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College football: Maryland and SMU once trumped OU and OSU

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 20, 2014 at 2:05 pm •  Published: January 20, 2014

College football jobs change over the years. Harvard and Yale, Army and Navy, once were the national powers. Not Oklahoma and Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State. And once Oregon and Auburn and Oklahoma State were considered backwater programs with no chance at the national stage.

A fun way to look at the change of jobs are the jumps coaches make.

For instance, no way would Mike Gundy leave OSU for SMU, or no way would Bob Stoops leave OU for Maryland. But Dave Smith did exactly the former in 1973, and Jim Tatum did exactly the latter in 1947.

Of course, not every jump from a big pond to a little pond is unprompted. Lou Holtz went to Minnesota from Arkansas in 1984 because he was no longer welcome in the hills. Bill Curry went from Alabama to Kentucky in 1990 because the Crimson Tide no longer was enthralled with their hire.

But in 1931, Wallace Wade, who had coached Bama to great success, left for Duke. Think about that.

Here are some other coaching changes which made perfect sense at the time but we can’t fathom today.

Fran Curci went from Miami to Kentucky in 1973. The Miami job was basically nothing before Howard Schnellenberger.

Wes Fesler went from Ohio State to Minnesota in 1951. The Buckeyes weren’t crazy about Fesler, but Minnesota is the greatest example of this subject. The Gophers once were a national power, though no one much remembers it anymore.

Jack Mitchell went from Arkansas to Kansas in 1958. Frank Broyles went from Missouri to Arkansas in 1958. Dan Devine went from Arizona State to Missouri in 1958. Think about the carousel. All because someone would rather coach football in Lawrence than in Fayetteville.

Tom Nugent went from Florida State to Maryland in 1959. And Pete Elliott went from Nebraska to California in 1957. We can understand Maryland to Florida State or Cal to Nebraska, but not the other way.

Jerry Claiborne twice made jumps — from Virginia Tech to Maryland in 1972 and from Maryland to Kentucky in 1982. Today, the opposite road would be the way to go. Kentucky to Maryland to Virginia Tech.

Sometimes, jobs do go two ways. John Barnhill went from Tennessee to Arkansas in 1946. Nine years later, Bowden Wyatt went Arkansas to Tennessee.

Jim Carlen went from West Virginia to Texas Tech in 1970. Ten years ago, no one would think that would be a good idea. But today, maybe it is again.

Jobs certainly change. In 1982, Jackie Sherrill went from Pittsburgh to Texas A&M, and everyone thought it was strictly a money play. That Sherrill had left fame for fortune. Turns out, A&M was the beefier job. In fact, Dennis Franchione in 2003 went from Alabama to A&M, reversing the Bear Bryant decision of 46 years previous.

In the ‘70s, Alex Agase went from Northwestern to Purdue, then was replaced at Purdue by Jim Young, who left Arizona. Today, most anyone would rather be at Northwestern and Arizona than Purdue.

And in 1999, Gary Barnett left Northwestern for Colorado and eventually was replaced in 2006 by Dan Hawkins, who left Boise State. Boise State and Northwestern are better jobs today than is Colorado.

And then as now, sometimes you just can’t tell. In 1980, Darryl Rogers left Michigan State for Arizona State. In 1974, Pepper Rodgers left UCLA for Georgia Tech.

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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