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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coach of the Day: Paul Johnson

At the end of the day, yesterday, ran with a blurb that SMU was interested in Paul Johnson. Somehow, that blew up today.

In the past, I have been rather noncommittal on Paul Johnson.

I like this blog entry:

Dennis Dodd is reporting that SMU is close to hiring Navy HC Paul Johnson to be the Mustangs next head coach.

The announcement of his hiring could come as soon as early next week. Officials at both schools are thought to want to wait until after Saturday's Army-Navy game.
What? Huh?

Johnson's name has been tied to nearly every vacant head coaching job in the country over the past three years. He is one of the hot names in coaching circles. If you have a BCS job opening, Paul Johnson is somewhere on your list... period. Hot! Hot! Hot!

In other words, he is everything that SMU is not.

The Ponies have produced nothing but an awful string of losses since the NCAA shut down the Mustangs program. Since 1991, SMU has had just two seasons at or above .500 and have never won more than six games in any season. The Mustangs have had four different coaches in those 17 seasons, but the only constant has been the losses.

So... Paul Johnson... and SMU? You could have given me eleventy billion guesses and I never would have come up with SMU. But -- if this goes through -- it may turn out to be the single greatest hiring in the history of college football.

Hyperbole, much?

I have said before, I fear the coach with a gimmicky system. Not that I don't think it will work, just that I think it only works so well. Sooner or later the team tops out and the fan base will start blaming the system for not getting the school "over the hump." Now, if the "hump" is seven or eight wins, I think that will be a nice problem to have.

I don't think anyone can say the guy can't coach. He won two national championships at the IAA level and Navy won one game in the two years before he went there-since that time there have been five consecutive bowls.

I don't think Navy has such a natural advantage because it has a prep school and every walkon has a scholarship, unlike some people, but I do see the benefit of a Prep School, just like I see a benefit to having one high school in a school district where all the junior high schools run the same system (Southlake). Bottom line, you don't go to the Naval Academy unless you are prepared to commit the first five years of your life after college to your Country. That nixes 90% of the high school football players right there, and 99.9% of those that think they have a shot at the NFL, which is about 99.999% percent of them. Do the math.

An interesting question is whether Paul Johnson can recruit. I think it is ludicrous to suggest he can't. He still had to recruit to the Naval Academy and it isn't like you don't recruit to I-AA schools. He was doing something. Further, he was the offensive coordinator at Hawaii; he was recruiting there. And I happen to think a coach with five consecutive bowl games and a former national coach of the year has a certain amount of credibility in recruit's living room. Furthermore, that is what assistants are for.

If there is any concern about Paul Johnson's recruiting, it is his system. Any coach is going to have a hard time recruiting quality offensive players at the QB and receiver positions in flex option/triple option system. This is a real issue and it needs to be recognized going in.

We will know something next week. Be careful what you believe. Just because you read it on the internet or the Dallas Morning News or CBS Sportsline doesn't mean its true. Further, don't necessarily believe the guy you know that knows somebody on the search committee. Two people know what is really happening: Mike Vaught and Steve Orsini. Orsini isn't Copeland. Orsini does things his own way and largely on his own. Members of the basketball coach search committee didn't know SMU had a coach until 4 hours before the press conference.

Anyway, we will know more next week. Though I will admit, I might watch the Army-Navy game with some interest on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A break in the unsettling silence

Well, we finely got Kate Papadapoulous to write something on the coaching search. From the colleges blog:

Don't expect SMU to announce its new coach in the next couple of days.

Yes, the search is on Week 5. SMU was the first to move when it fired Phil Bennett on Oct. 28. Baylor and Texas A&M already have their new coaches. New positions are opening rapidly.

But SMU athletic director Steve Orsini on Wednesday insisted that SMU is right where it wants to and planned to be. And that's still trying to get the right man.

"As we've said, we're aiming high," Orsini said. "We're looking for an established coach with a proven track record. With that, you kind of give up your schedule sometimes to make yourself attractive and work with the top candidates."

