A Dash of coaching news and a dose of Dashies

From the high-profile coaching moves to the big-money burnout jobs to handing out some Dashies, the Dash runs through it all.

Updated: November 30, 2006, 3:22 PM ET
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Notre Ame [1] -- as in, no D -- T-shirts sold separately):

Cue Donald Trump: You're Fired
As expected after last year's unusually quiet hiring-and-firing season, there are high-profile coaching jobs springing open more often than Dwayne Jarrett (2) in the Fighting Irish secondary Saturday night. To recap some of the highlights:

Larry Coker
Chris Gardner/AP PhotoLarry Coker was fired after Miami finished 6-6 in the 2006 regular season.
Miami (3) eliminated Larry Coker Friday. On a scale of John Mackovic (no surprise) to David Cutcliffe (shocker), this firing was a .5. We all saw it coming from the moment Anthony Reddick wielded his helmet as a weapon against Florida International -- and maybe even before that. Buzz replacement name: Greg Schiano of Rutgers, who could reverse the normal migratory trend and shun South Florida for Jersey.

Michigan State (4) beat the rush by squeezing a resignation out of John L. Smith before the regular season ended. This one also rated a .5. Once Notre Dame made its comeback and then the Spartans folded the following week against pitiful Illinois, Smith was toast. Replacement: State hired Cincinnati's Mark Dantonio Monday, which strikes The Dash as a very solid (and ultimately safe) hire. The Bearcats, in turn, will take a look at defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who has been named interim coach through their bowl game. Louisville defensive coordinator Mike Cassity is another name to consider.

North Carolina (5) was first to go, trapdooring John Bunting weeks ago and locking up Butch Davis as his replacement. Rated a 1.0 -- not enough to lift most Tar Heels fans' eyes from their basketball recruiting magazines. It's a great hire that looks even smarter now that Alabama -- an oft-speculated landing spot for Davis in recent years -- is in the market for a coach as well.

North Carolina State (6) clipped Chuck Amato Sunday. This one rated a 2.5, if only because you know athletic director Lee Fowler did not want another coaching search after being rebuffed by everybody but the grandson of Everett Case when he went to hire a basketball coach last spring. But Coach Chest's closing seven-game losing streak forced the issue. Buzz replacement name: Former USC and NC State offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Bill Cowher remains the fantasy choice.

Chuck Amato
Jeff Lewis/US PresswireChuck Amato's NC State tenure ended with a seven-game losing streak.
(Duke (7) has thus far resisted making it a Tobacco Road triple firing by deciding to keep Ted Roof, despite his 5-34 record in Durham.)

Arizona State (8) offed Dirk Koetter Sunday night as well. Rated a 1.5. Koetter was a goner as soon as his hand-picked quarterback, Rudy Carpenter, began imploding and the Sun Devils began losing games. There was some thought that gaining bowl eligibility and beating rival Arizona in the season finale might be enough to keep Koetter around, but the ink probably had dried on athletic director Lisa Love's pink slip by then. Buzz replacement name: The Dash will promote its own candidate here. This looks like a perfect spot for Gary Barnett, who I played for in high school, to return to coaching. He never was supposed to win the Big Ten with Michigan and Ohio State around, yet he did it at Northwestern, of all places. He was never supposed to win the Big 12 with Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma around, yet he did it at Colorado. He could be the right guy to pry loose USC's hammerlock on the Pac-10.

Iowa State (9) parted ways with Dan McCarney, rating a 4 on the surprise meter after his 12 years on the job. The Cyclones replaced him Monday with The Dash's top choice for a career assistant prepared to be a star head coach, Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. If Chizik doesn't succeed, The Dash will buy a round for every Cyclone fan five years from now in Ames. Provided The Dash ever gets to Ames.

And then there is the cuckoo's nest known as Alabama (10). Irrational passion and general delusion don't just drive the bus at Alabama. They drive the wheels off it like Dale Earnhardt.

The Crimson Tide went from being in love with Mike Shula last year when he went 10-2 to firing him this year after he went 6-6. Surprise meter reading: 8.5. Then again, we probably shouldn't be surprised.

This is, after all, Alabama.

The unpardonable sin was Shula's 0-4 record against Auburn, but that still doesn't make this the right move at the right time for a program craving stability.

Mike Shula
AP Photo/Rob CarrAlabama let Mike Shula go after the Tide's 6-6 season.
Don't look now, but lordly Alabama has become the single biggest burnout job in college football. The Tide's next coach will be the eighth in the last 25 years and the fifth this century. Nobody -- not even the bottom-feeding, revolving-door, dead-end schools like SMU, UNLV, UTEP, Utah State, San Jose State and so forth -- has gone through five coaches as fast as Alabama.

