“F—ed up business. People are insane.”

It seems quaint now to reflect on Georgia giving Mark Richt fifteen years.  (Hell, there were plenty of people who had misgivings about letting Richt go despite the dry spell after the 2012 season.)  What I’m wondering about is whether it’s going to soon seem quaint to give any head coach three years without immediate gratification.

Willie Taggart, Chad Morris and Joe Moorhead will forever be linked together for something they’d probably like to forget. They were all fired before coaching the first game of their third season at their respective school.

The timing is important here. Before this season, you’d have to go back more than a decade to find three Power 5 coaches who were dismissed, primarily for on-field performance, before their third year. This year, we got three in a single season, two of them within a week of one another in early November—when Florida State fired Taggart after 21 games and Arkansas fired Morris after 22 games. On Friday, in an unusual move, we got No. 3 when Mississippi State fired Moorhead, the rare coach fired after his bowl game.

The Moorhead firing is particularly unusual.

And so after just 26 games, Mississippi State fired a man with as many wins in two years as the Bulldogs had in a five-year stretch from 2002-06. It is the greatest and most recent example of the pressurized, win-now era of college football…

… Before Mullen’s arrival, State played in one bowl the previous eight seasons. Go deeper into State’s history and you’ll find a program that had 15 winning seasons in a 50-year stretch starting in 1959 and ending with the start of Mullen’s tenure. In 10 years under Mullen, they had eight such seasons. “The just beat Ole Miss narrative was assassinated this morning,” tweeted longtime Bulldogs insider Steve Robertson. “Mississippi State just fired a coach who beat the Rebels both times he played them and went to two bowl games. It’s a different day and time in Starkville.”

This is, to put it mildly, insane.  Whom exactly are they expecting to hire in Starkville that would dramatically change the school’s fortune in the SEC West?

The answer, of course, is nobody obvious.  Still, when you’ve got the bucks to make short attention span decisions, that’s what you’re gonna do.

Moorhead’s buyout is much lower, a source said, about $7 million, but that can be mitigated to as little as $4 million through off-set language in his contract, assuming the coach finds other employment. Meanwhile, a new coach’s contract could cost more than $20 million guaranteed. And then there’s the current and future staffs. Schools must buy out remaining assistant coaching contracts (many coordinators have two to three year deals), and a new staff might cost more than $5 million in guarantees.

Thank Gawd for the new TV revenue that will be coming in when Mickey picks up the CBS deal.  All that’s going to lead to is putting more money in the pockets of Jimmy Sexton and his clients.  But, hey, at least mediocre ADs will be doing something.

This is why Jim Delany is jonesing for an antitrust exemption.  Athletic departments need immunity from their own stupidity.

62 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

62 responses to ““F—ed up business. People are insane.”

  1. Just think, Colin Cowherd and others oppose sending more of that cash to players because players won’t spend it wisely.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. dawgfan1995

    From hearing from my Mississippi State friends, the concern there was as much about internal discipline — the fight between players that led to their true freshman quarterback ending up with a fractured orbital bone — as it was about wins and losses. That, and the fact that Moorhead is a Yankee through and through and rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way.

    The first reason seems more valid than the second reason to me, since this is a school that employed Dan Mullen for as long as they did — but you can’t underestimate the fact that Moorhead being a Yankee gave him a much shorter leash than Mullen had.

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    • hodgie

      I assumed this had to be some sort of power struggle. The on field performance wasn’t great. However, it wasn’t fireable either. I think this situation was a power struggle/culture clash firing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Otto

        I didn’t think it was strictly for on field performance but I don’t keep up with Miss St football that closely. I suppose it is better to figure out a problem now than after giving him a multi year extension and bigger buyout. It would be interesting to know the behind the scenes story but we usually never really know.

        Like

    • jtp03

      Isnt Dan Mullen from New Hampshire?

      Like

  3. DawgPhan

    Does Miss St think they are just one coach away from winning a national title?

    Just seems like throwing good money after bad. They have a solid womens basketball program. I bet that program could use another 4-5 million for some needed improvements and they are already winning at a high clip.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bigshot

    Let’s see Morehead is going to get 4-7 million dollars to leave Starkville, MS. Who’s the winner there?

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Hogbpdy Spradlin

    I’ve had a feeling, for which I can find only a point or two of evidence, that the Ole Miss, MSU, and Arkansas programs are getting left behind and falling apart a little. They just can’t recruit and bankroll things like the big boys in the conference.
    South Carolina is similar but it’s in a healthy growing state; its problem is recruiting base. Kentucky doesn’t mind mediocre football. Vandy just abides being Vandy. Tennessee could be a small state anomaly like Bama and Auburn if it could get competent management; the money’s there.
    I concede that the term ‘small state’ is pretty broad brush there, but I think it conveys the idea.

