Thursday, December 4, 2008
Behind The Scoreboard
Heard the old deterring expression, “Crime does not pay?” Verily, it was coined to attempt to keep young innocents from gravitating toward a life of wrongdoing. Criminal acts may not pay, but being a coach in the NCAA Division 1 apparently does.
The collegiate football world received some more jolting news to try and digest with the remnants of the holiday bird and trimmings. Another high profile coach in the all powerful SEC had been thrown under the bus. Fans outside Neyland Stadium were still smarting when the news was broken early Saturday that Sylvester Croom was no longer the head coach of the Mississippi Bullies. According to the immediate reports, it was purely a “personal” decision by Croom himself.
Those of us who have been around the end zone for a few years are wise enough to know this is rarely the case. Croom was finishing up his fifth season in Starkville and his record was not the most stellar. However, he was the SEC’s Coach of the Year last season and had led the Bullies to a post season Liberty Bowl victory and received a contract extension through 2011. And probably the most important statistic, he won the Egg Bowl last year.
Greg Byrne, first year athletic director (this writer is not aware of his “coach picking resume,” but I am sure the he has one), announced he and Croom had arrived at the Croom-motivated choice to resign his (Croom’s) post. Does this not sound just a little bit like another SEC meeting in which the AD declared that the university and its program needed to go in another “direction?”
This season, the Bullies reverted to a 4-8 overall record and probably the most important statistic, he lost the Egg Bowl. In states where there are such long-standing, intra-state rivalries (e.g., Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, etc.,) fans can be pretty unforgiving. And now with the advent of the BCS and its lucrative treasure chests, winning has become a must.
Croom’s termination has different connotations than that of Phillip Fulmer. Croom was the first black head coach in SEC football and leaves a void in all Division 1 with his departure. At the beginning of the season there were six black head coaches and now there are three (two others had been fired already).
The Vols have decided on Fulmer’s replacement, making the “tacky” announcement just before their game with Kentucky. They chose Lane Kiffen, fired former head coach with the Oakland Raiders. His record there was not one to emulate.
We have been through this before in this column and chances are it will be broached again and again. We uphold the rights of these “business enterprises” to try and get the right persons to lead their programs. It is our right not to agree with some of their methods.
We share empathy with coaches who were “let go” but we don’t pity them. Phil Fulmer will leave his long-standing post at the Vols with a package worth $6 million. Croom’s is just as rewarding with $3 million for five years.
In the legal world crime does not pay, but losing in Division 1 of the NCAA football arena obviously does.
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