Sports | Sports Columns

TURNER: It's the most wonderful time of the year

  • David Brann / Senior Staff Photographer
    holding on | Though Columbia head coach Pete Mangurian is safe, plenty of other coaches in the college football scene will be on the chopping block in the next few weeks.

It’s that time of year again.

You can smell it in the air. Postseason dreams have been squandered. Disappointment lingers in empty stadiums. Fans around the country sit idly on their sofas, wondering what went wrong. Locker rooms are filled with the silence of players switching out cleats for high tops. Coaches sit in their offices, quietly sipping on old bottles of Jack, dreading each moment anyone knocks on the door or the phone rings. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.

It’s the beginning of firing season.

Much like the beginning of hunting season, firing season kicks off with a bang. For most college teams, the bang of firing season is that last loss, the one that somehow seems to be the most embarrassing defeat of the year. 

The days tick by quickly during the holiday season, each day shorter than the last. Soon enough, families will come together, sitting down for Christmas dinner. And while presents are being unwrapped, coaches sit on pins and needles, hoping that the phone doesn’t ring. Oh, the woes of firing season!

Firing season is great because it’s like getting a present every day for a few months, continuing well into the New Year. Sure, one has to feel bad for the guy that gets the boot, but firing season brings all kinds of holiday cheer, starting with the promise of change. For college football fans and players alike, a new coach represents the opportunity for a program to go from nothingness to bowl contention. (Or at least from irrelevance to a little less irrelevance.)

As a Florida Gators football fan, I’ve had to witness devastation about every weekend this fall. Just two weeks ago, Florida lost to Georgia Southern—the first time in school history the Gators lost to a Football Championship Subdivision opponent. It also spelled the end of the 22-year-old parade of bowl games.

Yes, that’s it—no bowl game. Remarkably, Florida ranked No. 10 in the preseason and has now finished with a losing record, unranked. You can blame injuries and you can blame bad luck, but when it boils down to it, all of the blame will be placed on head coach Will Muschamp. And it should be, especially for a guy who makes $3 million per season.

But let’s not forget our own tragedies here in the city. 0-10. It has a certain ring to it, and not a pleasant one at that. It reminds me of that sinking feeling you would get when the loudspeaker called your name for the whole school to hear back in the day. Sadly, it wasn’t what I was expecting from Columbia’s football team, especially after a poor (yet not winless!) showing last year.

Granted, injuries probably shot the season down the toilet before the first game even ended, but nonetheless, many are calling for the terminations of head coach Pete Mangurian and Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy. The Lions’ season-ending 48-7 loss to Brown somehow represented just their fourth-worst margin of defeat in the 10-game season.

It seems like Mangurian and Murphy need not worry too much—University President Lee Bollinger endorsed both a couple of weeks ago, at least for the time being.

But regardless of what happens here, many of Mangurian’s peers are in similar or worse situations. Plenty of coaches around the country, in various sports at various levels, could wake up tomorrow suddenly unemployed. In this economy, with schools frequently cutting teams and coaching positions rather than expanding, that has to be an awful feeling.

Just remember folks, during this holiday season of joy and cheer, be thankful that you aren’t a college football coach.

Ryan Turner is a Columbia College sophomore. He is a former member of the men’s swimming and diving team. Blood, Sweat, and Cheers runs biweekly. | @CUSpecSports

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