The firing and buyout at FIU just happened to occur on the very day that state university presidents and student government leaders traveled to Tallahassee to beg the Legislature for an additional $118 million to divide among the states universities as a way to avoid hitting students, those who dont play football, with another 15 percent hike in tuition.
The firing also came exactly one week after The New York Times ran a searing report on the huge payouts collected by fired football coaches at major universities. Auburn University is paying $11 million to banish its football staff. The state school will be paying ousted head coach Gene Chizik (who won a national championship just two seasons ago) $208,334 a month for the next 36 months.
The University of Tennessee announced, perhaps with regret, that its athletic department would be unable to contribute a promised $18 million toward academic scholarships over the next three years. Instead, The Times reported, the departments budget surplus would go to pay the severance packages of fired coach Derek Dooley and his staff.
It happens all over football land. One in 10 college coaches are fired each year. And their severance packages go away with them. Its as if football programs operate in a kind of bubble, oblivious to both the education missions and recessionary budgets of their respective universities.
Worse, this annual epidemic of firings, and all that buyout money, doesnt seem to change outcomes on the football field. The fall issue of Social Science Quarterly, a peer-reviewed scholarly publication, studied this very phenomenon. The authors of Pushing Reset: The Conditional Effects of Coaching Replacements on College Football Performance, considered wins, losses and other factors between 1997 and 2010 and discovered that schools with poor records usually did no better by firing their coaches. Meanwhile at schools like FIU, which had become merely mediocre (3-8 this season, with several close losses), the choice to replace leadership is detrimental, rather than helpful, to team performance.
So if FIU follows the trend-line predicted by Social Science Quarterly, the football program is spending a lot of money for the prospect of some even more dismal football.
Despite the fanfare that often accompanies the hiring of a new coach, our research demonstrates that at least with respect to on-field performance, coach replacement can be expected to be, at best, a break-even antidote. These findings, coupled with the significant costs universities typically incur by choosing to replace a head football coach, suggest that universities should be cautious in their decision to discharge their coach for performance reasons, the authors concluded.
Of course, that was a very academic study, laden with tables and statistics. Im betting that the folks in charge of athletics at FIU (the same bunch who judged Coach Cristobal such a great coach 168 days before they decided he wasnt), dont give much thought to that academic stuff.