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.”