Lots and lots of football coaches coming and going this week: Bum Phillips out at New Orleans. Wade Phillips in at New Orleans. Gerry Faust out at Notre Dame. Lou Holtz in at Notre Dame. Emory Bellard out at Mississippi State. Foge Fazio out at Pitt. Jim Garrett, who called his players "drug-addicted losers," out at Columbia, and perhaps in on "Miami Vice." Happy Thanksgiving to them all, of course.
Job opportunities galore: Pitt, Minnesota, Texas-El Paso, Tennessee-Martin, Montana, Memphis State, to name some. How are the facilities at those schools? Would Bobby Ross approve? I hear South Korea has a brand-new 100,000-seat stadium, but I don't know about the country's commitment to consistent academic guidelines. And of course a happy Thanksgiving to Ross and Dick Dull, too.
The Texas-El Paso situation is interesting. The Miners axed Bill Yung, 7-38 in four seasons, but made the firing effective after the season finale, against Wyoming on Dec. 7. That game will be played in Melbourne, Australia, which, I'm sure, is awaiting this titanic clash with bated breath. At Texas-El Paso, when they tell you to get lost, they're not kidding around. It's beyond me why these teams are playing in Australia, but a happy Thanksgiving to Yung and whichever alumnus is the travel agent booking the trip.
Now, speaking as a member of the World Fellowship of Sons, I'd like to say a few kind words about Bum Phillips, my candidate for Father of the Year. Yes, it takes a strong man to admit he failed, and Bum did that. "My job was to win football games. My job here was to provide a winning season, and I didn't," Bum said. And yes, it takes a compassionate man to sacrifice his own self-interest for the interests of others, and Bum did that by resigning as head coach of New Orleans. "Bum told me he was doing it for the good of the club, the good of the city and for me," said Tom Benson, the Saints' owner. But listen, can we talk? Strength and compassion are a dime a dozen. Big deal. If you're a son, this is why you've got to love Bum: Who's coaching the Saints now?
Any relation to Bum?
(Does a chicken have lips?)
That's Bum's son coaching the Saints. Bum kept it in the family!
This isn't every son's dream, to have the old man step aside and leave him the family business? Are you kidding me?
You wouldn't want Bum as a father?
Who you got? Prince Charles?
Oh sure, you read that 38-year-old Wade Phillips was named "interim" coach. Like give me a break, you wouldn't want that? Do you know how many people would sell their tongues for a chance like that?
Wade Phillips, whose complete head coaching portfolio consists of two years at a Texas high school, takes over a team that is 4-8 and has four games yet to play, three at home. If Wade Phillips wins all four, even if he wins three, you don't think there'll be pressure on Benson to keep him? The Saints already have had seven previous head coaches and haven't made the playoffs with any of them, so it's not like we're talking about coming up with a replacement for Shula or Landry. Bum gave his kid a chance to succeed. What more could a son ask for?
Moving northward and up the catechistic ladder from the Saints to Touchdown Jesus, we see Gerry Faust has resigned, effective after Saturday's game against Miami. (Faust has two sons; maybe he couldn't decide which to make coach.) Both sides acted honorably at Notre Dame. The school never wavered in its commitment to honor Faust's five-year contract, and the coach never wilted in his zeal for the school or the job. But Faust became the Jimmy Carter of college football, a sincere man trying to do good and well at the same time, but finding that upon digging in, his heels were somewhat short.
Lou Holtz is neither a surprising choice nor a compelling one. As Faust was overmatched in college, Holtz was overmatched in the pros; he resigned with one game left and a 3-10 record in his only season with the New York Jets, running back to a college job as fast as he could. Before the Jets he had won (33-12-3) at North Carolina State, and afterward he won (60-21-2) on a loftier level, at Arkansas, though he never won enough to hold the conference grail, the berth in the Cotton Bowl. Two years ago, amid confusing circumstances, he resigned from Arkansas, allegedly "tired and burned out." Then, four days later, miraculously renewed, he agreed to coach at previously comatose Minnesota, after warning the school he'd leave for Notre Dame in a red-hot minute. Minnesotans probably feel they got their money's worth. In two years Holtz redirected the program out of the meat locker and into one of those silly bowls broadcast on triple-digit UHF stations. And the man is a pistol with a quip. "Playing at home is an advantage only if you win," Holtz has said. "If you lose you're better off playing on the road -- you have a better chance of getting out of the stadium alive." Everywhere he goes he wows the media.
Holtz will win at Notre Dame. He'll have a better record than Faust. He'll be funnier, too, and even though his past politics appeared to be to the right of the university's, in time Holtz will make Notre Dame more comfortable than did Faust since his style isn't zealotry. Whether Holtz will be as perseverant and as noble as Faust was under duress may never be known, because if Holtz wins, he won't have to be.