December 26, 2010

Which coaching move was most surprising?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in college football.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Which coaching move - whether it be a hiring, firing or resignation - has surprised you the most this offseason?

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I know Ralph Friedgen entered 2010 on the hot seat after posting losing records in four of the previous six seasons, but I thought he had done enough to save his job. "The Fridge" led the Terrapins to an 8-4 record and a second-place tie in the ACC Atlantic Division; Maryland is in a bowl for the seventh time in his 10 seasons in College Park, Md. He even was accorded ACC coach of the year honors for his work. But in the end, new Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson wasn't impressed and will force Friedgen out following the Military Bowl. Friedgen never was able to recapture the magic of his first three seasons, when he led the Terps to a 31-8 mark and ACC title. Now, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach appears to be squarely in Maryland's crosshairs in its search for a new coach.

David Fox's answer:
The most perplexing coaching changes have occurred at West Virginia. I wouldn't list Bill Stewart among the nation's elite coaches, but he didn't deserve to go out like this. After being pushed out, Stewart was embarrassed publicly by his athletic director. I have no problem with Oliver Luck believing West Virginia should be the top team in the Big East every season, especially when the league was as down as it was this season. But under the circumstances, Stewart did a good job this season. Noel Devine has been hobbled by a toe injury since the LSU game, and sophomore Geno Smith was a first-year starting quarterback. The Mountaineers still won nine games, with a chance for a 10th victory in the Champs Sports Bowl. After announcing Dana Holgorsen would become coach a year from now, Luck also said Stewart was not the guy to lead West Virginia to the BCS. Perhaps that's true, but if Luck feels that strongly about it, why give Stew the extra year - coaching alongside the guy who will replace him? If a change is necessary, make it. If Holgorsen is the right guy, hire him now. Instead, West Virginia will spend a year in limbo with Stewart answering uncomfortable questions throughout the year. One of the nicest guys in the sport deserved better.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
It would be far easier to list coaching decisions that have not been surprising. The ones that stand out as most surprising are Michigan - hey, make a decision already on Rich Rodriguez's future - and, especially, Maryland. The Terps have gone to seven bowls in 10 seasons under Ralph Friedgen. Again, seven bowl in 10 seasons at Maryland. Does new A.D. Kevin Anderson really expect more than that? Maryland is not and never will be an elite program. Firing a guy coming off an eight-win season and who won league coach-of-the-year honors takes guts, that's for sure. But it sure doesn't seem smart.

Steve Megargee's answer:
It wouldn't surprise me at all if Will Muschamp ends up being an outstanding hire, but it still surprised me that Florida took a chance on a guy without any head-coaching experience. Frankly, I also was caught off-guard when Texas announced that Muschamp would be Mack Brown's eventual successor, a plan that was scrapped as soon as Florida made its move. Muschamp was one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation and has a reputation as an outstanding recruiter, so there's every reason to believe he will become an outstanding head coach. But I consider the head-coaching positions at Texas and Florida to be the two best jobs in all of college football because they're the flagship programs in talent-rich states. Those programs should have their pick of candidates whenever they have a coaching vacancy. Why risk hiring someone without any head-coaching experience, even if he's seen as a sure thing? When Urban Meyer announced he was stepping down, I figured Florida would pursue Oklahoma's Bob Stoops or Boise State's Chris Petersen. If they weren't interested, I figured the Gators could turn to Mississippi State's Dan Mullen or Louisville's Charlie Strong, former Meyer assistants who had enjoyed success in brief head-coaching stints at major-conference programs. Muschamp eventually could develop into a better coach than all of those guys, but right now, he's not as proven as any of them.

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