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  • Penn State has Coke-bottle glasses about JoePa

    Oct. 27, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    National feature | Notebook
    At least Florida had the power to fire its coach.

    Penn State has no such option. The only person who can determine the future employment of Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno. And at last check the 77-year-old was armed with a four-year extension as a foundation for an increasingly obvious stubborn streak.

    SportsLine.com odds
    Florida coaching candidates
    Coach, School Odds
    Steve Spurrier EVEN
    Bobby Petrino, Louisville 2-1
    Butch Davis, Browns (NFL) 3-1
    Urban Meyer, Utah 10-1
    Jeff Tedford, Cal 100-1
    Rick Neuheisel, H.S. $11,000-1
    Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 1 million-1
    The silly season kicked off early Monday with the firing of Ron Zook at Florida. The 2004-05 round of coaching changes apparently won't include the departure of Paterno. What was merely uncomfortable the past couple of seasons could get flat-out embarrassing in Happy Valley.

    Those Coke bottles might help JoePa focus on his world, but they're still blocking his view. Saturday's 6-4 loss to Iowa proved that -- or rather reinforced it. The Nittany Lions have few Big Ten-quality athletes, even fewer playmakers.

    They are 2-5 this season and 5-14 over the past two seasons. In the last four-plus seasons, Penn State has lost 31 games. That's not a blip on the radar, friends, that's a trend. The school lost a total of 22 games in the 1970s, 28 in the 1980s and 26 in the 1990s.

    What little Big Ten talent Paterno does have, he doesn't seem to know what to do with. The coach lashed out at reporters last week after calling quarterback/receiver Michael Robinson "one of the best football players I have ever coached."


    Steve Spurrier is getting in some golf in Florida before a widely anticipated return.(AP)
    "Don't question me," Paterno added.

    Robinson promptly went out and threw two interceptions and fumbled on plays that ended Penn State's final three possessions. Most troubling, and usually a sure sign a coach is in trouble, is thousands of empty seats at Beaver Stadium.

    Apparently, not at Penn State where the school would be firing one of its biggest donors who has ties to bigger donors. That the final score was the same as the first college football game played in 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton, taints those first noble football warriors.

    Back then, didn't each "touchdown" count for a point?

    Considering the issues, jobs, coaches and schools this could be on the most interesting offseasons in recent history. Now that Florida has broken the seal, here the top potential openings in the country ...

    Florida
    He's coming folks. Let's not kid ourselves. TV foofs caught up to Steve Spurrier on the golf course (where else?) Monday in Orlando. That there was no denial of interest spoke volumes.

    "I don't think anything I would say would be appropriate at this time," Spurrier told reporters, wearing his signature visor backwards. But you wouldn't rule it out, he was asked?

    (Brief pause and chuckle) "There will be time to make those statements down the road here a little bit," Spurrier said.

    The Gainesville Sun already has reported Spurrier is interested in coming back. Unless AD Jeremy Foley and president Bernie Machen screw this up, this could be the biggest comeback since Elvis in 1968.

    Over/under on hiring date: Halftime of this week's Georgia-Florida game. Why wait?

    Kentucky
    The loss to Ohio on Oct. 2 was Rich Brooks' version of Ron Zook losing to Mississippi State. Even at a basketball school, you can't lose to a MAC school nicknamed the Bobcats.

    Brooks is 5-14 in his second season at Kentucky and the talent has declined since Hal Mumme and Guy Morriss. The last four games against Mississippi State, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Tennessee are all losable.

    "I'm not quitting," Brooks said denying a report he would at the end of the season.

    Rich, you might not have to quit. Hint, hint.

    Over/under on departure date: Somewhere around the junior-college signing date in early December. The Wildcats need help, now.

    Washington
    Keith Gilbertson was miscast as the guy to save this program that was facing NCAA probation. Pity him when he is fired, because what would you do if the floundering AD came to you three days before fall practice and asked you to take the team? Nah, that's OK, I'm fine with my assistant's salary.

    Gilbertson will get a nice buyout and be on his way down the road to another Pac-10 program. Perhaps, Washington will even keep him as a coordinator. But he can't survive the Huskies first losing season since 1976.

