Coaches facing the inevitable outcome

sports@macon.comOctober 13, 2012 

It is human nature to procrastinate on the inevitable. We occasionally do it in our own lives. If there’s something that seems bound to happen, particularly something that’s not exactly positive, we sometimes put it off for as long as possible.

It’s often done in college football. Even when we know a head coach is not going to survive, the ending is always dreaded, especially if it’s a coach who has done something good in his time on the job.

Georgia fans have debated all week whether Mark Richt will inevitably be let go. Last week’s loss in Columbia was perhaps the worst of Richt’s career. It was the type of loss that had many wondering if Richt is in over his head.

Richt has been the head coach in Athens for 12 years. It would be one thing if this were Iowa or Oklahoma State. But this is Georgia, a team in the SEC. The Bulldogs have had to watch four teams in their conference win a national championship in each of the past six years.

If Richt can’t get the job done, after all these years, what can save him? He’s a nice guy. People like him. He represents the university well. But he’s paid a ton of money to win championships, and if it doesn’t look like he’s going to be the one to do it, why keep him around?

Others will ask how you could even think about firing a coach who has won two conference titles (albeit the last one was seven years ago) and had seven seasons in which he has won 10 or more games.

Georgia has won five games so far this season. The Bulldogs have games left with Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. You could argue that Florida is the only tough game remaining. So if Richt wins 10 regular-season games again this season, should he be fired?

If Georgia plays like it did last week against South Carolina when it plays Florida, people will want Richt gone no matter what. And what happens if Georgia struggles or even loses one of those other games?

This was supposed to be a very good team, but with an easy schedule it was hard to tell how good it is. We found out last week, and with the history against Florida, not many feel great about what could happen later this month in Jacksonville.

If Georgia fans and the administration doubt whether Richt can ever compete on the big stage, are they just delaying the inevitable? Wins against Buffalo and Missouri are nice, but teams have to show up in a huge game.

Auburn fans have to wonder if a coaching change is in their future. Gene Chizik’s Tigers are awful. Two years after winning a national title, Auburn is 1-5 and might be lucky to win two more.

Could a school actually fire a head coach two years after winning a national championship? Auburn must ask itself if it believes Chizik can pull the program out of this abyss. If not, why delay the inevitable?

Auburn fans never wanted Chizik in the first place. Remember how he was booed when he arrived at the Auburn airport to accept the job? They changed their tune after the Tigers won the title in 2010, but now that the euphoria from that is over, reality is settling in.

Auburn fans know why they won the national championship. It was quarterback Cam Newton, not Chizik, who deserves the credit. Sure, Chizik was the coach, but Newton was the reason the Tigers had the undefeated season.

Chizik was 5-19 in his two years at Iowa State before he left for Auburn. Take away the 14-0 record when Newton led the Tigers and Chizik is 17-15 as Auburn’s head coach. Maybe he’s just not very good. With Alabama looking like the best team in college football, can Auburn afford to wait on Chizik?

In the past 50 years, not many coaches have been fired after winning a title. Some left for a different job; some retired. Usually, winning a title gives a coach a longer leash, even when struggles might hit the team.

Larry Coker was fired five years after leading Miami to a championship in 2001. That was considered unusual. But if Auburn continues to crumble, Chizik won’t last two years past his big season.

Georgia Tech fans might be wondering about Paul Johnson. The Yellow Jackets are 2-4 this season and have gone 16-16 since winning the ACC in 2009. Johnson will be given time to find a new defensive coordinator for next season, but if that doesn’t work and if Georgia Tech can’t start winning bowl games, Johnson’s future might be in jeopardy, as well.

Patience is not a trait southern college football fans have. They want to win now. But sometimes the future is too tough to admit, even if we know what’s going to happen.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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