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Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Best hires and worst firings in Big 12 history


 
 Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
 Bob Stoops was the best hire in Big 12 history, according to one writer.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star had a thought-provoking list (and Lord knows, how I love lists) that deserved more than a cursory mention in the morning links.

Kerkhoff broke down all of the hiring and firing decisions in the Big 12's history and ranked his best and worst. Here's his list:

Worst firings

  1. R.C. Slocum by Texas A&M, 2002
  2. Frank Solich by Nebraska, 2003
  3. Chuck Reedy by Baylor, 1996
  4. Dan McCarney by Iowa State, 2006

Best hires

  1. Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, 1999
  2. Mack Brown at Texas, 1998
  3. Mark Mangino at Kansas, 2002
  4. Gary Pinkel at Missouri, 2001

I agree with most of his speculation, particularly at the top. Although a case could be made that Iowa State badly botched the firing of McCarney, who had taken the school to five bowl games in six years before falling into the basement in his final year there. He was an iconic figure around the Iowa State program who twice took them to the brink of a North Division title. And I don't necessarily think Reedy's firing was that bad -- mainly because Baylor had never had success in the Big 12 and his won-loss totals were skewed because the Bears were more competitive in the Southwest Conference than where they ended up.

There haven't been many botched firings, but Gary Barnett was removed from Colorado as much for off-the-field problems as anything else. Barnett won North titles in four of his last five seasons, but was removed after the Buffaloes endured a humiliating 70-3 loss to Texas in the 2005 Big 12 title game. It's rare that a coach would be removed after winning a division championship. 

And as far as the best hires, I agree with the top three. The arrival of Stoops and Brown awakened both powers into national championship contenders and they are now the longest-tenured coaches in the league. Their coaching and leadership styles are so different that it makes for an interesting comparison between their programs. The rest of the Big 12 has been left in their wake during most of the new millennium.

But I might install Mike Leach's hiring at Tech in 2000 as my fourth choice. I think he has transformed his program and to a degree the conference because of his spread passing attack. Texas Tech faces some unique challenges that Missouri might not have. So you could argue that his being hired was more significant, although I might put Pinkel at 4A.  

It also led me to go back and look at how coaching changes have been handled in this league. There have been 21 coaching changes in Big 12 history. I consider 15 of them either firings or forced resignations. On six occasions, coaches left for another (usually better) job or retired.

Those six coaches who left before they were pushed -- Colorado's Rick Neuheisel (to Washington), Kansas State's Bill Snyder (retirement), Kansas' Glen Mason (to Minnesota), Nebraska's Tom Osborne (retirement), Oklahoma State's Les Miles (to LSU) and Texas Tech's Spike Dykes (retirement).   

It was a very interesting list that Kerkhoff came up with. I'd be interested to hear some thoughts of readers and how you might rank them.