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The Ten-year Rule

By Jacob Shoor
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Fans of today guarantee that coaches will feel that they must move on sooner rather than later because fan bases tend to have no more than a ten-year span of tolerance.

Texas is not merely like a whole other country. Texas is also the biggest football state. Start with Texas friday night lights, add on the history of the much lamented Southwest Conference and its member institutions, top it off with the Dallas Cowboys, and you have the state apex of football.

And that means that when there are rumblings in Austin involving Longhorns football, the entire football world pays very close attention.

Mack Brown is one of those coaches who should be above fearing for his job. He has won a national championship, and he is more than 100 games above .500 in his fifteen plus years at Texas. But the chatter that Brown is a dead man walking in Austin is so loud that Andy Staples has tackled it.

Staples' focus is whether Nick Saban might leave Alabama to become the chief Longhorn. His answer is that it would be no surprise to him to see Saban leave Tuscaloosa after fewer than ten years because the game has changed, making coaches akin to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. His conclusion: "So going forward coaches are probably going to act more like those CEOs. They're going to work until they burn out. They they'll recharge and move on to take over another organization. (For a prime example, see: Meyer, Urban.)"

It is Staples' ending that most interests me. He asserts that coaches are no longer inclined to stay long at any one school, and then he offers exceptions: "Richt is still going after 12 years at Georgia, and Bob Stoops seems content after 14 years at Oklahoma. But few other coaches seem wired for the long haul."

Richt may prefer to retire in Athens after another decade coaching between the hedges, but a rather loud, and perhaps large, number of Georgia fans have been calling for his head off and on since 2010. Stoops has accomplishments that make Richt's fine career seem nearly pedestrian. Stoops' Sooners have won eight Big 12 championships and one national championship. Even so, I recall OU internet chatter as early as 2009 moving toward a consensus that Stoops would never again win it all and so must be shown the door.

I think Andy Staples misses half of the equation. It is not merely that today many coaches have no real desire to be a career coach at any one school. I think fans of today guarantee that coaches will feel that they must move on sooner rather than later because fan bases tend to have no more than a ten-year span of tolerance.

Richt and Stoops are perfect examples. The fans of their schools are bored with them. Yes, part of the boredom is a lack of national titles. Richt has none and Stoops one, in his second season. But the main part of the boredom is that the fans want change. Yes, a national title would whet their appetite for change for another couple or three years. But they want change. They want a new face.

Tommy Tuberville had an undefeated team at Auburn, and he beat Alabama five consecutive years. But by year ten at Auburn, those screaming "War Eagle" often wanted Tuberville shown the door.

I think Steve Spurrier felt that coming for him at Florida. He left his alma mater because he intuited that no matter his overall record, not even his being the school's first Heisman winner who coached its second and won its first national title, Gators fans were bored with him and wanted a new coach. To get that change, they would turn on a hero and essentially forget his accomplishments and his loyalty.

That is an inevitable result of a throw away consumerist economy and pop culture. We want our MTV and we want it now - with a new cast.

Exceptions prove rules, and I don't think the Ten-year Rule of Fan Boredom applies equally to all fan bases. I think Jimbo Fisher may not face it if he wins big in Tallahassee, because Seminoles fans suffered through the long decline of Bobby Bowden.

That said, Noles fans might not be bored with Fisher by his tenth season, but unless he rather routinely wins titles they will get antsy by the time he turns 60, hoping to avoid a second long decline that cripples the program for a decade.

I also don't think the Ten-year Rule would apply at UNC if Fedora wins a couple of ACC titles. UNC football successes have been so few and far between (the last Tar Heels team to finish in the Top 10 was Mack Brown's last year, 1998) that the next coach who gets the program back to that level will earn long-term devotion.

My guess is that it won't apply to Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss or Bret Bielema at Arkansas, assuming those coaches can win an SEC championship.

But Mack Brown's replacement should prepare for it before he starts his first spring practice.

Jacob Shoor - Jacob Shoor a Tennessee native and UNC graduate who is now semi-retired and living back in Tennessee after having lived since his UNC days in SWC country and Big 8 country, as well as both SC and NC. Other than ACC sports and SEC football, Jacob Shoor is a fan of the Tour de France, the French Open, and hurling (Ireland's biggest team sport).