A handful of college football coaches have been given their pink slips as the regular season comes to a close.
Teams will be looking to find the next hot head coach candidate like Scott Frost and Matt Campbell at Nebraska and Iowa State, respectively.
Kansas and North Carolina went a different route from the up and coming mid-major coach and hired two of the most successful coaches of the 2000s.
Kansas football has been poor for much of the program’s history. A few blips here and there were part of the football team before Mark Mangino took over in 2002. Mangino helped turn the Jayhawks into a more respectable team and coached the team in a breakout 12-1 season in 2007. He resigned two years later following the controversy surrounding his behavior toward players, including telling former wide receiver Raymond Brown that he would send the player back to St. Louis so he can be “shot with his homies” if he did not be quiet. Kansas has won 18 games since he left.
Instead of going after an up and coming coach like Troy’s Neal Brown, the Jayhawks hired Les Miles. Miles has had success in the past as the head coach at Oklahoma State and LSU, finishing with a record of 141-55, including a national championship in 2007 and a runner-up finish in 2011, but the “Mad Hatter” fell out of the good graces with LSU fans and was fired four games into the 2016 season following losses to Wisconsin and Auburn.
Miles is not a bad coach but is he the right fit for Kansas? LSU consistently had some of the best recruiting classes and has produced numerous NFL stars but the offense seemed to fall flat at times.
In a league like the Big 12 that has given the NFL two of the brightest young stars in Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, can Miles and his staff recruit an effective quarterback to Lawrence and put together an offense that can compete with the likes of the rest of the high powered Big 12?
If Miles puts together a strong staff, he might be able to have success. Will Kansas churn out more 12-1 seasons like 2007 with Miles? Probably not, but it could happen. If Miles surrounds himself with a strong staff and fans are content with the results, a consistent six to eight wins a season for Miles and the Jayhawks should be something fans of the program should embrace.
The best way for Miles to succeed will be to build a strong staff. Miles and KU should embrace the CEO head coaching role that has worked for other teams. Arizona State did it this past season with Herm Edwards and the team was a pleasant surprise after many expected the team to be a disaster. Miles doesn’t have to run the offense. He can let a strong coordinator run the offense and a strong defensive coordinator take care of the defense with Miles overseeing it from a top-down perspective. He obviously still can overrule the other coaches, but he just has to keep the team afloat. Dabo Swinney does a similar thing with Clemson and the Tigers are one of the top dogs in college football. Another coach that did that with success was Mack Brown during his success at Texas.
Speaking of Brown, he was also part of the surprising hires in his return to North Carolina. Brown originally coached the Tar Heels from 1988 to 1997 before leaving for the Texas job. Brown was 69-46-1 including 10-2 and 10-1 records in his final two seasons. He also saw success in his first 12 years at Texas including the 2005 national championship in the thrilling Rose Bowl victory over USC, a game considered one of the greatest ever.
Texas continued the success with Colt McCoy as the quarterback from 2006 to 2009, including a 13-0 start and a birth in the BCS national championship game against Alabama in 2009. McCoy would get hurt leading to a Longhorns loss and Texas was never the same.
Brown retired after the 2013 season and spent the previous five seasons on ESPN. Brown’s run at Texas from 1998 to 2009 was stellar, including 10 wins or more every year from 2001 on, but Texas never could recover after McCoy graduated despite being in arguably the strongest hotbed of talent in Texas.
Texas missed on future star college and pro quarterbacks with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck heading elsewhere. Obviously, Texas cannot get them all, but missing out on some big names like that hurt the team in the long run. Brown’s success also came from his CEO approach during the success with assistants like Gene Chizik and Will Muschamp both having success as the Texas defensive coordinators before moving on to head coaching jobs elsewhere. The Longhorns fell off at the end of Brown’s tenure as the spread offenses continue to innovate more and more and leaves questions on how Brown’s second tenure will go at UNC. While Bill Snyder has had success in his return to Kansas State, the Wildcats are starting to fall off and Snyder’s time in Manhattan could be near an end. Other schools also rehired old coaches who saw success with their program in the initial tenure include Bobby Petrino at Louisville and Randy Edsall at Connecticut. Both are coming off disastrous seasons in 2018 where Lamar Jackson continues to look better and better as Louisville was horrendous without the Heisman quarterback. Petrino was fired before the season ended. Edsall returned to the Huskies in 2017 and this year’s team allowed the most yards and points in FBS history in their 1-11 record. North Carolina has not been good over the past two seasons so a Mack Brown disaster could also be on the way for UNC fans and the once respected coach could soon be on his way out of Chapel Hill if he doesn’t get a strong staff to help the team rebuild after a 5-18 record in the last two seasons. A strong staff could help the team bounce back, but with his time away from the game and the current build of this team, it seems unlikely and another retired coach will soon be let go after a poor choice to return to the sidelines.
But hey, at least both these schools can still look forward to basketball right?
Luke Peterson is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org