You can find Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech contract here. Reading the document, it is clear the contract is not technically “offered” until all the terms are agreed to. I am sure Johnson’s agent has a similar “memorandum of understanding” from SMU in a file in his office (or perhaps a trashcan).

Here is a list of the coaching changes last year. The longest search was Alabama’s, which you will recall lasted seemingly forever. It actually lasted 38 days. SMU is on day 50 with no indication that it will end soon. There has never been a search like this one that I recall. Never.

And then we found out that SMU interviewed Larry Coker. I have already said I think Coker would be a bad choice. For now, that is beside the point. Coker is exactly the kind of guy I thought SMU was not considering. Even more troubling, SMU could have hired Coker 51 days ago. If SMU had any real interest in Coker, it could have set up an interview with Coker for right after Thanksgiving and the SMU season ended.

It doesn't make any sense if things are fine. None of this makes any sense unless you take a step back and look at it for what it is. This is what a coaching search that is not going well looks like. The complete silence from the administration and boosters, who otherwise would be excited; the lack of public speculation; the length of time. Someone pointed out to me that Ohio State hired Jim Tressel in Mid-February; yes, but Ohio State didn't fire John Cooper until January 2, 2000, either. Coaching searches that are going well don't last this long. Did you know the longest coaching search in NHL history is 27 days? I believe the modern day NFL record is 39 days. Maybe it will end well, and I hope it does, but it isn't going well.

If SMU had hired somebody quickly, I woud have just shrugged my shoulders and said, "Hey, Orsini got his guy. What can you say? Let Orsini be judged by what the guy accomplishes." Now, things are different. Now, I have to judge Orsini's choice against the myriad of other coaches SMU could have/should have/would have/did consider. We are also going to have to examine Orsini's process and what went wrong.

I don't fault Orsini for aiming high and trying to get a coach that ESPN gave Georgia Tech an "A" for hiring. Personally, I still don't think Paul Johnson is what Georgia Tech needed and was surprised they pursued him. I do question why there was apparently no backup plan in motion as soon as Paul Johnson left for a second interview with Georgia Tech.

I have been languishing over posting this for a week (I am sure it doesn't show, but hey, any idiot can blog). I shared it with a couple of people before I posted it. Both agree. One was surprised it took me this long. The other just said it depressed him to see me write it because I have previously been positive.

Just because the search isn't going well, however, doesn't mean SMU can't still get a great coach. Maybe I am an ungrateful dolt and don't appreciate that Orsini is busting his tail every minute of the day to find SMU the perfect fit. Ultimately, it may come to pass that SMU hires a great coach. And if that happens, I will be wrong and rightfully and gladly so. God, I hope so.

Oh, well. Back to Guitar Hero III.

Coach Watch Day 52: Coker shows up

So some show on ESPN2 says former Miami head man Larry Coker interviewed for the vacant SMU head coaching job.  If you read the message boards, you found out about it early yesterday; if you don’t, you can read about it in today’s paper.

At his press conference IN OCTOBER, Orsini listed four criteria that he would use to evaluate candidates: (i) past success; (ii) academics; (iii) conduct of his players on and off the field; and (iv) ability to sell SMU.

During Larry Coker’s tenure, there was a well-publicized melee during a game between Miami players and the players of Florida International.  As someone reminded me, the fight started when a Miami player took a bow in front of the fans after scoring a touchdown.  After the fight, Coker remarked:

"I think that it will affect the image of our program greatly, but in a positive way," he said. "I think that when they see the video and they see how it was handled they will be impressed with our players." Additionally, he was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying "I think you've got a lot of players from their team frustrated because they're not here, and maybe were not recruited."

To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, “You stay classy, Larry Coker.”

At this time I would also like to point out that during Larry Coker’s time as head coach of Miami, four players died and none were by natural causes.  Tow died in car accidents.  One was shot and killed.  A fourth was “bludgeoned” to death.  That is right.  I said, “bludgeoned.”

In his first season after Butch Davis left for the Cleveland Browns, Larry Coker’s team went undefeated and won a national championship.  His next season, Miami lost in the national title game.  The next season, Miami lost two games.  The next year, Miami lost three games and again three the next.  The next and final season, Coker’s Miami team lost six games.  That is called a trend in my book.  Take the number 1 team in the country when you take over and get it knocked out of the top 25.  And make no mistake, that was the number one team in the country before Coker got there:  One of my clearest memories in 2000

Oh, and the word on the street is Coker loathes recruiting.  One of the things that people say did Coker in at Miami was his inability to effectively recruit South Florida …in Miami!  He lost too many players to Florida, Florida State and USF.  Miami's recruiting class were consistently ranked lower and lower each year.

