football stock

By the time you read this, you will know the outcome of the Southeastern Conference championship game.  

Either Georgia lived up to the expectations that they are this year’s fair-haired child of the SEC -- if not all of college football -- or Nick Saban pulled yet another rabbit out of his hat and the Crimson Tide prevailed.  

That would not be unlike the way they managed to come from behind and beat Auburn in this year’s Iron Bowl with four overtimes. I did not bother to watch most of that game, opting instead to entertain grandchildren so the die-hard fans could focus their attention on it.  

But as I heard the whoops and yells coming from our playroom, I moseyed in and witnessed the end of the fourth quarter and the overtimes. As my older son said, nobody expected Auburn to win, but it was cruel to allow the faithful to get their hopes up for redeeming a lackluster season with an unexpected victory.  

But them’s the breaks when you’re a football fan, even a casual one such as myself.  

Thanksgiving weekend is commonly known as rivalry weekend in college football, when all bets are off and anything can happen. Not only can a beat-up mediocre Auburn team give powerhouse Alabama a run for its money and almost pull off a miraculous win; Oklahoma State can spoil the season and playoff hopes for Oklahoma while Michigan does the same for Ohio State.  

The end of the regular season also marks the beginning of what is commonly known as the coaching carousel, when the boosters who underwrite the athletic departments notify their athletic directors it’s time for a change and open their wallets to make it happen.  

And coaches who might have heretofore pledged undying loyalty to a team that is their current employer will decide, well, the grass might be a little greener after all – the same color as the currency being dangled in front of them. 

As one of my favorite sports pundits so artfully stated, the college sports powers-that-be have made it clear “they’ll pay any price for victory,” while coaches have made it equally clear “they won’t hesitate to bail on their current gig if the money’s right.”  

The reference, of course, is to former Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley, who inked a deal with USC while still wearing his OU coaching garb from the big game with Oklahoma State, and Brian Kelly, the winningest coach in Notre Dame history, who will now coach at LSU.  

Neither will coach in his now former team’s bowl game. For Notre Dame, that could very well be a playoff game for the national championship.  

Apparently Riley was LSU’s first choice. During the Bedlam Bowl (the unofficial name of the OU-OSU game) at OSU’s home field, the Garth Brooks song “Callin’ Baton Rouge” could be heard over the loudspeakers in a clever, if not tacky, attempt to goad OU fans.  

And while I suppose one could argue OU had the last laugh, that’s hardly the case since (a) they lost the game and (b) their coach did in fact bolt, albeit to a different school  

Only weeks ago, when reporters questioned Riley about the LSU job, he said, “I coach the University of Oklahoma football team. You know me.” 

One could now read all kinds of things into that statement, and I wonder if some, even then, were asking, “Do we?”  

Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame players learned of his new job before he had a chance to tell them himself. He sent a late-night text apologizing to them for that, as well as expressing his “limitless love,” and promised more details at a meeting scheduled the next morning at 7 a.m.   

The meeting lasted less than four minutes and Kelly took no questions from players. Limitless love has its limits.  

But far be it for me to judge. A guy’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.  

And while I certainly don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of all that goes into all of this, I know a few things.  

I know that, for some time now, college teams have paid massive amounts of money to coaches to come turn things around. When that doesn’t happen, they pay them to leave, pursuant to their contracts. This can go on for years, with schools (or whoever pays) hemorrhaging money as they desperately try to find the right fit. (See UT Knoxville.) 

In the SEC, Nick Saban has built a dynasty. As a rule, the other teams (with occasional exceptions like  Georgia this year), beat each other up on a weekly basis.  

This year alone, Texas A&M handed Alabama its only loss, but they lost to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and LSU.  

Auburn beat Arkansas, Ole Miss and LSU, but lost to Texas A&M and four other conference teams. I could tell you more, but you get the picture.  

In the SEC, an 8-4 season is not only a worthy goalit’s pretty good. 9-3 is above average and 10-2 is excellent. 6-6 gets you in a bowl game, but how embarrassing is that?  

So how much sense does it make to continue to pay coaches more money than they could ever spend to accomplish the highly unlikely (winning a conference championship and, ultimately, getting into the playoffs) 

And back to the LSU and the Brian Kelly deal, how long will he have to bring the Tigers around, considering Ed Orgeron got the boot two years out from a national championship?  

Because let’s be honest. While I might think of 8-4 as respectable, those who pay the big bucks, as my pundit friend says, are “putting a down payment on a national championship.”  

I suspect nothing less will be acceptable.  

And I suspect the carousel won’t stop anytime soon.  

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected] 

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather.