Who's the biggest gamble hire this college football season?

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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (deep-fried twinkies sold separately – for real – at Oklahoma):

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Forde-Yard Dash Fourth Quarter, where it’s time to dig deep and finish like a champion.


Every athletic director who made a hire this past offseason is hopeful right now – hopeful that he got the right guy, and the program is headed in the right direction, and the payoff in Saturday glory is about to unfold before their eyes.

Not all of them are right. Not by a long shot.

On paper, these are the three riskiest hires that were made for the 2017 season:

Ed Orgeron (31), LSU. The Tigers fired a guy with a .719 career winning percentage (Les Miles), whiffed on hiring guys with winning percentages of .821 (Jimbo Fisher) and .820 (Tom Herman) and abruptly settled for Coach O, batting .431. But hey, he’s from Louisiana and loves the state and can growl out the hometowns of every in-state player on the roster. What could possibly go wrong? In the SEC West? At a place obsessed with trying to beat Nick Saban?

Ed Orgeron failed in his first stint as a coach in the SEC West. Will he succeed at LSU? (Getty)
Ed Orgeron failed in his first stint as a coach in the SEC West. Will he succeed at LSU? (Getty)

Tom Allen (32), Indiana. The Urban Meyers of the coaching profession aren’t lined up to coach at Indiana – not football, at least. So you take what you can get if you’re AD Fred Glass. But this still had the feeling of an impulse buy in the immediate wake of suddenly pushing Kevin Wilson out the door, as if Glass looked around and saw Allen pouring a cup of coffee in the facility and said, “You, you’re in charge.” Allen is 0-1 after a close bowl loss to Utah. Other than that, his only head-coaching experience is three years at an Indianapolis high school. Also notable in Allen’s prior work experience: he was an assistant at Mississippi from 2012-14, when the bulk of the school’s 21 alleged NCAA violations were said to have occurred. (Allen is not named in any of the violations.)

Lincoln Riley (33), Oklahoma. Honestly, it will be a surprise if this one doesn’t work out. The Dash believes Riley is a future star, as does everyone who has been around him in his career. But he is also 33 years old and has been the head coach for a total of zero games. Hiring the young assistant coach has been an Oklahoma staple for decades, but not every formula works every time. There will still be some wait-and-see with Riley.


Believe it or not, only six active coaches have played in a national championship game – either BCS or CFP. We’ve had 19 of them, 16 with the BCS and three with the playoff, but the list of participants continues to dwindle. We lost three coaches from the active list within the last year: Bob Stoops (three appearances, as coach at Oklahoma), Les Miles (two, as coach at LSU) and Mark Helfrich (one, as coach at Oregon).

The remaining six:
Nick Saban (six appearances, one as coach at LSU and five at Alabama).
Urban Meyer (three appearances, two at Florida and one at Ohio State).
Dabo Swinney (two appearances, both at Clemson).
Jimbo Fisher (one appearance, at Florida State).

And the other two guys, both of whom made the title game but did not win and now find themselves facing some significant scrutiny:

Brian Kelly (34) took Notre Dame to the 2012 title game, whereupon the Fighting Irish were smashed by Alabama, 42-14.

Gus Malzahn (35) took Auburn to the ’13 title game. The Tigers lost a thriller to Florida State.

Maybe neither coach should be under the pressure they currently face. After all, they’re on a pretty select list of men who have made it that far.


The Dash recommends giving a read to “Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University Amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis.” The new book is written by ESPN employees and Friends of Dash Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach (36).

The book offers a thorough and unsparing accounting of the myriad failures at Baylor and applies the context of sexual assault issues within the sport nationally. And it makes clear that former coach Art Briles should never coach college football again.

Art Briles was hired by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League briefly before they reversed course. (AP)
Art Briles was hired by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League briefly before they reversed course. (AP)

Coincidentally, Briles found a football safe haven Monday as an assistant coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Canada can keep him. And just as quickly as Briles got that job, he was basically told “never mind” by the CFL. A joint statement by the league and the franchise Monday night said that the two entities came to an agreement about that after a “lengthy discussion.” After this latest dismissal, perhaps Florida Atlantic assistant Kendal Briles can scrawl his dad’s initials on his wrist tape again.


Mike Bobo (37) , Colorado State. The Rams’ 31-point beatdown of Oregon State on Saturday hints at a third-year breakout for Bobo’s program, after two solid seasons of 7-6. The 58 points CSU dropped on the Beavers might come as a surprise to some Georgia fans who are still blaming their former offensive coordinator for everything but global warming. (Worth noting: Georgia’s average scoring in its final year under Bobo was 41.3 points per game. In the two seasons since, the averages are 26.3 and 24.5. Maybe he wasn’t the problem.)


Gary Andersen (38), Oregon State. There was another third-year coach in that opener in Fort Collins, and it couldn’t have gone any worse for him. After the 2-10 bottom-out in 2015 and the moderate improvement to 4-8 in ’16, Andersen had Beaver believers convinced that the turnaround was at hand in ’17. Oregon State had closed last year with big victories over Arizona and Oregon and had plenty of returning experience. But quarterback Jake Luton, who won a three-way race for the job in early August, threw three interceptions and the Oregon State defense was steamrolled for 525 total yards. For the season to start with a 31-point loss to a non-power-five opponent is a total debacle.


If you ever end up at Nicholls University in Thibodeaux, La., as The Dash did in June for the Manning Passing Academy, you really have no choice but to stop at Bubba’s II (39), a roadside shrine to the endearing oddities of Cajun culture. Order yourself some fried everything – crispy-thin catfish, shrimp, whatever, plus a bowl of gumbo. Check out of the Nicholls memorabilia on the walls, intermingled with a whole lot of other weird stuff (there is an extensive Mickey Mouse display case). And by all means, chat up the proprietor, Bubba, who will tell you an only-in-Louisiana tale of the time Nicholls basketball coach Rickey Broussard lost a finger at the original (and now defunct) Bubba’s. And if you visit during the right week in June, you might see a table full of Mannings in the place.

Of course, The Dash also has a beer recommendation. When thirsty in the spectacular setting of Glacier National Park in Montana, go local and order a Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager from Great Northern Brewing (40) in Whitefish, Mont. The Dash is not huge on fruity beer, but this lager compellingly captures the taste of the abundant area huckleberries. Give it a try and thank The Dash later.

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