As the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets stand at 1-2, fresh off a 42-0 loss at home to Ole Miss, it is just a matter of time before the announcement comes that Geoff Collins will be fired. With a track record that includes four shutouts (three of which happened at Bobby Dodd Stadium), a loss to The Citadel (also at Bobby Dodd Stadium), a failure to win back-to-back games during his tenure, or more than three games in a single season, there is simply no argument to keep Collins as the head coach.
So the question is, when do you cut ties?
Reports floated around yesterday that Georgia Tech would be holding several meetings throughout the day, and from there, rumors started flying that Collins would be relieved of duties by the end of the day. That didn’t happen. Geoff Collins is still the head coach today as the Yellow Jackets prepare to head to Orlando this weekend to play UCF, and at this point it seems likely that Collins will still be the head coach.
In determining when to cut ties with a head coach, there are several factors that have to be considered, and I hope to shed some light on those in this column. Before I get to them, though, I do want to state that I am in full favor of firing Collins as soon as possible. Personally (and I’ll get to this in a second), I don’t think he should have been given the chance to coach the team this season.
If you are firing a coach in September, why didn’t you do it sooner?
Matt Brown published a wonderful Extra Points newsletter this morning in the wake of Scott Frost and Herm Edwards both being fired in the last couple weeks.
Firing a guy before October means you probably should have fired him earlier. And if they misread the program so badly just a few months before, why should they be trusted to get it right this time?
Matt brings up a great point here, and one that we have talked about a great deal here at FTRS. By all accounts, Todd Stansbury has done some great things for Georgia Tech, but during last offseason, Stansbury came out and gave the dreaded vote of confidence to Collins following back-to-back shutout losses to Notre Dame and Georgia last season.
Instead, Georgia Tech made a host of other coaching changes on both sides of the ball in hopes that the Yellow Jackets would see some improvement this season. Three games in, and the Yellow Jackets have been outscored 83-10 in games against FBS teams. I wouldn’t exactly call that improvement.
There were many—myself included—who were calling for Collins’ head last year, and instead, all we got was a statement from Stansbury acknowledging that he heard us but that no action was being taken regarding Collins.
It seems that Stansbury, like many of us, were drawn in by the promise of Geoff Collins and the future he often spoke of. Unfortunately, instead of righting that wrong, he hitched his wagon to it. And in spite of big money donors (I’ll get to that in a second) asking for him to be dismissed, Stansbury stood by his man. To dismiss him now would fly in the face of everything he said in November. But keeping him could ultimately cost him his job at Georgia Tech.
The major critique of Nebraska’s dismissal of Scott Frost was the buyout. Frost’s buyout was set to drop from $15 million to $7.5 million on October 1. Instead of waiting three weeks for that number to drop, Nebraska pulled the trigger and let him go, assumedly paying him $15 million.
Now, I say assumedly, because I don’t know that his buyout was negotiated. Because that is something you can do. If things are going poorly and both sides know it, the school can negotiate a lower buyout for the coach and fire him sooner.
I bring this up because Geoff Collins’ buyout includes his full salary for the remainder of his contract, which totals $10.5 million. In January, that buyout drops to $7.2 million. While a bit more reasonable, that’s still not great when considering Tech’s financial situation. This is where that buyout negotiation can happen, which there were also rumors of yesterday.
Growing fan apathy
I have been a fan of Georgia Tech my entire life. There has never been another season where I have been less excited for the start of the season than this year. While the coaching hires Tech made inspired a little confidence, I still had no confidence that Collins would be able to guide this team to any meaningful success this year.
A growing apathy in the fanbase can cripple a program.
I said this in an earlier comment reply, but I want to echo it here:
I appreciate that there are a large number of fans who continue watching and buying tickets to support the team. As long as I’m able, I’ll continue to do that myself. I have a busy fall and live three hours away, so I likely won’t be able to make a game in person this season, but if I can, I’ll absolutely try to.
I also know that there are a lot of fans who don’t want to spend money to see bad football being played, whether they want to support the players or not. There are also those who see it as protesting in order to enforce a change. I think by holding onto Collins, you may see more of that.