Since Bear Bryant ascended directly into heaven on a dazzling white cloud, surrounded by a host of angels, the program flux has been ongoing. Only Gene Stallings has coached more than four years in Tuscaloosa without fleeing or being fired. Stallings lasted seven seasons in the 1990s, which now makes him look like Joe Paterno in terms of permanence.

Between the stability of Stallings and the turbulence of today, Alabama has been slammed with NCAA sanctions for buying an overweight, underproductive defensive lineman; scandalized by the indiscretions of first Mike DuBose, then Mike Price; dumped by Dennis Franchione, who convinced his players to "hold the rope" through probation but couldn't wait to drop it himself; and now it has fired the alum who helped drag the program through the toughest part of its penalty phase.

Somebody find the prestige in that recent run.

Other Big-Money Burnout Jobs
The emphasis is on heat: Either the pressure fries you or the school fires you.

Notre Dame (11). The only guy to last longer than six years since Ara Parseghian is Lou Holtz, who put in 11 in South Bend but went on to coach again elsewhere. The last six coaches have gone an average of 5.3 years in South Bend.

LSU (12). They've had seven coaches in the past 27 years in Baton Rouge, with nobody lasting more than five. Nick Saban looked like he was set up to be king, but he bailed just one year removed from a national championship.

Pete Carroll
Jeff Lewis/US PresswirePete Carroll has USC in position to reach a third straight BCS title game.
USC (13). Why are there rumors every year that Pete Carroll is headed back to the NFL? For one thing because he's good enough to be in demand. But for another, because he's coached the Trojans for six years now -- and nobody has gone more than seven continuous seasons since John McKay left for the NFL in 1975. That's six coaches (including John Robinson twice) in 31 years.

Pittsburgh (14). For whatever reason, Pitt historically has shuffled through coaches like Derek Jeter through girlfriends. Since John Michelosen hung it up in 1965, the Panthers have had 10 head coaches (including Johnny Majors twice) -- none of them for longer than five years at a time. There are insects that have longer relationships than Pitt has with its football coaches.

Washington (15). The Don James era was followed by six years of Jim Lambright, four years of Rick Neuheisel, two years of Keith Gilbertson and now two years of Ty Willingham. At least Willingham will be back for Year 3, reversing the trend of steadily shortening tenures in Seattle. How long he stays beyond that will depend on performance.

Big East: Prepare To Be Poached
With the spectacular rebound success of the Big East Conference comes the threat of being raided for the league's top coaching talent. The raiding parties already have made off with one Big East coach, Mark Dantonio (16); will anyone else be joining him?

Greg Schiano
AP Photo/Mel EvansRutgers' big year has Greg Schiano's name appearing on the wish list of many schools.
We already know that Miami is flirting with Rutgers' Greg Schiano (17). Be prepared to hear that Rich Rodriguez (18) of West Virginia is on the list at Alabama, and could be willing to listen. Florida papers are reporting that Miami and Alabama are considering a run at terminally underappreciated Jim Leavitt (19) of South Florida. There has even been some buzz about UConn coach Randy Edsall (20) being sought after for other jobs. And what offseason would be complete without some mention of Louisville's Bobby Petrino (20) as a candidate for some job other than his own?

While it looked like this might be an offseason where all was quiet on the Petrino front, sources had the Cardinals coach on Alabama's list of candidates. But Petrino issued a statement Tuesday reiterating his commitment to Louisville. "When Tom Jurich and I sat down this summer and talked about a new contract, we anticipated there would many high-profile job openings," said Petrino. "The University of Louisville made a tremendous commitment to me and I made a commitment to the University of Louisville. I am not a candidate for any job openings."

Even if Petrino stays put, the Big East is facing the threat of a significant talent drain. The league scarcely could afford it after this comeback season.

"Stability breeds success," Louisville athletic director Jurich said. "It's definitely important. I think we've got great jobs in this league, and as we've found out many times, the grass isn't always greener. You can find that out the hard way sometimes."

Hard not to think that Jurich was referring to John L. Smith, who left Louisville for Michigan State and lived to regret it.

The Dashies
With the coaching news out of the way, it's time now for The Dash to dispense its annual end-of-season awards. Feel free to play along at home, as Dashette Lucia Tovar (21) hands out the hardware:

Heisman Trophy

For the record, The Dash reserves the right to change/update/edit right up until this time next week, when games are done and ballots are due. But as it stands today, the ballot will be sent in like this:

1. Troy Smith, Ohio State (22). No, this was not a hard decision.

2. Darren McFadden, Arkansas (23). Yes, this was a hard decision. But after watching McFadden shred the nation's No. 1 defense from LSU in person, it got a whole lot easier. Whether taking handoffs, playing quarterback, or running pass routes, McFadden was the best player on a field littered with pro prospects.

