Six Schools Who Fired Successful Coaches and Regretted It
So, it looks as though LSU is ready to part company with Les Miles. And, the national media can't figure out why.
Neither can many LSU fans.
But, there are many big time Tigers' supporters (read: rich guys with influence) that believe the only thing standing between LSU and more national titles is Miles, who has won one national championship and played for another.
Miles has a winning percentage of .775, the best in the history of the school and has averaged ten wins per season in his eleven years in Tigertown. But he's lost five in a row to Alabama and Nick Saban, the man he replaced. So, he's got to go, right?
That idea doesn't always work. In fact, more often than not, it doesn't. Not with big time programs, anyway.
Here are a few decisions LSU should look at before pulling the figurative trigger on the likeable LSU coach. But, they won't.
FIRED: Frank Solich (58-19, 1998-03)--Solich was a Nebraska assistant under Tom Osborne, who was 255-49-5 in his career with the Cornhuskers. Following a legend isn't easy. Solich won a Big 12 title in 1999, played for a national title in 2001, finished in the top ten three times and went to six bowl games in six years. But Nebraska supporters wanted him gone, feeling as though his option oriented offense just wouldn't work in the 21st Century. So, Solich was canned after the 2003 season, despite the fact his 58 wins in six seasons was more than Osborne or his predecessor Bob Devaney had in their first six years.
HIRED: Bill Callahan (27-22, 2003-06) The replacement was Bill Callahan, who had
coached the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl. Callahan brought the West Coast offense to Nebraska and failed miserably. He was 27-22 with the Cornhuskers, including their first losing season in more than 40 years. He was fired after going 5-7 in 2007. The man who canned him? Tom Osborne, who took over as AD after Nebraska fired Steve Pederson, the AD who canned Solich. .
FIRED: Phillip Fulmer (152-52, 1992-2008)--Fulmer's winning percentage of .745 was the best at Tennessee since the 40's. During his tenure at Tennessee, the Volunteers won six SEC East Division titles and won the national title in 1998. He is the last coach to win back to back SEC titles (1997-98). But Fulmer's program slipped to 5-6 in 2005, which started the grumbling for his ouster. His teams won nine games in 2006 and ten games in 2007, but Fullmer was fired after a 5-7 season in 2008.
HIRED: Lane Kiffin (2009, 7-6)--LIke Nebraska, Tennessee decided to hire a former Oakland Raiders
coach in 33-year old Lane Kiffin. After getting in trouble with the SEC for accusing Urban Meyer of cheating, Kiffin wore out his welcome. After one season, right in the middle of prime recruiting, Kiffin suddenly departed to take the job at USC, which led to some rioting by students on the Tennessee campus. His successor, Derek Dooley, was fired after a four year record of 22-27, and current coach Butch Jones currently has a 19-17 record.
FIRED: Fred Akers (1977-86, 86-31-2)--LIke Solich, Akers was called on to replace a legend in Texas coach Darrell Royal (167-47-5, .774). Akers had two undefeated seasons with the Longhorns (1978, 1984), but lost four straight bowl games (1982-85) and was fired after a losing season in 1986. Although he had spent several years as an assistant to Royal before leaving to be the head coach at Wyoming, he wasn't considered a "Texas guy" because he played at Arkansas.
HIRED: David McWilliams (1987-91, 31-26)-
McWilliams was rumored to be the new coach even before Akers was fired. McWilliams played for Royal and coached under both Royal and Akers. McWilliams left to be the head coach at Texas Tech and that year was the year Texas had a losing record. Boosters equated Texas' fall to McWilliams' departure and that was further fueled when the Red Raiders beat the Longhorns that year. Texas wanted a "Texas guy" and hired McWilliams days after firing Akers. McWilliams did have a 10-2 season, but suffered three losing campaigns.
