UCF's hiring of Dino Babers exposes the gutless cowardice of the B1G's also-rans

Submitted by stephenrjking on November 30th, 2015 at 12:45 AM

The B1G-SEC contrast is overblown. The SEC is overhyped; we all know it. We're tired of it. I can't wait to hear about how Michigan's "brawn" will have trouble matching up to the "ESS EEE SEEE SPEEEED" in whatever bowl game we're in.

But there is one area in which the SEC clearly edges the B1G, and it's a huge, legit reason why the conference is consistently better than the B1G top-to-bottom: Mid-range SEC teams are willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary (perhaps, though a topic for another day, not entirely legal ones) to produce a winning football team. Mid-range B1G teams are not.

This has been exposed, again, by the poaching of Dino Babers by mid-major dumpster fire UCF. 

You know, Dino Babers. Art Briles disciple, who has the potential to introduce to the B1G a style of football foreign enough that wins are a likelihood just because teams won't be able to adapt. Dino Babers, head coach of in-our-backyard Bowling Green. Dino Babers, who has more wins over B1G teams than... current, not-fired Purdue coach Darrell Hazell.

I mean, c'mon, Babers beat Hazell in his own barn this year. He has clearly assembled a better program in a small college in a small town most people don't believe really exists. Why is Hazell still at Purdue and Babers coaching in Florida for a non-power-5 school?

Because, aside from the big boys at the very top of our conference, Big Ten teams are little more than callow lawn ornaments on the national football landscape. They're gutless. A bit of a buyout (Hazell) and they won't pull the trigger. A suggestion of continuity (Tracey "wait let's fire all of our coordinators now that I'm in charge" Claeys and Bill "Mac retread who didn't totally embarrass himself" Cubit) and they can't help but stay the course. A guy with a nice personality or program familiarity (Mike Riley, Paul Chryst) and he's a sure hire. 

The Big Ten isn't a disappointing conference because of talent drain or geography or NCAA bias or even cheating; it is a disappointing conference because half of the teams really don't care.

Dino Babers was in our backyard. He is 3-1 against B1G competition in the last two years. That he won't be on a B1G sideline next year is a travesty.



November 30th, 2015 at 1:00 AM ^

Actually, this is a good question, since I spit this out in a few minutes and it doesn't really make the point well as written. The issue is that mid-range SEC teams, unlike mid-range B1G teams, are willing to make real changes when they don't win enough. David Cutcliffe was fired from Ole Miss with a winning record in conference. Houston Nutt got the axe at Arkansas because he won but not quite enough. Auburn could sell Netflix a 2-season hit drama series consisting only of the intricate plots of its various coaching changes over the last 15-20 years.

Meanwhile Mike Riley is coaching Nebraska.


November 30th, 2015 at 8:08 AM ^

Illinois was in the same scenario, hired Beckman from Toledo, how'd that work out? Purdue went after Hazel, how'd that work out? Small sample size, I know, but maybe these schools are sick of going after MAC coaches that don't work out? Kill and Pinkel are the only ones recently with some success. Any others out there that have had success? Hoke?


Maybe Purdue has a plan, lol, not sure what it is, but maybe they have themselves a plan. Not being a jerk or criticizing you, no one take this the wrong way please. Just looking at it from an AD's perspective. 


November 30th, 2015 at 10:18 AM ^

You may be right. I was really just explaining what he said.

I don't know Babers' track record. Maybe there are causes for concern. I had never heard of the guy before this year. But there are definitely a ton of good coaches at non-power 5 schools. Bo was one of them. Urban Meyer was one. Houston has been pumping out big name coaches. I know Brian ripped Purdue because Hazell had one good year at NIU that was helped by a really lucky year in turnovers. I also don't think Hoke's record was impressive.

Either way, Babers has more wins against B1G teams than Hazell does at Purdue, right? And he'd sure as hell be better than a 2-year contract with a guy who Illinois basically said they don't give it a shit because he at least won't completely crater the program.

Maybe Babers isn't the guy, but the B1G just isn't that good top to bottom and it definitely has to do with them hiring shitty coaches and not willing to spend a lot of money. Bielema is an asshole, but the dude had Wisconsin at the top of the conference every year and went to the 4th or 5th best job in the SEC West. It's ridiculous. The B1G is raking in tons of cash. If you're not gonna pay players, at least spend it to get some damn wins. Having said that, the SEC West is insane. They can't all be good. They want everyone fired any time a game is lost.


