UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas — Purdue will play the Heart of Dallas Bowl without its head coach. OSU will play without its offensive coordinator.
Across town, Texas A&M will play the Cotton Bowl without its offensive coordinator. Nine teams played or will play bowl games without their head coaches.
The system is broken. The message is clear. Bowl games don't matter.
Fans don't necessarily agree. They still buy tickets to the good games and glue their eyeballs to the bad games.
Players don't necessarily agree. They're still all in, providing riveting games, be it the New Mexico Bowl or the Belk Bowl.
But the message could not be clearer. And Mike Gundy says something needs to be done.
“Ultimately, the student-athletes, they're the ones that get the short end of the stick,” Gundy said. “If we're going to keep the integrity of the bowls, and that bowls actually matter, we need to take a look at it.”
Of course, Gundy has lipstick on his own collar. In early December, he chatted with officials from Tennessee and Arkansas about their job openings. It could have been the Cowboys bowling without their head coach.
Instead, Tennessee hired Butch Jones and Arkansas hired Bret Bielema, which meant Cincinnati and Wisconsin, respectively, were without their coach in a bowl.
It's annual anarchy, as coaches who preach cohesion and loyalty and togetherness bolt their teams before their season ends. But the lack of honor isn't cornered just by coaches. Administrators who fire coaches before season's end are culpable, too.
Purdue's coach didn't bolt. Danny Hope was fired after the regular season, and one of his assistants was asked to coach the Boilermakers in the bowl. North Carolina State, too, fired its coach even though a bowl game loomed. Texas (Bryan Harsin) and Florida State (Mark Stoops) joined OSU (Todd Monken) and A&M (Kliff Kingsbury) as bowl teams without their coordinators.
Gundy said a team can actually function better without its head coach than without a coordinator. “A coordinator can affect it more,” Gundy said. “He's the coach, the playcaller, the organizer of that side of the ball.”
Maybe so. But I don't buy it. Losing a head coach leaves a team leaderless. In the Houston bowl, we saw Texas Tech, with an interim coach, play with precious little discipline.
Plus, the incoming head coach often will be at the bowl game, as a spectator. Darrell Hazle, who has been hired to coach Purdue but laudably still will coach Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, will be in attendance Tuesday to watch the OSU-Purdue game.
Talk about strange.
“At the end of the day, we're still working for Coach Hope and the coaches we have right now,” said Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen. “We have to finish this season strong for the … people that have been working for us all year.”
We know why everyone has a happy trigger. Recruiting causes coaches to jump quick and athletic directors to fire and hire in a hurry. The recruiting calendar is set up so that December is crucial.
“I don't know what can be done,” said A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. “I think the NFL has gotten it right with the timing. But the component the NFL does not have is recruiting.”
A solution would be aligning football signing periods with every other sport's — November and April, instead of February. But despite much discussion, there has been little momentum for such a change.
“So there are a lot more moving parts in college football than in pro football,” Sumlin said. “A lot of things would have to change if you change the way things are done right now.”
Until then, care about bowl games at your own risk. College football's power structure is clear. Bowls don't matter.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.