    Urban Meyer will get the first offer but he would be wise to sit tight, take Florida or a big-time Big Ten opening. Washington is going to be a tough rebuilding job.

    Over/under on departure date: Nov. 22, the Monday after the final game against Washington State.

    Syracuse
    Thursday's 27-6 loss to West Virginia had to seal the deal for Paul Pasqualoni.

    "When I hear Syracuse, I think Donovan McNabb first," said West Virginia's Rasheed Marshall, who broke McNabb's Big East quarterback rushing record.

    Since McNabb left after the 1998 season, Syracuse is only 36-31 and has been to two bowls in five seasons.

    Over/under on departure date: Dec. 1. Athletic director Jake Crouthamel won't ax his guy during the season, which could hurt recruiting if Syracuse doesn't send those recruits a message. Florida assistants, their jobs in jeopardy, were on the phones most of the night Monday to recruits.

    Pittsburgh
    Walt Harris' agent Bob LaMonte called out the administration a couple of weeks ago saying his client was being hung out to dry.

    "If they're going to fire him," LaMonte was quoted as saying. "They should have fired him before the season."

    The problem, if it is one, is Harris is teetering between a Big East title and the BCS bowl that goes with it and another Insight Bowl. An Insight might get Harris fired. If Pittsburgh wins the Big East, Harris ought to demand a raise and extension. He makes $600,000 per year through 2006.

    Swing game date: Nov. 13 at Notre Dame. Harris has to win this one to set up the Nov. 25 clash with West Virginia.

    North Carolina
    John Bunting is Ron Zook-in-waiting. AD Dick Baddour would be wise to scribble down a short list right now. The new-look ACC is off the launching pad and the Tar Heels have been left behind. All the Spurrier talk pretty much has quieted down too for obvious reasons.

    Over/under on firing date: Nov. 8 after a home loss to Virginia Tech. Bunting will then finish out the season against Wake and Duke.

    California and Jeff Tedford
    Cal's coach might be too hot for college already, especially if the Bears get to the Rose Bowl in his third season. Tedford's offensive abilities seem a perfect match for the NFL which, let's face it, could use a few less 16-10 games. Remember, the NF of L is a league that Spurrier couldn't conquer.

    Tedford's buyout wouldn't be an issue for the pros. If ground is not broken by Dec. 31, contract language stipulates Tedford can be hired by any other Pac-10 school. He cannot go to another conference school if ground is broken before then.

    His buyout goes from $1 million pre-Dec. 31 to $500,000 pre-Dec. 31, 2005.

    New Cal AD Sandy Barbour all but told the Seattle Times recently the school is not going to meet those deadlines.

    "We need to make sure we're being prudent," she said. "I'm not really worried about that (deadline). With the steps we're taking now, we're making it clear to everyone that we're serious and moving forward."

    The school apparently is still looking for a major donor in the $20 million-$25 million range to jump-start Cal's dramatic upgrade.

    Over/under date on jumping to the NFL: Jan. 1, 2005

    Illinois
    Ron Turner has been under fire because of an 8-24 record since Illinois won the Big Ten in 2001. Known as a developer of quarterbacks, Turner's only prodigy has been the long-departed Kurt Kittner. Oklahoma offensive coordinator Chuck Long, Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris and Boise State's Dan Hawkins have been mentioned.

    Over/under on firing date: Dec. 2, the day after Pasqualoni gets it.

    Rick Neuheisel
    The wild card is just about every job that is going to open up. Early indications are The Slick One is itching to get back into the biz (his current high school doesn't count). Meanwhile, he's preparing for a lawsuit against Washington that goes to trial in January.

    Odds of being employed next season: 2-5

    UNLV
    Almost lost in the shuffle is John Robinson stepping down after this season. UNLV has targeted Boise State's Dan Hawkins. Dream on, Fightin' Tarkanians.

    Two years ago, Hawkins turned down Oregon State. If he leaves, it wouldn't be a mid-major where college football is about the 10th-best draw in town behind the nine newest gentlemen's clubs to open up.

