SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/27/2006 04:06:00 PM
'Bama Does It Again
Mike Shula was 26-23 in four seasons at Alabama, including a 10-2 record in 2005.
Marvin Gentry/US PRESSWIRE
There have been a flurry of comings and goings in the coaching world since Sunday. There was a point Monday morning when I actually thought to myself, "You know, there isn't a single one of these schools that didn't make a good decision."
And then those doofuses at Alabama fired Mike Shula.
Mal Moore, the college athletic directors' answer to Isiah Thomas, was said to be "evaluating" Shula for more than a week now, but I didn't think he could possibly be short-sighted enough to pull the trigger. I can't believe I underestimated him. He is, after all, the same guy who hired a completely unqualified (at the time) Shula to step into college football's most thankless job in the first place.
It's hard enough to appease a fan base that expects anyone who dons the headsets to be the second coming of Bear Bryant, but Shula had the added obstacle of taking over a program dealing with the aftermath of major NCAA sanctions and the chaos of having four different head coaches in a three-year span. Plus he had to learn how to be a head coach. Crimson Tide fans were reasonable enough not to expect a national championship his first season. Just by his third.
Shula was admittedly in over his head those first couple seasons. The TV cameras would show him on the sideline and you wondered whether he was really the head coach or just a former player in for a visit. But then a strange thing happened last year: Shula learned how to coach. At least I assume he did, because 'Bama managed to start 9-0 and finish 10-2, led by a core of seniors (QB Brodie Croyle, LB DeMeco Ryans, S Roman Harper, et. al.) recruited just before the sanctions hit.
Inevitably, the Tide would take a step back this season after losing such standouts. That was obvious to anyone -- except, apparently, anyone in Alabama. The calls for Shula's head started from the time the Tide lost their first game and grew louder with each subsequent defeat in a disappointing 6-6 season. Despite the fact 'Bama actually exceeded at least one magazine's expectations (SI pegged them for 5-7), Shula was no longer the right man for the job in the ever-demanding court of public opinion. Apparently Moore agreed.
Here's the thing: I don’t necessarily think Shula is the next Vince Lombardi. But I’m not sure Lombardi himself would have fared much better than 26-23 the past four years under the circumstances Shula faced. Only this season did 'Bama finally return to having a full-sized roster -- and even then it was a roster whose upperclassmen couldn't have been the pick-of-the-litter coming out of high school, seeing as they signed on to play for a school that wasn't allowed to go to a bowl game at the time.
But anyone who watched the Tide this season knew their future was bright. Yes, they went 6-6 -- but it's not like they weren't competitive in the SEC. They took 10-2 Arkansas and 9-3 Tennessee to the wire. They played 11-1 Florida, 10-2 LSU and 10-2 Auburn tough. The one bad loss was Mississippi State (that was undoubtedly Shula's undoing). With impressive QB John Parker Wilson returning next season along with the bulk of the defense, there’s no doubt in my mind Shula's team would have contended in the SEC West next season.
Alas, we'll never know. But we do know how this will play out -- because Alabama goes through this every four years or less. A new coach will come in and reap the benefits of Shula's recruiting effots, but due to the inevitable bumps that come with a coaching transition, 'Bama still won't get over the "hump." The new coach will, however, energize recruiting efforts, and start to build up the talent level. Then, one of two things will happen. Either he'll struggle on the field for a couple years and get kicked to the curb a la Shula, or he'll have quick success, a la Dennis Franchione, and leave for greener pastures before the faithful have a chance to turn on him.
And then the cycle will start all over again. Yet again.
Believe me, I understand Alabama's desire to return to glory. I understand 6-6 seasons are hard to stomach at a place where national championships used to be routine. But this isn't 1979. The SEC is a whole lot tougher, and the Bear's not coming back. 'Bama has been stuck in a state of uncertainty for nearly a decade now, and that's simply not a recipe for success.
But it shouldn't be entirely surprising when you consider who's running the ship. In an age when college athletic departments are nothing if not a big business, the most successful ones are run by shrewd businessmen. Guys like Florida's Jeremy Foley, Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione and Louisville's Tom Jurich worked their way up the administrative ranks. Moore is an ex-Bear assistant whose sole qualification is that he’s a "'Bama guy." Such ex-coaches used to be par for the course as ADs, but at this point they're a dying breed, found almost exclusively in the South. The smart business decision would have been to keep Shula at least another season, but I'm not sure Moore or any of the other power-brokers in Tuscaloosa are capable of making a decision based on anything other that emotion.
One of these days, they're going to have to show someone some patience. Who will be that someone? Whoever’s naïve enough to think they’ll treat him any differently.
Now that that's out of the way … my thoughts on some athletic departments that actually know what they're doing will follow in the next Blog entry. …
Stewart, I have to agree with you that Mal Moore is an idiot. Being a student at Alabama and living in Tuscaloosa for eight years, it's a mess. However, I think that the problem is that not only was Shula insanely close to having a good record; he was insanely close to going winless in the SEC with last minute wins against Vandy and Ole Miss. The decision wasn't the best, but the way it was done was much worse.