Did I mention the guy is 60?

In case you can’t tell, I have no interest in this guy.  I said it a long time ago:  too old; too many issues.  More importantly, I am angered that this guy got an interview and others apparently have not.  I view this guy as every bit as untouchable, if not more so, than Gary Barnett, Dennis Franchione, Rick Neuheisel and Terry Bowden.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Coaches SMU is apparrently not considering 3

Chris Hatcher is a genius and will be a head coach in Division I-A sooner rather than later. Again, he is young and not quite a man according to OSU coach Mike Gundy. He was the head coach of Division II Voldosta State and is now the head coach of Division I-AA Georgia Southern.

In seven years at Voldosta State, he posted an .864 winning percentage;registered a 68-7 mark in the regular season, was 56-6 in conference play, had 60 All-conference selections, coached 16 Division II all-american selections and won a Division II national championship.

In his first year at Georgia Southern, he coached a player to the Walter Payton Award (I-AA Heisman). He was a finalist for I-AA coach of the year. He turned a 3-8 team into a 7-4 team.

He interviewed at Georgia Tech this year. Again, we aren't looking at lower division head coaches. And yes, I know Mike Cavan coached at Voldosta State; is that really a reason not to consider a coach? I said this before but I believe that sometimes it is better to find a good coach yourself than overpay to hire a coach away from somewhere else.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Coach Watch Day 44

Orsini speaks!!!!!!!!!!! Out of deference to the ponyfans website, I am linking to a summary rather than reposting here. That way they get the ad revenue. I don't get ad revenue so I don't care.

Orsini also made a blog entry.

I know some of you may be frustrated with the lack of news and information out there, but a coaching search is unlike anything else we do. It has always been my experience that these searches are best conducted quietly. Again, I know that may frustrate the message boards, bloggers and even the DMN, but right now I can only focus on getting the best available coach to the Hilltop.

If that was directed at me, then I will take it. I still think Orsini can be more open than he is being. That won't change until a coach is hired. Note that I have never said, "Orsini needs to hire a coach now!" Orsini knows the stakes. I have only said Orsini needs to be aware of the mindset of the SMU fan today as the longest coaching search in the nation and school history drags on. He also needs to realize he controls the news only at one end and most news that he doesn't control, if it gets out, is bad (Johnson going to GT, for example).

Listening to the radio on my way to lunch, a friend said we learned nothing from that interview with Norm Hitzges. I corrected him. Yes, we did. We learned SMU isn't going to hire anybody this week.

Coaches SMU is apparently not considering 2

Will Muschamp

Will Muschamp is the youngest and hottest coaching prospect without a head coaching job in America. While young, he has the rare resume that includes coordinator stops in both the SEC (twice) and NFL. He is only 35. He was an assistant at LSU and Saban took him to coach the Dolphins. He left the Dolphins ahead of Saban and went to Auburn.

He has been interviewed at Georgia Tech and Arkansas. He turned down the opportunity to interview at Louisiana Tech last year.

If Will Muschamp were hired, I will be thrilled. And not only because I will print 500 "Boom! Motherf**ker!" T-shirts. I genuinely think the guy can coach. Muschamp is the Defensive Coordinator for a team with an offensive-minded head coach.

Again, we aren't looking at first-time head coaches. Personally, I believe that sometimes it is better to find a good coach yourself than overpay to hire a coach away from somewhere else.


Monday, December 10, 2007

New Feature: Coaches SMU apparently isn't considering

I have decided to annoy you. Congratulations. Rather than scream "Bowdenheisel!"© 500 times, I am going to suggest other coaches SMU is apparently not going to consider. Unlike Bowdenheisel (tm), I am going to suggest coaches that other schools that haven't been looking for coaches as long as SMU are considering.


Larry Fedora (OC Okie State)

Larry Fedora is a man and he is 40 (actually 45, I think). He is also a very well respected offensive coordinator and recruiter. Some will tell you he is a genius and if they don't, he will tell you he is a genius. Before becoming the OC at OSU, he was Zook's OC at Florida and Zook offered him the same job at Illinois but Fedora took the offer at OSU. He is a Texas native and went to Austin College. He also coached briefly in the HS ranks in Garland, Texas. Plus, I think he has a cool name.

