Greg Hansen: UA blood or not, it's firing season

2011-12-02T00:01:00Z Greg Hansen: UA blood or not, it's firing seasonGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 02, 2011 12:01 am  • 

The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as college football news:

Item I: After 13 seasons as an Arizona Wildcat, including one year as an All-Pac-10 safety and four as a key part of the Desert Swarm coaching staff, Jeff Hammerschmidt is no longer working at his alma mater; he won't be part of Rich Rodriguez's staff.

Hammer has as much Wildcat blood as anyone who ever played at the UA, but blood is never enough to protect you in college football.

I found it disturbing that Hammerschmidt was always the first to be criticized for the UA's breakdowns in special teams, but rarely got credit for the excellent play from 2010 defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, who were also on Hammer's watch.

Also losing his job this week was Desert Swarm linebacker Charlie Camp, who was pushed out when Akron fired coach Rob Ianello, a UA assistant coach from 1993 to 2002.

"We were blindsided," Camp said Thursday. "We got two years, and they fired everybody. It's a crazy business."

According to a Facebook post from Ianello's wife, ex-UA basketball standout Denise Dove Ianello, Rob was fired via a phone call while traveling to New Jersey to attend the funeral of his mother, Rita, a day before Thanksgiving.

Momma, don't let your son grow up to be a football coach.

Item II: Had UA director of athletics Greg Byrne not struck quickly, hiring Rodriguez before the annual Christmas shopping rush, it's likely that Rodriguez's price would have gone up about $500,000 more per season.

Byrne and Rodriguez reached an agreement before the coach would have had unusually strong leverage created by openings at Kansas, ASU, Illinois and UCLA.

The Pac-12's media rights deal, valued at $3.1 billion and perhaps $22 million per year, per team, enabled Washington State to pay an unprecedented price ($2.25 million per year) for Mike Leach.

In past years, Wazzu was forced to hire cheap labor, getting Mike Price from Weber State and, later, hiring assistants Bill Doba and Paul Wulff.

Now that the Pac-12 has SEC-type money, the day of hiring assistant coaches in football is probably over. Also over: the days of jotting down an automatic "W" next to the line on the schedule that says "Washington State."

Item III: If I'm Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, I proceed very carefully with any thought about becoming the football coach at Arizona State.

The Sun Devils' athletic director, Lisa Love, is overmatched by most Pac-12 ADs, playing from behind, desperate (and likely unable) to do for her school what Pat Haden has done at USC, what Bill Moos is doing at Wazzu and what Byrne has done at Arizona. She has underachieved, to put it lightly.

But if I'm Love, I'm also cautious about hiring Kevin Sumlin. He inherited prolific quarterback Case Keenum and a winning program from Art Briles.

When Keenum was injured last season, Houston and Sumlin fell back, 5-7, in a bad league (Conference USA).

Sumlin, however, should have his pick of any coaching vacancy. If he's smart, he'll go to North Carolina and the ACC, where he doesn't have to coach and recruit against USC and Oregon, and match X's and O's with Rodriguez and Leach.

Item IV: Winter arrived in Tucson this week. Or our version of winter.

This should not be a deterrent to sun-loving RichRod. In John Bacon's book "Three and Out," the saga of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, the author writes that Rodriguez's upbringing in a West Virginia coal-mining town was without modern conveniences.

"Our house had no heat upstairs," Rodriguez says in the book. "I wore three sweatsuits at night. And you'd wake up to see ice on the windows - on the inside."

According to weather.com, Grant Town, W.Va., was 16-degrees below zero on Christmas Day 1983 when Rodriguez was 19. That was a four-sweatsuit day.

Item V: Byrne's acumen in all things related to operating a college athletic department goes back to his upbringing.

His father, Bill Byrne, was director of athletics at Oregon and Nebraska and now is under some strain as the AD at Texas A&M.

Bill Byrne's history in hiring football coaches is not his strength. At Nebraska, he hired stiff Frank Solich to replace legendary Tom Osborne. Solich was fired after six seasons.

And now at A&M, Byrne has gone 0 for 2. His first hire, Dennis Franchione, was dismissed after five seasons. Mike Sherman, went 6-6 this year (25-25 in four seasons) and was fired Thursday.

May we suggest Kevin Sumlin?

Item last: Any minute now, Ohio State is likely to hire Mike Stoops to run the Buckeyes' defense.

When that transaction is made public, it will make sense for two reasons.

One, Stoops was hugely successful in a similar role at Oklahoma. He will not be required to meet regularly with boosters and the media, which made him uncomfortable.

Two, he was very good at coaching OU players more talented than the ones he inherited and recruited to Arizona. His marvelous command of the X's and O's worked nicely when he had bigger, faster and stronger Sooners taking instruction.

As he painfully learned at Arizona, you have to win with guile, the kicking game and inspired troops rather than just lining up and knocking the other guy down as the coaches at Ohio State and Oklahoma do.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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