Didn't Bama go 10-2 last year including a cotton bowl win. A lot of teams out there would lose to Auburn four years in a row. It is true that they were disappointing this year, but I am not sure they are going to be able to upgrade their situation at head coach. I don't think Bear Bryant is available at the moment.
As a lifelong BAMA fan, I disagree we are naive enough to believe there will be another Bear. That day is gone with Woody Hayes and Bo. The reason Shula is gone is the same reason Coker was fired from Miami, Zook was fired from Florida, and Solich was fired from Nebraska, the program was not showing improvement, period. No day dreams of Bear. Last year Tennessee almost fired one of the most sucessfull coaches in the country following one bad year. Stop taking cheap shots at Bama fans. The bear has been dead 23 years. Thousands of Alabama graduates have never seen a game he coached, not even on TV. Get a new schpiel.
Stewart! How can you say it was dumb of Bama to fire Shula? He never beat the archrival Auburn--in recruiting or on the field. He was 0-19 when trailing after 3 quarters! 0-19!!! Has there been anyone worse after 3 quarters?!?!AND he never was able to adjust to opposing coach's adjustments in the second half. It was predictable that the other team would come back in the 3rd quarter, and win it in the 4th. All the while, Shula had that jaw dropping look as if he were befuddled by it all. And he was. Here's one Bama alumnus that's glad he's outta here!
I think your criticisms of the Alabama atheletic department's firing of Mike Shula may be a little hasty. My understanding is that the powers that be would have accepted guarantees of change in the offensive assist coach/coordinator ranks, but Shula refused. Did you watch any Alabama games? For even less than 2 million a year, I could have come up with something better than run it 3 times up the middle, then kick.
Let me start out with the fact that I like Shula, I was a big fan in the first three seasons giving him every benefit of the doubt, I think he is a class guy and I wish him the best, but lets see what the problem was, not that Shula lost, more how he lost.
Take the Arkansas game. First down, in the red zone, and three straight runs up the gut to get zero yards and to go for a field goal, he should have been playing for the TD and settled for the field goal not go for the field goal and settle for a loss? Letting Van Tiffin miss four kicks in the game (that alone was terrible). That game was an example of how he was trying not to lose versus trying to win. The Mississippi State fiasco....don't even get me started, that game alone should be reason enough to fire him. Four straight losses to Auburn, we have fired good coaches for two losses to Auburn. Only one marquee win (Florida last year), and losses to subpar teams. No sparkle, just hum drum, average football, super conservative play calling that cost us LSU last year, and finally the worst red zone offense in the SEC. Three yards and a cloud of dust! Now the big question....who do we get.
I guess Bama should go to "the bears" grave and dig his bones up and let him coach the team. If the Bama folks don't know this i'll tell you: Bear Byrant is dead. He was the best. It's time to move on. This guy took over a football team 3 months before the season, on probabtion and did a decent job. Ya'll need P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E.
i agree in that shula would have done much better next year, there were certain things that doomed him. i was at the arkansas game, and as time was running out in regulation, he was playing for overtime, he wasn't playing for a win. same thing happened against auburn on the first two point conversion try--he was trying to get within three so he could TIE it. this does not sit well with me, any other bama fan, and i would think any college football fan. he had no "killer instinct". many games this year, bama went into halftime with a lead, then blew it in the second half, most often due to coaching as opposed to lack of big plays. another thing that doomed him was his apparent refusal to change assistant coaches. our defense is fine, we'll get better there, but our offense was terrible this year, even though we had a lot of playmakers. when ken darby wasn't running well and jimmy johns was, we kept running darby instead of johns. the biggest nail in the coffin? 0-4 against auburn. that will do in ANY head coach at alabama, just as 0-4 against the tide would do the same for a tiger coach. and it's not that we change coaches all the time, the last coach to be fired for his production (or lack thereof) was curry, back in the 90's. dubose left after some sexual harassment, franchione left us high and dry (although any old school bama fan realizes bear did the same to a&m back in the day), mike price spent the night with a stripper, and now we've fired shula. like i said, shula would have done better next year; it was inevitable. but a loss in tuscaloosa to the bulldogs plus never beating auburn is too much for me, for one. i say good luck, shula, and wherever you go next, pass the ball when the run is getting shut down
I hate to defend Mal Moore, but it was right to fire Mike Shula. Our program was not gaining any ground under him. We were squeaking out wins over such pathetic teams as Duke, Ole Miss and Florida Int. We even lost at home to Mississippi State.
Nothing about our offense improved from year to year or game to game. We were worse by the end of the year. Our 10-2 year only happened because of an excellent coaching job by Joe Kines.
I ask you this, what record would a good coach have had the last two years? Much better than Shula's I guarantee
'Bama is experiencing exactly what people said about USC in the late-90s. We were 20 years out from our most recent Championship, we'd gone through a string of coaches that couldn't match the legacy of Howard Jones or John McKay --we even tried to revisit John Robinson to mediocre results.
After USC fired Paul Hackett in 2000, people said no one in their right mind would want to coach at USC with insane expectations and a program past its prime.
