Saturday, bright and early for West Coast folks, begins the 35-game FBS bowl season, with the New Mexico Bowl between Arizona and Nevada at 10 a.m. (Pacific).
In wading through a preview of the bowls the past couple of weeks, one thing stuck out to me — the number of bowl programs that either have a coach who has (a) left, (b) been fired, or (c) agreed to a new position but will continue coaching his team through the bowl.
I won’t try to parse all those differences, but I counted no fewer than 10 programs in which there’s a change at the top. They are:
— Western Kentucky
— San Jose State
— Texas Tech
— NC State
— Northern Illinois
— Kent State
— Arkansas State
Can’t tell you if that’s any kind of record, but I’ve got to believe it ranks up there with any other year of coaching transition affecting the bowls. And the fact that two of the programs — North Carolina State and Purdue — that aren’t elite both canned their coaches, Tom O’Brien and Danny Hope, respectively, tells you a couple of things. Because of the bloated number of bowls out there, making one isn’t the Holy Grail, the job-saver, that it used to be, and the pressure to win is getting truly oppressive (just ask Jon Embree, out after two years at Colorado, despite the fact he’s an alumnus).
USA Today, which does a great job chronicling trends like coaching salaries, had a couple of worthwhile pieces in recent days, one noting that schools making staff changes this year may be on the hook for a combined $50 million in buyouts, another detailing the salaries of bowl directors who are heading tax-exempt organizations and making big bucks. At the same time, says the newspaper, schools and conferences combined last year to pay the bowls a combined $20.9 million for unsold tickets as part of their bowl commitment.
If you think the game has lost its way a bit, you’re probably not alone.