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Stomach churning season for coaches

It's that season again. I'm not talking about basketball season, hockey, the NFL playoffs, or even college football-recruiting season. All of those are just, uh, so mundane. I'm talking about the season of the football-coaching carousel. As usual, every December and January, we see coaches from the NFL all the way down to the high school level either being thrown on the merry-go-round or jumping on upon their own volition.

We heard Nick Saban, formerly of Michigan State by way of LSU and the Miami Dolphins; say for two weeks that he was not going to Alabama. Meanwhile, Alabama was turned down by West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. Who turns down Alabama to stay at West Virginia? Anyway, Alabama was so embarrassed that they put out word they would pay Saban $5 million per year.

When it came to fruition, Saban decided that he did not like losing in the NFL, so he did go to Alabama, but for "only" a reported $4 million per year.

He seemed willing to let the Crimson Tide off easy as long as he would still be the highest paid coach in college football. Talk about an ego.

Here in Georgia, the Atlanta Falcons quickly axed Jim Mora, Jr., when it became apparent he wasn't the man to lead Michael Vick to the player's tunnel, much less to victory.

When fans heckled Vick, Mora's advice apparently was to tell him to flash them his IQ. Mora also said he was just kidding a few weeks ago when he said he would rather be coaching his old school team, the Washington Huskies. Did he forget that he already had a job and the Huskies already had a coach?

Falcons' owner Arthur Blank hired Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, going against the new notion that college coaches can't succeed in the NFL. The other candidates were offensive or defensive coordinators from other NFL teams. That sounded a lot like the Mora hire from three years ago, and Blank wanted to avoid a rerun. He couldn't steal another NFL head coach like Bill Cowher because it would have cost the Falcons some draft choices.

I wonder how many draft picks Alabama had to give to the Dolphins.

There is usually a bunch of high school jobs open in Georgia every winter, but they won't all start to pop until the next few weeks. That's when one or two of the more prominent positions get filled and the shuffle will begin full speed. When a couple of coaches move, it always creates a domino effect.

In our area, Burke County is expected to name a new coach this week. When that happens, the school that finds itself without a coach will then get into the hunt. The scramble will then be on. The high school carousel usually spins hard and fast all the way through March and April. Many schools don't start to worry until spring practice gets within sniffing distance.

This circus ride doesn't just affect head coaches. The lowly assistants - who make pocket change in the $200,000 range at the college level and an extra month's pay in high school - also get involved.

LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher's name has been prominently mentioned for more jobs than any of the big name head coaches. Ever since Florida State paid Jeff Bowden $537,000 to quit as their offensive coordinator, Internet gossip said they were going after Fisher. Bobby Bowden withdrew an offer to Fisher one day and turned around and hired him the next.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham wanted Fisher as their head coach, but their board of trustees said he wanted too much money. Fisher was also mentioned as a prospect for Louisiana Tech before they hired Derek Dooley.

My suspicion is that, like Saban, Fisher was holding out for top dollar from wherever he could get it. Who can blame him?

Many years ago when I dabbled along as a high school assistant coach, this was the time of year that made my stomach churn. Moving three times in seven years will do that to some folks.

Nick Saban is obviously not one of them. He gets paid plenty to ride the merry-go-round.

Web posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007

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