Monday, November 27, 2006

What have you done for me lately?

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...

1 comment:

Mark Bates said...

Amen and amen. I have been an Alabama fan since birth. My father graduated from Bama after fighting in WWII. I attended there for a whole semester (before they kicked me out, but that is another story).
However, their treatment of Shula borders on shameful. They hired him when the program was in complete disarray. The previous coach left in a scandal. The coach prior to that left under the cover of darkness to go to Texas A&M because he knew that they were going to be put on probation. Shula had no head coaching experience and they put him in one of the highest pressure jobs in all of college football. They hired him simply because he played at Bama and, quite possibly, because he is white. When they hired Shula, they passed over a more qualified coach, Sylvester Croom, who was born in Tuscaloosa and even was an assistant coached at Bama under the Bear for two national championship teams.
In many ways, Shula was set up to fail and then condemned for failing.