RESIGNED UNDER PRESSURE: Lloyd Carr (1995-2007, 122-40)--Considered one of the most ethical coaches in college football, Carr was named interim coach at Michigan following the resignation of Gary Moeller (who replaced Bo Schembechler) following an off-field incident. Carr went 8-2 and was given the permanent job. Carr won or shared five Big Ten titles and his team was named National Champion by AP in 1997. Carr failed to win at least nine games just three times and never had a losing season. But the grumbling by Michigan boosters grew as Carr began struggling against arch-rival Ohio State, losing six out of seven to the Buckeyes and dropping four straight bowl games. When Michigan lost in a stunning upset to Appalachian State to open the 2007 season, Carr's fate was sealed despite a 9-4 record and a bowl win. He chose to retire rather than be fired.
HIRED: Rich Rodriguez (2008-10,, 15-22)--Michigan decided to go for the "big splash"
hire and turned to Rodriguez, whose West Virginia squad just missed getting to play for the 2007 national championship (won by LSU) after dropping their season finale to underdog Pittsburgh. Rodriguez brought his spread offense to Ann Arbor, got in trouble with the NCAA for excessive practice time and wound up with the worst overall and worst conference record in the history of Michigan. The Wolverines haven't been the same since.
RESIGNED: Dan Devine (1975-80, 53-16-1 ) --It took seven games for Dan Devine to feel unappreciated. After replacing Ara Parseghian, Devine's first Notre Dame team started 5-2 and the Irish faithful believed Devine was incompetent and rumors began that Devine would be replaced by Don Shula. Records of 8-3 and 9-3 his first two seasons were unacceptable and in 1977 there were bumper stickers being distributed that said "Dump Devine." That year, Notre Dame won the national title. But in 1979, the Irish slipped to 7-4 and the rumblings grew so loud that Devine announced before the 1980 season started that he'd be stepping down.
HIRED: Gerry Faust (1981-85, 30-26-1) Notre Dame turned to one of the
most successful high school coaches in America in Moeller High's Faust in an unexpected hire. Faust's career started on a high note with a 27-9 win over LSU, but it was all downhill from there. Faust's high water mark was a pair of seven win seasons and Notre Dame was heavily criticized for honoring Faust's five year contract.
FIRED: Charlie McClendon (1962-79, 137-59-7)--The winningest coach in LSU history, Cholly Mac was 97-32-5 from 1962-73. During that time, the Tigers appeared in twice each in the Sugar, Cotton and Orange Bowls. His 1969 team, despite a 9-1 record, did not go to a bowl game when they were snubbed by the Cotton Bowl in favor of Notre Dame. But, even during that time, there were many who were McClendon detractors for one reason: he couldn't beat Alabama (sound familiar?) McClendon wound up losing five straight (sound familiar) to the Tide before finally winning two straight (1969-70), but never beat them again, going 2-14. In addition, LSU's overall record slipped after 1973 (sound familiar?) and the Tigers slipped to the point where they had three straight losing seasons in conference play (1974-76). Although LSU wound up in bowl games the final three years, McClendon still couldn't beat the man who was arguably the best coach in college football (sound familiar?) and that led to his firing after the 1979 season.
HIRED: Bo Rein (0-0)--We don't know what would have happened had it not been for
that tragic plane crash that killed the new, youthful, charismatic coach who came from North Carolina State. But LSU went into a tailspin afterward. The next five LSU coaches (Jerry Stovall, Bill Arnsparger, Mike Archer, Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo) were a combined 124-99 (Arnsparger was 26-8-2 in his three seasons) and 65-69 in conference play.
Miles' last few seasons haven't been nearly as good and the rumblings really started after the loss to Alabama in the BCS title game following the 2011 season. And, as a result of his record slipping (like McClendon) and his inability to beat Alabama (like McClendon) who has arguably the best coach in America (an obstacle McClendon faced), LSU appears on the precipice of making a coaching change.
Unfortunately there are more stories of failure when firing successful coaches than there are happy endings.
Your move, Mr. Alleva.