November 30th, 2015 at 7:59 AM ^

Your point about middle down Big Ten schools not being willing to bring in top coaches is very true and at the heart of why that group struggles. At the heart of it is $$$$ not complacency. Seems like schools such as Purdue, Illinois, etc... just are not willing to shell out the loot it takes to hire a great coach.
One would think since that's the case they would in turn be a bit more willing and aggressive about going after some of these superstar up and coming OC's. I would have loved to see Lincoln Riley find his way to a BIG team last year.
It's freaking beyond imagination that Purdue is sticking with Hazell, he has not moved that team any further than when he arrived. At least not on the field.

Mr Miggle

November 30th, 2015 at 10:45 AM ^

Big Ten teams is they keep hiring out of the MAC instead of going toe to toe with other Power 5 schools for coaching hires. Now you're spewing venom because they didn't hire a MAC coach that isn't going to another Power 5 conference.

Illinois and Minnesota hired interim coaches because both schools' ADs are in turmoil. Smart moves, because it would be a terrible time to attract good coaching talent. They can make better hires next year if the interims don't work out.

Purdue could easily have fired Hazell now. True. Turning coaches over quickly is not the greatest way to build a program and Purdue is not Auburn or even Arkansas. What is Purdue doing instead? They just announced a $60 million plan to upgrade their football facilities. That's far more significant than a decision to change coaches. Maybe giving Hazell a chance to recruit while he has more to sell recruits on is fair.


Mr Miggle

November 30th, 2015 at 10:59 AM ^

Here's a story on why Nutt got fired by Arkansas.


Boosters have a unusual amount of control in SEC land. They pay the salaries of some of the coaches. They tend to be less patient and have less realistic expectations than school administrators. They may even have a much greater tolerance for a win at all costs mentality. A lot of the coaching changes they pushed were bad moves. Some were good. Their money gave them more options. While I'd like to see the Big Ten best them on the football field, I'm not keen on emulating their methods.


November 30th, 2015 at 8:03 AM ^

Is a great job for a want yo be coach, especially the mid-majors. They are not expected to beat the UF and FSU types, but still have access to the same type of recruits. Not to mention that living in Florida is a hell of a lot nicer than most any state in the BIG. That's for sure.

Stu Daco

November 30th, 2015 at 12:57 AM ^

The Big Ten isn't a disappointing conference because of talent drain or geography or NCAA bias or even cheating; it is a disappointing conference because half of the teams really don't care.

The Big Ten has 3 of the top 6 teams in the country and 5 of the top 20. Half the conference is ranked. That is hardly "disappointing."


November 30th, 2015 at 1:03 AM ^

Banner year, too. Yet Darrell Hazell is still a coach.

Note the words "bottom half." Michigan and Ohio State care, and when PSU gets out of its own way it will care and it will win. However, there are too many teams like Illinois and Minnesota that won't take the next step.

At least, not yet.

Stu Daco

November 30th, 2015 at 1:46 AM ^

So despite a banner year, the Big Ten is a disappointing conference because instead of hiring a coach who went 17-9 in two years at Bowling Green, Purdue elected to keep a coach who went 16-10 in two years at Kent State?  

On its own, that would be a poor argument.  When you throw in this business about the SEC caring so much, it gets even worse.  Five years ago, Tennessee hired Derek Dooley, who went 17-20 at La Tech.  In 2009, Auburn hired Gene Chizik fresh off a 2-10 season at Iowa State.  Last year, Vanderbilt hired a guy with zero head coaching experience.  Kentucky did the same in 2013. Dan Mullen is in his 7th year at Miss St. and has 35 losses.  Florida just hired a guy with 16 losess in three years at Colorado State.   If the SEC cares more than the Big Ten, they don't show it very well.


November 30th, 2015 at 1:50 AM ^

Tennessee fired Dooley quickly. Chizik was fired at Auburn a year after winning a national title, and let's not pretend that Auburn is somehow a complacent place when it comes to coaches. We're talking about a place that tried to replace a very successful Tommy Tuberville with Bobby Petrino. They threw money at Will Muschamp this past year to shore up the defense, and if Gus Malzahn has another bad year his seat will be red-hot even as he maintains credit for two BCS title game appearances (one win) in the previous six years.

Kentucky hired a well-known coordinator. Who is, by the way, eating the B1G's lunch in recruiting in the Ohio Valley with the types of players that used to go to Illinois, Purdue, and even MSU. And Dan Mullen only got off the hot seat by contending for the playoff last year.

Question about your first paragraph: is there any data regarding the qualifications of Darell Hazell that includes a time period AFTER his time at Kent State?


