Trail of Slime: Tommy Tuberville Bolts Texas Tech for Cincinnati, Skips Out on Dinner Tab
This past Saturday night at the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony in New York, ESPN host Chris Fowler was interviewing Notre Dame senior linebacker and Heisman finalist Manti Te'o about his mostly amazing, sometimes tragic senior season. Ever the positive thinker, Te'o at one point in the conversation gushed about how, in all its purity, collegiate athletics represents all that is good in the sports world.
It was at about that time that irony stuck its beak into Te'o's Heisman moment (well, Heisman interview moment, at least). Te'o's effusive praise of the sanctity of the college game still hung from his lips as ESPN's ticker informed the viewing audience about Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville's decision to abruptly and, to many, surprisingly leave Lubbock and take the open University of Cincinnati job.
The visual proof is in the image above (hat tip to Rice SID Chuck Pool with the screen cap!).
While Te'o was partially correct in that his senior season, which was one perfect storm of hard work, talent, coaching, divine intervention, and redemption, might represent all that is great in the college game, the information going across that ticker was a reminder that underneath the thin veil of amateurism the game is still one big cash grab for so many (least of all, unfortunately, the players, the Manti Te'o's of the world).
Come to find out that while the world was learning about Tuberville's mind boggling decision -- leaving a Big XII school in the greatest football state in the country for a school that is panhandling outside the ACC's headquarters trying to extricate itself from the Big East -- many of Texas Tech's recruits had learned about it that morning, and had an inkling about it the night before.
In a report that began making its rounds on Wednesday afternoon, courtesy of texastech.247sports.com, apparently Tommy Tuberville made the decision to leave Texas Tech in the middle of a dinner with a bunch of visiting recruits on Friday night.
Devonte Danzey is a community college defensive lineman who was visiting Lubbock over the weekend with a few other recruits. Along with "eight to ten" coaches, Danzey and the recruits went out to dinner at the 50-Yard Line Restaurant. That's where we pick up the story:
In the midst of the conversation at the table, [Danzey] asked the coaches how long they expected to be at Tech (if they were not fired), he said.
"I asked Coach (Charlie) Weis at KU and Coach (Dana) Holgorsen at West Virginia (the same question), just so I know my relationship with them," Danzey said. "(Tuberville) was just telling me he coached at Miami and Auburn, he coached 10 years and recruited Ray Lewis and kind of blew the question off I didn't even realize."
He added: "The waitress brought our food out, and we thought (Tuberville) went to the bathroom, but he never came back to dinner. Then next thing I know, the next day, he made an announcement that he's going to Cincinnati."
There had been rumors circulating for months that Tuberville was unhappy in Lubbock and would jump at another good opportunity if it were offered. But there is jumping at another opportunity, then there's "can't even finish a recruiting meal, I gotta get the fuck out of here" jumping at another opportunity.
Danzey's question to Tuberville about his longevity and desire to stay in Lubbock is a valid one, and perfectly understandable. However, Tuberville's evasive answer and subsequent actions are indicators of the exact reasons why recruits these days should have the identity of the head coach as a secondary reason, at best, for choosing a certain school. These guys can leave in the blink of an eye, and if that's the main reason you chose a school, player, then now what?
Academics, alumni network, tradition, geography, games on television, weather, girls, food -- these are all constants that will be there long after any individual head coach (or position coach, for that matter) decides to (or is asked to) leave. My advice? Choose a school primarily based on those constant elements, view the head coach as window dressing, and your odds of staying and enjoying a school go way up.
Think about it -- how many head coaches can you say are (a) almost assuredly in their "destination job," (b) not on the hot seat, and/or (c) not approaching retirement age? In short, how many college head coaches can look you in the eye and say they will almost undoubtedly be coaching at the same place five years from now?
My personal list: Bob Stoops, Brian Kelly, Urban Meyer, Kevin Sumlin, possibly Will Muschamp, possibly Brady Hoke, and my gut says Les Miles, mostly because he might be the only human being who could survive a nuclear attack, let alone sustaining a few losses in Baton Rouge.
Who else is there?
Chip Kelly, Nick Saban, and Bill O'Brien all are rumored to have one eye on the NFL. Bill Snyder, Mack Brown, and Steve Spurrier are all closer to hanging it up than hanging around another five years. And every other name you can come up with is either on the hot seat, has been on and off the hot seat, or has interviewed for/been mentioned prominently with recent vacant jobs.
So my list of coaches who can say "I'll be here in five years" and be believable is basically seven names long. Seven. I mean, seriously...SEVEN. And I'm admittedly reaching on a couple of those. And yet the number of coaches who pat recruits on the head and gently reassure them that they're "not going anywhere" is roughly 124 (or the number of FBS programs that exist today).
Frankly, if you're a recruit choosing a school based primarily on who the head coach is, you're taking a huge risk. And if you're a recruit choosing a school based primarily on your position coach, then you're flat out doing this wrong, and those advising you (family, high school coach, etc.) are being negligent.
Which makes one follow up story to the Tuberville debacle all the more unseemly and infuriating. Will McKay (@WMK74 on Twitter) is a staff writer for Texas Tech's rivals.com website, redraidersports.com. Follow his string of tweets below for a small window into just how dirty the recruiting game can be:
It seems current #TexasTech DBs Coach John Lovett is recruiting DB commit Darren Doston to Cincinnati. Just go off the phone with him.— Will McKay (@WMK74) December 12, 2012
That would mean that Lovett is likely Tubeville's secondary coach for the Bearcats.— Will McKay (@WMK74) December 12, 2012
Lovett is one of the coaches who pledged his commitment to Tech until the bowl game, is supposed to be recruiting for Tech on the road.— Will McKay (@WMK74) December 12, 2012
To quote Doston: "Coach Lovett said he might end up going to Cincinnati with Coach Tuberville, and he asked me if I'd like to come with him"— Will McKay (@WMK74) December 12, 2012
Yes, a coach still on Texas Tech's payroll was recruiting a high school player to Cincinnati this past weekend, just one day after his former (and apparently future) boss walked out on a dinner with recruits without saying goodbye. Tommy Tuberville went out for the proverbial ride and he never came back.
Manti Te'o was right about a lot of things this season. The purity of college football ain't one of them.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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