Coaches Are Fired Too Quickly

By Beacon Staff

Recent news that former NFL head coach Jerry Glanville will not be retained for the final year of his contract at Portland State University got me thinking how difficult a job it is when your employment status is determined by the performances of a bunch of young student athletes who are working their tail off to be successful both in the classroom and on the playing field.

I know the argument goes that all that pressure comes with the territory; they knew what they were getting into when they took the job with a failing or fledgling program; or they (coaches) are compensated above the average person’s salary along with plenty of other benefits.

What I do not understand is the pressure that boosters – who say they do so in the interest of a successful athletic program – are able to exert on athletic administrations to fire coaches in order to go in search of a golden-fleece coach who will, hopefully, lead a school to more wins. Or worse yet, administrators who, when they arrive on campus want their own person or measure their potential future employment availability on the back of an athletic program.

A case in point would be Don Read, who, of course, is credited with turning the Grizzlies into a powerhouse football program after winning more games (85) than any coach in UM history.

Before coming to Missoula, Don had a losing record in head coaching stints at the University of Oregon and twice at Portland State University. His only winning mark was compiled at Oregon Tech, where his teams won 21 of 37 contests.

He left PSU the first time with a 20-19 record to take the Oregon job, where he won just nine games in three years and was fired.

But just eight years later, in 1984, he led PSU to an 8-3 record and was named the D-II National Coach of the Year.

Did he become a better coach between his stints in the Rose City? I think not. Yet in 10 years in Missoula, he never had a losing record and posted four double-digit win totals in his last seven years, including the 1-AA championship in 1995.

His 1989 team was the first in school history to win 11 games, something that’s just taken for granted now at UM. And he’s now recognized as a coaching guru of sorts.

I realize coaches are also at fault here, with everybody looking for a future opening that could further their career both professionally and personally and line their retirement plan.

But it seems in football in the Big Sky Conference everybody is trying to emulate University of Montana’s success and, when it doesn’t happen sooner rather than later, it must be the coaching staff that’s at fault and needs to be replaced.

Glanville probably will not be the only league coach who loses his job this year. Rumors are swirling at Northern Colorado, where Tad Brooks is in the last year of his contract and, with three wins, just equaled the number of victories the school had in his first three years.

His players are well coached, they compete at a high level and they mirror the kind of program he is trying to build in Greeley. But he too may be job hunting before Christmas.

Several times Sacramento State has been on the cusp of a leap in the league standings only to make a coaching change and again start the process anew.

Northern Arizona is often competitive in the league race, but with barely a 12-season winning record, former Grizzly coach Jerome Souers also could be fighting for his job.

But at Idaho State, where the Bengals finally broke into the win column last week against Portland State, John Zamberlin recently was given an extension through 2012.

What do they know in Pocatello that the rest of the league doesn’t seem to understand? It takes time and patience.

If players are consistently in trouble in situations that could have been prevented with proper coaching oversight, if NCAA rules are being ignored, or a staff is putting in the 80 hours a week required of college football coaches, then by all means I guess a change is warranted.

But how many changes do you have to make to get the right person at the right time who recruits the right people to play against the right schedule to have the balls bounce your way favorably?

Who would want this job anyway?

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