VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – “Go for it! Go for It!,” football fans in the stands will often shout when their team is faced with a fourth down and short yardage situation deep in its own territory.
Most often the coach of said team disregards the crowd’s exhortations and opts instead to punt the ball away.
To a chorus of boos.
“If you listen to the fans,” a noted coach once said, “you’ll soon be sitting with them,” — i.e. poor decisions could get you fired.
But in the college grid game these days, the undue influence of a team’s followers is so out of control that maybe a coach would be wise to do the bidding of the howling hordes, no matter how lacking in sound football judgment they might be.
Placating the grandstand geniuses might curry favor with them that one day helps save the coach’s job.
After all, he’s only doing what THEY would do.
OK, so MAS jests. The situation hasn’t become THAT nutty for coaches to resort to such tactics.
But things certainly seem to moving in that coo-coo direction.
Time was when a higher academic institution had the decency to wait until the season ended to give its football coach the boot.
These days, fan grumblings are prompting numerous universities to fire their football coaches earlier than ever — like a third-of-the way or midway through the season.
Forget recovering from a bad start to a campaign if you are a current college head coach.
Rather, avoid one at all costs.
And don’t dare suffer a humiliating defeat. It can also be a death knell in the current coaching climate.
Forget the old adage “What have you done for me lately?”
These days it’s often “What did you do for me last Saturday?”
Cases in point (among others): Miami’s Al Golden, Dan McCarney of North Texas, Southern Cal’s Steve Sarkisian, the legendary Steve Spurrier of South Carolina and Central Florida’s George O’Leary.
All were forced out before the 2015 season had even reached its midpoint.
Golden’s Miami ball club started off this season 4-0.
But that didn’t prevent some Hurricane supporters from hiring a plane to fly over their stadium pulling a banner that read: Fire Al Golden.
Golden’s sin: Miami, a former multiple national title winner, had “only” a 28-22 winloss record in his previous four seasons at the Hurricane helm.
When the Canes were walloped 58-0 at home by No. 4 Clemson and fell to 4-3, Golden was whacked before he even hit the Sun Life Stadium parking lot afterward.
Never mind that he took over a program that had been slapped with NCAA sanctions that included loss of scholarships and a lengthy bowl ban that hurt recruiting.
And so what if he had cleaned up the dirty Miami program while producing model citizens in place of footballers notorious for their thug-like behavior.
Golden was still canned for not winning Atlantic Coast Conference titles and contending for national titles.
McCarney, meanwhile, had turned a North Texas outfit that had endured several winless seasons before he arrived into a bowl team in 2013.
But, after a losing record last campaign and a 66-7 Homecoming Day shellacking at the hands of FCS school Portland State this season, McCarney was outta there by the 2015 midway point.
Never mind that Portland State was an excellent team that had earlier also upset Pac-12 contender Washington State.
The fan outcry was loud enough to send McCarney riding off into the sunset the day after that Portland State loss.
Then there was Sarkisian, who was officially fired by Southern Cal for drinking on the job. But that was just a handy excuse.
The real season was the two early season losses that blew up the Trojans’ Pac-12 and national title hopes.
Sarkisian had just not returned USC to the top of the collegiate football heap quick enough.
Rehab would have been a compassionate response by the Southern Cal administration. But the whines of the notoriously fickle Troy alumni nixed any such notion.
All this on the heels of USC’s midseason firing of its previous coach, Lane Kiffin, on the tarmac of the L.A. airport upon his arrival home after an early season lopsided loss to Arizona State.
Now for the Spurrier and O’Leary situations, which almost mirrored each other.
The pair had in just two seasons taken their schools to unparalleled gridiron heights.
Talk about a fall from grace.
Their drop was as precipitous as that of a free-fall ride at one of the myriad Orlando theme parks close by O’Leary’s Central Florida campus.
Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy winner and SEC and national championship coach at Florida, had led South Carolina to three straight 11 win seasons from 2011-13.
That was followed by a so-so 2014 (7-6).
Then this campaign his Gamecocks lost a couple of heartbreakers and started off 2-4.
Shortly thereafter, the “he’s lost it” murmurs grew into a rumble.
Before that could become a roar, the Ol’ Ball Coach in essence said: Ya know what? I don’t need this crap. Adios!
Spurrier now works on his scratch golf game seven days a week.
As for O’Leary, just two seasons ago he led Central Florida to its first Top 10 finish and a win in UCF’s first-ever New Year’s Day bowl game, the Fiesta Bowl.
But this year a winless early season start against a very tough schedule had the midFlorida geezers growling.
There was talk of need for a change.
But O’Leary said in effect: You can’t fire me, I retire. Thus, he will still collect a contract-guaranteed $200,00 each of the next seven years.
Good for Spurrier and O’Leary for one-upping the increasingly throaty multitudes now infecting college football with their overbearing, meddling ways.
To hell with them.
As Marie Antoinette sorta said: Let them eat funnel cake (a tasty southern dessert treat, for the uninitiated).
Yo, all you strategy-shouting slugs, try not to spew crumbs and powdered sugar all over your school sweatshirt while bellowing out the “f” in “Go for it!.”
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