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‘Tis The Season For College Football Coaches to Leave Their Teams

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Former Oregon State coach Mike Riley is transferring to the University of Nebraska

‘Tis the season when college football coaches each year at this time go all “lords a leaping” as they hop from old lower-paying or lower-tier job to new higher-paying or higher-tier job.

And yet the “student-athletes” these molders of men profess to care so much about are stuck sitting out a year if they want to perform a similar transfer from one Football Bowl Subdivision school to another.

And so you have Oregon State’s Mike Riley jumping to Nebraska and  Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen jumping to Oregon State this past month. Last year, Washington’s Steve Sarkisian left for USC and then Boise State’s Chris Petersen left for Washington. Two years ago, Oregon’s Chip Kelly high-tailed it to the NFL, just like Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh and USC’s Pete Carroll did before him.

The bottom line? The annual list of college coaches who leave their jobs each year is longer than a spoiled brat’s annual missive of demands to Santa Claus.

Most recently, published reports have Riley’s annual base salary increasing from $1.5 million at OSU to $2.7 million at Nebraska and Andersen’s annual base salary increasing from just short of $2.3 million at Wisconsin to $2.45 million at OSU.

Nobody is denying these guys the right to change jobs for more money, more prestige or even just because they feel like it or might be in a snit. 

College football, like most everything, is a free enterprise system. 

But that free enterprise system in college football is of course not for the “kids” who these coaches are paid so handsomely to recruit and develop.

For these kids, befitting the huge hypocrisy that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, they lose one of their four years if they leave their FBS schools unless they want to play for a lower-profile program in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Yes, these players get college scholarships that most teen-agers and their cash-strapped parents would love to get as they face escalating bills for tuition and room and board.  

But just like any student having the freedom to transfer schools without punishment because they realized it wasn’t a good fit or because they want to be closer to home or because they want to study something else, football players should be just as free to leave like their coaches without penalty.

Let’s say for example that Johnny Manziel instead of de-committing from Oregon and going to Texas A&M, would have come to Eugene along with Marcus Mariota in the same recruiting class.

In addition to this hypothetical situation creating a fascinating battle for the starting quarterback between two players who ended up winning the Heisman, it would very likely have resulted in the loser of that battle opting to transfer to another school in hopes of displaying their talents.

But who’s to say whether that transfer would have been a success after either Mariota or Manziel was forced by some archaic NCAA rule to sit out a year of active competition. The result? One of these phenomenal college quarterbacks might have had their dreams cut short – all because of the NCAA’s hypocrisy that denies them the same freedoms their coaches enjoy.

Hypothetical to muse about Manziel and Mariota both at Oregon? Sure. But a situation that plays itself out at every FBS school every season? Sure.  

So if the lords want to go leaping each year around Christmas, let ‘em. But let’s give players the same freedom.

A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.


Related Slideshow: Ten Coaches Who Could Replace Mike Riley at Oregon State

Here's a list of ten coaches who could possibly replace Mike Riley at Oregon State:

Prev Next

Scott Frost

Offensive Coordinator, Oregon

Frost has been an assistant coach at Oregon for six years, and was promoted from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach prior to the 2013 season.

He also played several seasons in the NFL.

When Oregon named Frost wide receivers coach, the Duck offense suddenly gained some toughness and effectively became a “power” team with its receivers laying blocks downfield.

His background — playing under Belichick, coaching under Kelly — inspires enough confidence for athletic directors to give Frost an interview. The success of his primary protege —  Marcus Mariota — is enough to give him a deal.

Prev Next

Brady Hoke

(recently fired) Head Coach, Michigan

When athletic directors hire coaches like Brady Hoke, they’re hiring him for the coach he could be — not for the coach he just was before he was fired.  

Hoke has West Coast experience: he coached San Diego State in the Mountain West before taking his dream job at Michigan. He was even an Oregon State assistant from 1989 to ‘94.

Hoke may be a good coach, and he may understand the landscapes of recruiting out West.

However, his resume makes him look like one of those guys who never stops looking for the bigger, better job.

Any success at Oregon State, and the Beavs may see him running for greener pastures.

Prev Next

Beau Baldwin

Head Coach, Eastern Washington

Beau Baldwin is rumored to be on an interview shortlist for Riley’s job.

He’s had moderate success at the FCS level, which has gained legitimacy in the Pac-12 since Chip Kelly came out of New Hampshire.

Like Kelly, Baldwin is thought to be an offensive innovator. After years of jet sweeps, fan in Corvallis are thirsty for new ideas that can compete with the team down the road.

Prev Next

Dennis Erickson

Running Backs Coach, Utah

Erickson coached Oregon State during one of the better times of Beaver football. He’s in a lowly position now at an unglamorous job.

That means Oregon State could sign him on the cheap.

Because of his implosion at Arizona State, the Beavers may not be expecting an aging Erickson to be able to instill a winning culture.

They will be expecting him to bring in a quick influx of Chad Johnson-level talent, which may be enough to make him worth the hire.

Prev Next

Steve Coury

Head Coach, Lake Oswego High School

Coury is a wildcard pick to replace Riley. Sure, it may seem crazy to think a major school would hire a high school coach; but just a few years ago, Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn was coaching Springdale High School in Arkansas.

Steve Coury has been the head coach at Lake Oswego high school since 1992. During his tenure, his team has been a perennial power and many of his players have gone on to play college football (a number of them have payed at Oregon State).

Coury has the personality and the youth to lead a program. He understands the landscape of high school football in Oregon well enough that he can at least win the in-state recruiting battle against the Ducks, which used to be annual gimme for OSU.

Prev Next

Ed Orgeron

Before being passed over for the USC job, Orgeron was the highest paid assistant coach in the nation. When he filled in as USC’s head coach for a fired Lane Kiffin last year, he led the team to a 6-2 record, including an upset win over Stanford that sent gamblers into a tailspin.

Coach O has been the highest paid assistant coach in a nation for a reason: his players love him.

Although he was fired as the head coach at Ole Miss, keep one thing in mind — that was at Ole Miss, and it was a different time. He hardly stood a chance.

Coach O could be a big get for OSU.

Prev Next

Don Pellum

Defensive Coordinator, Oregon

Pellum may not be interested in a head coaching job, but that doesn’t mean Oregon State shouldn’t interview him. Pellum is a talented coach who gets his players to respond to him.

Before he was named defensive coordinator he was Oregon’s linebackers coach. At that position, he cultivated NFL players out of mid-level recruits; and that’s a skill OSU will need if it wants to be successful.

If Oregon State wants its new coach to bring a new level of intensity and build a program in his own image, it should strongly consider reaching out to Pellum.

Prev Next

Bronco Mendenhall

Head Coach, BYU

Bronco Mendenhall has also been rumored to be on Oregon State’s short list.

That’s for good reason — he’s a former Oregon State player.

He’s experienced moderate success at Brigham Young and in the wake of conference realignment, he’s found his team in a no-man’s land.

However, BYU coaches rarely choose to make lateral movements.

Prev Next

Mike Norvell

Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State

At just 33 years old, Norvell is young enough to catch a lower price tag than other prospective coaches.

Considered to be a great offensive mind, Norvell is rumored to be going somewhere soon.

What sets him apart is his ability to relate to recruits, especially in Texas and California, where OSU recruiting has significantly leaned on in past decade.

Prev Next

Todd Herman

Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Todd Herman has been primed to run a program of his own.

If Oregon State can put up the money he needs, they may be able to get a taste of Urban Meyer majic.

Beaver fans want it: big offense, big numbers, and sped-up spread attack.


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