I know that Alabama Crimson Tide football is its own universe, only slightly stranger than their arch-rivals across the state. But today's firing of Mike Shula strikes me as nearly perverse for a number of reasons.
First, Shula took over a program that was suffering a number of recruiting restrictions, suffering as a result of violations under his predecessor (uh, actually pre-predecessor, in the light of the Mike Price debacle). Next year, if I remember all of this correctly, would have been his first full year of scholarships from the time he arrived in Tuscaloosa four years ago.
Second, last year, he took a mediocre team with a good quarterback to the Cotton Bowl with a 10-2 record. This year, his team was still bowl-eligible at 6-6 with a good recruiting class this year and another next year. Clearly, he had the program going in the right direction. Even granting the fact that he hasn't beaten the aforementioned cross-state rivals in his tenure, it strikes me that he needed a little more time.
Third, as a result of his excellent season last year, Alabama AD Mal Moore gave him a new six-year contract, extending him through 2012. That means that Alabama will be on the hook to Shula, if he doesn't take another job, for nearly four million dollars to be paid over the next five years!
Add all this up and a few things seem clear: a booster is stepping up with the cash to pay for Shula's contract and Alabama already has things lined up with Shula's heir apparent. But even more, the entire college football scene--with the ridiculous pressure to win now--speaks to a larger cultural phenomenon: in which performance drives everything before it and being the head of a major program (or corporation or organization) is not all that it is cracked up to be.
No wonder Terry Bowden has stayed in the broadcast booth, rather than return to the sidelines...