Orsini said while he's pleased with how things are going, "Until we get our guy, there's no celebration here."

She promised more in tomorrow's paper, but these are likely the money quotes. We also got this little nugget: former Washington and Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel is interested. Neuheisel s the current offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

We haven't quite reached the level where Kevin Bacon is trying to keep people calm during a riot, but we are getting close. The silence from SMU these past FIVE WEEKS has been very unsettling, to say the least.


Scott Farrell at Mustangmaniacs sums it up pretty well:

The wait has changed the general perception of the search from "Who will be the next coach?" to "What's going wrong with the search?"

I agree with the statement completely. I find the silence maddening. Especially now that A&M, Ole Miss and Baylor have announced coaches. The one thing I would counter that with is that I really believe that if the search were going that badly, we would know. I don't think we have heard from credible sources that SMU has contacted a lot of coaches. We have had blog reports, which aren't the same thing. Any idiot can blog (take that statement with as much irony as you choose). Neither of the three biggest blogs reporting rumors these days have been in existence even six months. They don't have any credibility. And when they throw out the OC from Missouri the day after Bennett is let go, you know something is amiss because it directly contradicts what Orsini said the day before.

If SMU offered a current head coach, I think we would know. I think most coaches would use interest to raise their profile and get a raise. Maybe Kragthorpe was doing that and things got out of hand.

So, I am not as worried as some are, but I am getting ... anxious.

Oh, and says SMU is close to a deal with Navy's Paul Johnson, but they were the guys that started the Kragthorpe imbroglio.

For the record I think Paul Johnson can coach. However, I am not particularly enamoured with "gimmick system" coaches, like Johnson who runs the triple option. My feeling is that as soon as the program gets to a level of respectability and seven wins a year, fans start blaming the system for not getting the team "over the hump." Of course, that would be a nice problem for SMU to have.

Good times.

Franchione is indeed interested

I had an interesting conversation today at lunch while browsing my local Home Depot. I have been told that on his own initiative, Franchione and his agent have contact SMU through various channels. Various channels that I think we can absolutely trust. Franchione is interested in coaching next year and is interested in coaching SMU. Whether that interest is mutual, I have no idea. What that also means, however, is that apparently SMU has not reached out to Franchione before.

Then, later today,a regular ponyfans not prone to making stuff up and prone to posting some accurate information about the football program posted that he was told the next coach was Franchione.

Aside from these two comments, I haven't been able to track down anything else on this. I wish I had more to add. I will let you know when I do. I will add that Brian Davis in his A&M chat added the following:

Brian Davis: I don't think Fran will get a big-time job anytime soon. It's hard to see a major school paying a coach upward of $2 million when he just got fired from his previous position. Oops, I mean "resigned" from his previous position.
Franchione would be a great fit at a place like SMU or one of those other
lower-level schools. But he's not going to Michigan, if that's what you're asking.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

SMU Coach Search Day 31

The most important SMU story of the day is that SMU men's basketball got a win.

Now onto football. Earlier today, I got a credible report second hand that says that former Dallas Cowboys and Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey will be named the next head coach of SMU. I will be happy to identify the source if he or she deems it appropriate; until then, credit the same person that caused a thread to be started at on the subject. I am not sure I believe it and frankly hope it doesn’t happen. The person that told me this agrees.

I think Chan Gailey would be a terrible hire at SMU for two reasons and neither has anything to do with how well the guy knows the game.

First, Chan Gailey is uninspiring and a boring personality. He doesn’t inspire anybody and he doesn’t try to. Shouldn’t SMU try to hire somebody that will at least try to inspire the fan base a little bit? Chan, not only can’t, he won’t even try. I suggest you read this Atlanta Journal and Constitution blog entry from January.

