While things aren’t looking good for the Hogs right now on the field (a pox on those Casey Dick interceptions) I thought I would take this opportunity to take an eye off our own sufferings and look at the larger context of the annual firing ritual that is taking place at other programs who are at the point we were last year at about this time.
Our country has just recently in the realm of national politics conducted an orderly election that will result on January the 20th in the orderly handing over of power from one administration to the next. As a nation, we’ve been doing this sort of thing every four years for over two hundred years. It is without a doubt, one of our better traits.
But this time of year in college football we see just the opposite occuring when it comes to the position of head football coach. Maybe they should, but no state or university holds an orderly election to determine if Coach Been There For A Long Time But Not Winning Like He Should should be kept for another year.
Instead, the displeasure of Saturday mobs, the aristocracy of boosters, and the office of the Chancellor coalesce with various degrees into a single will that results in not a beheading, but a public press conference of departure. Cameras snap, but not necks.
I think college football, in fact, is where our inner revolutionary has gone to dwell. Nobody would think now of storming the White House and over-throwing a president when we have elections every four years. But we do contemplate and speak out for the ouster of our head football coaches through means civil and otherwise at any given time. Be he a tyrant with his insistence on running the ball in obvious passing situations or a despot who can’t see the obvious virtues of the backup quarterback, we can contemplate the coach’s downfall with assurance that the Republic itself is never in jeopardy.
Thinking about the recent overthrow of Phil Fulmer at Tennessee and last year’s Glorious Revolution of 2007 at Arkansas, I think the case can certainly be made that a coach on the throne of the athletic department can grow complacent and exceedingly autocratic if left there too long. Possibly that revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson (who would obviously be a fan of the SEC if he were alive today), would agree, for he once wrote, “I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Only a few pigskin monarchs (Bowden, Paterno, Bryant) have lasted decades at one school. As more often is the case, to borrow again from Jefferson, the tree of your football program must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of coaches and assistant coaches. It is their natural manure.
Another way of looking at the recent ousters and the ones that are sure to come is a much more ancient one where a human, sometimes the king himself, had to be sacrificed in order for the fertility to return to the soil and the rejuvenation of the land (See Frazer’s “The Golden Bough” or the end of “Apocalypse Now”). In the case of football, fertility returns in the form of victories, merchandize sold, tickets solds, and donations to the foundation. Bobby Petrino right now is the new king with the hope of very fertile crops in the future once he gets himself firmly planted in Fayetteville with his own players, but no doubt, in the future, if things aren’t seen as growing, (how many times have we said this season, “Just want to see some growth”?) he’ll face his own ouster.
But one far more pleasant than that of old. The sacrificed ones, the Charles I’s, the Louis XVI’s didn’t walk away with millions of dollars. They didn’t walk at all! They also didn’t get the opportunity to be resurrected at the university two conferences away or that one just across the river from you.
As this season of college football nears its end, Arkansas fans can sit back in the comfort of stability, if not victories, as we know who our leader will be next year, despite ESPN’s never ending quips that Bobby Petrino drops a resume off at the post-office each day as he goes to work. As other fan bases go through the drama that we went through last year, we can enjoy the spectator sport of watching programs search for their new King Arthur, their Once and Future Coach.
(more at www.razorbackexpats.com)