Tommy West had “one of those” meetings with his boss today. The “we’re going in another direction” talk. It was similar to the “we can’t help it, it’s the economy” talk I got a few months ago. Although, in Coach West’s case, they’re letting him wrap up his current projects. I don’t know that he was surprised by Tiger Athletic Director RC Johnson’s decision to let him go; after all, the team is 2 and 7 right now.
One of the things you can count on if you’re having a bad season is that your chance of losing your job climbs exponentially. Just a couple of years ago, they were calling for Joe Paterno’s head. A good season later and they’re all loving Joe Pa in Happy Valley again. In the ten years or so I’ve been around, I’ve seen a few Tigers football coaches come an go.
And if anything, Memphis is not a football school. That would probably account for the words that Coach West had for the problems the program faced, not only for him, but for his predecessors as well. Could or should the school do more to build up the infrastructure of the football program? To pull the program to a higher level of performance, yes, it should. Will it? Good question, since a lot of the big programs count on booster money to build things up.
But, with Ole Miss just down the road, and Tennessee having so many alums in the area, can the Tigers ever draw enough support to move to a higher tier in the football firmament? Good question.
Again, even with big programs, once a coach starts to slip, or seems to slip, boosters, fans and ADs are ready to pounce. Going to school at Ohio State, I saw a couple of good coaches, Earle Bruce and John Cooper, get fired primarily because they weren’t consistently beating teams from the University of Michigan.
Now, RC Johnson has the unenviable task of finding another coach to come into an unfunded, hard-to-recruit for program and try to get some attention in an SEC world. I didn’t watch the news conference announcing the firing or the eruption of Coach West afterward. I do understand RC getting out of the room prior to Tommy’s arrival. When it comes to the process of finding the next Tiger coach, I don’t think he’ll be as lucky (seemingly, for now) as he was with the Josh Pastner hire. But, when we look at that, I’ve got to think — hey, hang on, isn’t this the same guy who brought Calipari to Memphis?