    Odds of getting a big-game coach to replace JR: Harrah's opened this week at 10-1.

Related Topics

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  • DJRamFan
    Schnellenberger building a fourth power in Florida
    by DJRamFan
    Sept. 23, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer

    Why not flip a coin to pick a starting quarterback?

    Howard Schnellenberger had done wackier things in his career. Twenty years ago it seemed like he was throwing that career away. Miami had won the national championship in 1983 and Schnellenberger, the celebrated architect of Hurricanes football, bolted -- try not to laugh -- to the USFL.

    Needless to say, that didn't work out. There was an inspiring stop at Louisville and a disappointing one at Oklahoma but, really, his career arc was never the same again.

    "In my opinion, he might have as many championships as anybody, ever (if he stayed at Miami)," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's crossed my mind many times."

    So why not flip that coin three years ago? How is that more outrageous than creating a football program at an unknown campus in Boca Raton, Fla.? A place where the burrowing owls on campus were the inspiration for the school's nickname?

    Or agreeing to go door-to-door soliciting community leaders for the mere $15 million needed to go from germ of an idea to kickoff?

    Really, it wasn't weird at all for the 70-year old who, well, let's just say he still has extreme confidence in his abilities. So, yeah, it really was Schnellenberger who suggested in 2001 that freshman quarterbacks Jared Allen and Garrett Jahn flip a coin to start the first game in Florida Atlantic's history.

    "They were too close for a human being to call so God called it," Schnellenberger said this week, considering his latest construction project. "Certainly I would do that. Why wouldn't I?"

    Ridiculous is sublime again in Schnellenberger's world. Amid this season's talking points -- hurricanes, instant replay, kickers who can't kick -- is the job Schnellie has done at that owl-laden commuter campus of 13,000 students in Palm Beach County.

    Three victories, all on the road, all against I-A competition in Florida Atlantic's final season before joining the big time, which in this case is the Sun Belt Conference in 2005. Next year, this college football IPO will be eligible for -- please stifle your laughter again -- a bowl.

    All of it after playing organized college football for all of four years. All of it according to plan.

    "He was basically semi-retired in Miami selling municipal bonds," said Dr. Anthony Catanese, the man who hired Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic in 1998. "I said, 'That's not the place for Howard Schnellenberger.'

    "He told me in five years he'd have this program nationally recognized. He did it in three."

    Almost all of it has been done with kids from the state of Florida who couldn't go to one of the Big Three -- Miami, Florida or Florida State....
    -09-23-2004, 01:14 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Gundy, Stillwater run deep with optimism for OSU football
    by DJRamFan
    Feb. 14, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    STILLWATER, Okla. -- This is what a couple of victories over Oklahoma will get you ...


    Interest from a millionaire donor.
    Interest in your coach.
    Interest in getting better?
    Oklahoma State is in the business of answering that question -- again. It's a common one in Stillwater, where rookie Mike Gundy is the fourth coach since crippling NCAA sanctions tore OSU football apart in 1988.


    QB Donovan Woods will have the spotlight next year. (Getty Images)
    Its perpetual starting point is being the other program in the state, seldom dealing from a position of strength. On its own campus, Eddie Sutton consistently fields a top 10 basketball program. OSU football constantly fights for recruits, attention and victories against that national power 90 minutes down the road.

    Ah, that's where the Cowboys can claim some progress. Quick, name the only school to beat Oklahoma more than once since the beginning of the 2000 season.

    Yep, Oklahoma State, which has won two of the past four meetings and five of the past 10.

    "Our staff, in my honest opinion, does a great job of game-planning them," said Gundy, who ascended from offensive coordinator to replace Les Miles on Jan. 3. "We challenge them. We go after them. Some teams go out there and say, 'Let's get this over with.' Our players go right after them."

    Sooners everywhere have about eight months to let those words soak in. Until then, I-A's youngest coach (Gundy is 37) is brash enough to keep crowing. Miles wasn't shy about the subject while leading the program out of a decade-long malaise before departing for LSU. While his record wasn't spectacular (28-21), his organizational skills and game-planning were outstanding.

