When fans and media gang up to pick — or even attempt to pick — college football coaches, it sometimes is a bad, bad thing. Even when the notion clearly seems like a brilliant one at the time.
It becomes mob rule.
Who was it that said he didn’t believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance?
Let’s come clean with it here: What the hell do we know?
Usually not enough.
Mobs can be emotional and ignorant, less than informed about the inner-workings and nuances of a specific football program.
On the other hand, sometimes those doing the hiring are clueless, too.
Two years ago, when it was first suggested by someone that BYU legend Ty Detmer would be a great choice to run BYU’s offense, many of us — you and me and him and her and they and them and pretty much everybody else — thought that was a fantastic idea.
Turned out, the legend was a liability.
Just because a guy won a Heisman Trophy and broke all those NCAA passing records and spent 14 years carrying a clipboard in the NFL and taught Brett Favre some plays and talked in a soothing Texas drawl that could make even the worst news sound like everything would be OK does not mean he’ll jump right in and evaluate and match a program’s talents with his preferred schemes. It doesn’t mean he’ll effectively organize and motive that talent, and consistently formulate sound game plans. It doesn’t make it a good idea to look past the fact that the only bona fide coaching he had done — at a small private high school in Texas — wasn’t all that bona fide.
Ahh, so what, he’s Ty Freaking Detmer, right? He beat Miami back in 1990, he can solve BYU’s scoring woes.
No. No he cannot.
But the mob flows both ways.
When word leaked that Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was going to be hired by Tennessee on Sunday, the Volunteers’ fan base went berserk on social media. They lashed out against the move. They didn’t just disapprove of the man’s abilities as a head coach. They glommed onto unsubstantiated rumors about what somebody at Penn State once mentioned as something he had heard that may or may not have been true about Schiano, as an assistant coach there, being aware of and not reporting the heinous crimes of Jerry Sandusky.
Next thing, Schiano’s name is being tossed all over the inter-webs as some kind of child abuser, regardless of what the facts really were. Politicians in Tennessee jumped aboard that train, spouting off about the potential hire. Some fans wrote disparaging posts, held up accusatory signs in protest. Somebody painted on The Rock, a campus landmark, “SCHIANO COVERED UP CHILD RAPE AT PENN STATE.”
The New York Times reported that Jeremy Faison, a Tennessee state representative, had written: “The head football coach at the University of Tennessee is the highest-paid state employee. They’re the face of our state. We don’t need a man who has that type of potential reproach in their life as the highest-paid state employee. It’s egregious to the people and it’s wrong to the taxpayers.”
In a deposition a couple of years ago, former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary had testified that another assistant, Tom Bradley, had told him that Schiano had once mentioned to him that he had seen Sandusky abusing a child.
Bradley and Schiano have denied the allegation, saying they knew nothing about the abuse.
On Monday, as reported by The New York Times, Anthony Lubrano, a Penn State trustee said Schiano “had nothing to do with the Sandusky scandal.”
He added: “Any stories about his involvement are uncorroborated and without basis in fact. To impugn Mr. Schiano’s character based on hearsay alone is irresponsible and unfair.”
Tennessee administrators defended Schiano.
But they also dumped him as a candidate.
Mob rule, man.
My personal feeling, having been familiar with some Volunteer fans, and fans of many other highly competitive college football teams, is that the unfair outrage against Schiano had nothing to do with what happened at Penn State. It had everything to do with the fact that Schiano had not won enough games as a head coach — at Rutgers and in the NFL.
Fanatics, in this case, got their way. Tennessee backed off the hire.
Maybe the choicest bit of irony in the Volunteers saga is that many fans started calling for the hiring of Lane Kiffin, the former Vols coach those fans vilified before and when he bolted for USC. He must be getting a kick out of his sudden popularity in Knoxville.
When it became known that Arizona State was seriously considering replacing the fired Todd Graham with former NFL coach and current broadcaster Herm Edwards, a man who hasn’t coached or “played to win the game” for a decade and who hasn’t coached in college for nearly 30 years, the mob raged. Fans and some members of the media pointed out that athletic director Ray Anderson, a former agent, once had Edwards as a client.
Can he still coach? Beats me. Beats you. Would he beat USC?
And, yet, the mob embraces preconceived ideas about what a coach can or cannot do before he does or does not do it.
We’re all just guessing here. Doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion. Some of us are paid to have and express one. Maybe administrators are guessing, too.
But they are the ones in the interview room. They are the ones who hear what a candidate has in his mind and in his plans. They aren’t always right. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe wanted Detmer hired, so the fans and media weren’t the only ones who messed up on that one.
Still, to run a guy down with unfounded accusations because the people with pitchforks and torches in their hands don’t like the concept of the man taking over as coach is bush league. Tennessee fans would have wanted to hire Genghis Khan if they thought he was going to conquer the SEC, but, then, that’s just my thinking on the matter.
Exasperated ASU fans are simply tired of mediocrity. They’re thrashing around, hoping for something — someone — good to happen.
It stirs to the imagination what might have transpired, what the reaction would have been, in this day and age had LaVell Edwards been hired to coach BYU now, based on his background. Social media would have exploded with opposition. What had Edwards ever done to encourage any sort of support for that move? Lose a bunch of games at Granite High School and work as a career assistant at BYU, that’s what.
We all would have thought it was a lousy move. And we all would have been wrong.
It was Bruce Springsteen who sang the song, “With Every Wish Comes a Curse.” And it was Grandma who said, “Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.”
Granny and the Boss were pretty smart.
What the mob, including the media, thinks and clamors for, is often in error when it comes to looking into the future and nabbing a coach. Not always. But enough of the time to make us stop and think about it a bit.
Or, at least, it should.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.