While there was very little about this football season that brought smiles to Atlantic Coast Conference faces, at least league officials can breathe easy now that the coaching carousel has pretty much run its course.
The ACC came out unscathed from the post-Thanksgiving bonanza of coaches moving from job to job, which is obviously great news for the conference. With conference realignment scenarios dominating the narrative against since Maryland announced in November it was leaving the ACC, some newsmakers have shoved a stake into the league’s heart. The ACC needs stability more than anything right now, and this development will help on that front.
Nerves weren’t always settled, though.
If you followed certain reports, Al Golden was going to leave Miami for a couple of different jobs, most recently Wisconsin. But he chose to remain at Miami and deal with whatever punishment the NCAA deals the program in the coming months. Perhaps Golden believes once the sanctions subside it will still be easier to win in talent-rich south Florida than in bourbon or cheese country.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was reportedly high on the list of one or two Southeastern Conference schools but he stayed put, too. Auburn is a darn good job, but the Tigers have finished ranked in just seven of the 13 seasons in the 2000s, and went winless in the SEC this past season, just two years after winning the national championship. Florida State is a better job and getting into the eventual NCAA playoff might be easier going through the ACC.
One rumor that ran rampant was that North Carolina head man Larry Fedora was unhappy after one season in Chapel Hill and wanted the Tennessee job, but he never spoke directly to anyone from Tennessee. And despite choosing an odd way of handling the swarm of chatter regarding his connection to the opening, Fedora either didn’t want to carry the tag of a coach who left a program after one season, or he truly believes that UNC is a sleeping giant in football and he’s the man to awaken the Tar Heels.
Even Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris interviewed for two jobs, but will be back in Death Valley for another season.
Morris interviewed with North Carolina State and Texas Tech for their head coaching openings, but he opted to remain at Clemson. His decision makes sense. With Tajh Boyd returning for his senior season under center, and plenty of other skilled talent joining him, the Tigers’ offense should hum like never before – and they’ve shattered records the last two seasons.
A high school coach in Texas just several years ago, Morris interviewed for those gigs for the experience and to find out what’s being offered. Who wouldn’t at least listen if a suitor was willing to give you a promotion with a fat raise? But Morris is already the highest-paid assistant coach in the nation, making $1.3 million, and if Clemson turns in a special season next fall he could get an even better job than the ones that were available over the last month.
Morris recently acknowledged he’s seeking the right fit.
“The one thing I know about this business is you get one shot at it,” Morris said, referring to the opportunities most coaches get running a BCS program. “It has to be on my terms.”
The ACC wasn’t entirely silent. Two major moves should be applauded.
Boston College fired Frank Spaziani and replaced him with what some are dubbing as a carbon copy in Temple coach Steve Addazio. The Owls went 4-7 this past season after going 9-4 in Addazio’s initial campaign, but a move had to be made.
And N.C. State dumped 64-year-old Tom O’Brien and his series of mediocre seasons for 41-year-old North Illinois headman Dave Doeren, who is the only coach to lead a MAC school to a BCS bowl game. N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow refuses to accept the status quo. This move reflects that.
The ACC went 27-21 vs. nonconference opponents in the regular season, including an ugly 6-14 against BCS teams. Only six of its clubs are in bowls and it’s rated No. 7 in the Sagarin rankings.
But the league held on to many of its best and most important coaches, and that’s a collective victory worth celebrating.