Well, this is unexpected. Maybe. I think. I honestly can’t tell. Either way, add another school to this year’s coaching carousel.
North Carolina State is only one day removed from a 27-10 win over Boston College to put the Wolfpack at a perennial 7-5 on the year. Perhaps it is for that very reason that Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien is now out of a job. In a news release Sunday, the university announced that O’Brien has been fired after six years on the job.
Interestingly enough, O’Brien coached at BC from 1997-2006 before taking over as NC State’s head coach. Turns out, the Eagles would be his final opponent.
“Coach O’Brien’s service to NC State over the last six years has been sincerely appreciated by Wolfpack Nation,” athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “We especially appreciate his attention toward NCAA rules compliance, a value that will continue to be held by NC State. We wish him well in future pursuits.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to have coached at North Carolina State University and I feel that the program is in a better place now than when I started,” said O’Brien. “I’m proud of the young men that I have coached here, for their accomplishments on the field and in the classroom. Wolfpack football is as sound academically as it’s ever been with a [single year] APR of 990 to be reported this spring. I appreciate all of my coaches and wish them the best and I look forward to life after football.”
O’Brien’s time at NC State was filled with ups and downs. For every win over a Florida State or Clemson, there was a loss to Virginia, Boston College or Wake Forest.
Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as interim coach for the Wolfpack’s bowl game. A search for a new head coach will begin immediately. The first name being connected to the vacancy is Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. Franklin was Maryland’s offensive coordinator under Ralph Friedgen when Yow was the AD at the university. Franklin was supposed to be the coach-in-waiting before departing for Vandy.
O’Brien compiled a 40-35 overall record and a 22-26 record in the ACC during his time at NC State. His contract runs through Dec. 2015, and he will be paid a minimum of $1.2 million over those next three years.
Alex Grinch isn’t the only member of Mike Leach’s staff who is ticketed out of Pullman this offseason.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Oregon had poached Washington State assistant Jim Mastro to be the Ducks’ new running backs coach and run game coordinator.
Mastro has been with the Cougars since joining Leach’s initial staff at Wazzu back in 2012 and has quite a bit of experience out west, including 11 seasons at Nevada and a year at UCLA. He replaces Donte Pimpleton, who followed former Oregon coach Willie Taggart to Florida State several weeks ago.
Interestingly, this is the third straight offseason that the Ducks have poached an assistant from their Pac-12 North rivals. Quarterbacks coach David Yost left for Eugene back in 2015 while Taggart hired defensive line coach Joe Salave’a last year. Mastro should have plenty to work with upon arrival with senior Tony Brooks-James and youngster Darrian Felix likely leading the way on the ground.
Kevin Sumlin is still sorting out his new staff at Arizona but reportedly has his special teams coordinator locked up and it’s a familiar face from his previous stop in College Station.
While Texas A&M’s former special teams coordinator Jeff Banks was hired for the same position at Alabama, Sumlin has hired his No. 2 in Jeremy Springer to be the Wildcats’ new special teams coordinator, a source told Sports Illustrated this week. The trio worked together for three years with the Aggies as Springer assisted Banks in the crucial third phase of the game.
Springer was originally ticketed to join another former Sumlin assistant in David Beaty as a staffer at Kansas but instead will head west to the desert. His most recent formal title was quality control special teams/tight ends assistant at Texas A&M but he’ll be an on-field coach in Tucson.
Springer played linebacker for UTEP and is still pretty fresh-faced in the coaching profession having graduated from the school in 2011.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the national championship game which means that Jeremy Pruitt has been in Knoxville as the new Tennessee head coach for some time now leading the program. Despite that fact, there’s still a visible reminder every day when he drives into work of the previous regime that was in charge of the Vols.
That’s because there’s a giant 35-by-30-foot picture of former head coach Butch Jones still up on the outside of Neyland Stadium… over two months after he was fired by Tennessee. According to the Times Free Press, the picture could even be up past signing day in February as the rather slow change is made for an item that isn’t as easy for the school to alter as the media guide is.
“That’s not an easy process,” athletic director Phillip Fulmer told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR. “There’s mechanical things involved to get that done. It’s not just, ‘Let’s take down a picture off the wall or a graphic.’ We’re working through that.
“It is important to us, because it is important to reflect what we’re doing. It’ll be done in due time. I’ve heard the same thing from the chancellor. She wants me to speed it up, too. We will. We’ll get there.”
Funny enough, the giant picture of Jones (flanked by UT legends Reggie White and Robert Neyland) replaced an image of Fulmer from when the team won the BCS title 20 years ago. Something says they might revert back to that look with their now-AD until Pruitt can establish himself with the program over the next few years to prevent a repeat of this fiasco.
As the Times Free Press notes, it took Florida State just a week to scrub Jimbo Fisher‘s likeness from Doak Campbell Stadium but it might be three months before the Vols can do the same with their coaching change. It may not delight the fan base to see Jones some more but this is clearly one area on Rocky Top that is decidedly not moving at SEC-speed at the moment.
Chad Morris’ first big hire upon taking over the head coaching spot at Arkansas was to bring in veteran SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis. If the pair is still together beyond the 2018 season though, it will be an expensive combination for the school based on the contract of the latter.
USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz obtained the details of Chavis new deal with the school on Friday night and notes that the longtime coach will make $995,000 for the 2018 season in Fayetteville.
While that figure for the 2018 campaign is down sharply from the $1.6 million figure he made in 2017 in the same role at Texas A&M (third highest for an assistant in the country), it should be noted that the Aggies are still on the hook for nearly $700,000 as a result of a one-year extension he signed prior to last season — resulting in the six-figure salary at Arkansas instead of hitting the million dollar mark.
If Chavis exercises the option for 2019 though, he’ll be back in the top 10 highest paid assistants once again but with Arkansas ponying up the full amount. Not bad work if you can get it after allowing 30.7 points per game the prior season.
Hopefully for the Razorbacks though, the results are more in line with the salary for Chavis and company going forward.