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Odd Coaching Fits (Part I)

Some football coaches seem like perfectly natural fits at their programs . . . like Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, Jim Tressel at Ohio State, and Mark Richt at Georgia.  

Some football coaches attain iconic status at their particular jobs . . . like Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Joe Paterno at Penn State, and Bear Bryant at Alabama.  

Some football coaches have names that just plain sound like the names coaches at their schools ought to have . . . like Mack Brown at Texas, R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M, and Tom O'Brien at Boston College.  

Then there are the football coaches who leave you scratching your head and wondering, "What is this guy doing at that school?"  

Some pairings are simply inexplicable.

Here are a few examples of coaching hires that left me baffled.  I didn't necessarily think there was anything wrong with the particular coach or the specific school, just with the union of the two.  Feel free to add your own suggestions to the following list:  

Rich Brooks at Kentucky---After the 1996 presidential election, I made the observation that, while any living Republican could have beaten Bill Clinton in his re-election bid, the G.O.P. decided instead to nominate Bob Dole.  A similar sentiment holds true for the reanimated corpse of a football coach that is Rich Brooks.  I know the pickings were slim, but were they really that slim?  What indication were U.K. administrators given that Brooks could even have located the Bluegrass State on a map prior to his hiring?  

Just so we're clear, Hal was "Mumme" with an e and Rich is "Mummy" with a y.

Bill Callahan at Nebraska---If I'd come to you three years ago and asked you to name the major college football program least likely to hire a head football coach from the N.F.L. ranks, is it even conceivable your answer would have been anything other than "Nebraska"?  Quite apart from the oddity of the Cornhuskers looking to the pros in search of a new head honcho, why Callahan?  Given the histories and reputations of the two programs, the transition from the Raiders to the 'Huskers with the West Coast offense in tow seems about as strange as moving a basketball team from New Orleans to Salt Lake City and still calling it "the Jazz" or taking an N.B.A. franchise from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and still calling it "the Lakers."  

Bill Curry at Alabama---It made sense for Georgia Tech to hire him.  There was even a certain logic to Kentucky hiring him.  But 'Bama?  He was a Georgia Tech alum and a Bobby Dodd disciple who went 31-43-4 at The Flats, beat his in-state rival twice in seven tries, and couldn't beat Furman.  Curry brought a prim and professorial air to a job that called for a man hewn from granite who spoke with a gravelly bark.  The wonder isn't that he was fired after just three seasons . . . the wonder is that he managed anywhere close to the 26-10 record he posted in Tuscaloosa.  

Seriously, if you didn't know better, you'd swear I Photoshopped it, wouldn't you?

Gerry DiNardo at Louisiana State---His coaching stop at Vanderbilt was weird enough, but, common Catholicism aside, a New York-born Notre Dame alum isn't exactly the person you expect to find wearing purple and calling the shots in Tiger Stadium.  Granted, DiNardo on the Bayou wasn't quite as bizarre as DiNardo coaching Birmingham's X.F.L. franchise, but couldn't we have eliminated the middleman and sent him straight from Nashville to Bloomington?  

Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech---Forget the back-to-back-to-back-to-back seven-win seasons and think of him as you thought of him on the day he was hired by the Institute.  Think of his pre-Yellow Jacket resume, then ask yourself a simple question:  "Can you name a single Southern school that is serious about football where Chan Gailey wouldn't seem more at home than at Georgia Tech?"  

Ken Hatfield at Clemson---Hatfield is a choirboy who felt comfortable in settings like a service academy in Colorado Springs and a private school in Houston.  What was a guy like that doing taking over for Danny Ford during the days when "I.P.T.A.Y." stood for "It's Probation Time Again, Y'all"?  The guy was doomed from the start and was unceremoniously ousted after four seasons, in three of which his teams won at least nine games . . . something the Tigers have done in just two of the 12 seasons since.  

Lou Holtz at Arkansas---E.S.P.N.'s most atrocious analyst likes to say he never inherited a winner, but that's a lie.  In 1977, he took over a Razorback program that hadn't had a losing season since 1967.  He had a successful seven-year run, going 60-21-2 in Fayetteville, but the idea of the former Kent State player and future Notre Dame coach toiling away in the Southwest Conference makes for a strange mental picture.  

Considering what those pants probably looked like in living color, I'm glad they only had black and white film in Arkansas in those days.

Mike Price at Alabama---Nevermind all the alleged escapades involving strip clubs and room service; even odder than the way Mike Price's tenure in Tuscaloosa ended was the fact that he was hired there in the first place.  Soft-spoken to the point of appearing wimpy, Price spent 14 years in the football backwater of Pullman, Wash., where he compiled an 83-78 ledger and never had back-to-back winning seasons until his last two years at Wazoo.  Exactly what part of that resume suggests "prospective 'Bama head football coach"?  

Pop Warner at Temple---It's not like the college football icon took over the Owls early in his career or for a brief period.  Warner began his coaching career at Georgia in 1895 and built winning programs on both coasts (Pittsburgh and Stanford) before ending up in Philadelphia for a six-year stint in the 1930s.  He retired in 1938 as the owner of more than 300 career victories, 31 of which came during his stay at Temple, which has been to as many bowl games in the 67 years since Warner left as it attended during the half-dozen seasons he was there . . . one.  

Fielding Yost at San Jose State---Go look it up if you don't believe me:  "Hurry Up" Yost coached the Spartans for exactly one game in 1900, a 12-0 victory over Chico to end the season.  San Jose State would not field another football team until 1921.  Quite apart from the idea of the man most famous for going 165-29-10 at Michigan between 1901 and 1926 coaching a squad called the Spartans, how strange is it that a teetotaling lawyer from West Virginia whose father fought for the Confederacy during the War would coach football in the California Bay Area?  

Fielding Yost's San Jose State team only got the shutout win over Chico because The Man was out with a pulled hamstring.

Those are a few examples of individual coaches who were odd fits at specific schools.  In my next installment, I will list particular coaches who didn't quite click anywhere they coached and several coaches who never quite fit in at one noteworthy school.  

In the meantime, though, feel free to offer a few examples of your own in the comments below.  

Go 'Dawgs!