Texas Longhorns: Mike Leach

Successful coaches forced out: Big 12

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
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In the eyes of some critics, Mack Brown is sitting on a seat far warmer than he realizes.

ESPN Insider's Phil Steele says Brown is the No. 1 coach on the hot seat entering 2013, and there is a faction of the Texas fan base that agrees and believes Brown’s best days are behind him. But if history tells us anything about canning coaches, the grass isn’t always greener.

Brown’s contract runs through 2020, and he isn’t looking to retire any time soon. He’s 27 victories away from becoming the winningest coach in school history. Will he reach that milestone?

A look at the recent history of successful Big 12 coaches being shown the door reminds us that a new hire brings no guarantees of success. And there might not be a better example of that than the man considered the league’s best coach today.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesWill Mack Brown get a chance to become the all-time winningest coach at Texas?
Coach on the bubble: Mack Brown, Texas

Big 12 precedents: Bill Snyder, Kansas State; Dan McCarney, Iowa State; Chuck Reedy, Baylor

Bill Snyder, 170-85-1 at Kansas State

Prior to his arrival: The list of coaches who came before Snyder is a long one, but the last to win more games than he lost at Kansas State left in 1934 after one season. Snyder’s predecessor, Stan Parrish, coached the Wildcats for 33 games and won two. The team was mockingly called “Futility U” before Snyder’s debut, and had lost more games than any program in college football history.

Why he resigned: The white-haired wizard was everything to Kansas State and achieved the most improbable rebuilding job college football has ever seen. But there reached a point in time, even after four Big 12 North titles, where KSU was ready to move on, in 2005. Leadership thought that after consecutive losing seasons, Snyder’s heart just wasn’t in it to go another season, even if he was hesitant to surrender the throne.

The aftermath: In came Ron Prince, the 36-year-old Virginia offensive coordinator who had no ties to the KSU program. His best season was his first, and after consecutive 5-7 seasons, he was fired in November 2008 -- after agreeing four months earlier to a contract extension through 2012. Snyder heroically returned, and you know the rest.

Some believe Brown, 61, is getting old. Snyder was 66 when he was ousted. He was named 2012 Big 12 Coach of the Year at age 73 and got a new five-year deal this past offseason.

Dan McCarney, 56-85 at Iowa State

Prior to his arrival: No, the track record of McCarney at Iowa State is not even close to what Brown has achieved at Texas. But no coach won more games at ISU than McCarney, who enjoyed five winning seasons in six years (2000-2005) and nearly won the Big 12 North outright twice. His predecessor, Jim Walden, retired after going 0-10-1 in 1994 and finished his ISU tenure with a record of 28-57-3. No Cyclones coach had won a conference title since 1912.

Why he resigned: McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl games, but the 2006 season went downhill and he stepped down. At the time he announced his decision, ISU was 0-6 in Big 12 play.

The aftermath: Iowa State got as sexy a hire as it could have hoped in Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Then, after going 5-19 in two seasons, he bailed on the Cyclones for the Auburn job. Paul Rhoads has done a respectable job in Ames, with three bowl games in four seasons. McCarney is entering his third year as head coach at North Texas. His record there isn’t great (9-15), but the Mean Green at least appreciate that they’ve got a good coach.

Chuck Reedy, 23-22 at Baylor

Prior to his arrival: Yes, this is a bit of an obscure choice. Baylor had a solid, competitive program during the 21-year tenure of the great Grant Teaff and enjoyed winning records in eight seasons of his final decade in charge. When he retired, BU offensive coordinator Reedy was promoted to the head gig.

Why he was fired: Replacing Teaff wasn’t easy. The Baylor administration wasn’t happy with some aspects of Reedy’s coaching style, including recruiting high-risk players who were unlikely to qualify. But what sealed his fate was going 1-7 in conference play in the Big 12’s inaugural year and losing four straight to end the 1996 season with a 4-7 record.