    Like

  6. W Cobb Dawg

    A fool and his money…gets invited to a lot of parties. MSU is truly fortunate to be in the sec where they can suckle on the teet of the schools that generate all the money.

    Like

    • Mayor

      You make a legitimate point Westy. Why do we even have Missy State in the SEC? They bring nothing to the table. Whatever tv eyes are in the State of Mississippi (such as they are) come from Ole Piss. If we ever need to restructure the SEC the Bizzaro Bulldogs should be the first to go IMHO.

      Like

  7. JasonC

    Taggart was a questionable hire.
    I think Morris could have done better, but I think previous situations and their AD have turned that place into a wreck.

    Like

  8. Willie Taggart – unmitigated disaster. Sure, he walked into a cupboard that was drying up, but his stewardship of the program was leading it to a very bad place.

    Chad Morris – that Western Kentucky loss assured he was in over his head. Arkansas was probably going to fire him in 2020. He probably should have gotten the additional year.

    Joe Moorhead – people at MSU are just dumb. I would take Moorhead over Sgt. Carter any day of the week. This firing was more about Ole Miss’s hire of Junior.

    Like

    • Russ

      I didn’t think Taggart got a fair shot. He had a lot of Jimbo entitlement rot to root out of the program his first year. His previous stops (not counting Oregon) he had always trended upwards, though he was never anywhere long enough to have a good record. I will admit his recruiting and some of his coaching decisions weren’t great.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Taggart didn’t do himself any favors by setting the bar too high based on the way he communicated the timetable and level of rebuild required to people that mattered internally and externally. He implied it was a small rebuild when Jimbo left that roster in a state that required total overhaul. Jimbo also screwed the pooch so bad on the APR status that Taggart had no choice but to keep kids around that otherwise would have been encouraged to transfer elsewhere. Obviously, better on-field performance never hurts – but Taggart misfired when he didn’t appropriately set expectations upfront. Say what you will about whether it will work or not, but at least Scott Frost was honest about the situation at Nebraska with his “it’ll get worse before it gets better” comments when he arrived.

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        • ASEF

          Florida State has major booster problems and really poor athletic administration. The “blame Jimbo” movement has some nuggets of truth, but the reality is that FSU still runs its athletic department the old way: a drinking club for some seriously moneyed good OL’ boys.

          Maybe the Taggart disaster flipped a switch for them. Sort of like Shula did for ‘Bama. And Kirby did proactively for Georgia.

          Liked by 2 people

      • 3rdandGrantham

        Taggert definitely got a fair shot but simply was way, way in over his head. His first mistake was hiring all his buddies as assistants, most of whom had no business being in their roles at a major CFB power. Next, the general disorganization and incompetence was absurd, and the coaching decisions even more perplexing. It was clear to even the most causal FSU fans that it simply wasn’t going to work out.

        Like

    • danny blackshear

      Yes, the Moorhead firing was all about Kiffin. They didn’t think Moorhead could compete with him in recruiting and coaching. Hell, they may be right.

      Like

      • Butch Davis will be even worse if he gets the job. He’s everything that Moorhead was with a trash can thrown in to boot. He’s a laughingstock in high schools around the southeast. Moorhead might be a yankee, but at least, high school coaches know he has the chops. The only difference is that Bootch made sure Little Nicky’s car was filled up with gas and perfectly washed and waxed.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. NoAxe

    Ole Miss and MS State: The universities where college coaches come to die. For the record, my wife graduated from Ole Miss. To amount to anything, both will have to recruit at the national level…..a la Notre Dame. Is the money there? I doubt it.

    Like

  10. Bright Idea

    Coaches whose teams lose games are judged only by their record. Coaches who win games are judged by an eye test. The big donors, not the ADs, ultimately decide who gets to stay and who has to go. Somebody told McGarity to pull the trigger on Richt. ADs are paid to be the messenger.

    Like

  11. chopdawg

    (sigh) it really is the offseason now, isn’t it? All our football games have been played, recruiting is mostly done, all we’ve got to talk about now for the next 8 months are coaching changes, the stupidity of AD’s, legal issues…it’s a long time till Labor Day

    Liked by 1 person

  12. MGW

    The “have nots” of the CFB world are starting to lose their minds. Apparently the Mississippi schools are still under some illusion that they aren’t in that category, and that they’re just one hire away from greatness. Guess what? if that new coach works out, HE’S GONE!

    Once even some schools in the SEC accept that there’s a hard ceiling on what they can do in football, there are going to be some changes made for sure in the name of parity. For example, reduced scholarships so the best players trickle down to more teams.

