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.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Orsini Chat and School of Education

On Wednesday, Orsini had a chat on the DMN website. Go read it. It was rather vanilla. No real shocking revelations.

Speaking of revelations, SMU to receive $20M from Dallas philanthropists.

$20 Million for the School of Education, which did not exist a few years ago. Some will speculate that this allows some money for undergraduate degree programs that would be attractive to student athletes.

Pony Up! for Basketball!

Thanks, guys. I needed this. Burgers and Cheer. Burgers and Cheer.

And because it is a classic...

Uninformed conjecture from an unnamed source- Coaching Search Day 11.

A long time ago, NY Post Columnist Peter Vescey was the premier NBA columnist in the country.  He was a featured guest on every NBA halftime show and prominently featured at the NBA Draft.  He allegedly had such excellent contacts that he was able to dish out trade rumors while discussions were in their infancy and long before they actually happened.  And then Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks.  Cuban, not only denied the rumors, but from time to time, set out to prove Vescey simply made them up.  Cuban once commented that Peter Vescey was the place he could read about things he didn’t know he did or said.  After the feud hit its peak, Vescey stopped getting invites on national sports shows.  

One of my favorite moments was when Vescey sourced a rumor to "Uninformed conjecture from an anonymous source."  Think about that.  Who and what doesn't qualify under that description?  The guy in the office next to me could say I think Jimmy Johnson is going to leave Fox to take the SMU job and it qualifies.

So along those lines, let's recount the rumored names floating around:

Gary Barnett
Terry Bowden
Dennis Franchione
Glen Mason
Rick Neuheisel
Larry Coker
Paul Johnson
Mike Shula
Dirk Koetter

Those are the names you see most often to varying degrees around the message boards and on rumor sites.  Those first four come up time and time again.  There are other names, but most of those are assistants with no head coaching experience at a high level and if we know one thing, it is that Orsini wants experience.

Dennis Franchione

The rumor that comes up most often is the "Fran is a done deal" rumor.  It goes like this: Fran (and his agent) know what is going to happen.  Fran's agent has been talking to Steve Orsini. Fran's agent has been talking to A&M AD Bill Byrne.  The buyout is all but done.  The sticking point at A&M is what happens to the buyout money when Fran takes another job, which he really wants to do.  Under Fran's current contract, the buyout is offset by any money Fran earns at another position during the life of the contract.  Fran wants to work but Fran wants to keep all the A&M money.  And that is what is holding up the buyout.  Byrne knows this and is trying to leverage Fran's desire to work into a lower buyout figure.  Once that is finally settled, Fran quits.  Shortly thereafter, Fran is hired by SMU.  

Now, this is a rumor.  A couple of things support the rumor and a couple of things cause it to fall apart.  Fran is done and we all know it.  I think we can assume Fran wants to work again as a HC, which he has been doing for nigh thirty years.  Fran's buyout clause in his contract does say any money Fran earns at another position during the life of the contract is subtracted from the buyout.  

However, rumors are circulating that Fran has been seen at SMU.  The problem with that rumor is that the most often mentioned date is Sunday, November 4th.  Obviously, this is untrue because SMU had a game that day in Houston and Orsini was there; we know that because he interviewed.

Another reason to discount this rumor is that Bill Byrne has never terminated a coach before the end of the season, just as he has said repeatedly.  He did not fire men's basketball coach Melvin Watkins or baseball coach Mark Johnson until the seasons were over.  And in both of those cases, the seasons were decided long before they were concluded, which isn't even true in Fran's case.

Gary Barnett and Terry Bowden

Rumors are out there that both Gary Barnett and Terry Bowden have visited SMU.  Barnett has expressed interest and admitted speaking with the search firm but denied any plan to visit Dallas and you really haven't heard a peep out of Bowden lately.  The Barnett comments are clearly from a man anxious to get his name out there as a candidate for a head coaching position and the SMU job is the only one open to date.  From that I know that Barnett wants to coach, I just don't know if Barnett and SMU want each other.

I am genuinely surprised that we have not heard a word out of Terry Bowden.  To me, that is suspicious.  Terry Bowden loves the media and loves the spotlight, but aside from game coverage, his yahoo sports column and an occasional public appearance.  I can't believe it is that hard to get in touch with Terry Bowden.  Unless, of course, he doesn't want to be found.

