Tuesday, December 16, 2014

College Football: Pick your coaching poison

Two schools, one that I root for and one that I follow since I did graduate from their university system, fired their football coaches recently.  While Michigan (who I root for) has slowly watched itself devolve over the past couple of decades from National power to B1G mediocrity there are signs that they are finally starting to understand the root-cause of the problem.

That said, Les Miles was always a pipe dream (why leave LSU?) and I've a feeling Jim Harbaugh might be as well. Although I'd be happy to have khaki walking around the UM sideline I still think he's more likely to entertain NFL offers first, after the 49ers (the NFL team I root for ironically) give him the boot after the season.

I realize that most Big Blue fans still harbor delusions of grandeur, but the reality is that Michigan football is in a rebuilding phase. Whoever the next coach is will need to understand that and also will need to understand how to bring a program back to glory in the face of some unrealistic expectations from boosters.  Oh, and then there's the evergreen shadow of Bo.

With that in mind I like the idea of Greg Schiano as the next head coach of the Maize and Blue. Yes, his tenure in Tampa Bay was a disaster but, before that, he resurrected Rutgers and took them just about as far as they could go given their resources.  Say this for Michigan, they are unrivaled when it comes to having resources so that still makes them a coveted job.

The second school, Houston, has just hired Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman as the coach who is tasked with fixing the mess caused by nice guy, but poor head coach, Tony Levine. In many ways the UH job is the Michigan job in miniature.

The program has history (although not as much as Michigan), they have had some success in the past (although again, not as much as Michigan) and they have a fan and booster base that's somewhat delusional.

For both schools, football history is stuck in the 80's. While Michigan dreams of the days when mighty Bo Schembechler prowled the sidelines and three yards and a cloud of dust, UH fans are still bitter over the implosion of the Southwest Conference and blame Baylor and certain politicians for their ultimate decline.

Michigan wants a "Michigan Man" while UH just wants offense. I've seen many a supporter talk about UH "lighting up the scoreboard again" with very little focus on actually winning.  And while lesser Houston sports writers have chastised UH for firing Levine, more reasoned thinkers realize that what was brewing over at Cullen Ave. was a disaster that needed to be fixed, fast.

I think the UH hire of Tom Herman was a good hire. I think he's got the coaching pedigree to turn the program around and really compete in the AAC, something Levine didn't have the coaching chops to do.  For Herman I think that job #1 will be: Don't lose the games you should win, be competitive in the one's you shouldn't, and don't do stupid things like lose to Texas State or UTSA.

However, even if Herman accomplishes that there will still be a broad cross-section of UH fans who won't be happy. These are the people who spend too much time in the echo chambers of UH football chat boards.  For Herman I have this bit of advice: Ignore them.  Even if you counter their arguments with facts and wins they still won't be happy.

For Michigan there's a tougher road to hoe. For one, the expectations and stakes are much higher. Secondly, even if Michigan's dreams come true and Harbaugh takes the reins (which, despite the fact I don't think Big Blue will get him, would be outstanding for the program and something I very much want to see) there's still the spectre of Ohio State and Urban Meyer in the distance.

My last days on a UH chat board were spent talking about football rivalries and which ones were 'hot' right now.  On my list I left off "The Game" because it's been a one-sided affair of late. Yes, Michigan and Ohio State fans still chirp about it but, on the National stage, it's pretty much a non-entity because Michigan has been an overwhelming loser for a while now.  When I pointed this out to a UH fan (again, facts) what proceeded to follow was an avalanche of insults of the "you don't know anything about football" type.

For the new Michigan coach and Herman, this will be the norm from a large portion of delusional fans.  In many cases I wonder if even wins will be enough to overcome that.  For Michigan I sure hope so.  For UH?  I don't think it ever will.

This goes a long way towards explaining why both programs are currently mired in mediocrity.

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