    I just don’t see the rest of CFB accepting this incredibly top heavy arrangement for much longer. They’ll start by expanding the playoff, but all that’ll do is give them a “chance.” It won’t fix anything as far as the vast talent discrepancy, it’ll just give them false hope and make it even more painful to watch the same 6-8 schools rotate who wins the championship. It’ll probably make it worse because those top teams will more regularly be “in it” so their recruiting will only improve.

    With the BCS, a middling program could have an amazing season and hope to slide into that #2 spot on the last week to get a puncher’s chance at one win for all the marbles. Most schools still didn’t have a chance to get in, but they had real hope. It was mathematically possible. Hell, see 2007 and the number of out of nowhere teams who, if they didn’t stub their toe at the end of the season, could have played in the BCS Championship. Schools like Kansas, WV, and Mizzou all had a very real shot. At that point, they would have needed one upset for a national title.

    Now they’ve got to win twice if they make the playoff, so it’s even less likely they’ll win it all. Better chance to “get in,” less chance to actually win it if you do. Make it 3 games with an 8 team playoff, and their odds will be even more remote.

    All that to say, there are a lot more have-nots than haves. Once the P5 have-nots realize that’s exactly what they are, in spite of sharing the haves’ money, they’ll force changes in the name of parity. At this point schools like Ole Miss and Miss St. would be better off running the triple option than gambling millions of dollars on the hottest new B-level coach, who’s 100% guaranteed to leave even if they succeed. They’d win a lot more games a lot more consistently.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “At this point schools like Ole Miss and Miss St. would be better off running the triple option than gambling millions of dollars on the hottest new B-level coach.”

      Fish Fry approves of this message.

      Like

      • Otto

        Mullen and Freeze on field performance is about the ceiling for Miss St and Ole Miss. If you do any better the schools don’t have the $$$ to keep the coach for as long as they did. I don’t blame them for trying new variations of the spread, hurry up, light the scoreboard up offenses. The rules and current evolution of the sport just don’t favor shut down defenses.

        The triple option gets shut down once rival schools understand they’ll face it every year.

        Liked by 2 people

        • JD

          … and Freeze had to cheat to reach that level. Ole Miss’s biggest mistake was firing Cutcliffe. At least he had the “Manning” pedigree and could attract good QBs.

          Like

        • MGW

          True, but its a lot cheaper to pay a dime a dozen option coach $1m a year to eventually get figured out than to pay some up and comer $4M a year to either need to fire him in a couple years, or for him to get hired away as soon as he has any success. Hell, go get an air raid guy. Leach got figured out by Peterson, but Wazzu is still kicking ass and taking names compared to their historical status. Just do something simple and unique that doesn’t require the top end recruits you absolutely are never going to be able to get in any significant quantity regardless of short term successes.

          But the overarching point is that these teams are going to get sick of being cannon fodder for Bama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Florida (Or FSU and Clemson, or Ohio State, or USC and Oregon, or Texas and Oklahoma, etc.) on their way to championships. Everyone other than top tier P5 schools is going to get sick of it.

          If the have-nots actually care about winning big, don’t try to throw $4m at some diamond in the rough; save your money while pushing for reforms aimed at parity. Being a Georgia fan, I’m comfortable with where those schools are in the pecking order. I love having more 5* kids than the rest of the East combined. But logically, that’s the way those schools should go, and where I think they inevitably will go.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Tony Barnfart

      I’m still waiting to see some nitwit propose promotion and relegation. Which sounds cool, but then you realize it consolidates talent even more because no player wants to play for anyone who might be relegated, so they have even more incentive to stick together with other top players.

      Like

  13. 3rdandGrantham

    Mississippi is the poorest state in the country (based on poverty rates and average household income), and among the least populated states east of the Miss River. Even so, they have to fight with a state rival for recruits, all while continually being raided for top recruits by bigger programs. On top of that, Starkville is, IMO, the worst SEC town in the conference, and is located in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do (no nightlife, mountains, lakes, entertainment, running water, etc.)

    MSU has never been an SEC power and never will, and they will not be able to hire their way up the food chain (and if they ever struck gold with some hot up-and-comer, he would leave at first opportunity.)

    Like

    • spur21

      LOL “Running Water”

      Like

    • Gaskilldawg

      Did you know Mississippi State has had 3 head football coaches with national titles in college football on their resumes?

      Bernie Bierman, Murray Warmath and Darrell Royall have all served as head football coaches at MSU and all got out of town to better places.

