Nov 282006

Mike Shula was fired today after amassing a 26-23 record in four years at the Capstone.

I was sure this wasn’t going to happen, and I don’t think it was the right call. I would have preferred a 2007 in which Shula remained, but had substantially changed his offensive staff and relinquished play-calling responsibilities.

“But Bo, he was 0-4 vs. Auburn. 0-4 vs. LSU, too. And he lost to a rotten Mississippi State team this year.”

All of that’s true. But let me tell you what else is true. Mike Shula was not a typical hire. When he was announced, I was a bit underwhelmed (I wanted Croom), but I knew exactly what the university was thinking. He was a ‘Bama man, for one thing: responsible for two memorable last-minute scoring drives in 1985, including the one that led to “The Kick” in the Iron Bowl. The perception was that we needed that; these guys outside the family either cut and run (Franchione) or get drunk and behave questionably (Price). More importantly, Shula was young and had pledged loyalty at a time when Alabama desperately needed stability. He’ll be around through the probation and beyond. Marvelous.

His big negative was that he had no head coaching experience. That was a negative we accepted in exchange for the positives. And now that he’s through the worst of the storm and in a position to excel, he’s been fired so that the next guy can succeed with his recruits (see Bill Curry, 1989).

Don’t get me wrong: 6-6 isn’t good enough. And I was furious when Mississippi State knocked our teeth in at our house. But as close as we were all season, I think the university and the fans owed Shula one more year, making the adjustments he needed to make. That was the deal we made with him: your loyalty and youth for our patience and understanding about you needing a bit of on-the-job training. I was proud of the maturity I thought his hire demonstrated at the time. Now I’m disappointed in the university’s painfully short memory of How It Was. It’s like Shula accidentally went 10-2 last year and doomed himself with his own success.

But, it’s done, and here we are. No way around it now: we need an alpha stud, top-of-the-top hire. Such will help minimize recruiting damage in the short-term, but more importantly, it will restore the shine to the job in the long-term. A guy who wins 50 games in five years, with maybe a West title and an SEC title in there, essentially makes a new reality at Alabama and returns the job from the swamp of “damaged goods” it sits in right now.

Every ten minutes today someone sent me a new Steve Spurrier rumor. His wife’s shopping for real estate in Tuscaloosa. This plane went here; that plane went there. You know the kind of stuff I mean. Well, bring it. I’m all over that. We’re to the point where that’s what it’s going to take: an enormous contract to a bona fide superstar. We can’t risk anything else. It takes a Spurrier, a Stoops, or a Brown and probably $30 million. If we can spend $4 million to run a guy off, we can spend that for 90-100 wins over the next decade.

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