Sittler column: In turmoil, buck stops with head coaches
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
12/08/10 at 8:27 AM
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Related story: Wilson is new IU coach.
Original Print Headline: In turmoil, buck stops with head coaches
IN LESS than 48 hours this week, Kevin Wilson and Greg Davis experienced both sides of the delicate balance college football coordinators try to maintain 24/7/365.
One season after you're a celebrated genius, you work even harder to avoid being ridiculed as the idiot responsible for a team's failures.
Wilson successfully traversed the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately tightrope Tuesday, a day after Davis was pushed off it by a longtime friend.
About the time Wilson boarded a private plane Monday and headed to Indianapolis for his formal interview with Indiana athletic director Fred Glass, Texas officials confirmed Davis has quietly accepted his forced resignation.
While Wilson attended a press conference Tuesday afternoon where Glass introduced Oklahoma's offensive coordinator as the Hoosiers' new head coach, Davis was pondering his next coaching move.
The 59-year-old Davis has been a high school or college coach for 39 seasons, including the last 13 at Texas as coach Mack Brown's offensive coordinator.
In 2005, Davis won the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach. Three years later, Wilson received the same honor.
Wilson coached in three BCS national-title games at OU. Davis directed Texas' offense when the Longhorns won the 2005 national championship and when UT lost the 2009 BCS title contest when injured quarterback Colt McCoy missed most of the game.
Eleven months after helping take UT to college football's ultimate game, Davis was told to hit the bricks. Tulane's head coach from 1988 through 1991, Davis knows his age seriously diminishes his hopes for a second chance to run his own program.
The clock next to the 49-year-old Wilson's head-coaching window had been ticking loudly the past few years. The runner-up to Dan Mullen at Mississippi State two years ago, Wilson obviously thought the Indiana opportunity might be his last at a BSC school, even though it's considered a career-killer job.
Davis wasn't the only one asked to check in his burnt-orange gear this week. Two other veterans on Brown's staff, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and defensive line coach Mike Tolleson, agreed with the suggestion of their boss - retire.
Basically, Brown caved into fan and alumni pressure and fired three coaches who served him well for years. They became scapegoats after Brown experienced his first losing season since 1989, when UT went 5-7 overall this season, including 2-5 at home and a last-place finish in the Big 12's South Division.
Texas insiders predict Brown isn't finished with his housecleaning. More coaching caps could roll when Brown returns from the National Football Foundation festivities this week in New York City.
When the Longhorns' once-promising 2010 season started going deep south, Brown took a familiar approach to explain what went wrong. He threw his assistants and players under the bus, while defending himself after an embarrassing 28-21 home loss to Iowa State.
"I'm fighting my guts out to get them turned," Brown said after the shocking loss on Oct. 23. "Can't trust your team, can't trust your coaches when they're not getting things ready to go."
As the losses mounted, the transformation of Brown's image wasn't pretty. He went from "one of the good guys" in the profession to "Mack the Knife," stabbing loyal assistants in the back and to their face.
He certainly isn't the first coach to blame his assistants while handing them pink slips. But his approach showed a side of him that heretofore had lurked behind a good-ole-boy facade.
One can only imagine how Brown's biggest rival would react if placed in a similar situation. It's guesswork because Bob Stoops has yet to experience a losing season in 12 years at Oklahoma.
But Stoops gave us a hint a year ago of what he might do. After his injury-plagued team struggled to an 8-5 finish, Stoops recommended all his assistants be given raises.
Stoops hasn't fired a single assistant since he arrived at OU. He also hasn't suggested to any of his staff members that it was either time to retire or move on.
Every coach who has departed on Stoops' watch has either done so to become a head coach or to accept a coordinator's position that wasn't available at OU.
Coaches who appease angry fans and alums by radically shaking up their staff face one potential hazard: If the changes don't produce immediate results, the head coach has no one left to blame but himself.
Kevin Wilson (left), and Greg Davis