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Army-Navy restores faith in college football

Posted on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 6:00 am

Ken Jackson
Picks of the Weak

Some of you will be out Christmas shopping today, or outside hanging more lights or trying to get that inflatable Rudolph to stand up on the lawn.

The luckier ones will get to settle into their comfy recliners and watch the one college football game on today.

Army-Navy represents everything good about healthy athletic collegiate competition, about playing for the team on the front of the jersey rather than the name on the back, or for a big paycheck later. Nearly all the guys on the field today will have a government job, hopefully in a place that isn’t dirty, dusty, hot and God-forsaken, for at least five years after graduation.

That really makes guys like Jimbo Fisher, Willie Taggart and most of those who’ve wanted the Tennessee coaching job look like foreign dictators. I’ll get to them in a second.

When they hit the field in the spring, UCF, FSU and Florida will all have new head football coaches.

It’s interesting, and also really rare. In Tallahassee, Bobby Bowden coached for eons, then was replaced by “Coach in Waiting” Jimbo Fisher, so before this week there hadn’t been a true coaching search since the mid-1970s. UCF is just on its fifth full-time coach since 1985.

The process of getting there was like watching sausage being made. Fisher played mental tag with the media, his school and his own players for two weeks about his leaving to take the Texas A&M job, refusing to talk about it until we saw him disembark a private jet onto a red-carpetted tarmac with a spirit band playing. Funny and disgusting at the same time.

Disgusting? That was Taggart leaving Oregon after just one season and taking his third job in just under one year.

He talked about FSU being his “dream job”. He can think that all he wants, but the program Bowden built is too hallowed for anyone to call it their dream — I don’t care how much tarnish Fisher put on it this season, or in the last two weeks.

And Scott Frost, trying to make everybody around him — UCF staff, the fans, and those up in Nebraska — feel as good as they could about leaving a 12-0 team to one that hasn’t been nationally relevant since getting curb stomped by Miami in the 2002 national championship game.

If you believe the reports, Frost really tried to work through a dirty process as clean as possible, but he still came out dirty. There are lots of emotional UCF fans who don’t believe the reports and have been throwing corn grenades at him on social media on his way out. It’s probably because it’s the first time a Knights coach left to choose another job; every other UCF coach left because they were responsible for the team being really bad.

We’ve talked less about first downs and touchdowns since Thanksgiving than we have coach contract buyouts. These are terrible contracts, that benefit coaches’ agents more than they do anyone else, written by supposedly smart administrators. Phil Knight owns Nike, and largely funds the Oregon athletic program, and now has to find a third football coach in three football seasons while letting FSU make mortgage payments on a multi-million dollar out clause for Taggart. Joy to the World!

Here’s a noble idea: bind schools and their coaches to the contracts that they sign, and the terms of those deals.

“But our coach is a moron, we have to get rid of him!” Blame your school’s coat-and-tie guys for signing him to a five or six-year (or ten!) deal. That’ll change quickly if you’ll be stuck with them.

The result of all this is that the longest-tenured head coach among Florida’s seven FBS programs is Mark Richt at Miami. He’s got a whole two seasons in.

That’s enough to crack a special coaches’ edition of the Mighty News-Gazette Divine Nine:

1. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (longest tenured FBS coach, 1999). 2. Gary Patterson, TCU (2000). 3. Frank Solich, Ohio (2005, longest tenured in the Group of 5). 4. Ken Niumatololo, Navy (2007). 5. Jeff Monken, Army (2014). 6. Mark Richt, Miami (way back in 2016). 7. Bobby Bowden. 8. Steve Spurrier. 9. Vince Lombardi (you get a trophy, you make the list).

And now for a few picks:

Army vs. Navy (-3): Gets the stage to itself, and rightly so. Bonus: after years of Navy whuppin’ up on Army, then Army finally winning last year, this year’s tilt will be really, really good. As the son and grandson of former Sergeants, Go Army! Beat Navy! By 7.

And for a smorgasbord of pro picks:

Detroit at Tampa Bay: no line, and no interest. Lions by 6.

Seattle at Jacksonville (-2.5): Being an underdog to the Jags must mean Pete Carroll is looking for a buyout right? Jags by 3.

New England (-11) at Miami: Some South Florida businessmen should try to see what Bill Belichick buyout would be, and try to raise it by Monday afternoon. Pats by 10.

Oakland at Kansas City (-4): Chiefs opened the season beating the Patriots and Eagles. Now they can’t beat an egg. Raiders by 3 in “What’s Andy Reid’s Buyout?” Upset Special.

Brian “Big Man” McBride’s Super Sniffer Upset Special: Seahwaks over Jaguars by 3.

Petey “The Gators are Gonna Win” Covino says: “Well, we have a coach now.”