The aftermath: Baylor didn’t know it was signing up for a decade of futility when it canned Reedy. His replacement, Dave Roberts, went 4-18. The three coaches that came after Reedy went a combined 30-94 and finished last in the Big 12 South eight straight years. Art Briles has led an impressive rebuild, but he inherited enough of a mess that it took five years to get his career mark at Baylor above .500 (32-30).

I know what you’re thinking. We’ve left out three coaching departures that are considered some of the biggest in recent Big 12 history: Barry Switzer, Mark Mangino and Mike Leach.

Considering Switzer resigned amid a flurry of scandal and NCAA probation, and Mangino and Leach departed after allegations of player abuse, they’re not all that applicable to Brown or any current Big 12 coaches. But in the cases of Kansas and Texas Tech, who enjoyed unparalleled rises under Mangino and Leach, respectively, and haven’t been the same since, it’s another reminder that you never know what you’ll get when you let a successful coach go.
We're overlooking the state of each conference in the country today on the ESPN Blog network. Where does every league stand entering 2012? Here's what you need to know about the Big 12:

The favorite: Oklahoma. The Sooners lost a shot at the Big 12 title in the season finale against Oklahoma State last year, but they bring back QB Landry Jones and a handful of the team's best defenders. Jones needs to find more receivers opposite Kenny Stills, and injuries on the offensive line pose a few questions, but the Sooners are in the familiar spot of the team to beat entering 2012.

The new guys: West Virginia and TCU. Texas A&M and Missouri checked out for the SEC in 2012, but the Big 12 replaced them with a pair of teams who would have been in the Big East this season. The Horned Frogs, in nearby Fort Worth, and the Mountaineers, in far-away Morgantown, bring with them two high-powered offenses that should fit right in with their new Big 12 brethren.

The stirring giant: Texas. The Longhorns have won just 13 games the past two seasons. By comparison, they won the same number in 2005, the last time they won a national title. Mack Brown has revamped his staff with new coordinators and position coaches, and young talent is taking over in Austin. Texas isn't back yet from a five-win season in 2010, but this could be the year it starts making everyone take the Longhorns seriously again as a perennial title contender.

The up-and-comer: Baylor. The Bears broke through for their best season ever and the school's first Heisman winner. Robert Griffin III is gone and the 10 wins are in the past. Still, the Bears have a new stadium under construction and enough talent to get back to a bowl in 2012. That's pretty amazing. Art Briles is building something out of nothing at Baylor. The Bears look like they're in position to go to a bowl nearly every year moving forward after reaching their first bowl in Big 12 history back in 2010.

The guys with something to prove: Oklahoma State and Kansas State. K-State's got to prove last year's 10-win season was legitimate, despite the number of games won in the final minutes. Despite returning 17 starters and all the key pieces from a 10-win team, the Wildcats aren't even in everyone's top 20. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has to prove last year's Big 12 title was more than an accident or a one-time thing. They'll roll true freshman Wes Lunt out at quarterback to start the road back to a second league title.

Fighting to stay relevant: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders used to be the only team who could seem to beat Oklahoma and/or Texas with any consistency. Everyone feared making a trip out to the Plains of West Texas to face Mike Leach's band of pirates. Now? When teams walk into your home stadium and beat you by 60, it's hard to still be taken seriously. Coach Tommy Tuberville's been handcuffed by injuries, but he's got to get it turned around in Lubbock -- and fast. Fans are unhappy after last year's 5-7 campaign, the first losing season in almost two decades.

Trying to take the next step: Iowa State. Iowa State's cracked a bowl game in two of three seasons under Paul Rhoads, but did so just barely in both seasons, and needed huge upsets against Nebraska and Oklahoma State to make it happen. Iowa State's still trying to build, but enters 2012 with a quarterback controversy on its hands. The Cyclones were once again picked eighth in the league, but can Rhoads keep gaining momentum in Ames?

