IT'S THAT time of year, folks—time to play College Coaching Carousel, in which candidates fib about everything from their interest in other jobs ("I'm not going to be the Alabama coach," Nick Saban said last December, 13 days before he left the Miami Dolphins to be the Alabama coach) to the terms of their leave-taking. ("There are no facts to that," said Dennis Franchione on Nov. 6, when questioned about a buyout from Texas A&M that he would take 17 days later.)
Coaching can be a brutal business, but shed no tears for Houston Nutt. Six hours after he was nudged out at Arkansas, he got a four-year deal at Ole Miss, where ex-coach Ed Orgeron was undone by petty theft—20 of his players were on probation for pinching pillows and clock radios from hotels—and for losing all of his SEC games this year. Also axed: UCLA's Karl (Dead Man Walking) Dorrell, whose name became synonymous with "hot seat" after a blowout loss at Utah. The most intriguing possible replacement: Texas Tech's Mike Leach, a brilliant offensive mind whose passions include rugby, Daniel Boone, Geronimo and pirates. ( Leach has flown the skull and crossbones at Tech practices, and he keeps a Bluebeard-era flintlock pistol on his desk.)
A week after sacking Bill ("I've Done an Excellent Job") Callahan, Nebraska AD Tom Osborne poached defensive coordinator Bo Pelini from LSU. The loss of Pelini was overshadowed in Baton Rouge by the retention of head coach Les Miles, who was, according to an ESPN report, thisclose to signing with Michigan (page 58). The stiff-arm from Miles—the latest in a cavalcade of disappointments for the Wolverines in '07—left AD Bill Martin nowhere in his search to replace Lloyd Carr. (Among the names in his hat: Rutgers's Greg Schiano and Jeff Tedford of Cal, where tree-sitters continue to slow progress toward new facilities.)
LSU's end around to the national championship game made university officials feel better about their decision to jack up Miles's salary to a reported $3.45 million. That's $15,000 more than Notre Dame's Charlie Weis—who had better show dramatic improvement or he will likely find himself on the '08 Carousel.