Glen Mason

Mason says he hasn't been contacted by anybody.  ""I've made it known I'm a coach," said Mason, who was fired last season after his Gophers blew a 31-point third-quarter lead to Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl. "I hope to coach again.""  How can that be?  Isn't he obvious?  The guy built Kent State, Kansas and Minnesota.  Interestingly, all three schools sucked before and sucked after he left.  Clearly, Mason's not afraid of a challenge.  Why hasn't he been contacted.

Rick Neuheisel and Larry Coker.

These are two names that are mentioned, but never as a real "rumor."  I have some interest in the former and zero interest in the latter.  Neuheisel is the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.  The Ravens offense is pretty pour these days, though you could question whose fault that is.  Coker is doing TV work somewhere.  I look at Coker and I think, "Too old, too many issues, rode too many coattails."

Mike Shula and Dirk Koetter

Interesting names of two former BCS head coaches both on the staff  of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mike Shula is the QB coach and Dirk Koetter is the offensive coordinator.  Both would be interesting but their names have simply been floated.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson nad Navy AD Chet Gladchuk had the quotes of the day.  See,0,5530540.story

When the names Nebraska and SMU came up, Johnson laughed.

"That's old news," he said. "You need to get to work and come up with something new."
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who watched practice, said such rumors are begun by "people who are desperate for someone to do something" to help their favorite, struggling teams.

"Paul Johnson has the best job in the country," said Gladchuk. "What fans do is speculate on a position in a desperate program. But the fans are the last to know. Any athletic director who has his act together does not share with any one what he's thinking about his next hire."

True dat.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Coaching Search Day Nine

Much of the discussion these days centers on a handful of candidates: Gary Barnett, Terry Bowden, Glen Mason, Rick Neuheisel and to an extent, Dennis Franchione. Obviously, these candidates have one thing in common: All are (or soon will be) unemployed. They are available now. They can be interviewed today and the media can openly discuss their interest today.

Now, if the guy that Orsini truly believes is the best man for the job is available now, you go get that guy now and not worry about who may be interested in the future.

However, the question has to be asked, “Why should SMU limit itself to candidates that are now on the market? Why not wait? Why not see who is interested at the end of the season?”

A better way to phrase that question is, “Why allow the timing of your decision to fire Phil Bennett with four games left limit your pool of candidates?” The answer is to do so would be ridiculous.

While I agree with Steve Orsini that there is some urgency in this hire, I believe, like Orsini, the urgency is to get it right this time. Making the wrong decision now is not an option.

I don’t believe that the job interest will wane or become stale. The job is the job. Just because it is the first open, doesn’t mean it must be the first to be filled. While there is some concern that the increased competition in the next few weeks will make the search more difficult, it is more important to hire the right guy. And again, I keep telling people, there won’t be as many openings as people think.

Further, I think we overestimate what a coach can accomplish between now and the end of the season. Obviously, he won’t be coaching. Recruiting? Sure. The coach can recruit, that has its own difficulty. The coach will have no staff. The coach will be spread too thin. Any coach is going to let most of the current staff go. It is absurd to suggest the coach will hire a staff completely filled with current unemployed coaches. That is not going to happen.

So, I am not concerned that SMU hasn’t hired anyone yet and doesn’t appear to be likely to this week. The level of my concern will increase after Thanksgiving, but even then, it won’t be time to panic.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The two big rumors of the day

Oh, Houston and SMU played a football game. Pffft.

Moving on.

There are two rumors rampant around SMU these days.

Rumor One: Gary Barnett is interested/on his way to SMU.

Gary Barnett is the former head coach of Northwestern and Colorado. Here is a good article on the current plight of Gary Barnett.

Rumor Two: Dennis Francione is negotiating a buyout with A&M and once done, will promptly be named the head coach of SMU.

Dennis Dodd says it is a possibility.
So what's next for Franchione and A&M? Don't be surprised to see the Aggies coach land at SMU. He certainly isn't going to get a high major job like A&M any time soon. SMU? The school showed it wasn't beyond contacting a person with a scandalous past when former Colorado coach Gary Barnett admitted he had gotten a call.

Sporting News says Dennis Francione will be evaluated at the end of the year.
Possible reasons for this abound. First, A&M is technically capable of winning the Big XII south. No, really. Look it up. Second, and more likely, A&M is playing chicken with Dennis Francione and trying to make him settle for less/quit.

To me, the biggest thing holding up the Fran buyout is that Fran wants all the A&M money and wants to coach again at the same time without A&M having to pay less. In attorney speak, Fran doesn't want to have to mitigate his damages.

More as this develops.