3. Ian Johnson, Boise State (24). This was an even harder call, over Notre Dame's Brady Quinn and West Virginia's Steve Slaton. But Johnson gets the nod for running against statistically tougher defenses than either Slaton or McFadden, and for leading his team to an unbeaten season. Sucking it up and running for 147 yards and three touchdowns in the season finale, after suffering a partially collapsed lung and cracked ribs two weeks earlier, put him over the top.

Jim Grobe
Scott Bales/Icon SMI Jim Grobe earned a Dashie for Wake Forest's 10-2 season.
Coach Of The Year

1. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (25). The Demon Deacons have never won 10 games before. Doing it after early-season injuries took out the leading returning passer and rusher makes this season simply sublime.

2. Greg Schiano, Rutgers (26). The other previously incomprehensible miracle. You're not supposed to be 10-1 at Rutgers. Under any circumstance other than dropping to I-AA. Yet here the Scarlet Knights are, playing Saturday for the Big East title and a BCS bowl bid.

3. Pete Carroll, USC (27). Yeah, Jim Tressel had to replace nine defensive starters. But Carroll had to replace two Heisman winners in the same backfield. Guess he's done a decent job if it, given the Trojans' 10-1 record and inside track to facing Ohio State in the national title game.

Michigan and Ohio State
Tony Ding/Icon SMIThe Dash's game of the year took place in the Horseshoe.
Game Of The Year

Ohio State 42, Michigan 39 (28). All the hype, all the emotion, all the tradition, all the ramifications … then all the points. (Caveat: Anyone who says this was a great game but panned Louisville-West Virginia for not being "big-boy football" is officially labeled an elitist hypocrite by The Dash. Muah.)

Conference Of The Year

Big East (29). Dead? Ha. Not worthy of the BCS? Please. The league outperformed expectations and has proven to be a very tough place to win on the road.

Underachieving Conference Of The Year

ACC (30), in a tight battle with the Big 12. Three head coaches and one high-profile offensive coordinator fired or forced out so far. That should tell you what kind of year it was in the ACC.

Atmosphere Of The Year

Florida at Auburn (31). Sure, Ohio State-Michigan was phenomenal, and the stadium was bigger -- but the combination of an open-air press box, perfect grass, great uniforms and a nighttime Southern atmosphere made this the prime sensory experience of the season.

Officiating Hack Job Of The Year

Oregon over Oklahoma (32), with the help of slapstick refereeing on the field and in the replay booth. (If you need the details, you haven't been paying attention.)

Song Of The Year

The Memphis radio guy's "Coach O Song" (33), a tribute to the highbrow oratory of Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron. If you haven't heard it, find it. Anyone familiar with Orgeron's lingual skillz will die laughing.

Bad Rule Change Of The Year

The speed-up-the-game (34) efforts of the NCAA were laudable in theory (we do not need four-hour football games) but not so laudable in practice. The impact on offensive numbers and late-game strategy was too significant to stand. An NCAA source said we can expect at least a moderate revamping of that rule in the offseason.

Bounce-Back Of The Year

Larry Coker bit the dust, but two other coaches with national championship rings entered this season on the griddle and lived to tell about it: Tennessee's Phil Fulmer and Michigan's Lloyd Carr (35). Give this award to Carr for going 11-1 after making some significant program changes in the offseason.

Unconventional Coaching Achievement of the Year

Goes to Florida's Urban Meyer (36) for figuring out a two-platoon quarterback style that actually worked, shuffling Tim Tebow in for Chris Leak in short-yardage situations. Credit both players and the coaches for making it work and keeping it from being a huge issue outside of fan and media chatter.

Putting Out An APB For …
… Former Georgia running back Lars Tate (37). The Dash was always mildly amused by the Scandinavian name of the Bulldogs' leading rusher in 1986 and '87. Anyone with information on the Southern Viking's whereabouts, please apprise.

Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject, former Notre Dame wide receiver Kris Haines (38), is alive and well and living in Chicago. Haines teaches at Catherine Cook School and also dabbles as a martial arts instructor. He's a regular at the Notre Dame summer football fantasy camp as well.

Point After
When hungry in Little Rock, The Dash heartily recommends a visit to Doe's (39), a charmingly no-frills steakhouse downtown. You'll eat big steaks covered in piles of French fries off red-and-white checkered tablecloths, while on the walls you'll find two rifles, a stuffed turkey, a stuffed pheasant, a framed Tabasco sauce poster and a bunch of framed pictures. There are 11 pictures -- most of them signed -- of the restaurant's most recognizable frequent guest, Bill Clinton (40). The Dash hears that Clinton was last in the joint in the spring and usually stops by whenever he's in town.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.