How a Rocky Ending at One Job Can Alter a College Football Coach's Career

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2014

Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz shouts to his players at the Orange and White spring NCAA college football game, Sunday, April 1, 2012, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Michael Thomas/Associated Press

In the college football world, when the hot name falls, it falls swiftly and does not usually land well. Manny Diaz, now the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, is merely the latest example of a guy who seemed poised to grab a big-name job before a tough ending pushed him out of the spotlight.

Yet Diaz is not the only one.

Al Borges was a revelation when he got to Michigan, helping steer the offense to a Sugar Bowl berth. Now, he is out of that job and looking for what is next. Lane Kiffin tasted the wrath as a head coach during the season. He is now back among the coordinator ranks.

Dec 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Michigan Wolverines offensive coordinator Al Borges against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Often the college landscape gets discussed in terms of the success stories. The huge paydays for successful coaches and assistants to keep them around or pry them away. Which assistants are the next to break through to the head-coaching ranks and which of the head coaches will get that marquee job, a la Charlie Strong to Texas.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, there are coaches who do not get the raise.

More importantly, after tough seasons, it is not just the lack of a pay upgrade or contract extension, but the lack of a job that pushes its way into these coaches' lives. They go from paydays, extra years on contracts, programs fighting for their services and dream jobs to wondering where the coaching winds will blow them during the offseason.

Derek Dooley, the former Tennessee coach, went from one of Nick Saban's most promising assistants to the head man at Louisiana Tech before the Tennessee job. Dooley and the Volunteers were supposed to grow together. As he learned the job and figured out how to win, Tennessee would rise back to the forefront of the league.

Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) and receivers coach Derek Dooley during the 2013 Hall of Fame Game against the Miami Dolphins at Fawcett Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Instead, Dooley spent the 2013 season as a wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys, while Butch Jones, formerly of Cincinnati, occupied the head spot in Knoxville.

Dooley coached himself out of the door by losing a lot of ballgames, disrupting the little recruiting momentum Tennessee possessed and leaving the Vols even worse off than he found them.

Kiffin got hired at USC, impressed a boatload of people, then, in the span of the next 18 games, paved the path that would lead him back to a coordinator position, instead of being the head man at one of college football's most storied programs.

The 10-2 finish in 2011 was supposed to be proof that USC was strong even while suffering the brutal sanctions. Rather, it led to the Trojans taking the tumble from preseason No. 1 to an unranked 7-6 team in 2012 and Kiffin's firing after Game 5 in 2013.

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head coach Lane Kiffin  of the USC Trojans looks on during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Sun Devils defeated the Trojans 62-41.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Now, as the offensive coordinator at Alabama, Kiffin works with a couple other coaches who were beaten down by the realities of tough times in college football. Mario Cristobal, former head coach at FIU, was oddly fired by the Panthers before he landed in Tuscaloosa.

The linebacker coach and former director of player personnel, Kevin Steele, also knows the rise and fall well.

He was the young head coach hoping to make good on a big chance when he took over at Baylor in 1999, only to go 9-36 at one of the nation's toughest jobs. Steele then rebuilt his success, including working as Alabama's defensive coordinator before taking the Clemson job of the same title. Following the 70-33 beating at by West Virginia, Steele was again looking for a job, landing back on Saban's staff working as the director of player personnel.

And this year, Diaz and Borges are two notable names that seemed to be riding high on the path to more success before being humbled by less than stellar results. These are merely the latest to have the shine knocked off their apple.

There will undoubtedly be more in the 2014 season. Sustaining a place at the summit is far more difficult than the climb.