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Infertile recruiting grounds
Campuses not home to future NFL coaches

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 27, 2008 at 6:42 am •  Published: February 27, 2008
The Atlanta Falcons hired away Bobby Petrino from the University of Louisville in January 2007. He lasted 11 months on the job.

Nick Saban left LSU in December 2004 to coach the Miami Dolphins. Two years and one week later, campus life summoned back Saban, to Alabama.

But Saban remains two steps behind Dennis Erickson, who also did the college-NFL-college yo-yo (Miami U., Seattle Seahawks, Oregon State), only to keep the pattern going. Erickson jumped to the San Francisco 49ers in 2003. He coached the Niners two years and was fired; now he's at Arizona State, his third Pac-10 head-coaching job.

Steve Spurrier tried it, too. Left a cushy job at Florida U. to coach the Redskins and tried to appease fickle owner Daniel Snyder. Failure all the way around. Spurrier was fired after two seasons.

This is not a trend. This is a landslide. College coaches have been a disaster in the NFL this decade. They either can't cut it or can't stand it or both.

NFL owners are shying away from college coaches, who are accustomed to being lords of the realm. Of the 72 NFL coaching changes the last decade, only seven came from the college ranks. None could be labeled a success.

In the NFL, coaches are hired hands who are expendable. In the NFL, coaches can't pad their record by scheduling New Mexico State, even in the exhibition season. In the NFL, coaches have to honor contracts.

Southern Cal's Pete Carroll could return to the NFL most anytime he wants, but he's like most elite-school coaches. He's got a much better gig where he is. Big money, great security. The NFL offers big money, little security.

Carroll, Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, Mark Richt. Why would they want the landmines of the pro game, when they've been granted virtual lifetime eminence amid the ivory towers?

The lessons of Saban and Spurrier still are fresh in the mind.

On the rare occasions when NFL execs turn to the college game, often as not they stray off the boulevards.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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