Gailey is, as has been noted, an odd case. He’s respected enough as a football man to be viewed as a viable head-coaching candidate by not one but two of the NFL’s proudest franchises, and yet he has worked here five years — never having a losing season, never failing to grace a bowl — without having won over his constituency. And if, having just completed the best of the five seasons, he hasn’t done it by now, there’s little chance he will.

Second, ask any Cowboys fan and they will tell you that think Chan Gailey is a joke. Maybe that reputation is not deserved, but it is a fact. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a tad bit of an overlap between the two fan bases and the media markets. Recruits' dads think Chan is a joke. Recruits' coaches think Chan is a joke. The media think Chan is a joke.

Maybe Chan should be a head coach, but I don’t think it should be here and I don’t think it should be now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coach Watch Day 30

We may be limited to evening updates for the time being. Unfortunately, I may not be bringing you the most up to the minute news.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. In my house, there are two full Thanksgivings: one on Thursday and one on Saturday. So, I am done with Turkey for a while, thank you.

With the final triple overtime defeat at the hands of Memphis, we now begin a coaching search in earnest. Before we go there, a few thoughts on the Memphis game. I spent a lot of time in the past defending arguably questionable decisions by Bennett, but I won’t do so here.

I hate coaches calling time out right before the kick. I think the rule is stupid. I don’t think its execution is particularly clever. I know it is in vogue these days, but I especially don’t like it at the end of the Memphis game. To put it mildly, the Memphis kicker was shaky all day. There was a very good chance he was going to miss a game-tying kick. I wouldn’t, in that situation, give a kicker what amounts to a practice kick in game conditions. I might have used that timeout earlier to let the kicker think about his kick a little longer. I might have saved the timeout because I was getting the ball back with a few seconds left; there was a remote chance SMU could have gotten into position for a winning fieldgoal.

I also don’t like the decision to go for it on fourth down in triple overtime when SMU had the ball first. Regardless of what happens, Memphis was getting the ball-SMU’s defense was getting on the field. Memphis was going to try and score a touchdown, regardless. Now, if Memphis had scored a fieldgoal first, I can start to understand the decision. The SMU defense was depleted and had a difficult time getting stops. I just don’t get the gamble in that situation.

It is still very quiet on the head coaching front. It has been 11 days since Orsini’s last “blog entry.” We still have not heard anything solid about any candidate being contacted or interviewed. I suppose a well-run search has few leaks, but this is bordering on the absurd.

With technically one week left in the season, the following jobs are now open:
Colorado State
Georgia Tech
Northern Illinois
Ole Miss
Southern Mississippi
Texas A&M
Washington State

This may seem like a lot, but it is still below average for a given year and more than 10 than last year.

Should the SMU fans be getting nervous now that the first opening has already been filled (Texas A&M) while the first job to open (SMU) has yet to publicly interview anybody? The Texas A&M search lasted around 48 hours, while the SMU search is on Day 30. Add to that, another job that opened this weekend (Nebraska), will interview its second candidate this week.

As for Mike Sherman, I could be wrong, but it sure sounds like a Bill Callahan kind of hire to me. “We need a pro-style offense.” Hire a former NFL head coach who has some college experience a decade ago as an assistant. Thoroughly unimpressed. But I was just rolling my eyes at the names of other identified “candidates,” so whatcha gonna do?

I suppose I ought to discuss Fran one more time. I am no more or less interested in Dennis Franchionne today than I was before A&M beat Texas and he promptly quit/resigned/was fired. That is to say I am pretty interested, though I am not completely sold. I still think Fran can coach. The SMU job probably fits what he would be looking for more so than other jobs like Ole Miss (just my opinion).

Fran actually becomes less desirable to me the longer he sits on the shelf. If I was thinking of hiring him, I would do it this week, while he still has his foot in the door with recruits, before other coaches, now that their season is over, can turn their attention to them. In other words, SMU shouldn’t wait another three weeks and decide Fran may be a good fit.

I will have more thoughts on Fran as soon as we get some indication that he might actually be a candidate.