We tried to hire Mike Belloti from Oregon ("not interested"), Dennis Erickson from then-Oregon State ("not interested") and Mike Riley from the Chargers ("Might be interested, can you wait until I'm fired next year?"). Then along came our 4th choice: a guy who's daughter was on the USC Volleyball team and hadn't coached in a year. He was the only one interested. Alumni threatened to stop donating until he was fired.
Pete Carroll at USC? Absurd!
But when no one "big" wants the job, sometimes you get stuck with the leftovers...
Shula had to go. two 6 win seasons in three years. 0-4 vs. awbarn. Miss State loss sealed his fate.
Alabama fans don't expect to have good seasons. We expect to compete every year for Championships. Shula wasn't headed in the right direction so he's gone. That's how it works. If Jesus H Christ himself had the same record, 'Bama would fire him too.
Remember this is a three stage process. Stage 1 - fire Shula. Stage 2 will be to hire a new coach. Stage 3 will occur in the next 12 mos and that will involve Mal Moore "retiring" and riding off into the sunset. THat will be a great day indeed.
Unless you've been here, you have no idea what it is all about. Yes, Coach Shula took the job when only 2 people wanted it (he and Croom). Yes, considering the situation, he did better than expected.
BUT, this is THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA. This is the school the PAC 8 quit inviting to the Rose Bowl and started inviting only Big 10 teams the could beat! This is the ONLY School to win 12 National Championships. This is the only school to repeat 4 times! There is a different standard here. Only USC and Notre Dame stand on the same ground. Ask them what the standard is!
Coach Bryant had many famous quotes that have been repeated over the years. Having known the Coach personally in his later life, I know of one that he used quite often in private, but not in public. "The only standard here, is perfection."
Good call Stewart. This was just dumb. It's like big-time national coaches are just lining up begging to come and sit under that microscope. Yeah, I hear Pete Carroll and Jim Tressel are just dying to move to Tuscaloosa!
Most excellent points made here about Shula. In addition to all the reasons listed to keep him as head coach, I'd like to add another. The one thing Alabama needs right now, more than anything else, is stability in the football program. That's something it hasn't had since Gene Stallings. But beyond this conviction is the uneasiness about Shula's successor. After all, isn't AD Moore the same guy that brought us Mike Dubose (no comment needed there), cut-and-run Dennis Franchione, and the short-tenured Mike Price? Does anyone honestly belive that the powers-that-be in Tuscaloosa have the ability to hire the right man. This is even more suspect given the fact that their Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe hiring decisions over the past decade have diminished the stature of once-upon-a-time premier coaching position.
Finally, consider the fact that AD Moore is likely to hang it up in the not-too-distant future. Will a new AD want to keep whatever staff Moore leaves for him or will he (or she) be likely to want to install their own regime? I believe Bama will be looking at the same situation two, three, maybe four years from now (whether the new coach is successful or not).
Congrats on the UA administration for adopting the Bill Clinton management style. In case you don't remember, this consisted of finding out what the public opinion polls were showing and their tailoring policy to fit the mood swings of the country. Where's Monica when you need her.
Mal'function' Moore actually got it right this time. Four years after he passed over the more qualifed Sly Croom for the apprentice, Mike Shula, Mal did the right thing by pulling the plug on Shula's administration. This thing was going the way of Ron Zook at Florida. Shula is a guy that you want to succeed, but unfortunately most alumni and fans didn't think he had the capability to do so. 0-19 when trailing after the 4th quarter, failure of the team to improve under average expectations, and the unwillingness to address an offensive philosophy that cost Alabama games that it should've won. These are just a few of the reasons why firing Shula and moving on wasn't just the best move, but was the ONLY move!
Thanks for weighing in Stewart. I had no idea that Bear Bryant was dead. You're an original news source, that's for sure. It is obvious that you weren't in attendance at the 'Bama games this year. We didn't lose six times because we lost Croyle, Harper and Ryans. We lost six times because we can't block, can't run the football and can't figure out how to get into that place called the end zone once we breach the 20 yard line. Shula is a very nice guy, too nice. He wanted to be an offensive coach and his play selection was indeed offensive. He is not to blame for the state of the program today and he may deserve credit for beginning the resurrection, but he was never going to be the guy who could "take his and beat yours, or take yours and beat his." That's the cleaned up version of the best way I've ever heard of for evaluating a coaches ability.
I am of two minds about Shula's firing. I disagree with Stewart on Shula's ability. His insistence on calling all the plays was the joke of the SEC West. Red-zone scoring was nonexistent, and the offense struggled worst against the poorest teams in the country - including a pitiful Fla. Int. team that had lost 18 players to suspension for the brawl at Miami.
But I agree with Stewart on one thing: Mal Moore and the "real bosses" at UA are pathetically impatient. No matter Shula's shortcomings, he was not given enough time. There is absolutely no stability in the football program and I expect none in the forseeable future.