He is expected to be named the HC at Southern Mississippi any day now. They are arguing over his budget for assistant coaches. SMU could have him if they acted assertively.

But, alas, we aren't looking at first-time head coaches. Personally, I believe that sometimes it is better to find a good coach yourself than overpay to hire a coach away from somewhere else.


What makes a good job opening? Money, tradition to start

For the next post, please read this:

What makes a good job opening? Money, tradition to start.

ESPN's Bruce Feldman lists the 10 biggest factors on what makes a great coaching job. Let us examine SMU and how it measures up on all 10.

1. Financial commitment: Depends. Seems like there is a financial commitment to bring in a head coach. But what about assistants? What about a recruiting budget? I think the money is there to accomplish anything; the nut just needs to be cracked open. To crack that nut, all a coach has to do is win!

2. Tradition: A Negative. You have to break the tradition into pre- and post-death penalty. pre-death penalty, the tradition is solid. Post-death penalty, tradition is effectively nonexistent. You could argue that the pre-death penalty success is a detriment to future success.

3. Conference appeal: A negative. Not BCS and that is all that matters. Conference USA is terrible. It was gutted in the most recent conference realignment. On the other hand, if not for that realignment, SMU wouldn't be in it. Also, SMU has the most bowl tie-ins of the non-BCS conferences and as good a TV deal as any.

4. Recruiting base: A positive. Sure, SMU could take better advantage, but the recruiting base in Texas and the metroplex is there.

5. Stability of the administration: A positive. Though the slow plodding leadership of Turner can drive you nuts and the coaching search could be going better, you cannot accuse SMU leadership of being rash or unstable.

6. Facilities: Depends. No practice facility and no room for one, but the on campus stadium is a gem.

7. Admissions Flexibility: A negative. That is all I am going to say.

8. Campus feel: A positive.

9. Fan sanity: A positive. The current search aside, this is a positive. SMU is desperate for a winner. The next coach that gets SMU to a bowl is going to get a statue built in his honor.

10. Climate: A positive. Short or Southern California and Florida, I am not sure where you are going to find a better climate. My cousin realized this one year when we played golf on Christmas Eve.

Coach Watch Day 43

I believe I said that if the coaching search drifted much beyond the end of the season, I was going to panic. Or somesuch.

The fearless beatwriter chimed in and said that Southern Miss's Jeff Bower and Terry Bowden have still not been contacted.

Update: I figured there would be an article in the DMN on Tuesday, focusing on the recruiting angle. If there are any nuggets it is that Glenn Mason, the former Minnesota coach, hasn't been contacted either.

Orsini said Monday that he remained pleased with the search.


Orsini said the search is his highest priority.

"I'm doing what I need to do," he said.

I wonder what the SMU fan would have thought of Bower had he not been fired. Would the prospect of a coach from a perrenial bowl contender in-conference be appealing? Alas, he was a coach under Collins at SMU pre-death penalty; doesn't that automatically disqualify him (albeit probably unfairly)?

I am now going to perform a braindump on the Big Four of Former Coaches.

Bowden is Bowden and Neuheisel is Neuheisel and Barnett is Barnett. Oh, and Coker is Coker. I personally have little interest in all four. I concede Bowden probably is unfairly mixed in with the other three and Coker probably shouldn't be mixed in with Barnett and Neuheisel. They are coaches with baggage. Some's baggage is nicer than other.

Bowden's is nine years out of coaching, which seems like no big deal to some people but is a huge deal to me. While I recognize there are coaches that have been successful after a layoff; I still don't trust it and don't trust the motives. I admit I could be wrong. At least Bowden is still relatively young and only had one year sub .500 as a head coach.

Trouble has followed Neuheisel wherever he has gone and people should not deny it. The trouble that Barnett, age 62, got in was partially Neuheisel's doing. I believe both can coach, but they are pariahs. Barnett may have the most impressive turnaround resume, but his Colorado firing had as much to do with performance as anything. At one time, I was somewhat fond of Neuhiesel because some people hate Neuheisel, which I think is cool. Be nice to be hated; at least they would be talking about SMU.

I have no interest in Larry Coker, age 60. Miami went downhill in his tenure and he lost control. Maybe he can coach an offense, but I don't let the man run my team.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tomorrow: 12/8/2007 (Coach Watch Day 41)

SMU will not have a coach tomorrow. This, I know. Tomorrow, in the Dallas Morning News, there will be something. Or nothing. One of the two. And by "something," I don't mean a paragraph saying Pal Johnson signed a contract with Georgia Tech.