One thing I am tired of is hearing every radio host ponder what is next for Fran and assume both that SMU would love to have him and he would have no interest. Then, reading the SMU message board that some people are dead set against Fran.

One name I have never discussed is Houston Nutt, who I have little interest in, primarily because I think he mishandled things so badly at Arkansas.

It may not matter. I still say there is some coach out there that has not been mentioned for the SMU job. I am not sure who it is, but as I have said before, I think it is a coach with a head coaching job that isn’t about to be shown the door.

I sure wish I could tell you who the next coach is going to be. I sure wish Orsini would tell us.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coach Watch Day 23: The state of things

Technical difficulties resulted in a lost blog entry so I will attempt to rehash what was said earlier.

First, I am not even sure why I showed up Saturday. The game was over (almost literally) the moment SMU kicked off. I am sure Bennett really hoped to get a win in these last four games to prove he could coach. I am sure Bennett would have loved for that win to come against Central Florida-the school where Steve Orsini first cut his teeth as an athletic director. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Second, walking up and down the Boulevard, it is clear that everyone has a similar story to tell. Orsini has his guy; he is just waiting until the season is over to make the announcement. It is Nutt. No, wait. It is Kragthorpe. No, it is Fran. No, it is the great mystery candidate that will blow everybody away. Everybody has there own version of the rumor. I suppose one aspect is consistent: Orsini has his guy. This may be true. I hope it is. I suppose we only have a week (or two if you count the MWC, WAC and PAC 10 schedules and the conference championships)., for what it is worth, is still going with its “Steve Kragthorpe will coach SMU next year” story.

Like many people, I have become convinced that Orsini has his guy; he may even have a deal in place. There is, however, only one thing that we really know. The next head coach will have head coaching experience at the Division I-A level (Bowl Subdivision).

After thinking about it, I have convinced myself of one more thing. Orsini’s first choice is currently a head coach. I will even go further, I believe (I admit I could be wrong) that Orsini’s number #1 target is not a coach that has one foot out the door at his current job. That means I don’t believe it is Fran and I don’t believe it is Houston Nutt. This means SMU will be hiring a coach away from someplace else; somewhere were that coach, if not for SMU, would be coaching next year.

This course of action is not without its pitfalls. If I am right, we are obviously talking about SMU “ponying up” some serious funds. I have commented more than once that Orsini may very well get a couple of coaches raises and extensions from their current schools before he gets one to come to SMU. Another concern is that this almost certainly means waiting until the season is over. Right now, I believe there are three openings, with many more to come in the next few weeks. SMU can compete with some of those schools, but not all.

I will leave you with this, which I have said many times. Over the past 24 months, there have been two major openings in the athletic department: First the athletic director and then the men’s basketball coach. During each search, many SMU fans repeatedly wondered who SMU could ever get to take such a terrible job? The answer, in each case, was better than most people imagined. First, Orsini left a conference rival for the same position at SMU, and then former NCAA coach of the year Matt Doherty was hired to take over the basketball program. I expect this search to end no differently.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More on Kragthorpe

The Louisville Courier Journal comments on the Kragthorpe To SMU rumors:

For at least the last 48 hours, the Internet has been crackling with the rumors that Southern Methodist has targeted U of L football coach Steve Kragthorpe as its top choice to become its next football coach.

I repeat -- as far as I know it's Internet speculation at this point.

But as we all know, sometimes these stories grow legs real quick (Bobby Petrino to Auburn). Of course, they often also end up in the discard bin (Billy Donovan to UK, done deal, remember?).

So until the story either develops or dies, I've got three reasons to believe it is at least a possibility and three reasons that it's totally ridiculous.


1. SMU is a bad job. A really bad job. SMU is 1-9 and has allowed at least 40 points in five games. Why would a guy give up a good job at a school in a Bowl Championship Series conference to go back to Conference USA at a job worse than the Tulsa job he left in that league last year?