I reckon you made some valid points...but you know us Southerners stuck in our backward ways...guess we'll never learn. [sarcasm] Perhaps Mal is an idiot for hiring Shula in the first place, but Shula had to know what he was getting into with this job. There's no way he should be so stupid to think that 4-9, 6-6, 10-2, 6-6 would cut it. Bama fans are just too impatient. I won't believe that someone like Spurrier couldn't have done a better job with the talent that we have. Sure the O-line sucks, but still. Shula's 10-2 season can be credited to a spectacular defense not recruited by him, a healthy Croyle (also not recruited by him), a healthy Prothro (once again) for his biggest win of that season, and some plain dumb luck. Anyways, until the second coming of the Bear - I guess we'll just have to be dissatisfied here at the Capstone. :)
I think it is a terrible decision to let him go now. The biggest thing this program needs is stability after all the turmoil this century. At best I expected us to go 8-4 after loosing all the seniors who stuck by the program. I think we should have fired some of the offensive coaches due to the red-zone ineffectiveness and see what happens next year. I can't wait to see what sucker takes the job!
January 26, 1982 is not the date that Bama fans are stuck on. The date of Paul Bryant's passing is what everyone who knows nothing of Alabama football is stuck on.
When people take a look at Bama's program without knowing what has gone on here for the last few years, the easy response - and usually the only response - is "Bear's dead. He ain't coming back." ENOUGH! Nobody who loves Alabama football thinks he is. So, stop it.
What most people don't know are the facts that others have already posted on here: 0-4 against Auburn; 2-14 against Ark, Tenn, LSU, and Auburn; 0-19 when trailing after three quarters.
AND, he was given an opportunity to save his job. He was told to come up with a plan of how he would correct the things that went so "terribly wrong" - Shula's own words to describe the season. He offered to reassign the duties of his assistant coaches. He wasn't even going to fix the most glaring problems in the program, namely the OL coach and ST coach. In addition to all of this, there was the out-of-control discipline issues that don't surface in the national media.
Slam us if you want, but leave Bear out of it. In case you didn't know, he's been dead almost 25 years.
That Mal Moore is not qualified to lead the UA Athletic Department takes no rocket scientist to notice. The way in which Coach Shula was dismissed was a stellar example of poor leadership. Ironically for Coach Shula, it was the kind of indecision and clumsiness in handling personnel that also plagued his tenure and sealed his own fate.
Mike Shula is a good, decent and qualified coach. But, he's not a leader. Game management snafus cost Alabama dearly against MSU and Auburn. Personnel decisions (i.e., running Ken Darby 18-20 times per game with less than 3 yards per carry vs. Jimmy Johns, the up-and-comer, perhaps 8 times per game with 5-6 yards per touch averaged; letting Lee Tiffin kick us out of the Arkansas game while Jamie Christiansen was able to play on the sidelines, and who has been "money" since then), play calling indecisiveness (the unforgettable 4th and 1 and 4th and 15 fiascos vs. Auburn) and bewilderingly average staffing (Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader has been a losing coach at every stop along his path): these were the ingredients of Shula's undoing. The MSU loss was the icing on the cake.
Shula showed no indication of changing. He seemed befuddled after the Auburn loss, not by the loss, but by the simple question of what will he do next in terms of evaluation of staff? His answer? "We haven't even thought about that to be honest with you." That's a direct quote.
It isn't that we expect the next Bear Bryant. That saw is old and worn out by every Bama hater and northeastern wet-behind-the-ears sportswriter. What we expect is a winner.
Shula is a class act, and a classic example of what good, clean living and a sharp agent can earn you: $4 million dollars for doing nothing for the next several years. My hat's off to him and my picture of him on my desktop wallpaper will be replaced. The good of the program required his departure.
Mal Moore, on the other hand, remains here. And, we can probably expect that his next hire will be no better than his previous hires. That's the most unfortunate aspect of this sordid mess that Alabama football now is.
Thanks for weighing in Stewart, I had no idea that Bear Bryant was dead. When did that happen? You obviously didn't attend the Alabama games this year. We didn't lose games because Croyle, Ryans and Harper departed; we lost them because we still can't block anybody, couldn't run the football and couldn't score in the red zone. Wilson did fine when he was able to stay upright and the defense kept us in all games except LSU. Mike Shula is a nice man and I like him. He isn't to blame for the current state of the program and he may infact be credited with beginning the resurrection down the line. The bottom line on Mike though, is that he fails the age old coaching adage...he was never gonna take his and beat yours and then take yours and beat his. He didn't have the imagination and he doesn't have the indomitable charisma to drive people to over-achieve. The fact that you and most other outsiders demand that we accept mediocrity just strengthens our resolve not to! Roll Tide!
Stewart, did you do any research before writing this?
Shula was fired because with anyone else at head coach this year Alabama would have 4 more wins. Arkansas, UT, Miss State, and Auburn would all be listed as victories if we had someone who had a clue about game management.
Shula was also fired because he is 0-19 when trailing in the 4th quarter. Shula is 3-15 against FLA, ARK, LSU, UT, and AUB. All three of those wins came last year. He is 0-4 against Auburn and LSU in his 4 years. His overall record is 26-23. Why would we want to keep him. He has plenty of talent, but he cannot manage a game. He is also too stubborn to let someone else call the plays.
The program was lacking in discipline. Look at how Shula disciplined the players compared to (dare I say it ) Tommy Tuberville. No comparison.
