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Athletic Directors: Be Ready To Ante Up

Southern college football-we live it and breathe it year-round, and it has become abundantly clear that the stakes of the game have been raised with some of the recent coaching hires. The ‘price of poker’ is increasing steadily, and if your school is not ready to ante up, your team will be left behind. We’re witnessing a changing of the guard when it comes to coaches and big-time programs. If your leader is stuck in the rut of resting on past success or inconsistent recruiting, he will get lapped by the newer breed of aggressive, dynamic coaches who are the ‘total package’.

Coaches in our Swampland footprint like Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and Nick Saban (along with Jim Tressel and Pete Carroll nationally) are building programs that are geared to succeed every season. They are ace recruiters, aggressive game-planners, and they consistently have solid defense and special teams no matter how they are playing on offense. There are some other coaches like Phil Fulmer and Bobby Bowden (along with Lloyd Carr nationally) who seem to be surviving off of accomplishments from the ‘90s. Just getting great talent on Signing Day is not enough anymore to sustain a consistent winner.

In the ‘80s movie Wall Street, the character Gordon Gecko delivered his famous ‘Greed’ speech and talked about red-tape corporations settling into a culture of “Survival of the Unfittest”. The same rule seems to apply to College Football where some programs seem to be stuck in the same pattern of a decade ago. The best quality a coach can have is adapting with the times and adjusting their system to the particular players on their squad. Urban Meyer was able to win a National Title last year with a defensive team and a quarterback that wasn’t a perfect fit for his offensive scheme. This season, his team is winning big with a better fit at signal caller and an inexperienced defense.

If schools aren’t willing to pay the price to secure a ‘complete’ CEO for their football program, they will get left behind on and off the field. Many Southern institutions, whether intentionally or not, have a huge part of their identity wrapped up in the success of their football team. Coaches are worth every dollar the University pays them if they can produce at a high level on a consistent basis. Not only will the Football money flow in from huge crowds and big-time bowl payouts, but schools see their admissions and donations spike to all-time highs with gridiron success.

The decisions that athletic directors in the South face in the next season or two will affect the SEC/ACC landscape for the next decade. What will Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia do to combat the momentum building at programs like Florida, LSU, and Alabama? Will the top half of the Big East surpass the upper portion of the ACC in the near future with its solid core of dynamic coaches like Rich Rodriguez, Steve Kragthorpe (Petrino previously), and Jim Leavitt. The Big East teams have built solid offenses, and if they recruit enough athletes to play better defense, the conference will be a solid as any in the country.

After their 59-20 drubbing in the Swamp, Tennessee’s Fulmer said he believed his team needed to “stay the course”. One has to wonder how many in the Big Orange nation agree since their Vols have gone 15-12 in their last 27 contests and have not won an SEC title since 1998. With the head Vol getting over $2 million a season, it will be interesting to see what “course” Tennessee decides to take. I’m not ‘calling for heads’ or saying that coaches like Fulmer, Bowden, or Carr can’t get things turned around. They all had immense success in the ‘90s, but they had better find a way to get back to that level fairly quickly. Coaches can’t afford to be one dimensional anymore. With the stakes of game going up each season, teams in the SEC or ACC with sloppy tackling, shoddy special teams, or sub par recruiting will find themselves with new leaders soon. Their universities can’t afford not to pay the price.

                                                                                            - Patrick Snow


* Were the Saints a one-year wonder? We’ll find out Monday night when the physical Titans come to town. If New Orleans goes to 0-3, their postseason aspirations will fade quickly.

* Kudos to Gary Kubiak for leading the Texans to 2-0. It will be tough to stay unbeaten with the World-Champion Colts are coming to town, but remember Houston won last year’s game at home against Indy.

* How miserable is Bobby Petrino in Atlanta? I wonder if he’s thinking about pulling a Spurrier/Saban and heading back to college?

* I can’t wait to see Dallas offense against Bears defense on Sunday night. This will be a great test to see how far Tony Romo has come as a signal caller.

* Congrats to Clint Bowyer on his first Nextel Cup win. The Jack #7 car is my favorite paint scheme in racing.

* So O.J. Simpson is all over the news again? Nnnnnoooooooooo !!!!!!!!!

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