    Ask Oklahoma. A going-nowhere Cowboys team beat the No. 4 Sooners in Norman 16-13 in 2001, Miles' first season. They did it again the next year, winning 38-28 against a team ranked No. 3.

    Based largely on those two results, LSU swept in and hired Miles, the only coach to guide Oklahoma State to three consecutive bowls. Also based on those victories, Oklahoma State quickly replaced him with Gundy. Millionaire T. Boone Pickens was already on board, having given a combined $200 million to the school and athletic department.

    Mike Gundy file
    A brief history of Oklahoma State's new coach:
    Birthdate: Aug. 12, 1967 (youngest I-A coach)
    Wife: Kristen
    Children: Gavin, Gunnar, Gage
    School: Oklahoma State
    Playing experience: Four-year starter at quarterback, 1986-89; still holds school career passing record (7,997 yards)
    Coaching experience: assistant Oklahoma State, 1990-1995; Baylor, 1996; Maryland,...
    -02-18-2005, 07:48 AM
  • DJRamFan
    ronzookclassypickupforillinois.com
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 1, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    CHICAGO -- Ron Zook knows his place in college football history. One of the most famous URLs in college football history is still only a couple of keystrokes away.


    Ron Zook brings a .621 winning percentage to Illinois after guiding the Gators to 7-4 in his final season. (Getty Images)
    fireronzook.com

    "I took off from New Orleans, and before I landed in Gainesville, they had that," Zook said reminiscing (sort of) Monday at the Big Ten preseason media days. "(Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Bill Cowher told me, 'Man, you screwed this game up. Now everybody has 'Fire Bill Cowher.'

    "I said that's my legacy to coaching."

    Pretty much. For now. The infamous website now exists only to proclaim "VICTORY" in huge headline type through a doctored front page. Dwight Eisenhower is smiling out from a picture on A1, as if to suggest a battle of World War II proportions had been won.

    The going-out-of business-sale for fireronzook.com gear ($9.99 for the thong panties, who knew?) is supposedly concluded. The site, in case you're wondering, supports the hiring of Urban Meyer and proclaims Saturdays are worth waking up for again, "with a Bloody Mary, of course."

    Coaches have been fired, run out of town and disgraced, but seldom all three, and practically never with a .621 winning percentage.

    Just so you know where this column is heading.

    What could have been called ronzookfiresback.com debuted Monday -- Zook, the new Illinois coach, taking some not-so-veiled shots at his old employers. Which was great. It's about time. The guy who delivered more filibusters than big victories at Florida isn't a boob or a fool. He's merely the latest guy-to-follow-the-guy, that unfortunate cradle of coaches that counts Bill Guthridge, Gary Gibbs and Gene Bartow among its exclusive group.

    In order, those three followed legends Dean Smith, Barry Switzer and John Wooden. Zook followed The OBC (Ol' Ball Coach), the Florida icon who won six SEC titles and a national championship. No, he wasn't athletic director Jeremy Foley's first choice. No, he had no head coaching experience. And yes, frz.com was literally fired up and running before he left the New Orleans Saints to touch down in Gainesville.

    But ...

    "What did you want me to do, tell them no?" Zook said.

    Exactly. What would you do if a super-rich major-college power dumped its football program in your lap? Delivered you from life of assistant coach servitude? Gave you that one chance that 99 percent of coaches never get?

    "People say, 'Why would you follow Steve Spurrier?'" Zook said....
    -08-02-2005, 01:31 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Spurrier excited about SEC revival with Gamecocks
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 28, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    COLUMBIA, S.C. -- You really can't believe he's 60. On a random offseason weekday, Steve Spurrier is bounding around his office like a kid in Toys R Us.


    South Carolina fans hope Steve Spurrier can do for them what he did for Florida. (Getty Images)
    "Have you seen Cocky?" Spurrier says, flipping on the switch of a two-foot replica of the South Carolina mascot that begins dancing across a ledge.

    "I was lucky on the hair genes," he remarks after a reference to his perfectly coifed hair helmet that looks like it has been preserved since he won the Heisman in 1966 -- as a dashing senior.

