By Kevin McGuire
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but that is rarely the case for a college football head coach. While the final shopping days before Christmas are dwindling, this is the time of year when some coaches find themselves looking for a new job. The annual college football coaching carousel has been in full swing for a few weeks now, but the weekend saw a couple of new vacancies open up, at Texas and Army.
On Saturday, Texas head coach Mack Brown announced his resignation, bringing an end to a 16-year tenure as head coach of the Longhorns. During his time as head coach, Brown awakened a sleeping giant of a football program, although at times Texas fell shy of expectations. Brown did lead Texas to a pair of Big 12 championships and a BCS championship to cement his legacy as a success in Austin, even if the giant started to lull into a slumber in recent years. The time for a chance at Texas had come, even if it meant forcing Brown out the door. Years from now, there will rarely be a bad word said about Brown and his job done with the Longhorns, but with college football ready to move into the College Football Playoff era, programs like Texas cannot afford to get off to a slow start.
Turning Texas around should not take too much effort if the right coach is brought on board. The resources available paired with the recruiting grounds in the state of Texas should see the Longhorns make a quick swing back to the top of the Big 12, if the right coach is hired.
It is important to remember that the big name hire is not always the right hire for a school. While Texas can certainly afford any coach on the wish list, keeping realistic expectations during this coaching search is critical. Forget about any successful head coach from the NFL. The NFL is the top level for a coach and any coach who has proven himself at that level should see coaching at the college level, even at a program like Texas, as a step down. Super Bowl-winning coaches don’t go back to college in this day and age. Mike Tomlin? Jim Harbaugh? Sean Payton? Forget about it. Assistant coaches are a different conversation though.
The situation at Army is quite a different tale. Where Texas has the ability to print money to support their program, the United States Military Academy is in a different world. The potential to succeed is barely in the foggy distance at West Point, and the bar for success is much different than it is for Texas. While Texas leaders will expect Big 12 titles and playoff runs in the coming years, Army will start with simply defeating Navy.
A 12th straight loss to the Midshipmen ended up being the end of the line for Army head coach Rich Ellerson, who had lost his five Army vs Navy games. Navy defeated Ellerson’s Black Knights 34-7 in Philadelphia on Saturday, and he was let go as head coach the following day after retuning to campus. The writing had been on the wall for a program that has struggled to play at the same level as Navy over the years. For Army, the measuring stick continues to be its sea-bound rivals from Annapolis and the program just has not measured up.
Where Army goes from here will be overshadowed by the search going on in Austin, and the domino effect it could easily start depending on who gets hired. Army will not be on the search for a big name hire, but finding a coach who understands the military commitments and routines of the program will be necessary to start chipping away at Navy’s recent dominance. Army will never be a dominant force in college football the way Texas can be, but both programs have a special place in college football’s history. Seeing them each reach their expectations is capable if the right coach is brought in.
Success will begin to be measured at each program by restoring the pride from within.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.