Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2007

BCS success sometimes comes at a price

August 18, 2007


Making a BCS bowl was a great deal for Utah - and for Florida, which celebrated the Utes' success by hiring away their coach.

Louisville overcame injuries and adversity to finally hit the big-time, the Orange Bowl. For a game against ... Wake Forest?

And who will ever forget Boise State's incredible comeback against Oklahoma last season in the Fiesta Bowl? Certainly none of those Boise State fans.

For all the hype these big trips to the BCS create, many schools are finding there are other byproducts of hitting the big-time. The schools often find themselves saying goodbye to their good, young coaches or paying more to keep them. Sometimes, the supposed recruiting bump associated with big bowl games never comes. Then, there are the sometimes unrealistic expectations that come with winning.

"Fans want you to win and win now," said Chuck Neinas, the longtime director of the College Football Association who now heads a search firm for schools looking for new football coaches and athletic directors.

"We're in an age of instant gratification," Neinas said. "So, they see you went undefeated. They don't know how many things have to bounce the right way for a team to go undefeated."

In the end, Neinas says any team going to a BCS game will get a net benefit, though often only a mere fraction of those much-ballyhooed $13 million BCS payoffs actually end up in the school's coffers.

Most conferences have deals in place to split bowl money evenly among all members, with a little more going toward the school that makes it, though that's normally used to cover expenses.

"We did have enough money to go to the Orange Bowl and give our fans and our alumni an unbelievable time," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said. "You can't put a price tag on that."

Louisville also has plans of expanding its stadium to 63,000, a project on hold for approval from the state Legislature.

"The last decade, Louisville football has been a great story," Jurich said. "It's taken off like a rocket ship."

Accordingly, the Cardinals' coach took off to a more lucrative job. Less than a week after Louisville's 24-13 victory in one of the least-anticipated Orange Bowls in history, Bob Petrino announced he was leaving for the Atlanta Falcons.

"I was certainly committed to the University of Louisville and staying there," Petrino said shortly after he jumped. "I did not go out and seek any other jobs and did not go make a phone call to any NFL teams, and then this came up."

Not wanting to lose any momentum on the recruiting scene or elsewhere, Louisville hired Steve Kragthorpe within 48 hours.

"I think Bobby was going to go no matter what," Jurich said. "He had aspirations beyond college football, and I think he would have taken the opportunity regardless of where he was."

There was some speculation Jim Grobe might leave Wake Forest, as well, after he led the Demon Deacons to their first conference title in a generation.

Instead, he signed an extension through 2016, terms of which were not disclosed, though it is widely believed he got some kind of raise.

"After the season, certainly more people were interested in us," Grobe said. "They thought our players were maybe a little better than they had thought of them in the past, and they thought our coaching staff wasn't quite as dumb as they thought we were."

In this sport, however, often you're only as smart as your last game. Utah became the first team from outside the big six conferences to crack the BCS in 2004, but things haven't been the same since Urban Meyer coached the Utes to a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the season undefeated.

Some other examples of schools that didn't exactly prosper in their post-BCS glow:

  • Stanford, which made the Rose Bowl at the end of the 1999 season, has since lost Ty Willingham, fired his two successors and suffered through a 1-11 season last year.
  • Illinois made the Sugar Bowl in 2001. The senior class that signed on the coattails of that big victory went 2-9, and the coach who recruited the class, Ron Turner, has been replaced by Ron Zook.
  • Washington played in the 2001 Rose Bowl and has gone 29-42 since.
  • Colorado made it to the Big 12 title game three times after its surprise conference title and trip to the Fiesta Bowl in 2001. The Buffs lost all three, including a 70-3 thumping to Texas that triggered the end of Gary Barnett's tumultuous tenure.

"We're always close, but there's a danger in that," said Dan Hawkins, who was hired to replace Barnett. "I always tell people, you don't want to be close to having a good marriage, you don't want to be close to graduating. Nobody wants to be close. You can be close, but you've got to seal the deal."


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