Trying to catch up: Kansas. The Jayhawks are just 1-23 in their last 24 Big 12 games, and the one team they beat (Colorado) left the Big 12. That stretch has included a whole lot of embarrassing losses for one reason or another, but former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is in charge now, with four Super Bowl rings and a renewed sense of purpose in tow. Can he turn it around in Lawrence after KU bottomed out following its Orange Bowl win to close the 2007 season?
Today is the next step in a new series on the Big 12 blog that we've never done before. I love predicting the standings from top to bottom, but we're going to do it week by week leading up to the season. The end goal is to offer my official prediction for each Big 12 team's record heading into the bowl games.

Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they may change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices and a whole lot of games between now and the end of the season.

There are always teams who disappoint and teams who surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 7.

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS
TCU 38, Baylor 34: TCU's return trip to Baylor? For most of the day, Casey Pachall looks like he did in the fourth quarter of last year's game and the Horned Frogs get a little revenge on their former Southwest Conference rivals. The game gets pretty chippy in the final minutes when the teams keep jawing at one another, but a major incident is avoided.

Iowa State 27, Kansas State 24 (OT): The top-15 'Cats fall victim to Paul Rhoads in Ames. Just because he's got the job security of a 10-year deal doesn't mean he'll stop frustrating Big 12 fans. Rhoads has come so, so close in two neutral-site losses to the Wildcats in 2009 and 2010. The Cyclones nearly knocked off K-State last year, too. This time, they get the job done.

Oklahoma State 44, Kansas 24: Last year's game was 56-7 at halftime. This one's better, but not much better. Oklahoma State's offense is just too much. Kansas never gets much of a pass rush, and the improving Jayhawks offense just can't keep up.

Oklahoma 20, Texas 17: This one's a classic. The defenses get real stingy, but Texas had one final chance to go win the game with David Ash under center. The Longhorns reach midfield, but Oklahoma's defense holds, flushing Ash from the pocket and intercepting a desperate fourth-down heave to seal the win and set off a raucous celebration in the Cotton Bowl.

West Virginia 47, Texas Tech 41: Texas Tech jumps out to a 14-0 lead early, and West Virginia looks a little rattled by the Lubbock fans heading into halftime, trailing 31-14. However, at halftime, Mike Leach disciple Dana Holgorsen brandishes a sword given to him by Leach, the pirate-loving coach, himself. "Swing it, boys," Holgorsen says to close his halftime speech. In the second half, they do.

After seven weeks of football, just three undefeated squads remain. The Big 12's old guard, and its new blood.

BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 7)

1. TCU: 6-0 (3-0)
1. West Virginia: 6-0 (3-0)
3. Oklahoma: 5-0 (3-0)
4. Oklahoma State: 4-1 (1-1)
5. Kansas State: 4-2 (1-2)
5. Texas: 4-2 (1-2)
5. Texas Tech: 4-2 (1-2)
8. Iowa State: 3-3 (1-2)
9. Baylor: 3-2 (0-2)
10. Kansas: 3-3 (0-3)

Mailbag: UT/A&M, schedule queries

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
3:00
PM ET
We had to check out of this week's Tuesday chat, but we keep it fair here on the Big 12 Blog.

To do so, here's a mid-week Mailbag.

If you've got something to say or ask, here's where to reach me. We'll have another on Friday, so get your questions in now.

Bruce in Houston writes: "So, what are you guys doing on Nov. 17? Texas and Texas A&M are both off that weekend. Just a thought, you know. In case you got a wild hair to stop being petty, Longhorns."Stop being petty??? How about you stop being a hater. It's business. TAMU made their choice and Texas is not going to let them have their cake and eat it to. Don't be a jerk.

David Ubben: No, it's not business. That's literally the worst defense possible. It's pettiness.

It's business? Let's do some math. What game's going to bring in the most TV revenue and be a guaranteed sellout? Wyoming? New Mexico? Ole Miss? What's going to pack the silver bleachers in Austin which have had crowds thinning the past few years?

What's going to attract attention? What's going to move the needle with the fan base? Playing Texas A&M every year. Texas can pretend all they want in this. At least Kansas is up front about their pettiness in discontinuing the rivalry with Mizzou. I respect that, even if I disagree with it.

(Read full post)

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