Why USC should not hire Ed Orgeron as its head coach

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Fresh off USC’s 20-17 upset of No. 5 Stanford on Saturday night, calls are coming from media, fans and some Trojan players for interim head coach Ed Orgeron to be hired as USC’s permanent head man going forward.

Besides the fact that some of these sentiments are self-serving (media people love talking to Orgeron and having him as a head coach again would make for good copy), they are also filled with the same type of fuzzy-headed thinking that got USC into this mess in the first place.

Let’s go over the reasons why Orgeron should not be hired:

1. Ole Miss

Orgeron was 10-26 in his three seasons as head coach at Mississippi. You can’t just blame his record on the average program that he inherited. David Cutcliffe went 43-29 in the six seasons before Orgeron arrived and Houston Nutt went 24-26 in the four seasons after he was fired. Orgeron was uniquely bad, even by Ole Miss standards.

The counter argument to this is that Orgeron has learned and changed from his time in Oxford. But is a 5-1 record as an interim coach evidence of that? Being an interim coach is a unique situation. USC has benefited as much by Orgeron being not-Lane Kiffin than anything else. The Trojan roster is immensely talented and the fact that Kiffin isn’t around to screw it up anymore is a huge factor in the team’s recent success. That Orgeron has been competent enough to manage that talent and smartly surf the wave of good will that has emerged out of the sudden coaching change is without question. But what about three years from now when the circumstances have changed, when three recruiting cycles have passed and the shtick has worn off a bit? Will Orgeron have a quality staff in place? Will he run an innovative offense? Based on his past, the answer to those questions is probably no. At best, there is zero evidence that Orgeron has the long-term vision to guide an elite program like USC and keep it elite.

2. Better coaches are available

USC is bad at hiring head coaches. Historically bad. The last time it found a marquee national name for its head job was back in 1925 when it hired Howard Jones away from Iowa. It has hired 12 coaches since Jones and every one save two have had some sort of connection to USC, an indication that the path of least resistance is generally preferred by Trojan administrators. USC lucked out with John McKay and Pete Carroll, but otherwise its batting average is under the Mendoza line.

Recent reports indicate that USC athletic director Pat Haden is taking a different approach this time. Proven college coaches like Kevin Sumlin and Chris Petersen are reported to be in the running for the position. Either of these two coaches would be fantastic hires by USC and would likely have the Trojans competing for national titles for years to come. But with Orgeron’s recent success, the danger is that Haden will get swept up in the tyranny of the crowd and be forced to make a short-sighted decision. Haden should resist the urge to take the easy route — isn’t that how Kiffin got hired in the first place? — and continue to do his due diligence with a clear head and a healthy dose of critical thinking.

The issue here isn’t whether Orgeron can be successful as USC’s head coach. With the talent and resources available to him, he might win 45 games over the next five years. Almost any competent coach would do the same. The issue is whether Orgeron is the best coach available to make USC as successful as it can be. Would Ohio State have won 22 in a row (and counting) with Luke Fickell as its head man?  No. Ohio State didn’t settle. Neither should USC.

3. Players, fans and alumni shouldn’t decide on the coach

“He deserves it,” the player said. “A great man. A great coach. All the players respect him and all the players love him. You couldn’t ask for a better man to lead us to victory today.”

One player called the coach the ”glue” that kept the team together during a rocky month.

”We’re a family,” the player said. ”That’s why we prevailed.”

“He’s just such a good person and the kids love him,” said the former coach. “His hire is such a good fit with the program.”

“I’m a little more settled in. I’m a little more laid back and I’m a little more wise,” said the coach. “It’s called maturity. I’ll be as demanding, but I found out there’s other ways to get the results.”

Are these recent quotes from USC players and former associates? They might as well be. No, these are quotes taken in 2008 after West Virginia took the interim tag off of Bill Stewart and named him its permanent head coach. Stewart was also a beloved figure who understood the program and who was lauded for guiding the team through a difficult period. But there was no evidence that Stewart knew how to be a successful head coach and it showed. Three years later he was fired.

Just because Orgeron is beloved by his players does not mean those players know what’s best for the long-term at USC. Being a head coach is about more than firing up the team, singing the fight song and cavorting with the fans. That Orgeron has played up this factor during his interim tenure is a testament to his wiliness and understanding of the environment at USC. He’s done a fantastic job of building all kinds of good will — after all, he knows his best shot at getting the job is to gain as many allies as possible. But at the end of the day, the Trojans don’t need to pay $6 million for a cheerleader.

To reiterate, Orgeron has done a fine job as USC’s interim coach. But he hasn’t ‘earned’ the job anymore than Gerald Ford ‘earned’ the Presidency after taking over for Richard Nixon. With millions of dollars at stake over the next five to 10 seasons, and the four-team playoff about to debut, the Trojans need to keep their eyes on the prize. If the superior coaching alternatives out there end up turning USC down, perhaps Orgeron should be considered.  But, until then, his tenure as Trojans head coach should have an expiration date.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.