From time to time, I will sit down and watch a western. They’re not my favorite, but I enjoy watching John Wayne save the day every now and then. For older readers, it was a staple of childhood.
My dad and brother love to watch westerns. My grandfathers raised us to love them. There are many values that are highlighted in those movies—loyalty, love, integrity, justice, toughness, and the list goes on and on. Time and time again, greed and selfishness were trumped by the man with good character coming in to rid the innocent citizens of a problem.
In the wild west, it has always struck me how tenuous the power structure was. There was always a sheriff, but the guy was either weak or corrupt. The real power rested in the hands of the man with the most allies or the quickest draw.
As much as we romanticize such a structure, it was basically anarchy. Any powerful person could be deposed in an instant, usually with a bullet. It wasn’t exactly the kind of stability we crave in society today.
College football is the old west, and we’re now at the part of every year where power is consolidated. Every player in the game tries to get bigger and better, either by growing a posse or by getting bigger and getter weapons.
This analogy extends both to coaches and to programs. It’s an either-or proposition—either the coaches are trying to become more powerful or the programs are.
The interesting part about it is that, much like the wild west, there are no rules. A man makes up his own rules. A handshake mattered to John Wayne, but not to the scoundrels trying to consolidate power for themselves. Each man set his own standards of morality.
Similarly, each program sets its own standards for success and failure and rewards its coaches accordingly. Fall short of the standards, and someone else can be used to pursue success. Coaches that fail to take advantage when they have bigger guns may be pushed out of town if a dry season comes.
This is the cat-and-mouse game happening at nearly every major school in the country. If a coach is a hot commodity, the conversation is either about a raise with the current employer or a raise with a new one.
Contract extensions are all about security, not loyalty. Coaches know they can be fired in an instant, so the length of time in contract talks is largely an acknowledgement of value rather than an actual commitment to length.
It’s all about posturing, and the time for posturing has come, and the programs and coaches with the muscles to flex had better flex them before someone with bigger muscles comes along and steals the glory. Clemson has plenty to brag about, but not enough. Dabo Swinney has reason to expect a raise, but how much and for how long will be determined by the level of interest he inspires elsewhere. The same thing goes for Chad Morris and Brent Venables.
We’ll find out more about how the country views all three coaches in the coming weeks. We’ll also see how they feel about Clemson based on their actions related to the coaching carousel.
Right now, Texas has come out guns blazing. Some of its best may come strolling into Clemson looking to make trouble, and there may be others following them from all across the landscape.
The process may be all for naught, but Dan Radakovich might be wise to work on getting a quicker draw.