As a lifelong 'Bama fan, it pains me to see that we couldn't see fit to give Shula at least another year to prove himself. With all the obstacles he has had to overcome, he's done well. As you wrote, Bear ain't comin' back. The fact that most Tide fans live in a delusional fantasy land in which Alabama should be in the national title hunt every year is ludicrous. I want to win,too, but I think the real change that needs to be made is at thletic coordinator. Mal Moore is a dope and was one when he coached as well. Now his bad decisions are affecting the entire program, not just the football team's offense.
Stewart, this being my first ever comment, I have to say that I typically enjoy your posts, even when they are critical of my program. You say what you think, which I appreciate. That being said, I have to wonder as others have if you watched much Alabama football since our Florida win in Oct. '05. This program lost Tyrone Prothro and still hasn't recovered over a year and a half after his injury. Check the stats. 'Bama hasn't scored more than 20 pts in regulation against an SEC opponent since SI so eloquently stated Bama's Back.
On top of that, take a look at some of the disciplinary problems that have started showing back up at The Capstone. If you can't find the national media coverage of our defensive leader (who still started in the first game of the season) being arrested for possession of a stolen fire-arm and marijuana after a traffic stop, just watch some game tapes, and tell me if you think Coach Shula had disciplinary control of this program. You don't see coaches getting riduculed by their players in well disciplined programs. You don't have players in post-game interviews saying that during a game, they were worried first and foremost whether they were going to get offensive plays off before the play clock expired.
This is getting long, so I'll sum it up by saying that I like Mike Shula. I respect him. I think he was a great steward of Alabama football during a time when few others were interested in taking on the challenge. I also personally don't think I could have fired him, as I don't personally like the prospect of going through another of Mal Moore's hint-hint-wink-wink coaching searches. However, the fact remains that Mike Shula will be an excellent coach in the right situation. Unfortunately, Alabama's head coaching position was not the right fit for either him, nor The University. Yes, we will probably have a dip in output in the short-term, but here's to hoping we get it right this time, that the administration actually allows a good coach to coach, and that our future is a bright one.
While I think the larger problem at Alabama rests in the Athletic Director's office, the firing of Shula does have merit. Anyone who actually watched their games this year (and the last half of last season) would know that.
Bama had more trips into the redzone this year than any other SEC team. However, they only scored TDs on 35% of those trips.
They were outscored in the 4th quarter this year by a margin of 65-38. Anyone who watched their games this season saw the lack of conditioning as the team wilted in the last quarter of EVERY game.
While no one expected the Tide to win the SEC this year, it did expect improvement - of which there was none.
The same team that played tough in close losses on the road to Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee also lost to an awful Mississippi State team at home while having to scratch and claw their way to five home wins (not counting Hawaii) against competition with a combined record of 10-48. They had to come from behind in four of those five victories.
From PR disasters such as the injury to Tyrone Prothro, to Brodie Croyle getting injured against Western Carolina in the third quarter of a game in which Bama was up by 35 points, to the handling of the suspension of Juwan Simpson, to putting an injured Brodie Croyle in for one play against GA only to see him get hurt worse, to constantly having to call TO after TO because he couldn't make up his mind, to punting on 4th and inches deep in enemy territory in the 4th quarter of a close game, to going for two in the second quarter against your chief rival to "pull within a FG" of your chief rival, it was becoming plainly obvious that, as great a person as Mike Shula is, he is not as equally great a head coach. And he is/was not the coach that Alabama needs for the long-haul.
Agreed Mal Moore is an idiot, but he is a good old boy idiot and he he is not going anywhere. Stop talking about 10 and 2!!! It was a fluke season! UT was HORRIBLE and we still needed a Roman Harper fumble recovery to win. UF was at home and with a new coach, Spurrier was new to USC. Last year was LUCK and scheduling. Look, Coker went 55-15 (after probation), won an NC and stayed competitive - HE GOT FIRED. Shula has beat NO ONE, won NOTHING, went 25-23 and the team REGRESSED this year. I like Shula as a person, but that team needs some fire and he was not going to give it to them.
Stewart, i think that you are not fully informed of what has been going on at the University of Alabama over the last couple of years. just a few items that are not rumor, but fact, if you care to deal in facts. 1. a player slapped a graduate assistant coach in the face during a position meeting. 2. another player has tested positive for drugs at least once, if not more. 3. another prominent player is having academic problems. 4. the players are not required lift weights and work out. without any penalty. if you do not believe me listen to Coach Kines' comments at the press conference. he says that he is going to work the players, get back to work in the weight room. he also commented about focusing on academics. it appears to me he was hinting at something and putting the players on notice that there was new sherrif in town. with all of that said, i would say that it was more than just wins and losses it is about respect and the program overall going in the right direction. please check your facts before throwing stones.
I am suprised at the lack of research in your article. Coach Shula was given the opportunity to make changes in his coaching staff and declined to do so. The problems with the assistants existed for several years and needed to be addressed. Coach Shula is a nice man and he helped The University out during a difficult time. He was not, however, the person to lead Alabama in the future. Also, I've seen lots of shots taken at Alabama today. However, I don't think it's wrong to expect excellence every year. Football has changed - don't criticize Alabama for trying to change, too.