      Like

  14. Jimbo didn’t bother recruiting OL or DL, so the roster was not in a good place. Taggert, though, has no business in that spot. The team had no identity, they were undisciplined, and there was no discernible plan. They looked lost and listless and he was already fired in most boosters’ minds before the season even started. The dehydration thing all but sealed his fate.

    Chad Morris lost his team the minute he got there. Talking about replacing all the players because he wouldn’t be there if they were any good is not a good way to build rapport with the current roster. A new coach needs the guys that are there to have short-term success to build future recruiting cycles on, and Chad torpedoed that from the start.

    Moorhead just didn’t live up to his billing as a great offensive mind that was going to — at a minimum — maintain what Mullen was able to do on offense. The trends were not promising either. From 2017 (Mullen’s last season) to 2019 the ppg went from 32.0 to 28.5 to 27.6. In 2018, MSU had one of the best defenses in the country. In 2019, they were 12th in the conference in defensive ppg and 11th in ypg. The record from 2017 to 2019 went from 9-4 to 8-5 to 6-7. Their five SEC losses this season were all by double digits. I don’t think there is any part of the program that you could say was trending in the right direction to build future hopes on.

    I think Moorhead might be the hardest to justify of the three firings given MSU’s historical lack of success, but when your team is playing at its highest level in decades, you don’t want to slide back into the depths so quickly due to a bad coaching hire, and the trends were certainly pointing in that direction. If a coach is going to show he can get it done, it will happen by year 2, and Moorhead’s squad was markedly worse across the board this season.

    Like

    • 3rdandGrantham

      Great thoughts. When Taggert’s name comes up, the first thought that comes to mind was their game at Syracuse in ’18. FSU punted the ball down to the ‘Cuse 10, however a penalty by ‘Cuse on the punt would have given FSU a first down around midfield. Insanely, Taggert declined the penalty anyway and let ‘Cuse have the ball, to everyone’s shock. After the game, Taggert said that, since they had Syracuse backed up on their 10, he thought it was the best decision for the team. It honestly was among the worst decisions by a coach I’ve ever seen.

      Like

    • Gaskilldawg

      Good point about Morris losing his players immediately. By contrast Smart told his new team in December 2015 that they were “just an inch” from being champions.

      Like

  15. Duronimo

    I didn’t get the Moorhead firing either, but what went on behind the scenes?
    I remember when Morgan Hout was fired by Liberty after their best season ever, (8-4) for which he was named coach of the year. Grant Teaff (former Baylor coach), head of the national coaches association officially censored Liberty for the deed. Behind the scenes Art Williams, a wealthy contributor to Jerry Falwell (Liberty’s Chancellor), offered to build a brand new stadium if he could name the coach …. his friend Sam Rutigliano. Hout vs. the money? I don’t think God liked Hout’s firing at all (lol), but the Flames have been playing on the green turff of Williams Field ever since. Morgan Hout? After Jerry Falwell died, his son took over LU. Agreeing that his father had hurt a good man and damaged his career, he brought Morgan back and gave him a well paying job as restitution. But just when you are thinking what a good Christian he must be, Falwell Jr. hires Hugh Freeze as LU coach.

    Like

  16. illini84

    Tua gone

    Like

  17. Something I’ve often thought about:

    Mississippi suffers because it has too many college football programs in relation to its population. Seriously……

    Mississippi:
    3 million people
    2 major D-I programs (MSU & Ole Miss)
    1 low-level (USM)

    For comparison:

    North Carolina:
    10.4 million people
    3 major D-I programs (Duke, UNC)…. I know, I know lol
    1 mid-major (App state, NC State, Wake)
    1 low-level (Charlotte, East Carolina)

    Virginia:
    9 million people
    2 major D-I programs (UVA & VA Tech)
    2 low-level (Liberty & Old Dominion)

    Tennessee:
    6.7 million
    2 major D-I programs (UT & Vandy)
    1 mid-major (Memphis)
    1 low-level (Middle Tenn,)

    Mizzou:
    6 Million people
    1 major D-I program (Mizzou)

    Maryland:
    6 million people
    1 major D-I program (Maryland)
    1 mid-major (Navy)

    South Carolina:
    5 million people
    2 major D-I programs (USCe, Clemson)
    1 low-level (Coast Car)

    Alabama:
    4.9 million people
    2 major D-I programs (Bama, Aub)
    3 low-level (South Ala., Troy, UAB)

    LSU:
    4.7 million people
    1 major D-I program (LSU)
    3 low-level (Lousiana, LA-Monroe, Tulane)

    Arkansas:
    3 million people
    1 major D-I program (Arkanasas)
    1 low-level (Ark State)

    Anyway. You get my point.

    Liked by 1 person