On the field, Geoff Collins never found a way to help himself off of it, although it’s looking more and more like Georgia Tech was a near-impossible job for him in the first place.
Even the firing of Collins, who finished his time in Atlanta with a 10-28 record, was bungled, miscommunicated, and delayed by a university and athletic department woefully out of touch with each other and modern college sports. As early as Sunday confirmed reports broke that Collins and athletic director Todd Stansbury were let go, but no one officially notified the parties until a full day later.
Collins did not work at Georgia Tech at all, full stop. But many in the industry, myself included, believed he would. I bought in specifically because of Collins’ almost stubborn refusal to comply with coachspeak norms and conventions. He flaunted hashtags on Twitter, started social media campaigns, talked about branding opportunities for players, and wanted to make Tech fun, relevant and exciting. It’s growing apparent now that Tech wasn’t ready, and Collins couldn’t conjure any of this out of thin air.
The failure of Collins is rooted first and foremost in recruiting. Atlanta is arguably the Mecca of college football, both in fandom and in recruiting, and Tech has always been an outsider in the heart of its city. That never changed under Collins, and while there are plenty of other reasons to point to, personnel dictates what you can and can’t do more than any other factor in the modern game.
What’s next for Tech? The future is very cloudy, due in large part to its never-been-worse rep as an out-of-touch university culture in the modern football landscape, and Stansbury’s firing. The next coach will need to truly know and build around the limitations – not any hypothetical potentials – first. Someone like retired-ish former UAB head coach Bill Clark, or Jeff Monken, a former assistant of former Tech head coach Paul Johnson.
The failure of the Collins era communicates that Tech is a place where extreme pragmatism is the rule of law. You won’t see another Instagram campaign coming out of there for a long time.
Good Wins, More Stability
This column isn’t always tracking dead coaches walking. For as many names hit the hot seat, there are just as many moving in the opposite direction. Below are four programs whose head coaches have created a ton of positive distance from the carousel in the first four weeks of the 2022 season:
Florida State: The Seminoles have national title history, but thanks to a unique history and a recent run of buyouts, they’re far from deep-pocketed. Entering 2022, Mike Norvell was sitting in the middle of most fans’ expectations – not great, but not awful – but now FSU’s 4-0 start ensures that the ‘Noles won’t have to talk about a coaching search for a little while. Is Norvell a permanent, title-winning, glory-returning solution? We have no idea, but for now, no one in Tallahassee has to cut a buyout check.
Syracuse: Because they’re a private institution, we’re not privy to the specifics of Cuse’s deal with Dino Babers, but with buyout estimates that stretch past $10 million, it’s apparent the Orange didn’t want to fire their coach this year. Luckily, they won’t have to. Syracuse is 4-0 after whomping Louisville and UConn and surviving Purdue and Virginia at home. They’re far from formidable, but this is a bounce-back year for the Orange, and there’s a chance at bowl eligibility (Wagner, Boston College) despite an upcoming slate of five ranked opponents and Notre Dame.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders have been mocked by many (myself included, just listen to any episode of “Split Zone Duo”) for perpetually extending Rick Stockstill, but after three years of finishing in fourth place or lower in the C-USA East, the 3-1 Blue Raiders beat the life out of Miami’s defense on Saturday. Regardless of what happens for the rest of ‘22, Stockstill and his staff can coast for another season, and potentially dominate what will be a weaker Conference USA moving forward.
Arizona: Look, they’re only 2-2, but they’ve beaten San Diego State on the road and held off FBS-killer North Dakota State at home. With woebegone Colorado on tap and a chance to beat a rudderless Arizona State on Black Friday, the Wildcats are tracking to show discernible improvement after last year’s 1-11 finish. NFL veteran Jeff Fisch has very, very quietly made a program that went 5-24 over its previous three seasons respectable again. In turn, he’ll be afforded at least two more seasons to get the Wildcats back to a bowl.
UNLV: Did you know the Rebels are 3-1? Don’t lie. Did you know they just beat the defending Mountain West champion Utah State? Or that they handled North Texas the week before? After losing his A.D. to Missouri and failing to kickstart one of the game's most irrelevant programs, Marcus Arroyo has something going, and in this bizarre year for the MW, it's hard to set an exact ceiling.