What do you get when you gather 32 Tennessee fans in a bar?

A full set of teeth. Baaaa-zing.

No, but seriously, I apologize.

This one's much better: What's the difference between a tornado and a Tennessee divorce?

I don't know, but somebody's losing a trailer.

Thanks. I'll be here all week

Why am I telling you all of these mildly offensive, wildly funny Vols jokes (a list of which you can find at Carolina Dawg's blog)? I have nothing against Tennessee fans. Actually, I can attest first hand that they are gracious hosts and have a great stadium. Truth is, I'm killing space. It's really hard to know what to make of this scraggly bunch of title-winning coaches. They run the gamut.

As of Nov. 9, 2009 (though it's not like Phil Fulmer's stats are changing anytime soon. More on this in a second.), all but two of them had a career winning percentage of at least 70 percent. Texas head coach Mack Brown checked in the lowest at 67.6 percent, but should we omit a pair of 1-10 campaigns during his first two years at then-lowly North Carolina, his percentage bumps to 72.1 percent. Les Miles brings a 69.6 mark, but since arriving at LSU as Nick Saban's replacement in 2005, he's gone 4-0 in bowl games, including a title game and a 41-14 beat down of Notre Dame in the '06 Sugar Bowl.

They say it's a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n roll, and for the most part, we can say that these guys paid their dues. Brown spent a decade at Carolina, and Miles about half that at Oklahoma State. Saban scrubbed the floors in Toledo before a not-as-good-as-you-think run at Michigan State; Jim "The Sweater Vest" Tressel won four national championships at I-AA juggernaut Youngstown State; Urban Legend did time at Bowling Green and Utah; and Bobby Bowden, bless him, had to go through Samford and West Virginia just to get to Tallahassee. Pete Carroll took an indirect
route to glory, parlaying middling NFL tenures into a godlike run at USC. Then we have the outliers:
Larry Coker and Phil "The Fat Jokes Are Getting Old" Fulmer both got first head coaching experiences
after stepping up from coordinator positions at Miami and Tennessee, respectively. (Perhaps
coincidentally, perhaps not, Fulmer and Coker are the only two of these coaches to get canned by the program for which they won a title.) Bob Stoops, similarly, hit the big time after successful defensive coordinator stints at Kansas State and Florida, but of course, unlike the other two, landed a job with an entirely different school.

Spreadsheet of Destiny

It's hard to tell from this hodgepodge if you, the hopeful fan, should even worry about coaching. Is it important? Yes. And no. Conventional wisdom tells us that coaching in the college ranks gets you significantly more for your money than it does in the pros, hence the merry-go-round of no-names you see pop up in the NFL every year. In college football, Nick Saban can take over a 6-7 Alabama team and turn them into a Sugar Bowl mainstay in 2 years. Pete Carroll can take a freefalling, 5-7 Southern Cal program to the Orange Bowl in 2 years, and then summarily transform them into the second coming of the Monsters of the Midway. So coaching matters, to an extent.

Title Ring

To go the distance, we can all agree that you need players. Each and every champion in this increasingly professionalized, is-this-college-or-the-pros-because-I'm-pretty-sure-that-Reggie-Bush-isn't-here-for-a-psych-degree BCS era was stacked with talent (some more than others, but even that anomaly Ohio State team had its share of future NFL talent. See Gamble, Jenkins and Doss, among others.). As a corollary, a team can be so loaded with talent - "too many weapons" as my father says - that it essentially runs itself, and the head coach becomes temporarily irrelevant. In fact, at the turn of the millennium, the University of Miami was convinced that my little sister could take Ken Dorsey and Co. to the Rose Bowl. So they settled for the next best person.

Which brings us back to Larry Coker - offensive coordinator for Barry Sanders' Heisman campaign, No. 2 man to Butch Davis at Miami, all-around good guy. Almost everyone agrees that Larry is the luckiest man to ever walk the earth. Ringo Starr is the lone dissenter. After the 2000 season, Davis vacated his throne atop the next great dynasty to coach, of all franchises, the Cleveland Browns. In the words of Seth Meyers: really? I mean, really? Really?

Yes, really. Whatever. Long story short, Coker stole the keys to the Ferrari, went on a joy ride (2001-2002), crashed the car (2003-2005), then set it on fire and urinated over the smoldering coals (2006). Here's his record, by year, at The "U":

2001: 12-0, Rose Bowl W, National Championship

2002: 12-1, Fiesta Bowl L (AKA, "The Robbery in the Desert" - Miami gets screwed out of a title)

2003: 11-2, Orange Bowl W

2004: 9-3, Peach Bowl W (a win, but a precipitous fall in fruit-related prestige)

2005: 9-3, Peach Bowl L (slaughtered by LSU. Devin Hester, disgusted, foregoes his final year of eligibility.)

2006: 7-6, MPC Computers Bowl W (no joke, that's the name of the bowl)

My father said it best: "I think we see a trend." Coker's final season also involved a bench clearing brawl with FIU and a string of player-involved handgun incidents that pretty much shot to hell the short-lived notion that Miami had rectified its off-the-field issues.

The moral of the story: you don't need a star beneath the headset, but you need competence. If your man is in the midst of a Coker-esque tailspin, don't expect him to pull 11 wins and a bouquet of roses out his...um...hat. He's not "reloading," or "rebuilding," or having an "off-year." He's just not any good. Disagree? Talk to these poor saps.

|Home| |Statistics| |Players| |Extra Points| |Pipe Dreams Index| |Contact|