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Alabama Fires Mike Shula

As expected, Mike Shula has been fired as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

Mike Shula Photo Fired as Alabama Head Coach Alabama has fired coach Mike Shula, whose Tide struggled to a 6-6 regular season finish in his fourth year but enjoyed a 10-2 record the season before, a newspaper reported.

Shula told his assistant coaches late Sunday night that Alabama athletic director Mal Moore had dismissed him, The Tuscaloosa News reported on its Web site. Reached at home, Moore declined comment. The university said he would hold a news conference Monday in the football office at 2 p.m. CT.

A shame for Shula, who is a genuinely decent guy and who faced ridiculously high expectations for a program on NCAA probation. Still, you can’t lose four years in a row to Auburn and keep coaching at Bama.

As I noted when Larry Coker was fired at Miami, this is just the nature of big time college football. While the Tide hasn’t been as successful of late as the Hurricanes, it has many more championships over its history. Fans of such programs are not patient, nor do they fully understand that competing for a title every year is very difficult in the modern age of limited scholarships, closer NCAA scrutiny, and comparative parity.

The speculation about successors has already begun, with South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier an obvious choice. Defensive coordinator Joe Kines, named interim coach, is a long shot. This early in the process, Alabama will have a lot more options than it did last go-round, when Mike Price got dumped in the middle of the summer after an embarrassing scandal involving a rather unattractive stripper.

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UPDATE: The Huntsville Times notes that Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, Navy coach Paul Johnson, and Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe are among the other names being “bandied about” on various fan fora. There’s no way on earth Saban would be interested. Johnson is an intriguing choice, indeed, though. If you can win at Navy, you can win anywhere.

UPDATE: More on Johnson:

Johnson took over a program that had posted a 1-20 record the previous two years before his arrival in 2002. After a 2-10 mark in his first year, the Navy football program has achieved what many thought was no longer possible at an Academy, as Johnson has brought the Midshipmen back in to the national spotlight with a 26-11 (.703) record over the last three years. The Mids’ 26 wins over that time span equals the most in school history over a three-year period.

In 2005, despite returning the fewest starters in the country, Johnson led the Midshipmen to an 8-4 record, a school-record third-consecutive bowl game and a school-record second-straight bowl win. More importantly, Navy swept Academy rivals Air Force and Army to win the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy for a third-straight year, which is also a Navy first.

[...]

After Johnson took over as head coach at Georgia Southern in 1997, he returned the Eagle program to national prominence statistically and in the won-lost ledger. In addition to Georgia Southern’s 62-10 mark, the Eagles scored 2,855 points (39.7 points per game), picked up 25,941 rushing yards (360.3 yards per game), 7,816 passing yards (108.6 yards per game) and 33,757 total yards (468.8 yards per game). GSU scored 380 touchdowns in the Johnson Era, an average of 5.3 per game. The Eagles’ scoring margin under Johnson was +21.5 (39.7-18.5).

Johnson picked up a milestone victory in the 2000 I-AA National Championship Game against Montana. Not only did the 27-25 victory give Georgia Southern its second-straight national title, but it was Johnson’s 50th-career win in four seasons. Only three other coaches in the history of Division I football have won 50 or more games in four seasons, as Johnson joined Walter Camp (1888-1891, 54-2 at Yale), George Woodruff (1892-1895, 53-4 at Penn) and Bob Pruett (1996-99, 50-4 at Marshall) on the exclusive list.

Very impressive.

UPDATE: ESPN’s Ivan Maisel is pessimistic that the Tide will hire someone really good.

After a week in which Alabama forced head coach Mike Shula to the edge of the plank, the university pushed him off Sunday night, firing the former Crimson Tide quarterback after four seasons. Athletic director Mal Moore made the formal announcement on Monday afternoon.

Shula took an impossible job, replacing a scandalized Mike Price in May 2003. He went 26-23 while trying to rebuild a roster depleted by NCAA penalties. Shula, hired by Alabama despite his lack of head coaching experience, didn’t learn quickly enough to suit his employer. He couldn’t overcome his poor record against the Tide’s archrivals. His last victory over Auburn came in 1985, when he played quarterback.

[...]

That coach will need to come in and resuscitate a program that has spent the last 10 years creating its own problems, chief among them NCAA probation, infighting and bad hiring decisions. The next coach will be the fifth since Gene Stallings retired 10 years ago.

Perhaps the powers that be at the Capstone finally realize what the rest of the college football community understood about three or four Tide head coaches ago. The Alabama name doesn’t carry the weight that it once did. Ask recruits, teenagers too young to remember when Alabama ruled the SEC West.

“Alabama is not a factor anymore,” said a former Crimson Tide assistant who still actively recruits the South.

[...]

Alabama hasn’t hired anyone remotely similar to the right guy since Stallings came in 1990. That’s Gene Stallings, who had a losing record at Texas A&M and a losing record with the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals. He returned to Alabama, won the 1992 national championship and four of the first five SEC West championships and retired with a 70-16-1 record in seven seasons.

There’s no reason to think that Moore or a powerful trustee named Paul Bryant Jr. will hire the right guy this time. They’ve had more opportunities than most and they haven’t done so yet. It comes as little solace to Alabama fans these days, but the right guy is rarely the obvious one.

Still, this is a premium job. I would target an up-and-comer who has proven himself at the lower levels, like Ohio State did with Jim Tressel. The Tide did it with then-TCU coach Dennis Franchione, who had a good run with the team before jumping ship after an NCAA smackdown to take the Texas A&M gig.

Related posts below the fold.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Original Article syndicated via RSS from Outside The Beltway | OTB

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  2. BigFire says:

    Loosing to Auburn 4 years in a roll sort of seal his fate.

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  3. David Harris says:

    Being from Georgia, I got to see a lot of Paul Johnson up close when he was at Georgia Southern. He’s a great head coach, and he’s definitely run-first, something most SEC purists love. It would be interesting to see him attempt to implement his option attack at a place like Alabama.

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  4. spacemonkey says:

    I’m just glad they had the foresight to renew his contract last year. That little blunder made buying his contract out a SUPER expensive undertaking. What a bunch of idiots.

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  5. Mark says:

    Did Paul Johnson play at Bama – preferably under Bear Bryant? Or was he a Bryant assistant?

    If not, scratch him off the list. Bama fans don’t want some “outsider” taking the reigns of their storied program. Especially if that coach is a Yankee! hehe.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    SM: Yeah, I didn’t get that move, either. It was one decent season, and even it ended with two straight SEC losses.

    Mark: I don’t know that that’s really the case these days. Shula played at Bama, to be sure, although in the post-Bryant era. Price had no Bama ties, nor did Franchione.

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  7. TimC says:

    You can’t feel too sorry for Shula. As Sparky Anderson once said in regards to MLB managers, you’re hired to be fired. Shula’s record against Auburn pretty much sealed the deal. And he’s not walking away empty handed.

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  8. Shula Out at Alabama…

    True to character, and showing a remarkable short-sightedness, the University of Alabama athletics department lets Mike Shula go.TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – University of Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore announced today that Mike Shula will not be retain…

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  9. Bobbie says:

    Bad decision to fire Mike Shula. Bama needed some straightening out before it got better. We would be looking to a winning season next year now that Shula’s recruits have experience–but now I don’t know. Maybe now we’re looking at the next 4 years loosers. I’m a long standing Bama fan and I think if anyone should be fired it Mal Moore!

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