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Les Miles and Brian VanGorder Firings Demonstrate the Importance of Winning Now

Les Miles

Les Miles

More than anything else, college football is about winning. Some people may not like to hear that. Some people want to believe that the sport is simply a vehicle used in an academic and social development process of young men. Those of us who follow the sport closely know better.

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Les Miles and Brian VanGorder are evidence of that.

The LSU head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator were both canned by their respective employers this past weekend. In the case of Miles, many saw it coming — but perhaps not four weeks into this season like it did. In the case of VanGorder, his departure was slightly more of a surprise, albeit not completely shocking. Both men — justified or not — were let go because of their teams’ performances during the first month of the 2016 season.

This is the new college football. Gone are the days of coaches hanging around at a school through a roller-coaster-like tenure of up-and-down years. Pundits around the country scoffed at the idea of Kirk Ferentz getting another contract extension and the guarantees that he did a few weeks back. Ferentz has one of the better bodies of work of any head coach in all of college football, so to an outsider, the move seemed completely reasonable. To those close to and who follow the sport, the firings of Miles and VanGorder are the new reasonable.

You'll often hear people talk about college football being a "what have you done for me lately?" world. It's not. The recent firings of the high-profile coaches are a clear demonstration that college football operates on a "what are you doing for me right now?" basis.

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In his 11 full seasons at the helm in Baton Rouge, Miles never led the Tigers to fewer than eight wins in a single campaign. LSU went to a bowl game during every season of Miles' tenure, won two SEC titles and one national championship. He's been a pillar of the Baton Rouge community, especially during natural disasters and senseless tragedies. That's still not good enough at LSU.

VanGorder was an easy scapegoat for Notre Dame. Any head coaching change at the school is front page news – not just in sports. It's also a distraction, and nobody likes distractions. Brian VanGorder was a new face in South Bend. He hadn't been there long enough for anyone to have strong feelings for him. Unfortunately, despite finishing in the top third of the country in total defense in 2015, VanGorder's defense is among the worst in the nation statistically this season. Dropping him was quick and painless for Brian Kelly, who arguably has a less impressive resume at Notre Dame than what Miles had at LSU.

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Kelly's job is safe — for now.

The pressure to win and the money tossed around in college football (not mutually exclusive) is causing big-time programs to shorten their leashes on head coaches. What you did as a coach in the past – even a season ago — is not guaranteed to buy you any time. This is especially true at your typical "blue blood" programs. Often times, the school's brand recruits itself. You merely need a guy who can develop and coach the talent recruited into a consistent winner.

The lower ranks of college football, especially in the Group of Five conferences, never have a shortage of guys who can flat out coach football. In addition to Houston's Tom Herman, up-and-comers like Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck, Western Kentucky's Jeff Brohm and South Florida's Willie Taggart are all ripe to be picked from their current positions and given shots to pilot some of the nation's more prestigious programs.

If I were a head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator at USC, Penn State, UCLA, Oregon or yes, even Notre Dame, I wouldn't get comfortable looking at that group of candidates gunning to take your gig. Now, you can even add Miles to that pool.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.