Anyone who watched the 12 'Bama games this year knows what kind of poor year it was. The schedule was postioned such that average coaching would yield 7-5 and good coaching 8-3. 'Good coaching would have yielded a 10-2 year as it turned out with wins over Arkansas, Tennessee and Auburn. Instead, Shula turned it into a 6-6 year. He needed to go. His exit statement clearly shows he was/is clueless.
All of you 'Bama fans are living in fantasy land. Given all the garbage that Shula had to sort through when he arrived, he has done a remarkable job of putting you in the direction of respectability once more. Your program is in great shape looking ahead, so you better hope you can get a coach in who doesn't break what he's started. And as for the Spurrier talks, dream on. He doesn't go to a school who doesn't appreciate a good coach when they have one.
Stewart, I love your column, but I just have to disagree with you. Everyone points to the fact that Shula took the team 10-2 last year. But who did they beat?
They played a patsy out-of-conference schedule and beat an Arkansas team that nearly cost Nutt his job, a Tennessee team that nearly cost Fulmer his job, a Florida team that was much worse than anyone imagined, Vandy, Ole Miss, Miss St, and South Carolina. Not exactly the strongest schedule in the conference, especially since almost all of the big 'uns were at home.
No, in retrospect, it turns out that those 10 wins were decent wins over average opponents (at best) by a phenomenally talented team (by the way, NOT recruited by Shula).
Stewart I have but one problem with your comments...they don't take into account the fact that Shula had a way to guarantee he was retained. Fire a few assistants and bring in fresh coaches. He was loyal to a fault and it ultimately cost him his job. Shula was not given one but two opportunities by Mal Moore to agree to fire a few assistants (which would have shut the fans up...at least for a while) and he chose not to make the changes. The offensive line was literally TERRIBLE and the schemes they ran were outdated and basically obsolete (as written by John Hannah several weeks ago in the Birmingham News). Why not just fire Bob Connelly and bring in a proven OL coach? Also, the special teams have been anything but special. Why not fire Ungerer and bring in another coach? According to many, there needed to be a shake up in workouts. Also, the offensive play calling was horrible. Shula didn't even agree to fire Dave Rader who had spent his last 7 years as an insurance salesmen before coming back to Bama. Mike Shula fired Mike Shula...NOT MAL MOORE or the Fans!
Alabama made the right decision. As was stated early, college football is big business. As a businessman, I would expect to be fired if I did not get results. For example, I understand Mike Shula inherited bad decisions from the past leadership of the program. However, he did manage a winning season last year. But again, it comes down to results! Did he do a good enough job recruiting for this year, the right decisions to replace his losses of last year? I am an avid Alabama Fan, and winning is what the game is about. I was told early in my career, the true definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. The next question is... Does Mal Moore and the leadership of the atheltetic program have what it takes to recruit a successful coach and leader? If not, maybe some changes there are warranted also. For all of those folks screaming about firing Mike Shula was a mistake, I have one question. Would you allow a stock broker with Mike's record to manage your retirement portfolio? For the record I am a big Mike Shula fan due to his demeanor and values. Mike Shula is a good man, however was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mike Shula will do well in his career as a football coach and sooner or later he will too be missed at Alabama. Roll Tide!
Has there ever been a better fit than Mike Shula becoming the new offensive coordinator at Florida State? The guy woudn't have to deal with any of the personnel decisions, just calling the plays. Maybe as a former quarterback and QB coach he could help solve whatever problem it is that seems to force Xavier Lee to throw only into triple-coverage. He could come in, take a crak at it for a few years, and if it works out move on to a smaller school as head coach, probably in the Big East or Big 12, maybe even ACC. I think he could be incrediby successful in such a capacity.
Let Mal Moore take over as coach, and hire a real AD. Then you'll have a real 'Bama Good Ole Boy as head coach, and a businessman to run the department ('Bama and the rest of the SEC aren't ready for a female AD). If Mal can't hack it, then hire PB Jr. After his tenure, perhaps by then 'Bama followers will allow some reality to set in...
One only has to read the ongoing screed of the bama faithful in these posts to feel pity for the next poor sap to fill the head coaching post at Alabama. Mike Shula is a quality individual and a quality football coach. Alabama was lucky to have him. Your appraisal was absolutely dead on, Stewart. The next guy will inevitably either disappoint the rabble on the field or break their hearts by bolting for greener pastures. It couldn't happen to a nicer collection of folks.
There are plenty of posters defending Alabama's decision for various reasons, and I agree with pretty much all of them. The only thing I would like to add is a personal anecdote. Coming out of Bryant-Denny stadium this year as Alabama lost its 5th straight (and 4th under Shula) to Auburn, I overheard some Auburn fans discussing Mike Shula and his future at the Capstone. "I sure hope they don't fire Shula" was the general consensus. That, in and of itself, tells me all I need to know about this decision. When the fans of the hated rival are praying that your coach doesn't get fired because they have dominated him in every way for his entire coaching tenure, it's a good time to consider finding a new leader for your football team.
Stewart, The true measure of whether or not this was a good decision is how opposing fans view it. None of the fans of the other SEC schools are happy with Shula's firing. Now, but for the fact that Mal Moore is the one doing the hiring, they all have to be worried that the sleeping giant will awake.
