Around the Quack with ATQ

Hey everyone and welcome to the first edition of Around the Quack with ATQ. This roundtable forum is designed to discuss a variety of topics around college athletics and the business behind the university systems across the nation. Each week, we will be discussing 1 or 2 topics with all of the editors of ATQ. This week's moderator is Dvieira! If the questions suck, please blame him.

Moderator (dvieira):

For this week, let's talk about how much importance one would place on "winning that big game". Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has now lost 5 straight BCS games. Ohio State's Jim Tressel has lost 3 BCS games in a row including 2 championship games. Is getting to these games a good enough reward for a given fanbase or is there a certain point you are forced to make a change in hopes of getting past that block, even if it means regressing in your success for an amount of time?

ntrebon:

I think it depends on the status of the program in question. For traditional powers, simply getting there year after year is not enough. Eventually they need to come through. But, for other programs, just getting to that game probably means a lot more. Of course, if they start achieving that consistently then a few big game wins better follow. In your example, both Stoops and Tressel have won a national champtionship, which buys them a lot of wiggle room, I would imagine.

JConant:

I feel like these programs are dynasties, largely because of stability at the head coaching position. The couple titles they have between them buys them a lot of latitude. At the same time, the bar is so high for these schools that slippage just isn't an option. Just ask Lloyd Carr or Phil Fulmer.

Moderator:

Pete Carroll got some heat from USC fans about having to go to yet another Rose Bowl. Even though they ended up winning the game, will the heat get turned up on Pete Carroll if the Trojans lose out on going to the National Championship game next year or even regress to the Holiday Bowl? Is he in the same category as Tressel and Stoops?

ntrebon:

Well, I would argue that Carroll ought to be in a different category based simply on results. Carroll has made seven straight BCS games and has won six of those. Stoops has made seven BCS bowls since 2000 and has won only two. Tressel has been in six BCS bowls since 2001 and has won three of them. Based purely on these records, if Carroll is feeling heat from fans, then both Stoops and Tressel should probably be updating their resumes.

JConant:

School administrators aren't likely as dillusional as some fans can be. So any "heat" from actual decision makers would probably only arise if USC were to show a a 3- or 4-year trend downward. I give Carroll a slight edge, but generally would consider he, Stoops and Tressel close to untouchable.

PaulSF:

Let's not forget about the dollars and cents. We can argue wins and losses and what they mean to a college football coach's job security until the cows come home, but the biggest factor of all, unfortunately, is money. Stoops had the highest salary of any coach in college football this season with around $6.5M, including $3M in incentive bonuses. Stoops is followed by Charlie Weis, Carroll, Les Miles, Nick Saban, Tressel, and Urban Meyer. Now, when you factor in the money a school collects for a BCS bowl appearance, which differs based the conference (each BCS conference gets about $18M each year to distribute to the members of its conference), then you'll quickly see that, aside from Weis, these coaches have earned their salaries this year. Do wins and losses matter? Sure, but once a team gets to a BCS Bowl, the coaches have already earned their pay. Weis is really the only guy in the top 5 that hasn't earned his check. How he still has a job is absolutely beyond me. He's cost that school a lot of money with a bloated salary and zero results.

jtlight:

Getting back to the original question, it would be foolish for these programs to make changes from these coaches, despite BCS game struggles. They have reached near-historic heights for their programs. Let's not forget what both Oklahoma and Ohio State were before Stoops and Tressel arrived. Every fan base wants their team to improve every year, but at a certain point, that becomes impossible. Will either of these coaches win another title? I don't know. In today's environment, winning a title is incredibly difficult. But I'd give either of these coaches a much better shot than Oregon, because their teams have more talent, plain and simple. They are poised to make a national title run almost every year. Few teams can say that, and anyone that thinks they can expect better than that, well, they're just plain crazy. That said, I think Ohio State is much more affected by their bowl struggles. Though Tressel has won more BCS games, his struggles have been on epic proportions, in the title game, and those struggles have defined the conference. Stoops can overcome random losses to BSU, WVU, etc. on the strength of the Big 12. But due to the dominance of OSU in the past few years along with the failings of Ohio State and the Big 10 in BCS bowls, Ohio State will have a tough time overcoming their massive failings in the minds of voters.

PaulSF:

Maybe I'm the only pessimist in the bunch, but I think you're all focusing far too much on a coach's win-loss column, when ultimately success on the field is merely a means to an end. Wins and losses are important to getting a team to the "big game," but after that, it's a wash, because a team that makes it to a BCS bowl, win or lose, is already a financial success, and again, unfortunately, college football is all about money. Hypothetically, if Jim Tressel took Ohio State to the National Championship game another three or four times in the next decade without a win, I guarantee he would still have his job, not because fans are content with runner-up finishes, but because he's still hauling in the dough for the Buckeyes. Did the Bills fire Marv Levy after four straight Super Bowl losses? Did they try to find a replacement for Jim Kelly? No, because for all intents and purposes, the Bills franchise was a financial success during those four seasons. And I know what you're thinking: "That's irrelevant. The NFL is a business, and college football isn't." Really? Utah's attorney general Mark Shurtleff will vehemently disagree with you.

jtlight:

I think a better comparison would be Marty Schottenheimer. He was fired because his CB couldn't hold onto the ball. He got almost to the big show, but never won it, and paid the price for that. On top of this, I don't think it's necessarily finances that are keeping various coaches around. Because of Big 10 and Big 12 revenue sharing, all bowl revenues are split between conference schools. So Oklahoma gets the same amount of money if it goes to a BCS game, or if Texas does. So I don't think money makes that big of a deal in these issues. Perception and results is the driving factor (and these typically result in more money). I just don't think there are many fanbases foolish enough to bet they'll get better success than what Tressel and Stoops have achieved.

PaulSF:

Actually, in the Big 12, the BCS money is split evenly, but the TV revenue is not, which is a significant portion of a conference's revenue. You're right about the Big Ten, though. They split all revenue equally.


So what do you think? Is getting to that big bowl game enough for coaches to maintain their jobs when expectations have been placed so high? Does Mike Stoops need to be replaced because he just can't win the big one? If it is all just money, does just getting to the big time bowl games make the most financial sense even if you don't win it all?

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