That second group deciding to stop showing up and spending money at games is only going to cripple the team’s financial situation that much more. A decision to take action can at least inspire some confidence that the administration wants the best for the program. Speaking from the second group’s point-of-view, inaction shows that Georgia Tech is just okay with everything that’s happening. And that’s a hell of a bad picture to paint about yourself.
Taking decisive action to cut the coach may not result in more wins this season, but I think it could show that the administration is serious about improving the team.
How is the team handling this?
The fans aren’t the only ones who can be apathetic about a lameduck head coach. I found this post on GTSwarm, so take it for what it’s worth, but if this is in any way valid, Georgia Tech needs to take action.
Most have given up on [Geoff Collins], but not [Georgia Tech].
That is a damning indictment on Geoff Collins’ status of the head coach of this team. From that statement, this team wants to play and be successful. They don’t want to play for Collins, though. Why subject them to the remaining nine games with him?
Coaching changes have always and will always affect recruiting. For instance, when Geoff Collins was hired, he immediately hit the recruiting trail, and there were some pretty drastic changes in the kids that were committed to Georgia Tech. It is inevitable.
With the introduction of the early signing period, coaching changes get a little more complicated. If you wait too long to make a change, you have a whole bunch of kids who signed a letter of intent to play under a different coach than the one for whom they will be playing. And that’s a big problem.
In my opinion, it’s just one more reason to make the move. Don’t give the current commits any reason to think they’ll be playing for Collins next year if you know he isn’t going to be the coach. Give them the opportunity to reflect on where they want to go to school.
Something like this has already happened once in this class. Javin Simpkins decommitted form Tech around the time Tashard Choice took the job at USC. The two had a close relationship, and it’s likely Simpkins’ decision was influenced by Choice. Ultimately, yeah, he committed back to Georgia Tech, which can absolutely happen. But these kids should be afforded that opportunity.
Growing pressure from boosters
I know you are all familiar with this article, but I’m going to share it again.
The heading here is growing pressure from boosters, but that pressure is already there, and Collins is popping like a balloon.
We’ve gone from being relevant to who cares? And that’s sad. It’s sad for the players. It’s sad for the fans.
I don’t really have anything to add here. Tech has not done anything to show improvement thus far this season, so in prolonging this arrangement, it’s probably souring the relationship between the boosters and the higher-ups.
Start looking for candidates sooner
If Collins were to be fired before the end of the season, that doesn’t mean that Georgia Tech will hire a new head coach by the end of the season. It will still be after the end of the regular season before Georgia Tech hires a new coach.
But, there’s a lot of prep work you can get done during the season. The sooner Collins is let go, the sooner you can get a search firm in place to start identifying and reviewing candidates. Kieffer and Robert started working on their series of coaching candidate profiles months ago, identifying people they believe would be successful. It would be a great idea for Tech to follow suit.
Who will get you more success: an interim coach or a lame duck one?
Travel back in time with me, if you will, to Georgia Tech’s 2012 season. Following three straight losses in which Georgia Tech gave up at least 40 points, the Yellow Jackets fired defensive coordinator Al Groh and replaced him with interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. Kelly came in with promises to simplify the defense from Groh’s scheme. They finished 5-3 that season.
Now, I’m not going to say that is always the case, because that would be lying. There are a lot of times that an interim comes in, and things are still bad. I think that’s what would happen in this situation. I don’t know if the interim would be Chip Long, Brent Key, or someone else, but I imagine Tech probably still wouldn’t find a ton of success.
I think having a change at the top, though, could do something to fix that potential issue from the screenshot above. “Most have given up on [Geoff Collins], but not [Georgia Tech].” If they haven’t given up on Georgia Tech, then a change at the top, even if only to have an interim, could inspire some confidence in the program.
I said at the beginning of this article that I was firmly in support of firing Collins midseason. Part of me expected to write the column and perhaps change my mind about that. But that absolutely didn’t happen. I think the only argument for keeping him was that it would make Todd’s decision to stand by Collins last season less bad? Maybe? Simply put, I don’t think there’s any excuse for Geoff Collins to be the head coach at Georgia Tech, and I hope the administration is actively working on negotiating his buyout.
What do you think? Is there some reason I missed that makes you think Tech should wait for the end of the season?