2. Who quits after one season? Your days on the football fast track would be over. Done. How could he walk away from Tom Jurich, the U of L athletic director that quickly? Good luck, spinning that one.

3. He's already endured a good chunk of the tough times at U of L, establishing his policies and weeding out some players who have not been eager to accept him.


1. A chunk of the U of L fan base turned on Kragthorpe quickly -- and they don't seem inclined to give him a second chance. I've been surprised at the vitriol Kragthorpe has endured all season.

2. As bad as this season has been, next season could be worse. Brian Brohm, Harry Douglas and several other seniors are gone -- and there is talk that a number of underclassmen are ready to follow them out the door.

3. Kragthorpe has ties to the state of Texas. He played at West Texas State and coached at North Texas as well as Texas A&M.

Look, it is highly unlikely this is true. Now, even more so. Now Kragthorpe is going to be asked about it either before or after Louisville's game against the University of South Florida, which he will almost certainly deny. Either way, this is coming to an end real soon.

Coach Search Day 19

Steve Orsini gave us a "quick update:"

Just wanted to drop in with a short update on the search - While I can’t go into great detail, I just want to leave you with a couple of notes from the process so far.

We are working to get the best available coach in America and I’m not willing to limit my pool of prospects. As I said at the press conference two weeks ago, we’re looking at a number of different options. We’re going after the best and sometimes that takes time. There is a sense of urgency to this hire, but we’re going to get it right and won’t paint ourselves into a corner by establishing a hard timeline. I entered this process with a plan and am pleased with how it’s being executed and its effectiveness. I am perfectly comfortable with where we are in the process and am confident that we’re on the right track.

I was told almost exactly the same thing from a source within the athletic department two days ago.  I was going to post something about this but I got caught up in Kragthorpe-mania and didn't get around to it.

Let me add one other thing I was told by the same source within the athletic department.  There is lots of interest and lots of resumes and phone calls are coming in.  My source hasn't seen all of the names that have expressed interest (those that go straight from the search firm to Orsini, for example), but has seen some of them.  If you had seen the names and where they are coming from, you would be impressed.  No specific were given to me.

Not much, I admit, but that is what I was told.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coach Search Day 18: The rumor mill goes into overdrive

Well, the opened the floodgates yesterday.  The posted the following:

SMU Closing in on "Huge" Hire

UPDATED:  Sources in Dallas tell us SMU is closing in on a hire to replace the deposed Phil Bennett.  We are told to expect a “huge” splash.  The hiring of either of the two names being mentioned would send shockwaves across C-USA.    

Expect an announcement soon after the Mustangs’ final game of the season.  If the choice is who we’re hearing it could be, SMU will have hit a home run.    

Hint:  The top candidate is a head coach at a BCS school with a disenchanted fan base – and it’s not an obvious choice.  He also has ties to the state, having gone to college in Texas as well as a having a coaching stop or two in-state.  This candidate also has prior NFL experience.  

Athletic Director Steve Orsini has a history of making splash hires.  This one figures to be no different.  However, this candidate has much to lose by having the news leak out prematurely.  Should that happen, all bets are off.  Orsini and company are frantically trying to get a deal done and have other fall back candidates should the top choice not work out.  Negotiations are ongoing.  

Based on the “hint,” there are only two coaches that fit the criteria:  Baylor’s Guy Morris and Louisville’s Steve Kragthorpe (formerly of Tulsa).  I don’t think anyone really thinks Guy Morris will be hired.

Then, in a battle of football blogs, attempted to shoot down this rumor:

This is the best time of year, everyone's mom and uncle went to school with the AD or is neighbor with the friend of the coach. Quite Frankly that is who I think has given their scoop. Pony fans are convinced it is Steve Kragthorpe, see below why i think it is not Kragthorpe:

A. Not a "spash." A great hire and would do well, but is in now way a splash
B. Tom Jurich (Louisville AD) and Kragthorpe have been freinds for nearly 20 years. IF Kragthorpe turned on Jurich after 1 year after the deliberate pursut of Kragthorpe last year, then Krag isn't as cool as you think.
C. Orsini is after a bigger fish than that
D. Surely Krag wouldn't bail on Jurich???
E. Why would you leave Louisville after 1 year?
F. If you can't win at Louisville and you were just a few games over .500 at Tulsa why would Orsini hire you?

