College football news moved faster this week than Oregon’s offense in Chip Kelly’s hey-day with the Ducks, and the blur started with Kelly himself deciding to return to the Pac-12.
In a span of a week, four Southeastern Conference teams hired new coaches, including Texas A&M, which pulled off the rare feat of luring a coach away from a school where he had won a national championship. Tennessee was the centerpiece of the surreal seven days, courting at least four coaches and then changing athletic directors. Texas A&M’s gain was Florida State’s loss as the Seminoles will put a help-wanted sign on the program for the first time in 42 years. There was so much going on that the culmination of Mississippi’s long and winding NCAA investigation barely caused a ripple.
And there was still a little matter of playing the most important games of the season.
Championship Saturday features five games that will set the College Football Playoff and New Year’s six bowls. There are four matchups of teams ranked in the AP top 10, something that has only happened one other time in the 81-year history of Associated Press poll. On Sunday, the final four will be set.
The games seem like an afterthought as coaching moves and missteps — mostly the latter by Tennessee — have dominated the headlines.
“Let me be clear: It has not overshadowed this event,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Do I wish these things had not happened? Absolutely.”
On the eve of the SEC championship game, the snarled Tennessee coaching search took another bizarre turn. The school moved to fire athletic director John Currie just hours after he met with Washington State coach Mike Leach in Los Angeles. In stepped, Phillip Fulmer, the Hall of Fame coach who led Tennessee to the national championship in 1998, to be named AD and reboot the search. This mess started in Knoxville last Sunday when Tennessee fans revolted over the impending hiring of Greg Schiano as coach. After Schiano, Tennessee tried Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm, North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren and then Leach.
Next? Maybe Fulmer’s former quarterback from that national title team, Tee Martin, who is offensive coordinator at Southern California. The Trojans played Stanford in the Pac-12 title game Friday night.
Jimbo Fisher was the other national championship-winning coach who made news Friday for taking a new job. But he did it at a new school. After eight seasons with Florida State,…