November 30th, 2015 at 2:06 AM ^

Tennessee gave Dooley 3 years, then hired Butch "I built my career following Brian Kelly around" Jones, where he's gone....20-17 (10-14)

Auburn fired Chizik 2 years after the National Title, and after it was apparent the only reason he had success was thanks to a 6'5 250 lb QB. Sure, they threw a lot of money at Muschamp, but how has that worked for them? (hint, not great Bob)

Kentucky's "well known" coordinator hire has gone 2-10, and had back to back 5-7 years. Thought we would have learned by now since Hoke, but recruiting success =/= automatic on the field success.

Mr Miggle

November 30th, 2015 at 11:06 AM ^

but hiring the 2-10 coach at ISU doesn't look like a move you would have approved of if a Big Ten team had done it.

I remember reading a story published about the Chizik hiring. The gist of it was they knew he would look the other way while players were bought and he agreed to keep their bagman on the coaching staff.

matty blue

December 2nd, 2015 at 10:21 AM ^

you say illinois minnesota purdue, i say vanderbilt kentucky.  both those schools will keep mediocre-to-bad coaches around, and won't make a 'splash' hire under literally any circumstances. 

let's not forget, either, that hugh freeze wasn't exactly a household name when ole miss hired him after a single year at arkansas state.  they took a shot, and got lucky. ther'es absolutely zero difference between that and purdue hiring darrell hazell after two good years as head coach of a historically lousy kent state program. 

there's also no difference between illinois keeping tim beckman around and kentucky keeping mark stoops around.

if you go into a discussion of coaching assuming that the SEC hires better than the big ten every time, that's what you'll see...and every hire (even at a school that couldn't be more disconnected from the SEC / big ten discussion than central freaking florida, for heaven's sake) is just further proof of your assumption.


November 30th, 2015 at 1:04 AM ^

Purdue is an elite engineering school that plays football in a glorified high shool stadium. It's obvious that the school feels that they don't need football in the same way that UCF does (and they're right).  


November 30th, 2015 at 1:34 AM ^

IF the presidents/regents/boards aren't behind the effort, it won't happen. At Michigan it was understood that letting the football program drift and founder would not be acceptable so right now everyone on central campus is so happy that Jim Hackett convinced Jim Harbaugh to come back.


November 30th, 2015 at 4:20 AM ^

It's a different era. The Big Ten's academic excellence was for a long time a source of its athletic achievements. And schools like Purdue could raise a lot of money in a time when athletics weren't turning huge profits because their graduates were going to space, building fighter jets, etc. That kind of prestige bought a lot of capital before college athletics became uber profitable and schools like UCF transformed from glorifed community colleges and into universities that can operate a football program on a budget that stretches well into the millions. Purdue isn't going to risk sacrificing what it is at its core (a hallmark of the land-grant system) for Dino Babers. 

UCF, on the other hand, can only establish a national identity through athletics. Thus they overspend on football and hire coaches like Isiah Thomas. 


November 30th, 2015 at 8:32 AM ^

There isn't a public school in the country like Michigan. Not from an academics + athletics standpoint. Comparing the other blue bloods to Michigan makes sense, but not a school with a football program like Purdue's. 

Purdue has a different history and lacks the will to put all of its resources behind football. Regardless, it can't draw on the historical credit that Michigan's football program accrued during the twentieth century.


November 30th, 2015 at 4:35 PM ^

I think you need to get out more. There is a whole world out there beyond Grand Rapids.

Wisconsin, UCLA, Texas, North Carolina and even Florida are elite public academic institutions with powerhouse athletic departments, huge budgets, cutting edge facilities and large fanbases. If you put the most stock in the Shanghai rankings, as you should, Wisconsin is the only school in the world ranked in the top 25 in academics, football and basketball last year. UW's revenue/expenditures are in the top 5 as well (#2 in 2014) http://www.businessinsider.com/texas-revenue-college-sports-2014-9

We can find statistics to support any argument, but regardless of where you look it's absurd to assert that Michigan's blend of academics and athletics is unique on the national landscape.   

As for the original question, sometimes it's matter of priorites. As a Wisconsin alum, just shoot me before my school tries to confuse itself with a place like Arkansas or LSU, crappy academic institutions with significant budget issues that throw millions of dollars at assistant football coaches like drunken sailors on shore leave. And yes, i realize athletic departments are self-sufficient entities that don't bleed resources from academic departments. At least try to pretend your football porogram has a university attached to it.

