With Paterno’s firing there are now, among the 120 coaches at the top tier of college football, only two men who have worked in their current jobs for more than 20 years. Frank Beamer is in his 25th season at Virginia Tech, and Larry Blakeney is in his 21st season at Troy University. There is only one other coach — Fresno State’s Pat Hill — with 15 years on the job.
The highest level of college basketball has far more head coaching jobs — 344 as the new season begins — so the numbers there are slightly higher. But only 12 current head basketball coaches have been at the same school for 20 years or more, led by Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who is starting his 36th season at his alma mater.
“It’s not going to happen anymore in the future,” Boeheim said in a phone conversation the day after Paterno was fired. “Too much has changed in college athletics. The pressure to win and keep winning has grown so much that even people you might think were untouchable aren’t. I used to say that if I had two bad years, there would be some people who might want me out. Now, it’s more like one year.”
Even the most revered coaches could come under fire suddenly, Boeheim explained. “No one is immune. When I was working with Mike Krzyzewski a couple of years ago at the Olympics, he was under some pressure at Duke. If he can be under pressure, then anyone can be under pressure.”
With Paterno gone, Krzyzewski is probably the most iconic figure left in college coaching. He is entering his 32nd year at Duke and has won four national championships — tying him for second with Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp on the all-time list behind UCLA’s John Wooden, who won 10. Sometime this month, Krzyzewski will become college basketball’s all-time winningest coach when he notches his 903rd victory, surpassing his mentor, Bob Knight.
Krzyzewski’s job isn’t in jeopardy, especially since his most recent national title came in 2010. But he is keenly aware of the expectations surrounding his program.
“Sometimes I wonder if people are aware of the fact that we’ve won three straight Atlantic Coast Conference titles and that we’ve won 30 games each of the last three seasons,” he told me earlier this fall. “Two years ago, we won the national championship. Last year, we went to the round of 16 and people say, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll bounce back next year,’ as if we somehow failed. We live in a world where almost nothing is good enough.”