Stewart, I am a high school athletic director, a football coach and a life long Alabama fan. I judge a coaches' performance on two things: 1) Is he a good Christian role model with class and of good character? 2) Are the kids improving each time out? I can say, as a die-hard Alabama fan, Mike Shula is a classy coach who will be successful where ever he goes. He is a good role model. However, our football team did not improve as this past year progressed. Same as last year - our team got worse, especially the offensive line. In addition, Coach Shula was stubborn and failed to listen to people around him. He had problems that did not get fixed. For instance, the offense was so predictable I called plays every Saturday with my wife listening. She needed football 099 lessons. Coach Shula's answer: Let's run a reverse or two and try an onside kick. Alabama should persue excellence and settle for nothing less. Now, some of my fellow Alabama fans go a bit further than me, but Alabama has every right to do what is in the best interest of the program. Is this the right move at the right time? Only time will tell.
To all my fellow Alabama fans...ignore the negative remarks made by Mandel in this article, and all the subsequent comments by Bama "haters". Mandel's ego would never allow him to be swayed, so don't waste your time trying to justify the decision to fire Mike Shula. I say take solace in the fact that Alabama is getting a new coach and our future success will do the talking for us. Roll Tide Roll!
at some point you have to be lucky when searching for the head coach. i see Auburn fans patting themselves on the back however it wasn't too long ago that the tigers were mucking up there situation and got lucky that they didn't fire tuberville. they should have let Shula coach for a least another year to prove that progress was being made. OH well i don't feel too bad for shula. if karma has anything to do with it alabama will be stuck in mediocrity for the next ten years
Do you have any idea about the work Mal Moore has done in improving the facilities at the University of Alabama? Have you been there to witness the improvements made in the Athletic Department? The fact that Coach Moore was an assistant for Coach Bryant should not disqualify him from running the department. This reminds me of your article about the worst coaches in college football. You should try to understand a little more about situations before you write such things. You should also realize that your wit, though it may sell to customers, can be very hurtful to professionals like coaches and AD's. I know they are always criticized by many who don't know what they are talking about. However, you should not be one of them. However, that seems to be what you have chosen to be.
Let's face facts. Winning solves all these problems. Alabama hasn't been the only big time former national power to have coaching issues in the last ten years( Notre Dame anyone). They flubbed up several times before landing Charlie Weis. Who hasn't won anything(NC) by the way, but is considered the new messiah there. All Bama needs is a consistent winner. Someone who still thinks Alabama can return to National Prominence. And they can. Southern Cal was down. Right coach. Know they are back. Texas down. Right coach. They are back. Oklahoma down and probation. Right coach and they are back. Georgia same thing. Stop hating on Alabama people. We have one of the best fan bases in the country. Call us unrealistic if you wish but we still believe in the Tide. Mal Moore will make the right choice this time. Mark my words. We may not win the SEC next year but a national championship run will be possible in 08. Hate on that.
What Alabama did is nothing that Michigan, USC, Nebraska,Ohio State and texas would have done firing cms. Could you imagine all those program losing to there rival four years in a row. It have nothing to do with living in the pass. cms suck plain and simple. Yea, I think you get the point.
Good read. Your column was right on target – the responses from the Crimson faithful validate your points. At the first sound of criticism of the program, they respond with the Pavlonian chant of “12 National Championships” just as a startled rattlesnake shakes its rattles. They cannot conceive of a Nick Saban or Steve Spurrier not instantly quitting their jobs to come coach the Tide. They’ve been in deep trouble with the NCAA twice in the last dozen years for flagrant rules violations, yet the Tide faithful still believe they were setup - first by Auburn and then by Tennessee. The power brokers in Tuscaloosa – some would call them the Bama Mafia – have run off honest coaches because they wouldn’t play ball Bama style (Curry) and by outright lying to them (Franchioni). The merry-go-round of coaches in T-town will continue until the old school power brokers are gone. Let’s hope they hang on for long time...
Stupid yankee. You don't understand real football anyhow. Bear Byanyt has for gotten more football then you'll ever know. We are BAMA! It is our tradition and our desinty to reclaim our rightfull place atop the football mountain. RTR.
It's so funny, Stewart, because all the Bama posters on here just made your point for you. Ridiculous. I still like to think of it as the curse of Bill Curry..whom Gene Stallings went on to win the National Championship with his players.
Coach Mandell's words of wisdom are all enlightening...Just in reading his article the scales have fallen from my eyes. Who has a better grasp on the intrinsics of college football? Such incredible wisdom, wrapped in humoristic sarcasm will force those stupid Southerns to take note of Stewy's superior opinions. GAG....There's a reason why Mandell is writing sports articles versus coaching college ball...