If there is nothing, it means SMU isn’t listening to me. I am telling them to be more open about this process. Orsini doesn’t have to say, “Les Miles is on Ray Hunt’s plane right now; we plan to offer $17 Million a year.” But Orsini has to say something. I don’t want names and dates. I want to know if other have interviewed and when. I want to know when they expect to bring people in. I want to know what kind of person they are looking at now.

SMU keeps its current silence at its peril.

SMU may think the message board is nothing but a bunch of vitriolic ranting, but the truth is the posts reflect the opinions of people that give a [expletive] about SMU and those people represent a number of people who don’t post on message boards. In the world of consumer complaints, studies show 1 in 20 people with complaints actually complain to the manufacturer, yet each person with a complaint tells an average of 8 to 10 people. When I worked in politics, we used to say one yard sign on a block represented seven votes (now you know why there are so many yard signs).

If there is any merit to any of that, the SMU has a real confidence problem. I suggest it begin doing something about that.

I have one other comment and it is directed towards the loyal readers of this blog. SMU missed out on one guy that was being pursued by no fewer than four schools and ultimately got paid more than $2,000,000.00 per year by a perennial bowl team in a BCS conference. You don’t go from that straight to hiring Hudson Houck, a juco coach(!), a failed HC, now loathed assistant like Greg Davis or an “untouchable” coach “with baggage” like Barnett.

If Les Miles is a 10, then Paul Johnson is an 8 or a 9. You don’t go straight from chasing a 9 to settling for a 2. There are levels in between. In other words, just because the hottest chick in the bar turned you down, doesn’t mean you try to take home her ugly cousin with the lazy eye and a large adams apple. There are other women in the bar and there are other bars.

Paul Johnson is going to Georgia Tech.

This blog isn’t about Paul Johnson; this is about SMU.  I will give you just one link:

This isn’t about Air Force’s Troy Calhoun; this is about SMU.  Here is another link:

Should we credit SMU for aiming high?  Perhaps.  

Are they still aiming high?  Perhaps.  I don’t know.

The one thing I do know is that SMU now has a giant frackin’ public relations problem on its hands.  SMU, for whatever reason, has chosen to operate its coaching search in silence.  That is a terrible, terrible mistake.  And it is a mistake for one reason: Everyone was always going to find out anyway.

Does anybody really think no one was going to find out SMU was pursuing Johnson? Ridiculous.  This isn’t about Ford’s plane.  Nobody ever saw Georgia Tech’s plane or Duke’s plane, but everyone knew they were interested.

Does anybody think Duke and Georgia Tech only contacted Navy after they found out SMU called them? That is ridiculous.

Does anybody think Duke and Georgia Tech were not going to find out how much money SMU was willing to spend or that those figures would not get out in the media?  Again, that is ridiculous.

Does anybody think that SMU would contact a number of coaches and none of them would let that information leak?  I hate to use the word “ridiculous” a fourth time, but I have to.  That suggestion is ridiculous.

The truth is SMU has not officially said one GD word about the coaching search. That might be fine if the coaching search lasted a day or two, or even a week.  However, we are in the middle of week six.  I will now detail everything we know for sure:
  1. SMU most recent target was Paul Johnson (we actually don't know he was the first choice);
  2. Paul Johnson turned us down;
  3. No matter who SMU hires, he was not SMU's first choice;
  4. At least one other coach has said, "Thanks, but no thanks." (we actually don’t know how many.)

I would tell you more but I don’t know anything else for sure and nothing else has been leaked or reported in the paper.  

What is Plan B?  The question is and of itself is indicative of the problem.  No one-not coaches, not fans-should ever definitively know there is a plan B.  It should be muddled and conceivable that no matter if the guy was actually 5th on the list, Orsini can claim he got his guy.  

Granted, Orsini isn’t the only one to screw that up this year.  But then again, SMU isn’t Michigan or Arkansas.  There is a culture of losing here and a tendency to panic at the slightest sign of adversity.  Even Copeland spoke of it.  That will be one of the things the next coach has to change.  And if he has to single-handedly slap every season ticketholder across the cheek to make that happen, I am all for it.  And again, that is why the decision to conduct a coaching search inside a cone of silence was an incredibly poor decision.

