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Coaching Carousel Spins And Spins

The coaching carousel in college football is quite active this year. With bigger dollars comes more pressure to win, and coaches can be changed instantly by those willing to pay.

One example is Auburn, which fired Gene Chizik two years after winning the national championship and still owing him $7.5 million. This is on top of still paying his predecessor, Tommy Tuberville, $4.6 million.

Of course, archival Alabama’s success makes Auburn fans and boosters even more desperate to be competitive, and they have the money to make the attempt. And it’s not hard to see why many coaches leap to change jobs, especially when there is a huge jump in salary and conference.

When Sonny Dykes has a great year (9-3) at Louisiana Tech and the administration turns down a bowl bid because of cost, it was an easy call to take the job at California, where a great year gets you in the Rose Bowl, not to mention a seven-figure salary. Or when Northern Illinois coach Dave Doehren skips to North Carolina State – that’s a big step up to the ACC from the MAC.

But some of the changes leave you scratching your head and wondering if coaches are using interest from schools just to drive their current schools into more ferocious spending. That seems to have been the case when LSU coach Les Miles and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops were talking to Arkansas. And on the face of it, Wisconsin’s Brett Bielema actually taking the Arkansas job seemed surprising. Not only was he the hand-picked successor to Barry Alvarez and living in beautiful Madison, where he had just led the Badgers to a third straight Rose Bowl, he also was competing in the more-manageable Big Ten. Why descend into the gutter brawl of the SEC, where Arkansas has to compete in the same division as perennial powers Alabama and South Carolina?

For that answer you have to dig a little deeper. Arkansas is not only paying Bielema $3.2 million per, but is backing up the Brinks truck for assistant coaches’ salaries. Bielema was said to be unhappy with Wisconsin’s frugality when it came to salaries and multiple-year deals for his lieutenants, and his own contract would be for eight years. Plus, it was going to be hard to advance the program much farther.

Still, that one surprised me. But not everyone leaves. Louisville’s Charlie Strong turned down Tennessee to remain with the Cardinals, which cynics will say means he’s just waiting for an even better opportunity.

* This may seem like an odd way to support the Warrior football team, but buying a ticket and going to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl will do just that. Without Hawaii’s participation, the bowl has difficulty attracting crowds, and there are attendance requirements for bowl certification.

And this year’s matchup of SMU and Fresno State should be an entertaining display of offensive football.

A decent turnout should help guarantee the bowl will still be there when UH qualifies to play in it.