At the start of the 2021 college football season the coaching carousel started to turn. By week 2 of the season the USC Trojans cut ties with former head coach Clay Helton and LSU would do just the same a few weeks later by letting Ed Orgeron know they would be parting ways at the end of the season. Surprisingly, know one was shocked about the changes that occurred by these two national powerhouse programs, but the questions of who will be the next guys in line to lead these two back to the top.
USC has been away from the big game since 2006 and almost irrelevant to the big picture of college football. The west coast power has been dormant like the volcanos on the west coast. As for LSU, the Tigers have been a little more relevant with their most recent national championship coming in 2019. These two powers have high expectations for their program that have been severely missed by the coaches that were let go.
Once the word was out that these programs were looking for a coach, big time candidates at smaller brand programs started to lock down their head coaches for much longer contracts with huge buyout clauses. Michigan State signed head coach Melvin Tucker to a 10 year $95 million dollar contract to prevent him or any other program from even looking at him as their next head coach. Penn State would end up doing the same by locking down James Franklin down to an extended contract. This was a message to all powerhouse brands like USC and LSU that these coaches are not going anywhere anytime soon.
With the regular season finally concluded, more programs decided to part ways with their head coaches as well and with that being said the University of Florida has entered the conversation. Florida is also a top 10 college football brand that felt a culture shift within its football program that led to head coach Dan Mullen being let go. This didn’t come as a shock either since Dan seemingly checked out of the Florida program mentally before the 2020 bowl game. Three major programs without leaders at the end of the season, who will make the bigger splash?
And I almost forgot about the University of Miami. The Hurricanes fell terribly short of attainable goals with a 7-5 regular season. The Canes started the year off by being blown out by Alabama and two weeks later Michigan state. At 2-4 and no wins against any Power 5 program at this time in the season, the entire program was put on a spotlight by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit when he questioned Miami’s administrations commitment to football. Miami’s Athletic Director Blake James and head coach Manny Diaz were now sitting in the hot seat together. Before the end of the season, Miami would let go Blake James and leave the future of Manny Diaz to the new Athletic Director.
The speculation of a coaching change and new athletic leadership has lead to the idea that current Oregon head coach Mario Cristolbal or Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin might be interested in leading the once college football juggernaut back to the top. Miami has a national brand like the previously mentioned three programs, but the Canes haven’t won anything since 2001. The question is would any qualified coach want to take tall task of returning Miami back?
Now, let the dominos fall.
The Florida Gators made the move to go get Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun coach Billy Napier. Napier has been linked to job speculations for a few seasons now, but ultimately chose to wait for the right opportunity. The Florida Gator job is the right opportunity. The expectation is to win the SEC and then a national title. That’s it. That’s the same for all of these programs. The challenge for him will be to get his current players to buy in and to salvage a recruiting class that had little to no effort put towards it by Dan Mullen. A huge domino, but not the biggest one to drop a day after the regular season ended.
USC would make the biggest statement in going after and securing Oklahoma Sooner head coach Lincoln Riley. Riley was thought to be the LSUs top candidate for a few months now, but we learned on Sunday that USC would win out. USC is getting an offensive genius and a good quarterback developer. USC is the program of the west that can win any recruiting battle against any program for west coast recruits when they are winning. Lincoln could dominate Pac-12 once he gets his system put in place.
The reason for the move by Riley had to be a calculated move. With Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC in the near future, Riley had to know that it would be difficult for any coach to win the SEC on the field and on the recruiting trail for Texas talent. In the short term it looks like a bad move by Lincoln Riley, but in the long-term it might turnout to be a great move for his career. In todays game, coaches are being fired left and right for 1 or 2 bad seasons, so it would be best for Lincoln Riley to build up USC rather than start losing games at Oklahoma in the SEC.
With Oklahoma in the picture now, what program has a better claim as a better program…. LSU or Oklahoma? I would say both of these programs are similar in many ways in the modern era. LSU and Oklahoma recruit on a very high level and have the resources committed to football to continue their dominance as one of college football’s premier programs. I would say Oklahoma has the edge on LSU in terms of historical prestige, but LSU has a cult like following on the recruiting trail. Kids for Louisiana want to play for LSU no matter who the coach is the moment they step onto a football field. Louisiana is one of the big fertile recruiting states when you are looking for elite and fast talent. Oklahoma doesn’t have that luxury. Their prestige gets them into the door for most recruits. Oklahoma must recruit Texas as good or even better than the Texas programs.
The dust on this coaching carousal isn’t over, but one thing is for sure is that this years coaching changes could change the landscape of college football for the next decade. I hope your program makes the right move.