NCF Nation: Chuck Reedy
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The season finally arrives tonight in the Big 12 and not a moment too soon.
A rare chance in the spotlight will be provided tonight for South Division basement dweller Baylor and their counterparts from the North, Iowa State.
Baylor will kick off the season with a difficult matchup against No. 23 Wake Forest tonight in Waco. The game is interesting for a several reasons. Art Briles will start his coaching career at Baylor after leading Houston to four bowl appearances in the last five seasons. Both schools are Baptist-affiliated. And Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was a finalist for the Baylor job when the Bears hired Guy Morriss back in 2002.
The Demon Deacons have shown that football transformations are possible, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference two seasons ago and making another bowl trip last season for the first back-to-back postseason appearances in school history. Baylor is only dreaming about that kind of success.
And Iowa State will start the season against Division I-AA South Dakota State in a game where coach Gene Chizik will play with 27 freshmen and sophomores in his two-deep roster. Included among those are sophomore quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates, who both will receive snaps tonight against the Jackrabbits.
I can't wait for the start of the season -- even if it means a three-hour drive to Waco this afternoon to get to Floyd Casey Stadium. But I actually think the journey along Interstate 35 will go by quickly because of my anticipation and the new Jimmy Buffett CD that my wife got me for our anniversary.
So until then, here are some morning links to satisfy your hunger pangs before kickoff.
- Briles is looking to become the first football coach since 1993 to win his first game at the school. Chuck Reedy was the last Baylor coach to win his first game, stunning No. 25 Fresno State, 42-39.
- Former Miami QB Kirby Freeman has seen the transformation in the Wake Forest program after notching a 47-17 victory over the Demon Deacons as a freshman in 2005. "They've come a long way since then," Freeman told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "I saw some of those guys three years ago and now they're seniors. They're a mature football team and won't be rattled."
- Iowa State coaches are bracing for a big change as they try to keep up with the new 40-second clock in the Cyclones' opener tonight against South Dakota State. "You've got to stay a play ahead," Iowa State defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt told the Des Moines Register. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens. It's a different game."
- Revelers at Kansas' Memorial Stadium will pay $20 per car this season for a parking space in a tailgate-friendly area that had been free last season, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
- Lincoln Journal-Star reporter Brian Christopherson writes about the career gamble that Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini took five years ago to transition from being a successful high school coach into one who now is working in college football.
- Former Nebraska standout WR Irving Fryar will be on the sidelines for Western Michigan's game with his old school. But Fryar will be on the opposing sideline, watching his son, CB Londen Fryar play with the Broncos. "I took a DVD [of Londen playing high school football] and put it in the hand of Coach [Bill] Callahan," Irving told the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette. "I never got a call. ... I was very disappointed with the way Coach Callahan handled that."
- The Dallas Morning News releases its innovative college football preview, complete with a picture of Dallas-area standouts Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell of Texas Tech. The picture must have been taken early, because Harrell still shows the remnants of his early-summer Mohawk.
- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch writes about what to expect and not expect around the Big 12 this season.
- Texas coach Mack Brown got to practice on his 57th birthday Wednesday -- and the chance to visit with media members again.
- Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News writes that the NFL could be in Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee's future.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes about the transformation of Oklahoma LB Mike Balogun from a construction worker who didn't play his junior or senior years in high school to a college football player. Interesting story indeed.
- Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald has an interesting take on Bo Pelini's emerging legendary status at Nebraska -- even before starting his first full season directing the Cornhuskers.
- Take a look at the Omaha World Herald's video version of "Big Red Today" with analysis by their army of reporters who cover the Cornhuskers. It's the best video production by a newspaper I've seen.
- Missouri's experienced defense is giving them a chance to attack offenses with a combination of line shifts, zone blitzes and innovative coverage schemes, Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter writes.
- Colorado WR Josh Smith has some big plans -- hoping for his own clothing line "Josh Fly" and shoe line "PF Fly's" and a record deal. But his biggest immediate aim is to score his first touchdown for the Buffaloes.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes about Oklahoma State's intention to live up to its "Finish" slogan after struggling in several fourth-quarter meltdowns last season.
- Kansas State's defense has made its primary focus attacking the spread offense with speed, Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star reporter Jeffrey Martin writes.
|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:
- R.C. Slocum by Texas A&M, 2002
- Frank Solich by Nebraska, 2003
- Chuck Reedy by Baylor, 1996
- Dan McCarney by Iowa State, 2006
- Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, 1999
- Mack Brown at Texas, 1998
- Mark Mangino at Kansas, 2002
- 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.