Tony DeMeo

The curse of the Bad Firing

The Curse of the Bad Firing
By: Tony DeMeo
College athletic programs can sabotage future success by making a bad firing. My definition of a bad firing is: when an institution fires a coach that is improving the program but not fast enough or flashy enough for the powers to be. They fire the coach and then sets the program back decades.

The University of Illinois just recently fired Bill Cubit on the new Athletic Director’s first day on the job! Coach Cubit bailed out The Illini in 2015 by taking over a program in disarray. Cubit was given an interim title as Head Coach and a two year contract. He then hired four new assistant coaches and recruited his first class in February. Now the new AD arrives and doesn’t care about commitment and fires Cubit and his staff. No regard for the recruits who came to Illinois to play for Cubit and his staff, no regard for the coaches who had jobs but uprooted their families to join Coach Cubit’s staff and no regard for the fact that it was too late for them to get new jobs. Illinois hired Lovie Smith an NFL coach who was out of work shortly after the Cubit massacre. This program is certainly not teaching values which is supposed to be the purpose of college athletics.

Here are some examples of The Curse of the Bad Firing:

The University of Nebraska fired Frank Solich after the 2003 season after finishing 9-3 to “go in a new direction” despite three Top Ten finishes in his six years as a head coach. Solich’s 58 wins in six years was more than Husker Hall of Fame coaches Bob Devaney (53) and tom Osborne (55). Solich lost in a National Championship Game in his second year as head Husker. The Huskers haven’t come close since. Solich’s sin? He wasn’t flashy enough, they wanted a flashy offense, they wanted a Jaguar not a pickup truck. They found out maybe a Jag wasn’t suited to win on the Nebraska plains.

Paul Pasqualoni was fired by Syracuse at the end of the 2004 season despite the fact that The Orangemen tied for The Big East Championship that year! Paul had a 107 – 59 record at Syracuse with seven Top 25 finishes. He and his Offensive Coordinator George DeLeone owned the Northeast in recruiting. They had tremendous relationships with the High School Coaches which is the life blood of college recruiting. The Pasqualoni/DeLeone tandem produced four Big East titles and had visits to the Orange Bowl and two Fiesta Bowls. This duo brought quality recruits to the heart of the New York snow-belt not exactly a destination that recruits were clamoring to get to. So what could have gone wrong? A new Athletic Director decided a new direction was in order and achieved his goal because since Paul and George was let go the closest “The ‘Cuse” has come to The Fiesta Bowl was a Taco Bell on The New York Thruway. That is a new direction.

There are many other examples like at Oklahoma fired ultra- successful Barry Switzer and suffered for years until Bob Stoops ended the Curse. But Kansas University has not been as fortunate. Mark Mangino was fired after the 2009 season basically for boorish behavior and too many parking tickets! Mangino though no Prince Charles turned around a pathetic Jayhawk program and had a 12-1 season in 2007 including an Orange Bowl victory. The 12 wins were the most ever by a KU team. He was named Coach of the Year. Two years later he was boorish and a bad parker. The Jayhawks have been parked in the bottom of the Big 12 ever since.

Even NFL has been hit with The Curse. The Dallas Cowboys won two consecutive Super Bowls led by Jimmy Johnson. However owner Jerry Jones didn’t believe he was getting enough credit (No I’m not kidding) and fired Johnson. The Cowboys won one more Super Bowl with Johnson’s guys in 1995 but have only been to The Super Bowl as spectators since. How is Jerry Jones enjoying that credit now?

The Tampa Bay Bucs never appreciated the great job Tony Dungy did making a dismal franchise contenders and let a great coach and wonderful man slip away to Indianapolis where he led their climb to Super Bowl Champs. The Bucs won a Super Bowl with Tony’s guys being coached by Jon Gruden who had basically the same record as Dungy before fleeing to ESPN while the Bucs have been plundered by the rest of the league.

Coach K suffered 3 poor seasons at Duke before becoming a genius and The great John Wooden went 14 years without winning a Championship at UCLA before becoming The Wizard of Westwood. The message have patience and don’t fall victim to “The Bad Firing Curse”