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October 9, 2009

Mailbag: Coaches come under fire

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Almost every program has a legendary coach that took the team through a glorious era.

At Georgia, it's Vince Dooley. He posted 201 wins while reigning in Athens. No other coach has come close.

Given time, Mark Richt may challenge Dooley's record. The Bulldogs have averaged 10 victories in Richt's first eight seasons and he's already the third-winningest coach in school history. But is that enough to ensure Richt will remain in Athens for years to come?

That's just one of the questions addressed in this week's mailbag.

Georgia on her mind

From Debbie in Atlanta: Wouldn't you think Georgia coach Mark Richt would be on the chopping block if Florida and Georgia Tech beat Georgia again this year? Wouldn't that open up the head-coaching job for Vince Dooley's son - Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley - to go to Georgia?

I've frequently written that nothing in college football surprises me, especially where coaches who make seven-figure salaries are concerned. An investment that expensive demands a quick and handsome return.

So, when successful coaches are ousted, it means they just didn't supply enough wins to meet the demand.

But I'd be absolutely shocked if Richt were fired. That would be the final piece of evidence that college football, especially in the south, had lost complete touch with reality.

In his first eight seasons in Athens, Richt's teams averaged just more than 10 wins per season. Six times, the Bulldogs posted double-digit victory totals. They've never won fewer than eight games under Richt, even though they're in the ultra-competitive SEC East, have had bad luck with injuries and have lost great players to early entry into the NFL draft.

The Bulldogs are 3-2 this season, which is disappointing. But they lost to teams (Oklahoma State and LSU) that were ranked in the top five when the games were played. And in both games, Georgia was on the short end of a couple of terrible calls that influenced the outcome of the game. In the Oklahoma State game, it was a bogus unnecessary roughness call on a defensive back that enabled the Cowboys to continue a pivotal scoring drive. And in the LSU game, it was a ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a touchdown, which enabled the Tigers to get advantageous field position to drive for a winning score in the final minute.

No doubt, Derek Dooley is a rising young coach, but in three seasons in Ruston, La., his record is 15-14. Besides, why bring in the junior Dooley when Richt actually has been more successful than the senior Dooley? Richt has a .780 winning percentage. Dooley's winning percentage in 25 seasons at Georgia was .715. That included a three-year stretch from 1980-82 in which the Bulldogs went 33-3.

Of course, that team had Herschel Walker, who is the greatest college football player ever. Give credit to Vince Dooley for luring Walker to Athens and utilizing his fabulous talent. But also acknowledge that without Walker, Dooley wouldn't have won a national championship.

That's not meant as a knock on Vince Dooley. That's just meant to add perspective to the situation that's under discussion.

If Georgia collapsed and finished with a poor record this season, it's conceivable the administration would demand changes on the staff. And in that case, I wouldn't be surprised if Richt, who is intensely loyal to his assistants, would fight that. But the school wouldn't fire him. I can't believe any college football program is so crazy to fire a coach who has won as often as Richt and has represented the university as honorably as he does.

Time for change at FSU?

From Bruno in Port St. Lucie, Fla.: Is it time for Bobby Bowden to let Jimbo Fisher take full control of the Florida State program?

It appears that way.

In 1976, Bowden took over a Florida State program that had managed four wins in three seasons. Two years later, the Seminoles were 10-2. Ten years after that, they began an amazing run in which they finished in the top five for 14 consecutive seasons.

Bowden made Florida State nationally relevant. Then, he made it a national power. FSU owes its identity to Bowden.

But the program has declined. FSU (2-3) may need some luck to reach seven wins. Indeed, the Seminoles are in danger of falling short of the six victories required for bowl eligibility.

The offense has struggled terribly, and that's the department of Fisher, the offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting. So it's questionable that he's the right guy to lead FSU back to national prominence. Give him a chance, though. Maybe if Fisher has complete control, he can make a bigger difference.

Sometimes a change just needs to be made. It appears that time has come in Tallahassee.

Strong support

From Dave in Orlando, Fla.: What is it going to take for Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to finally get a head-coaching opportunity? Of course, no one wants him to leave Florida, but everyone recognizes he's ready for the top job at some school. Any thoughts?

Maybe it's going to take college football to institute something akin to the NFL's Rooney Rule, in which at least one minority candidate has to be interviewed for an open coaching position.

I don't think anyone should be given a job based on race. By the same token, I don't think anybody should be denied a job for the same reason. Frankly, I cannot think of a reason Strong hasn't been hired as a head coach other than he is a minority and for whatever reason college programs have been hesitant to hire minorities.

Check his resume. He's known as an outstanding recruiter. He traditionally fields dominant defenses. He has been a part of two national championship teams. A third title may come this season.

No one can tell me that Strong won't be among the most qualified candidates for a vacant coaching job this December.

Badgers' bowl possibilities

From Bruce in Stevens Point, Wis.: What will it take for Wisconsin to get into a decent bowl this season?

Well, posting a victory over Ohio State on Saturday probably would do it.

Defining "decent" bowl game is the key here. If that means BCS bowl, then winning the Big Ten championship may be required. The Badgers could make a run at a BCS at-large berth if they finish with one loss, but even then it might not be assured. Perhaps you've heard: The Big Ten doesn't have a real good national reputation right now.

Now, if the Capital One Bowl qualifies as decent - and I'd say it does - then the Badgers have a good chance. They've played well so far with Scott Tolzien providing sound quarterback play, and running back John Clay has been productive, too.

But the defense has been suspect, with three opponents having scored at least 28 points on the Badgers. Obviously, that hasn't hurt them yet. If the defense improves, the Badgers could have a big year. After Ohio State, their strongest remaining opponents figure to be Iowa on Oct. 17 and Michigan on Nov. 14. Both of those games are in Madison.

What's wrong with Rutgers?

From John in Mount Bethel, Pa.: I understand what Greg Schiano has accomplished at Rutgers, but he has yet to get to a BCS game and his game-day coaching abilities always have been suspect. Do you think Schiano and Rutgers ever will part ways, especially since the talent level of new recruits is not what is was three years ago?

Schiano resisted opportunities to leave Rutgers after the Scarlet Knights finished 11-2 in 2006. You'd expect Rutgers to have the same loyalty to him.

The Knights have had three straight years with at least eight wins, and they appear on their way to making it four in a row.

That hasn't happened in Piscataway since the late 1970s, when opponents such as Cornell, Lehigh, William & Mary, Colgate and Holy Cross were on the schedule.

Remember, in 1996, the Scarlet Knights lost their spring game 10-6 to a team of alumni. Honest. Schiano didn't take over a program in good shape.

True, Schiano hasn't led the Knights to a BCS game, but at least he has Rutgers beating teams whose players are in their late teens and early 20s.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.
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