Looks to me like Footballrumormill is more interested in selling ads than reporting facts.

So, there you go.  Make of it what you will.  Certainly this is a new name I hadn’t heard before.  Since we have no other news to go on, we might as well ask the question: Would Steve Kragthorpe be a good hire for SMU?


Anybody that attempts to argue otherwise is crazy.  Here is Tulsa’s record the past 15 years.

1992:  4-7
1993:  4-6-1
1994:  3-8
1995:  4-7
1996:  4-7
1997:  2-9
1998:  4-7
1999:  2-9
2000:  5-7
2001:  1-10
2002:  1-11
2003:  8-5
2004:  4-8
2005:  9-4 (Conf. USA Champs)
2006:  8-5

What changed in 2003?  The answer, of course, is Steve Kragthorpe became the head coach.  I don’t understand how anyone can suggest Steve Kragthorpe is unacceptable.  

There are really two arguments against Steve Kragthorpe.  First, Louisville was a top 10 team last year and this year, they are not.  Second, Todd Graham was allegedly the star of the coaching staff.

I am not particularly bothered that Louisville was a top 10 team last year and this year they are hovering around .500.  If SMU were a top 10 team in the Big East, I suppose I would worry about it.  You have to judge Kragthorpe’s coaching career as a career and not as a single season.  The man turned around a program.  Turning around a program is something SMU needs.  I don’t want to diminish this concern; I just prefer to look at Kragthorpe’s career as a whole.

Todd Graham is a good coach and a good recruiter.  That is undisputed.  But he wasn’t the engine that drove Tulsa.  Kragthorpe’s offense is what drove Tulsa.  As an aside, it is still Tulsa’s offense that drives Tulsa-the defensive genius Todd Graham currently presides over the 103rd ranked defense in the country.  Kragthorpe brought in Graham.  Graham’s career and Graham’s success at Tulsa is also a reflection of Kragthorpe’s ability to put together a quality staff, which is a quality which should not be undervalued.

Kragthorpe would be a “WOW!” hire, despite what some would say.  Since the inception of the BCS, no coach has left a BCS conference for a non-BCS conference.  Kragthorpe may not be a household name, but he is a head coach in a good situation.  He is in a BCS conference.  He isn’t about to get run out the door.  If he doesn’t take the job, he is till going to be at his current job next year.  He has a good track record.  

Was TCU's hire of Fran a "Wow" hire?  At first blush, no.  He wasn't a household name, but TCU hired the ideal coach that recruited the area and stole a guy from a team in the same conference.  The hire showed that TCU was serious about turning around its football program.  If SMU hired Kragthorpe, it would show the same thing:  SMU is serious about turning around its football program.

Bottom line, Kragthorpe would be leaving Louisville for SMU.  Kragthorpe would be leaving a good situation for the SMU job.  Kragthorpe won in this conference.  Kragthorpe has coached against SMU.  Kragthorpe has recruited against SMU.  This gives the SMU validation that it has never had-Maybe SMU is not the pariah of a job some make it out to be.  This hire would prove there are coaches that believe they can win at SMU.  That is worth its weight in gold.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Football Scoop

Okay, don't read  They are terrible. They are almost always wrong.  So why do I mention it?  They say:

SMU: Former Colorado and Northwestern football coach Gary Barnett said Saturday that he would be interested in the opening at SMU.  Other names- Glen Mason and Dan McCarney, Bradley Peveto who is the Linebacker / Special Teams Coordinator at LSU

Glen mason, yada yada yada.  Dan McCarney?  eh.

