As the college season winds down, it seems like a good time to reflect on the performances of some of the men that orchestrate the programs around the country.
Time to talk about the coach of they year.
Certainly, ND fans would like to nominate Charlie Weis. After a tough start to the season, Weis' team gelled. Unfortunately, it was just a bit too late. But no one can argue that for the final two weeks of their season the Irish didn't look like a team that - if this were a 20 game season - was a threat to win 5 games. While college quiz bowl victories against Duke and Stanford would have been more satisfying; certainly, gridiron wins will give delusional leprechauns the opportunity to fortify false off season hopes for a big '08 campaign. And will be the basis for a #24 preseason ranking for the sons of Molly Maguire (edit).
Out in the former Big Eight, two traditional doormats rose to the apex of the flat lands conference.
Kansas and Missouri capitalized on the consistent mediocrity from top to bottom in the league. Also, weaker than expected Oklahoma and Texas teams opened the door for the 'Hawks and Tigers to continue to keep this long April Fools Joke running.
Mark Mangino and Gary Pinkel certainly deserve consideration in any COY debate.
And down in the SEC, Urban Meyer has used his system to win 9 games with a young team and get his marginally talented QB Heisman consideration. Any coach that can reload his system the way Meyer has, certainly should be a factor in COY talk.
But, quite clearly, the man who has done the most coaching and pushed a boulder completely up the hill of respectability is the man in Starkville, MS.
Sylvester Croom took over a program still reeling from the Jackie Sherrill years of 'son of a bootlegger' style recruitment and booster support, and turned it into an up and coming SEC power.
Hampered by the torched reputation of the program and the effects of probation, Croom arrived undeterred in the Old South's Magnolia state to the same sort of hospitable welcome that Sheriff Bart received upon his arrival to Rock Ridge in 'Blazing Saddles'.
Faced with the task of sorting through marginal in state talent and the tough sell job it would take to bring out of state athletes back into the 19th century, Croom was left with no option but to mold the bodies already present into football players.
His effort led MSU to a 7-5 record, with victories over such ranked programs as Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama. Certainly, the victory over Alabama was pleasurable. Croom, being a 'Bama man and never even being considered for the huge paycheck that was directed at miserable first season failure Nick Saban.
The Bulldogs finished .500 in the murderers' row SEC line-up that was originally intended to be the death warrant of the SEC's first Negro head coach.
Certainly, the future in Starkville looks bright. The victory over the Colonel Saunders' mascoted Ole Miss team led to the dismissal of rival in-state coach Ed Orgeron. Ole Miss brought in Ozark refugee Houston Nutt. All this should play out well for Croom, as Nutt can be counted on to turn Mississippi high school coaches against the the Rebels' program.
While 7-5 might not be the sort of record that legendary coaches accumulate; doing it in reconstructionist Mississippi as the first Negro head Coach in the Deep South Conference can not be overlooked as an amazing achievement.
'Sly' Croom, your COY.