Pelini joins Mack, Kiffen at firing squad

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 9.44.52 PMMack Brown and Bo Pelini may have replaced Lane Kiffen as College Coach on the Hottest Seats.  What the three have in common:  each coaches at one of the most tradition-filled college football programs in the country and each is not performing up to the tradition.

All last week, Kiffen of Southern Cal could have used a NASCAR driver’s fireproof suit, so hot was the furniture he was sitting on.  He gave the impression of being totally out of touch with his players, as he denied the team held a players-only meeting that several players told the media they had held.

The Trojans’ star player, receiver Marqis Lee, faced Los Angeles television cameras and began a sentence with, “Kiffen don’t know. .  .”

The comment was as horrifying to Kiffen as it was to Lee’s English teacher, as it suggested a lack of respect and even a lack of interest in the head coach.  If the coach didn’t know, why didn’t Lee and cohorts inform him?

Then came this not reassuring comment from USC athletics director Pat Haden:  “We support our coaches until they’re no longer our coaches.”

In other words, we support our coaches until we fire them.

But before the conflagration raged out of control, Kiffen’s players, for whatever reasons, rescued him with a 35-7 romp over Boston College.  So the temperature lowers a bit for Kiffen.

While Mack Brown sweats more than ever in Austin, where his players provided a very different sort of support, falling 44-23 to Mississippi.

If a game as one-sided as that can have a turning point, it might have come as the third quarter ended with Jeff Scott returning a punt 73 yards, past Texas defenders falling like dominoes.  It looked as if they had never been taught how to tackle.

How restless are the natives?  Brown was booed in the fourth quarter when he appeared on the jumbotron screen delivering a public service announcement.

Earlier in the week, Brown had fired his defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz, and replaced him with an old hand, Greg Robinson.  It was probably too much to expect Robinson to reorganize the defense in three or four days.

But Texas fans had hoped for something besides lay-down-your-arms surrender.  My god, some protested, their ancestors put up a better fight at Goliad.

And the Longhorns players had hoped for a coaching staff that could make tactical adjustments to meet the fury of the Ole Miss attack.  After the game, Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks, who may be the closest the team has to a good football player, faulted the coaches for not making these adjustments.

Brown is reduced to pleading with Longhorn fans to show up for the upcoming game against Big Twelve champion Kansas State.  “Come and support the kids,” he said, sounding as if he’s given up on them supporting him or their university in general.

Meanwhile, Austin sports blog posted a report that DeLoss Dodds, Texas athletics director, will retire at the end of the year.  His contract, at $1.1 million per, runs through 2015, but the blog said he will continue at that salary as a consultant.  His advice has to be worth something, as UT under his leadership is the most profitable athletics department in the country.

Dodds and just about everyone who knows him firmly denied the Orangebloods story, which lacks corroboration and seems to be nothing more than an educated guess.

But it’s likely to turn out as a good guess.  Dodds is 74, and many Longhorn boosters see the perfect way out of their mess is for him to step down and for Brown to step upstairs to the AD office.

Then there could be a new head coach.

And maybe also a new one at Nebraska.

Pelini has been wounded, perhaps mortally, by the unfortunate timing of two seemingly unrelated blows.

On the same weekend in which his team blew an 18-point lead to lose by 20 to UCLA on national TV, a tape recording was distributed by the website in which Pelini is heard complaining about Nebraska’s “fair-weather fans.”

Never mind that Pelini was talking OFF-AIR and presumably untaped after a frustrating loss.  Never mind that this tape is two years old.  And never mind that when the tape came out, Pelini acted promptly to issue a thorough apology.

Never mind all that, Cornhusker Nation reacted with outrage over his mistake.

University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said tersely, “We are taking some time to consider it and what impact it would have on the university.”

Yeah, well, one impact it might have is to cause some major donors to cut back on their donations – the same sort of fears – though unexpressed publicly – that University of Texas administrators have about Brown.

But unlike Brown, Pelini has never won a national championship.  Nor has he built the sort of national media recognition and universal goodwill that the Texas coach has earned.

Pelini’s AD, Shawn Eichorst, strained to be less supportive than Haden was of Kiffen.

Eichorst said he was “disheartened and disappointed” by the 2011 tape.  He added that both he and the chancellor “addressed the situation with Bo and expressed our deep concern.”

All offensive and defensive coordinators looking for promotion should get their resumes up to date and ready to mail.  Nebraska appears as open to change as Texas and Southern California.


head of a match starting to burnWarming Up:  Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Schiano’s problem is he doesn’t get along with either his starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, or his team’s star defender, cornerback Darrelle Reavis.

Reavis, the most treasured free-agent prize of the offseason, is not happy with the way he’s being employed.  He’s the sport’s finest man-on-man pass defender, but at Tampa he’s no longer Revis Island, taking care of half the football field.  No, in Schiano’s system he’s just responsible for a small area of a complex zone defense.

This is like telling Einstein all we want you to do is teach high school math.

This was basically the strategy the Philadelphia Eagles used to very poor effect on Nnamdi Asomugha.  The Eagles took a player who at the time was the sport’s second-best cover corner (behind Revis), and they proceeded to squeeze him into a narrow zone and minimize him.

That was the beginning of the end for head coach Andy Reed’s coaching career in Philadelphia.  Perhaps not the pattern Schiano wants to follow.

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