I don’t know definitively who the next target is but I still believe, as I always have, the goal is to hire a coach that is currently a head coach in Division I bowl-subdivision (IA).  Who that is now, I have no idea.  My advice is to find a list of salaries start at around $1.5 million and look for coaches you think might jump.  I think you can hypothesize that SMU has the ability to pay $2,000,000 per year for a coach.  Any agent worth his salt is going to ask for it all.

What is SMU’s timeframe?  Again, I have no earthly idea.  I hope it is soon.   As I mentioned yesterday, nearly six weeks have passed and jobs have been filled, recruits have been lost, junior college signing day may very well come and go.  Does anyone think SMU does not need an infusion of talent?

In retrospect, perhaps it would have been better to wait until the end of the season to fire Phil Bennett.  Then, SMU fans could have focused their ire at him for the final four weeks of the season and the team's performance rather than keeping their ears to the ground hoping to hear something (anything) about who would be the next head coach.  If that were the case, then SMU would only be in week two of the coaching search instead of week six.  Orsini could have still gone about his business of raising money and hiring a search consultant behind the scenes (one thing we actually have learned is Orsini can keep his secrets).  Maybe A&M's athletic director got that one right.

My advice to SMU at this point is obvious:  Move fast and decisively.  And do so more openly.  Orsini still has a certain amount of good will with SMU fans built up, but not that much.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Waiting is the Hardest Part.

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like somethin’ from a dream
Yeah I’ve never known nothing quite like this
Don’t it feel like tonight might never be again
We know better than to try and pretend
Baby no one could have ever told me bout this

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Well yeah I might have chased a couple of women around
All it ever got me was down
Then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I feel right now
Baby you’re the only one that’s ever known how
To make me wanna live like I wanna live now

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more ca rd
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
Don’t let em kill you baby, don’t let ‘em get to you
Ill be your breathin’ heart, Ill be your cryin’ fool
Don’t let this go to far, don’t let it get to you

Look, I could go on and on about what we know and don’t know, but the bottom line is we don’t really know much more than we did yesterday, though it appears Duke is back in it. Personally, I am tired. Earlier in the day, I tried to be optimistic. Upon reflection, Johnson is likely milking the situation for the best BCS offer he can get. I said earlier that I thought there was a chance Orsini was going to get someone a raise before he got his coach and that may very well be the case. Maybe Paul Johnson will choose SMU and maybe he won't, but if this all goes down the way I now expect it to, I am going to have some choice words for SMU, Turner and Orsini and the way they arrogantly kept the rank and file season ticketholders in the dark. All the while, nearly six weeks have passed and jobs were filled, recruits were lost, junior college signing day may very well come and go. For now, I am just too tired to do it.

If you are looking for reading material, check these places out:

A good Navy blog.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Blog.

Navy Football Board.

Georgia Tech Board.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Coach Watch Day 720

Hi, folks! What did we learn today? Not a whole heck of a lot. Things we know today that we did not know before:

1) Paul Johnson had a meeting with Georgia Tech.

That really is about it. Take solace in the fact that the Georgia Tech and Navy fans know just as much as you.

How much money is on the table? Nothing concrete as far as offers go or offers being on the table. There is some speculation that SMU is capable and willing to outbid the field for Paul Johnson's services. Some rumors out there that SMU is already north of 2 million per year for Johnson, which is approximately 1/2 million more than Georgia Tech. If the money is close, most think Johnson goes to Georgia Tech, but that is mostly conjecture (but pretty good conjecture IMO). I am not sure where Duke is in this picture. My final thought on money is this: When Orsini had his press conference he said the money to hire a coach would be decided first and then he would go raise it from donors; this, to me, says Orsini and Turner can add money to whatever they have raised if they so choose.

So where is Paul Johnson now? I have no idea. He could be in Dallas, Annapolis, Durham, NC, Atlanta or anyplace in between. He wasn't at the TCU-SMU basketball game and neither was Orsini; Turner, however, was. The infamous plane belonging to Gerald Ford is allegedly in Miami. I say "allegedly" because we now know it is possible for a plane's owner to have it removed from and that it could be done in a day, meaning that the plane could technically be anywhere. However, my friend and SMU grad that is a pilot has looked at other similar services and believes the plane is, in fact, in Miami. He is not 100% certain about this but would be willing to put money on the plane being there. Why is it there? Well, it is Gerald Ford's plane and he can do what he wants, though I will note the plane hasn't been to Miami in the past six months.

Paul Johnson might be out celebrating his nomination for Coach of the Year.But, then again, maybe he isn't. He already won it once.