But Bradley Peveto (LB Coach at LSU) is an interesting name, not as a head coach but as a defensive coordinator candidate, don't you think?  He played for SMU pre-death penalty and his cousin is Caleb Peveto, a senior on this year's team.  Dunno.  Just found the name interesting.

And lord knows we need a special teams coordinator.

Wednesday Reading

The article below on the use of search firms is worth reading (sorry, from where I am, I cannot edit html, so the link below will have to do).

You may also, if you haven't already, read the coaching carousel, which says:

Steve Orsini has secured $9 mil in outside money to finance the new hire. Depending on the buyout $9 mil can go along way at SMU, Even famous AR columnist Wally Hall is saying Nutt to SMU.

This is unconfirmed info that has been floating around.  It wouldn't surprise me if this guy got his info from the message boards or someone who got it there.  You just can't trust these bloggers.  Anyway, here is the link:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blog answers his mail

I get a lot of mail and I try to answer it all. Here is one I found particularly interesting.


We just posted an article "India 's Soccer Dilemma: 1.3 billion people, yet 145th in World Ranking " ( I thought I'd bring it to your attention just in case you think your readers would find it interesting.

Either way, thanks for your time!


Since SMU won't say anything, why the heck not?


Coach Watch Day 16: The waiting is the hardest part.

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

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

I am going to tell you what I have already told you and hope not to have to tell you again.  I say this because I have asked and have been told this over and over again.  

There is not going to be an announcement on the next coach of SMU Football anytime soon.  At the absolute earliest, we are looking at the week after Thanksgiving.  There is a very good chance there will be no announcement until December.  Heaven forbid the search extends beyond the first week of December.

Whether the Orsini/Turner braintrust realizes this or not, the current search will become the longest search in the post-death penalty era.  Cavan was announced as the replacement for Rossley after 25 days; Doherty and Bennett were announced after 18 days.

What is frustrating is the dearth of information coming from SMU.  There is zero hard evidence that SMU has identified any candidates, contacted a single person about the vacancy, or interviewed anyone.  While Barnett may have contacted SMU; SMU did not contact Barnett and SMU has apparently concluded he is not the man for the job.

While I recognize that the Orsini/Turner braintrust does not give a blank what I think, I want to make my opinion on the subject clear:  Nature abhors a vacuum.  While the Orsini/Turner braintrust maintains its silence, SMU fans are left to speculate  what is happening.  While there are those that remain positive, there are many more speculating that things are not going well; that there is not much interest; that there is no plan in place.  
Now, maybe the big donors in the club level and the suites drinking chardonay have some sense of what is going on and are being reassured by the Orsini/Turner braintrust, that does nothing for the rank and file ticketholders who have to sneak their alcohol into Ford Stadium (allegedly).

By maintaining their silence, the Orsini/Turner braintrust is saying, "Trust us.  We know what we are doing."  

Excuse me.  This is SMU Athletics.  Trust went out the window some time between the spontanious combustion of Larry Johnson's scholarship offer and 0-12.  If SMU wants us to be involved, they need to involve us.  Period.

Of course there are very good reasons the Orsini/Turner braintrust might not be saying anything substantive.  Maybe they already have a deal and the guy is under contract.  Maybe the number one target is coaching right now.  But their silence naturally leads to a heightened level of anticipation which can lead to unreasonable expectations.  

(And don't think for a moment you can plan on hiring an NFL assistant and waiting until the NFL season is over.)

I am not suggesting the Orsini/Turner braintrust needs to rush to make a decision; by all means, take the time to get the decision right.  Just let us know what is going on.  Heaven forbid we wake up the first week of December, open the newspaper and read that SMU hired Jon friggin' Tenuta, Defensive Coordinator from Georgia Tech.

