I am a man without a football coach. Despite having waited six years without a single day on which Duke, Georgia Tech, and Michigan all won a football game (thank you so much, 2003 Oregon Beavers!) all three schools have finally synchronized their football teams with respect to coaches. Currently, they have none.
As was reported far and wide, Michigan’s Lloyd Carr retired after his fifth straight loss to Jim Tressel and Ohio State. This was not much of a surprise, since it was believed he returned, along with Michigan’s star quarterback, running back and offensive lineman, to make a run at a national title. That attempt imploded before it even began. Still he compiled an outstanding record, went a respectable 11-14 against top ten teams, won 75% of his games, and a national title. And speaking of top ten, the Detroit Free Press not only compiled a list of Carr’s ten greatest victories, but also his ten greatest losses. You’ve got to love sports media… Finally, since Carr started the same year I did at Michigan, I’ve never followed Michigan football without him.
As was reported throughout the greater Atlanta area (and CNN, though the two aren’t exactly mutually exclusive), Georgia Tech fired “former Dolphin’s coach Chan Gailey”. I call him “former Dolphin’s coach Chan Gailey” because I almost never saw him referred to as anything else. Since he never seemed to do anything distinctive at Georgia Tech whatsoever, I guess that was the only moniker sports writers could think of. At any rate, character-wise he was a step up from Notre Dame coach for a day George O’Leary, but in terms of coaching he lost at least five games every season and not once beat Tech’s only rival, Gerogia.
As was minimally reported and scantly noted, some time after Duke blew a fourth quarter lead to lose to North Carolina in a game that wasn’t even televised in the Triangle, Duke coach Ted Roof was fired. Ted Roof was brought to Duke from Georgia Tech after hitching his wagon to Notre Dame-bound O’Leary (the same season we also hired the special teams coach away from the only team Duke beat that year). And while he didn’t save as many people from sinking cars as his predecessor Carl Franks, he at least remembered to put the defense on the field whenever relevant (something Franks didn’t always manage). Still, with only six wins in four-and-a-half seasons, you would hope Duke could do better.
As far as replacements go, all the excitement is for Michigan grad Les Miles. He some ways he is the anti-Carr — a (fourth down) gambling man more concerned with what his team can do than what his team allows their opponents to do — but he’s also a seemingly good recruiter (a bit hard to tell since he has not been at Louisiana State very long) and a decent winner. Certainly there are no sure things in college football, but I think he’s a good choice for two reasons: he seems like a sure thing in terms of enterainment value (win or lose) and he seems to like the Michigan mythology.
As for Georgia Tech and Duke, I think both schools should look to grab good coaches who have left other, pressure-cooker positions. For instance, I think either school would do well to take Jeff Bower. t seems to me that it would not be worth gambling on an NFL coach since so few seem to make the transition to coaching kids well. I particularly think Duke has put the right players into place to win a decent number of games a season, so a veteran coach might have some immediate success. I don’t think Duke can afford to gamble on a new guy, though Georgia Tech probably can (a better bet might be Cal’s Tedford, who’s also been suggested as a Carr replacement). But, who knows? Maybe Carr will end up at Duke. If he wins 75% there, he’ll be a hall of famer.