Coaching searches are about finding the right cultural fit. It's not simply about "resources." As all Michigan fans know by now, it's a very difficult exercise to get right. On paper Gary Andersen was a great candidate. He won 11 games last year. He was also a disaster at Wisconsin because he underestimated the school's real emphasis on academics and the refusal of admissions to rubber stamp any kid who cleared the NCAA's requiements. So, because Wisconsin didn't throw $5 million at some ethically dubious, gun-for-hire and hired Paul Chryst instead, it settled for the familiar? Or did Wisconsin go for a really smart football coach who understands that winning is important, but so is a perfect APR score and being one of 8 Power 5 schools wth fewer than 2 arrests in the last 5 years? The SEC doesn't give a shit about that last part. Some of us do.    


November 30th, 2015 at 1:06 AM ^

From 2010-2013, UCF had 3 seasons of 10 wins or more and ended the 2013 season 12-1 ranked #10/12. Purdue hasn't won 10 games since 1979. Illinois since 2001. Maryland and Minnesota since 2003. Rutgers since 2006. These Big Ten jobs just aren't that great when you really look at them. USF is in Florida, so you get talented players. The competition isn't all that great, so lots more wins. And the expectations aren't that high. Nice place to make your name and move up to a better job.


November 30th, 2015 at 1:14 AM ^

This makes my point for me.

The fact that someone could say, rationally, that UCF is a better job than B1G teams with real success in the past tells us how pitiful lower-B1G schools are. The same would never, ever be said for a school like Mississippi State or Arkansas. They are the "better job." But, in the pecking order, they are just as far down the line in the SEC as Illinois is in the B1G.

The difference is that Mississippi State and Arkansas care. That's why the SEC is deeper.


November 30th, 2015 at 1:30 AM ^

I saw the end of the UCF/USF game because UCF is on our schedule next year. During the game that USF won easily the announcers pointed out that UCF is considered a good to very good job and will attract a lot of notice.

While I am a fan and think I keep up, it may be a bias that this is a "directional" Florida school like the EMU/WMU/CMU complex here that it took me a moment to register that the commentators were quite serious.

You may be among the more serious fans and so these nuances (I'd be curious to learn details about facilities and budge and support) maybe known to you but aren't widely understood. Florida, FSU and U of Miami (FL) are the name schools most people up here associate with major jobs, not UCF.

It could be that you have uncovered an important factor while some schools seem to wallow in long stretches of poor performance, but consider this point - their athletic directors may be seriously trying but their presidents/regents/boards do not want to commit more resources.


November 30th, 2015 at 2:23 AM ^

Ole Miss and Arkansas are better jobs than UCF in name only. Yes, being in a Power 5 conference is better than G5, because you win your conference, you go to the Playoffs.

But Ole Miss and Arkansas have literally *never* won the SEC in its current form. And with the way it's set up, I'd be willing to bet that streak continues.

Meanwhile UCF has the largest undergrad population in the country, a fairly new stadium, is in prime recruiting territory, and plays in an easier conference.

Seriously, take away the SEC name, and what makes Ole Miss/Arkansas better jobs than UCF?


November 30th, 2015 at 9:10 AM ^

Overall, the big ten as a conference has a bunch of traditionally strong teams. But every conference is going to have weaker teams too. I'm not sure you can really say that school X should be better than school Y when you get to a certain point. Why is Michigan better than Minnesota (for example) at football? They're both good schools academically. Geographically we're closer to Ohio, where we get a lot of talent, we had a few damn good coaches that built our program, and we had a big stadium going way back. If Minnesota had hired Bo, the situation might be reversed.

It's hard to have a league where every team is good consistently. Minnesota has tried a few times to hire good coaches, and it hasn't made the difference. We have tradition and while that only matters so much, it's what allowed us to hire Jim Harbaugh and Rich Rod (who was a huge hire at the time), while Minnesota is stuck with Tim Brewster and Jerry Kill (who was a pretty good coach). Minnesota obviously hired these guys thinking it was the right thing to do. But, there's a practical aspect here that some schools just can't compete for coaches. They also probably don't have the money to throw at coaches and assistants that Michigan does.

Minnesota could hire a guy like this, but they could also hire many other up and coming coordinators or head coaches. Ultimately it's about fit and making the right hire.

MI Expat NY

November 30th, 2015 at 9:50 AM ^

UCF is a better stepping stone job than many jobs in the P5, including the SEC.  The bottom of any conference are tough places to win, while if you win at an AAC or MWC school, you can jump into an elite level P5 job.  

UCF is a better career move than Purdue, or Rutgers, etc., but not because it's a better place to coach football.