The “elite” coaching positions claimed their latest victim earlier. He’s Tubby Smith, ex-Kentucky basketball coach (now Minnesota). He won a national championship during his time at Kentucky. He won 263 games in 10 years. At, oh, say…Rutgers, he would be an icon for putting up those kinds of numbers. His problem: he wasn’t at Rutgers. He was at Kentucky, which fancies itself the very best program in the nation. At Kentucky, even numbers like that aren’t good enough. (I mean, that national championship? 9 whole years ago!) While he wasn’t “fired,” per se, you can bet if he felt secure and comfortable about his position as Kentucky head coach, he’d still be there.

The same thing can happen in other sports. The first other example to come to mind is Alabama football. Ever since Bear Bryant called it quits, no one has been good enough. Right now Nick Saban is in his honeymoon period because he’s a big name who’s won big before, but at a place like that, the tide can turn (not gonna lie – pun intended) very quickly. The same phenomenon is expected to occur for whoever succeeds Joe Paterno at Penn State. Whoever this intrepid soul turns out to be (please, please, please not Greg Schiano), there is a pretty widely held belief that they will crumble under the weight of JoePa’s legacy. Some have gone so far as to say it’s better to be the one who follows the one who follows the legend, if that makes sense. the lower the bar, the easier it is to impress.

Which brings us back to Schiano. When he arrived at RU, the bar was as low as it gets. He inherited what was very possibly the very worst program in the country. Through 6 years, his overall record is 30-41 and his best finish is #12. However, his program is on the rise, he collects a handsome salary, has about as much job security as can be had in the business, and is practically a demigod in RU circles. There were no legends to live up to at RU; instead, he can become one on his own. It’s why he didn’t go to Miami this offseason when they wanted him, and why he shouldn’t take the Penn State job whenever Paterno is finally gone (and I honestly believe that whenever that time comes, he’ll have no reason to). Sometimes, resisting the allure of a big name is the best way to become one yourself.

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