One thing I don't really understand is Georgia Tech's interest. I believe Paul Johnson can coach, but he doesn't strike me as the kind of coach an established program that has gone to nine bowls in eleven years would want. And that is part of the reason I think Georgia Tech may eventually go in another direction.

I have been told that the SMU powers that be really believe Paul Johnson can win at SMU immediately. That is one of the reasons they want him so bad.

Well, I am done for the night. Maybe I can get some work done tomorrow. Or maybe it will be more of the same (watching this thing unfold).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Coach Watch Day 44, maybe 45 or 46, I dunno anymore

Most SMU fans in the know/dark spent much of the day watching a green line cross the country and back again. Gerald Ford's Gulfstream flew to Baltimore and back today, allegedly to retrieve Paul Johnson from Navy.

Things we know (culled mostly from the message boards):

1) The LEC which offices next to the athletic department and Ford Stadium were "closed" today for testing of an electrical system.

The The Loyd Center building will be closed for maintenance today (Monday, Dec. 3) beginning 5:30 p.m. This means the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center will relocate.

From 5 to 10 p.m. today, ALEC tutoring will take place in Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. There will be ALEC night managers at the main Dedman Center entrance to help students find the tutors they need. The Monday tutoring schedule will remain in effect.


ALEC expects to return to the Loyd Center and resume normal operations on Tuesday.

2) All the lights were on in Ford Stadium. Field lights, offices, club level, suites.

3) Following email was sent:
To: Athletic Department Staff
From: Steve Orsini
Subject: “The Rumor Mill”
In our football coaching search, we have reached a point at which rumors are circulating and fans and friends may be asking you about various possibilities. As you would guess, we want to coordinate any information that comes out of the department. For this reason, I will be serving as the only spokesperson for our department during the selection process. Because of the sensitive nature of the process, I ask that you not engage in conjecture or speculation on our search timeline or potential candidates with those outside the department.

4) late tonight, Dennis Dodd reported that Paul Johnson had an offer from Georgia Tech.

5) Duke's athletic director allegedly spoke with Paul Johnson. It is unclear from the report whether that took place on Sunday or Monday.

But what does it all mean? Put it all together and Paul Johnson is/was in town and Orsini et al. put on a show.

Is he still here? Will he stay? Will there be a press conference tomorrow? Does the Dallas Morning News even have an SMU beat writer any more?

The answer to all of these and many more questions may be answered tomorrow.

Coach Watch Day . . . uh . . .42(?)

I spent most of the weekend putting up Christmas lights and moving furniture.  The weekend was very quiet as far as SMU news and rumors go.  No meeting of the search committee and as far as I know, noone on the search committee was even contacted.

To sumarize this weekend's news:

From the Coaching Carousel:

SMU fans are biting their nails hoping Paul Johnson doesn't say please and thank you. I dont think Paul gets this job.


Nothing new on your end other than Duke and Georgia Tech talking to PJ. I think you are safe and Paul will be your man sooner than later. If not its gotta be Chan Gailey or Rick N. I just don;t think Fran is what you want or need. Marty Schottenheimer was talked to by Duke, maybe that is the ace up Orsini's sleeve? I still think its PJ

From the Football Rumor Mill:


Sources tell Football Rumor Mill that Paul Johnson’s once solid deal with SMU is in real trouble.  Georgia Tech wants to talk with Johnson soon after today’s Army-Navy game.  While Johnson has had an arrangement in place with the Mustangs for several days now, nothing has been signed, which has opened the door for Tech.

01 December 2007

My best guess is that Paul Johnson's name is officially leaked/announced late this afternoon and there is a meeting with the search committee followed by a press conference tomorrow.  At this point, however, that is just a  somewhat educated guess.  The likely coach is going to come from one of three: Paul Johnson, Chan Gailey or Dennis Franchione.  Now, it could absolutely end up being someone other than these three; in fact, I would put "field" ahead of Dennis Franchione at this point.

Finally, a random Jim Copeland (and Robert Lineburg, as well) sighting at Radford University:

Tuesday was a special day for our athletic staff and me. We were honored to have Jim Copeland spend the day with us. Jim has been the Athletics Director at William & Mary, Utah, University of Virginia, and Southern Methodist University. I had the pleasure of spending 11 years at SMU working under Jim’s leadership. He is a dear friend of mine and I have never made a career decision without speaking with Jim. Jim shared so many great ideas and thoughts about how we can get better as an athletic department at Radford University.

Posted by Robert Lineburg at 3:05 PM