By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
BROOKLYN -- Five coaches were at the center of five different types of embarrassments since November, and if any of their colleagues owns a television, then there's no excuse for such missteps to be repeated in the near future.
Most recently, Urban Meyer's family-first flip-flop initially turned the college football world upside down. Many admired the strength of a high-profile sports figure to swallow a dose of perspective and step down while at the top of his game.
Then Meyer slept on it, supervised a sizzling Gators workout and had a change of heart. Perhaps his family isn't as important to him as he'd stated just the night before.
Three weeks ago, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly surprised nobody when he left the 12-0 Bearcats to take the job he'd long coveted at Notre Dame. After being named as a possible Charlie Weis replacement since early in the 2008 season, the usually PR-savvy Kelly had plenty of time to devise a healthy exit strategy. And even though Cincinnati fans couldn't blame him for taking arguably the best opportunity in coaching, they'll all agree that Kelly could have handled that situation far better than he did.
Also around that time, Florida State decided once and for all that Bobby Bowden was not going to return for another season. The school that once had no chair in the musical world of college football eventually kept a seat at its head table for most of Bowden's 34 years in Tallahassee. But the last few seasons were disappointing by the standards FSU had set for itself ... thanks to no one more than Bowden.
Bowden caught plenty of criticism -- much of it deserved -- for not knowing when to step down on his own, but he wanted to keep coaching and the university that he helped make rich finally pushed him out the door. No ceremony, no formal announcement that would end with ovations, tears and hugs. Just a press release handed out at the weekly news conference. Stay classy, T.K. Wetherell.
That same week, Mark Mangino, who made Kansas football matter in the Big 12 in recent years, resigned two weeks after the school announced publicly that it would investigate charges that the coach physically and verbally abused some of his players.
Now I have no problem with old-school, Bobby Knight-style discipline. There used to be a time when a coach was able to grab or push a player to emphasize a point. But this is 2009 and our soft culture no longer allows for that, and some of the things Mangino is alleged to have said were about as classy as, well, T.K. Wetherell's absence from Bobby Bowden's final press conference.
If you want proof that it's difficult to be a disciplinarian, just ask South Florida coach Jim Leavitt. Bulls administrators began an investigation into his conduct recently after a player's father told AOL Fanhouse that Leavitt physically abused his son. But the player in question, Joel Miller, told ESPN that Leavitt didn't hurt him.
"He only grabbed my shoulder pads to motivate me," Miller told Joe Schad. After Miller was quoted in the ESPN.com report, his father backed off his own original comments.
And who will forget Tommy West's November meltdown? At his farewell press conference, the Memphis coach pleaded for better support and encouragement from the school, its fans and even the local media. Sure coaching can be rough and you are under the microscope, but isn't that the nature of the business? Your generous contract typically brings certain expectations, and if you don't meet them, you get fired. To West's credit, he did take the Tigers to five bowl games in six years, so perhaps West was hoping for some leniency. Which of course he did not get.
What lessons can be learned here? Other than "Don't get into coaching," I'd say the rules that apply to life also apply in coaching. Be honest, mean what you say, do your best and keep things in perspective. Pretty simple, right?