Bama apologists: y’all are hilarious trying to explain away Shula’s 10-2 record JUST LAST SEASON. It’s a mirage, look more closely. Just one quality win. Etc. I have to assume that you aren’t the same folks who argue for the overall quality of the SEC! Isn’t 10-2 in the SEC practically a national championship contender??? Isn’t a .500 SEC team at least 8-4 or 9-3 in a mere mortal conference, hardly firing-worthy??? I doubt anyone can meet the expectations at Alabama, which are unrealistic in this day and age. The SEC schools have secured the state borders (except Mississippi) and there aren’t enough A-list athletes in Alabama and Mississippi to make the Tide contenders. That said, Mal Moore and the boosters better higher an up-and-coming assistant, or mid-level head, coach with slick sales skills that could recruit Mother Theresa to take up arms in Iraq, because that’s what it’s going to take.
In my opinion, Coach Shula demonstrated the need for change by not agreeing to make tweaks in his methodology and coaching staff. It's too bad this line had to be crossed. Another year of coaching stability may have done Alabama football some good, regardless of the resulting W/L record.
UA athletic administration did not handle Shula's entire tenure very well. It's time for them to step back and a long look at their management practices. Shula was granted a contract extension and a significant raise in the summer of 2006, perhaps as a knee-jerk reaction to Fran's departure after his 10-win season. Nevertheless, by guaranteeing a $10MM, 6-year contract they not only affirmed Shula and his entire staff, but they proclaimed that the new face of Alabama football has been found (bring on the recruits!) Six months later, apparently all that was found was a creative way to waste big bucks and give top recruits another reason to be wary of UA football.
Coach Moore and Dr. Witt both share responsibility in the "problems" of this season by giving Coach Shula a reward rather than demanding changes when they were truly needed. Any good ol' boy can tell you that it's not only huntin' dogs that get confused with that sort of treatment. Yet good ol' boy Moore remains to try again. Hopefully this time will be the charm.
I love how the national media loves to pile on the Tide. I'd echo the comments of many who have written... Shula was a great guy and represented the program well - and choices were limited after the Price fiasco - but it became painfully obvious to those that watched ALA football (not just a few national games like Stewart) that Mike was over his head. Other SEC schools have figured out how to creatively use their playmakers (ie. UF with Dallas Baker, ARK with its McFadden package), but not so with the Tide. Living in Central Florida, the complaints about Shula with the Bucs sound just like those he heard in Tuscaloosa. Hopefully, we'll find a credible coach who will be in it for the long haul...
Idiocy of the AD aside, word has it that the week of "assessment" was actually in part for Coach Shula to present how he preferred to realign the staff. Reportedly, he came back with re-assigning certain coaches (primarily the special teams coach) and his relinquishing play calling duties. However, he would not fire any staff member nor retain any new ones. Coach Shula apparently went down with the ship. Frankly, assuming that he didn't present them with an ultimatum, I think he should have been given another year, stripped of play calling, and another offensive coordinator should have been hired. I don't know who's responsible for developing quarterbacks (whether it's Shula or Dave Rader), but whomever it was has done a fine job over the years and should've been allowed to continue in that position. Bama has all the pieces in place for a great run next year. To anyone familiar with the program, this year should have been much better than it was. All of the veterans that were lost last year were on defense and Joe Kines's defense did a job that, had the offense been able to score, Bama would have won several more games easily. Go back and look at the tapes if you don't believe me. There aren't many people who hate this for Coach Shula more than I as we attended school together at Bama. I wish him only the best for the future.
0-4 vs auburn. Shula had to go. Coach Bryant would have quit himself if auburn had beaten him 4 in a row. Remember, Bill Curry was 10-1 and lost to auburn and got the ax. Shula will make someone a great QB coach but he will never be head coach material. He does not have the "feel" for the game like Coach Bryant, Spurrier, etc. Look at what happened toward the end of the auburn game. Shula could not decide whether to go for 4th and 15 or kick the field goal. He changed his mind twice and had to burn a TO just to make a decision. Getting rid of Shula was something that was forthcoming even if he had been given another year. By keeping Shula we would have just been delaying the inevitable.
I have been an Alabama fan since the early 60s. I lived the glory days of Bear Bryant and the national championships. What most people, including sports writers do not understand is the significance of not losing the Alabama-Auburn game too often. I have always explained it this way. You can have multiple losing seasons at these schools except when losing to Auburn or Alabama successively. Maybe we can lure Steve Spurrier from South Carolina. he is not happy there and has stepped into a big time program (Florida) before.
Mike Shula did not deliver a winnable offense. We (Alabama fans) suffered offense mishaps and extreme conservatism this season that was were frustrating and unacceptable. However, Shula is not our problem. University of Alabama leadership is. We have watched Mal Moore, working with the good ole boy network, destroy this program. Paul Bryant, Jr., who serves as one of the university trustees, continues to wield his influence based solely on his name and money. This network continues to be this program's downfall. Until we overcome a university president, athletic director, and key trustees who continue to manipulate their will with arrogrance and power, the once proud Tide will wallow in mediocrity.
Why is is that no one is mentioning the name of Pat Hill as possible coaching replacement? He took over a lackluster Fresno State team, immediately turned them around, instilled the "anybody, anytime, anywhere" mentality, improved the team's GPA and graduation rates, and regularly scares the hell out of the "big boys" he plays year-in, year-out. He would be a great addition to any program including Bama or Miami. It probably would make more since to hire him at Arizona St. however, with his vast knowledge of that part of the country and the schools that play there.