The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 12, 2012

Dear NCAA: Stop this madness

By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle

— Disgraced former Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino was hired Monday by Western Kentucky (note to Hilltoppers: Better put in a clause about pretty, bike-riding assistants) to replace Willie Taggart, who left his Little Caesars Pizza Bowl-bound team to become head coach at South Florida.

Earlier that very day, Mike MacIntyre bolted from his Military Bowl-bound San Jose State team to become the new head coach at Colorado, which had fired Jon Embree and made overtures to Cincinnati’s Butch Jones, who turned the Buffs down and then ditched his Belk Bowl-bound Bearcats to become the new head coach at Tennessee.

That led to the surprise hiring of Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville who bailed on the Big 12 and his Meineke Car Care Bowl-bound Red Raiders to take the Bearcats gig.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are 26 FBS schools, at last count — including even Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin — that will have new coaches due to firings, or due to coaches leaving to take other, more lucrative jobs at other schools.

Nobody should begrudge anybody taking a higher paying job. It happens with regularity, especially in conferences like the Mid-American Conference, AKA “The Cradle of Coaches,” which saw its ranks purged of its top two coaches in short order.

Less than 24 hours after Northern Illinois defeated Kent State to win the MAC title, and before receiving its Orange Bowl bid, Huskies’ head coach Dave Doeren bailed out of DeKalb, Ill., and landed at North Carolina State. Shortly thereafter, Kent State’s Darrell Hazell accepted the Purdue (Oklahoma State’s opponent in the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl) head coaching gig.

Both Doeren and Hazell will be receiving significant pay boosts, maybe as much as five times (or more) what they were making.

It’s hard to turn that kind of cash down, although Petrino is going in reverse after being fired from his $3.5 million job and getting about $850,000 at Western Kentucky.

But at least Kent State’s Hazell did something out of the ordinary, agreeing to stay with his team through the Bowl on Jan. 6 against Arkansas State, which by the way, lost its head coach, Gus Malzahn, to Auburn.

The coaching carousel is not just nauseating for those riding it, it should be sickening to those who have to watch this while the NCAA does nothing.

It is painfully ironic to see coaches jumping in and out of jobs with seemingly reckless abandon, since they love to preach loyalty and team commitment when recruiting players, whose heads have to be spinning and in need of treatment for whiplash.

The NCAA could step in and do something to slow this madness down a bit.

We know it won’t ease up on the harsh penalties it doles out to kids who change their minds and transfer, forcing them to sit for a year if they transfer from one FBS school to another. But why not institute a “dead period” similar to what it does with recruiting, when it deems certain times to be off-limits for recruiting visits? Why not do  the same with football coaches?

Simply institute a hiring (or firing) freeze on collegiate head football coaches from the time of the last game of the season to the last bowl game. Sure, it may leave a few coaches twisting in the wind for a few weeks, but really is that any worse than continuing to turn a blind eye to the current system of clandestine meetings with boosters and school officials as they woo coaches and spirit them away on chartered jets in the dark of night?

Such plot lines may make good movies, but hardly serve as shining examples to young men, although it does provide a real-life lesson in hypocrisy, something the NCAA, and too many collegiate coaches, are steeped in.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at