It has been over two weeks; update us, please.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Terry Bowden

Since my manhood was challenged, I thought I would dispell one of the common rumors floating around. Someone has suggested Terry Bowden is not interested in the SMU job. I have been told multiple times the exact opposite is true. Contrary to what some suggest, Bowden isn't going to get the Auburn job or the Florida State job or whatever. That isn't going to happen, and he knows it. He wants to coach, it is going to be a job like SMU's. The question is not whether Bowden wants SMU, but whether SMU wants Bowden.

As mason and Barnett have spouted off in the media the past two weeks, why hasn't Bowden? Bowden is a media whore. Bowden's silence has more to do with his interest than a lack thereof.

And Glen Mason isn't going to get the UCLA job, either.

Not going to be Barnett

This Thread over at ponyfans spills the beans that was going up and down the Boulevard yesterday. Former Northwestern and Colorado Coach Gary Barnett will not be the next coach of SMU. The news reached me in the Second Quarter. I doubt President Turner planned on sharing this information with the world, but he was asked the question and he gave the answer and the answer went up one side of the Boulevard and down the other and it eventually wound up on ponyfans.

Pres. Turner, welcome to the internet age. My suspicion is Turner won't answer such a question again.

Now some have gone further to say that it will not be a "Barnett-type." However,I am not sure you go that far, or can accurately define what "Barnett-type" means? I don't think that means other former-head coaches are out. I don't think that rules out Mason, for sure. Or even Fran. Barnett is unfortunately a special case. Maybe he will get another chance somewhere, but for now, it sounds like it won't be SMU.

Coach Hard 2: Coach Harder

If you can't tell, about a year ago, I decided I was really tired of Phil Bennett and his "I have forgotten more about football than you will ever know" shtick. Whenever Bennett says something odd or stupid, I throw up just a little bit in my mouth. Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with any actual decision on the field!

And I just thought I would let it go now that Bennett will soon be the former head coach of SMU. But man, two things in the last two weeks just have climbing the walls.

The first is the following quote in the today's SMU Notebook:

I'm going to come in tomorrow and coach the [expletive] out of them.

This is an odd statement for two reasons. First, aside from being nonsensical, were we not "coach[ing] the [expletive] out of them," before? I just want to know because I would think you might want to have been doing that for the past six years. Because, you know, that was your job. Me and my friends in the stands jokingly say, "Coach harder!" It is a joke. What does it even mean? And now Bennett basically says just that. Memo to Phil Bennett: Coaching is not riding a bike; there are not ten speeds-just one. You are either coaching 100% or not.

The statement is odd for a second reason, because you have to ask, "What does it mean?" I guess he is going to yell at him more. Well, Phil. Yelling ain't coaching. There is a little more to it than that.

The second thing driving me nuts was in the Houston game. And to explain why it drives me nuts, I have to go back even further to the Patriots-Cowboys game. In the Cowboys game, I was surprised/perplexed to see Belichik in a defensive huddle on the sideline. You just don't see head coaches in the huddle on the sideline while a game is going on very often. Then, in the SMU-Houston game, I saw this:

To be clear, I have never seen Bennett do this in a game ever. And I have seen almost every home game and televised road game, thanks to Tivo. So why the heck is he doing it now? The answer is obvious: Bennett is going to prove what a good coach he is, gosh darn it!!!! AAARGGHH! He is a fiery coach! He coaches players on the sideline! He is a defensive genius!!!

(There is, of course, the little detail that the 2007 SMU defense leaks like a sieve.)

We all know what is going to happen. Bennett is going to be the Defensive Coordinator some place next year; I would be willing to bet it is in the big XII. He wants that job; he'll take that job and despite what he thinks, that is probably what he ought to be and probably what he is best at. I warned everybody a long time ago that Bennett would haunt SMU on the recruiting trail the moment he left. And so it will be. Arguably, Bennett is haunting SMU on the recruiting trail today, the way he is talking and the excuse making.

Now, did Saturday's loss and this BS make me want Bennett canned today? No. I just want this season over as soon as possible.

P.S. I can't imagine what it would be like today if the decision to remove Bennett hadn't already been made.