Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the replacements: Tommy Tuberville

Every Wednesday-ish for a while, until such time as it stops being useful to do so, I'll pick one name and yak about what I think. I won't be getting to every name on the Which Coaches post, nor will I limit myself to the names on that list. And no, last Saturday's win doesn't lift Al Groh off the hot seat. Not sure when that'll be, but I'll probably know it when I see it, and that wasn't it.

To get the suspense out of the way, today's spotlight is on my #1 choice to fill the job should Groh be let go. #1 by a long, long shot.

Tommy Tuberville

Main qualification: Compiled an 85-40 record at Auburn in ten seasons, including a 13-0 season in 2004.

Coaching resume:

1980-1984: Arkansas State (DE/LB)
1985-1993: Miami (various, eventually DC)
1994: Texas A&M (DC)
1995-1998: Mississippi (HC)
1999-2008: Auburn (HC)

Tuberville will probably have his pick of coaching jobs after this season. Given his record, any AD that doesn't at least put in a phone call is either a dope, or working in Division II. But it's a thin year for coaches looking to get hired. Check out the list of schools with coaches on the hot seat. Akron, Kent State, UNLV....this is not a heavyweight list. The only BCS schools where the coaches look very, very gone are Colorado, Louisville, Illinois, Florida State, and of course, Virginia.

TFSU is out of course, because of the whole Jimbo Fisher thing. And even if you scroll on down to "medium heat", you only add Maryland and Clemson to the BCS list, neither of which are going to fire their coach this year. Friedgen's buyout is keeping him safe, and Dabo Swinney has only just now coached the equivalent of a full season for crying out loud.

So yeah: Colorado, Louisville, Illinois, or Virginia. I feel pretty secure in declaring our job, should it come open, likely to be the single most attractive anywhere in the country this offseason, unless someone like Georgia does something stupid. At Colorado you don't have much of a recruiting base and you have to deal with some pretty well-entrenched superpowers in your conference. Illinois has similar problems, if not of quite the same magnitude, but there's a lot of lousy history there and a very distinct "basketball school in a football conference" feel to their team. Louisville, well. I suppose if you like playing Connecticut every year and recruiting against both the Big Ten and SEC. Meanwhile, here at UVA we sit on a gold mine of instate talent if we could just stop it going off to LSU and Alabama, and the ACC is so ripe for the taking it's not even funny. This is parityville, and a really good coach can make a huge dent right away. See: Johnson, Paul, 2008. Probably the only downside is that we require our student-athletes to actually major in something and furthermore actually attend class and get actual grades. If there's a coach that sees this as too much of an obstacle, we're probably not meant for each other.

(This, by the way, is also a good argument for making a change this year. Next year who knows what jobs might be open. When you're looking like the best option in a buyer's market for coaches, that's fortuitous timing if you can take advantage.)

Alright then. So having made the case for why Tommy Tuberville should choose Virginia, why then should Virginia choose Tommy Tuberville?

That's the easy part. Tuberville can frickin' coach. The record speaks for itself. An SEC championship - not an easy accomplishment - and his list of bowls looks like a tropical kitchen. Three Citruses, two Peaches, a Sugar and a Cotton. And a Music City thrown in there on an off-year. Tuberville also achieved a 7-3 record against Alabama, and that's not to be ignored in a rivalry where Alabama has a 39-33 edge. No sense doubting his recruiting chops, either. If you can recruit against the SEC you can recruit against the ACC.

Some Virginia fans would likely be upset by his tendency while at Auburn to mine the jucos and prep schools for talent that might not have had the easiest time getting qualified for NCAA competition, and probably also by Auburn's skirting the edges of legality in keeping their players qualified once at school. This is where UVA's often-frustrating insistence on actual academic achievement would come in handy: Auburn - the school itself - has never had any problem looking the other way when it came to the rulebook. There's quite a messy history there. In fact, Tuberville is probably to be praised for his restraint in running a near-completely clean program in an atmosphere so permissive of shenanigans that the school president himself once flew out to Louisville to meet in secret with an under-contract coach whose AD most definitely had not given anyone permission to speak with anyone. While Alabama and Kentucky and such were getting in serious hot water in the early part of the decade for recruiting violations, Tuberville kept his hands clean in that regard. Any rulebook issues Tuberville might bring are minor to the point of non-issuedom, and almost certainly easily quashed by a much less permissive administration at UVA.

Tuberville offers, quite simply, the fastest route to success. He's the most pedigreed candidate out there and far and away the most known quantity. The level of success that he had at Auburn would probably not be duplicated here, but it wouldn't be out of the question either. Tuberville is 55 years old and has another 10-12 years of coaching in him. The major question is whether the administration would be willing to fork out. Al Groh makes about $1.8 million, and Tony Bennett about $1.7. Tuberville was getting $2.8 million in base salary at Auburn, and other compensation pushed his total yearly value north of $3 million. I've been working under the assumption that the administration would be willing to pay a new coach a salary similar to Groh's, but not much more if at all. Would it take $3 million to hire Tuberville? I don't know. But if it does, I think UVA will consider itself priced out and look elsewhere, which would be a disappointment.

Certain interwebz message-board-type rumors have Tuberville halfway in the job already. Watching tape of our recruits, chatting up the admin, already overusing the word "circumstances", that sort of thing. Not being the sort to believe everything I read on the interwebz, because most of it turns out to be, you know, complete horse hockey, I will buy these stories when the ink is dry on the contract. But you have to admit these kinds of stories are better than the opposite. Because Tuberville, assuming he's affordable and therefore taking care of the balance sheet viewpoint, makes sense from every angle you can think of. He'd bring instant credibility, being the kind of guy the boosters would be happy to loosen their wallets for. Plain and simple, this is the coach we want.


JC said...

The only thing with Tubs, is where would the offense go? I doubt he'd go with a spread after the Franklin fiasco, and Al Borges is out at SDSU these days.

I think he would help defensively, which is already Groh's thing, is it not?

Anonymous said...

He's going to the Ville. Get over him already.