    You simply can't believe he's 60. A doctor checked Spurrier's heart last year during his year off from football. It looked better than in 2003, his last year with the Washington Redskins. What was he doing different? Relaxing. Well, that and a new interest in the StairMaster.

    "It gets you huffin' and puffin'," says the smiling man who used to eat quarterbacks for lunch, even when they followed instructions.

    Lunch was served again in the spring. Spurrier, you see, reads everything. Not many people know that about him. Newspapers, TV, Internet. He likes to keep track of the condition of the program.

    After a scrimmage, quarterbacks Blake Mitchell and Antonio Heffner were asked how they thought they did. "Pretty good," they were basically quoted as saying.

    "You call that, 'pretty good?'" he shot back next time the three came together.

    Spurrier sat down his quarterbacks and showed them a film of Florida's 54-17 victory at South Carolina in 2001. Rex Grossman threw for 302 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Gators scored the last 44 points of the game.

    "It was a game we never punted," Spurrier said. "Now that's pretty good, not hitting one out of three. You guys have to understand what playing well means."

    This is the Spur Dog in full. At an age when a lot of men are counting the days to retirement, Spurrier is counting the days toward the opener in his new job.

    "Sometimes as a young coach in your 30s, you're trying to act like you're 45," Spurrier said. "When you get to be above 60 or so, you want to act like you're 45. Health-wise I feel like I can do more than I did at 45. Hopefully my mind is still as good as it was then.

    "I think it is."


    Consider that a warning shot. The college football world is on the edge of its cleats, waiting for The Tao of Steve to return to the game. That opener against Central Florida is now three days away. National television is moving...
    -08-29-2005, 05:07 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Changing of the guard: Rating the new hires
    by DJRamFan
    Jan. 19, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    Now that the desks have been cleaned out and offices redecorated, time to rate the coaching hires:

    1. Urban Meyer, Florida

    The shocker of the season in the college game's changing-spaces industry. Notre Dame thought it had Meyer wrapped up, then had to scramble.

    Meyer liked Florida all along, and he seems a natural fit. Coming off an undefeated season, his boss is the former Utah president. He is young and with a little bit of Spurrier in him. Look for the Gators to rise again in the SEC East.

    Came from: Utah.

    Best-case scenario: Meyer molds some of the best existing talent in the country into an SEC champion.

    Worst-case scenario: The spread option doesn't translate to quarterback Chris Leak's style. But that might be making too big a deal out of the offense that suited Alex Smith. Doesn't every coach adjust to his personnel?

    2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina


    Steve Spurrier takes over for retired Lou Holtz at South Carolina. (Getty Images)
    This is a can't-lose hire. By his mere presence, Spurrier raises the profile of a mediocre program.

    He'll surround himself with great assistants and re-shape the offense, and the Game****s will challenge Spur Dog's old team for SEC East supremacy, though not this year.

    Came from: The golf course.

    Best-case scenario: Game****s become a consistent bowl team and challenge for the division title every few years.

    Worst-case scenario: Thirty-one other coaches have tried in 108 years of South Carolina football and produced exactly 11 bowl teams. Does the word "curse" come to mind?

    3. Ed Orgeron, Mississippi

    First, let's make this clear. Firing David Cutcliffe was a mistake. One year removed from a 10-victory season, the administration was way too impatient in getting rid of one of the game's best offensive coaches.

    That being said, Coach O was a great replacement. This native son of the South is a master recruiter and knows how to scheme a defense. Orgeron's personality and recruiting ability should quickly get the Rebels competitive in the SEC again.

    Came from: USC as defensive line coach.

    Best-case scenario: Mississippi's best players stay in state, flocking around one of the best recruiters in the business.

    Worst-case scenario: There are no Mike Pattersons or Shaun Codys among them.

    4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

    The logical choice after Les Miles left for LSU. Gundy was Barry Sanders' quarterback, guiding one of the best offenses in the past quarter century.

    More important, Gundy wants to be in Stillwater and knows the...
    -01-20-2005, 08:08 AM
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