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.

Nick Saban issues statement on DJ Durkin’s involvement with Alabama

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You had to know this was coming.

Earlier this week, a report surfaced that former Maryland head coach DJ Durkin has been helping Alabama in what was described as a “consultant-like capacity” ahead of its playoff game against Oklahoma later this month.  Given Durkin’s controversial exit from College Park, the report raised more than a few eyebrows.

In light of the mini-firestorm that erupted, Alabama Friday night issued a statement attributed to Nick Saban in which the head football coach of the Crimson Tide addressed the level of Durkin’s involvement with his football program:

DJ Durkin is spending a few days with our staff in Tuscaloosa from a professional development standpoint. He has not been hired in any capacity at The University of Alabama. He is simply observing our operation as many other coaches have done through the years.

Durkin, two members of the training staff and then-head strength & conditioning coach Rick Court were placed on administrative leave in early August after a bombshell report alleged mishandling of the medical event that preceded the death of Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair and detailed what was described as a toxic culture within the football program.  That report described the toxic culture under Durkin as one based on fear, intimidation, belittling, humiliation and embarrassment.  Players were, allegedly, routinely subjected to what was described as extreme verbal abuse that included, in part, obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity.

On Oct. 30, it was confirmed that Durkin had been reinstated and would remain as the Terrapins head coach.  The next day, and amidst an avalanche of criticism from football playersstudent groups and high-ranking government officials, U of M, College Park president Wallace Loh announced that Durkin had been dismissed as the Terrapins head football coach.

Everybody deserves a second chance, although one can debate the merits of giving that second chance so close to a coach’s first chance cut short, in part, by the death of one of his football players.  Personally, I don’t know what length of penance should be served, but it just feels like less than two months is not nearly enough.

Dan Mullen says Florida has offered UCF 2-for-1 future football series

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As we entered the stretch run of games in late November this season, there was a growing interest in the potential for Florida and UCF to meet in a New Year’s Six game. While that didn’t end up playing out with the CFP Selection Committee sending the Gators to the Peach Bowl and the Knights to the Fiesta Bowl, it appears the two in-state rivals may still have the opportunity to meet on the field down the road.

Per the Tampa Bay Times, UF head coach Dan Mullen appears to confirm that discussions have taken place between the two programs about a future series and the ball is seemingly in UCF AD Danny White’s hands as to whether things will move forward.

“I think we offered them a two-for-one like we do with most schools in their position, which is actually really a good deal,” Mullen said. “They have the opportunity to have an SEC school play at their place. It would potentially be a big deal for them. I know I’ve done it that way.

“(UF athletic director Scott Stricklin) brought it up to them. If they want to try and toughen their schedule, that would be great, a good opportunity for them if they want take it. It’s up to them.”

Knights fans will probably scoff at having to do a 2-for-1 in order to get the Gators on the schedule but it’s a pretty familiar scheduling philosophy for Florida, which just recently made a tweak to their own 2-for-1 series with fellow AAC school USF. Few programs have had their schedule picked apart quite like UCF and while fans may not like making two trips to Gainsville, getting the Gators to come to Orlando would be a significant boost to a future slate of non-conference games.

Reports: Ex-WKU head coach Mike Sanford Jr. to become new Utah State OC

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Mike Sanford Jr. is back in the Mountain West.

The former Western Kentucky head coach will be returning to the familiar confines of the conference as the new offensive coordinator for Utah State, according to reports from both ESPN and FootballScoop.

Sanford, who is indeed the son of the former head coach of UNLV and Indiana State with the same name, was recently let go by the Hilltoppers after just two seasons in charge and a 9-16 overall record.

Despite the quick hook in his last gig, the younger Sanford does have a fairly lengthy resume that was likely appealing to new Aggies head coach Gary Andersen. Prior to going to WKU, he was offensive coordinator/QB coach at Notre Dame and served in the same capacity at his alma mater of Boise State. Prior to that, he spent several years at Stanford in a variety of offensive positions.

Sanford will replace David Yost, who is following Matt Wells to Texas Tech as offensive coordinator after guiding USU to several top 10 statistical marks nationally in 2018.

Kentucky RB Benny Snell declares for 2019 NFL Draft, will still play in Citrus Bowl

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One of the best players in Kentucky football history is skipping out on his senior year… but not before one last game with his teammates.

In a lengthy video posted to his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wildcats running back Benny Snell confirmed that he was entering the 2019 NFL Draft. In what is (strange to say nowadays) a surprising decision though, he will remain at UK and play in the Citrus Bowl against Penn State.

Snell was once an unheralded recruit but quickly turned himself into one of the best running backs in the SEC, playing a big role in leading the Wildcats to three consecutive bowl games. The junior has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the past three seasons and 3,754 yards on the ground in his career — a mark that he could boost in the bowl game to become the school’s all-time leading rusher.

As a result of his hard-running in key wins against Florida, Missouri and others, Snell was named a 2018 first-team All-SEC tailback this past season.