Suspensions and coaching changes can have an unexpected impact on a bowl game
Strange things happen in bowl games. Lou Holtz coached Arkansas to the Orange Bowl in 1977, back when he had all of his hair and most of his wits. Shortly before the game he suspended his three best players for a violation of team rules. The Razorbacks shocked college football and the entire country by upsetting Oklahoma 31-6.
Before he became a foil for Rece Davis and Mark May, Holtz was a motivational genius. The amazing coaching coup led to a lucrative side gig: he toured the country giving speeches at corporate meetings, telling jokes and doing magic tricks. He made the Tonight Show several times and parlayed that into the ESPN gig.
Holtz was quick with a quip and always got a lot of press, 249-132-7 in five coaching stops. When the Razorbacks went 11-1 and clinched the Orange Bowl bid fans tossed oranges on the field. ”Thank God we didn’t get invited to the Gator Bowl,” Holtz said.
A few years later while at Notre Dame he suspended Tony Brooks and Ricky Watters, the two fastest players on the team for being late to a team dinner on the eve of the 1988 Cotton Bowl. The Irish beat SC, 27-10.
Today Chris Brown of Orangebloods.com is reporting that Mack Brown is retiring as Longhorn coach after the Valero Alamo Bowl versus the Ducks. It’s apparently a real thing, with speculation boiling over about Nick Saban, Charlie Strong, Kevin Sumlin and even Jon Gruden as possible replacements. A lot of coaches will be getting raises and extensions in the next few days. Expect adamant denials, especially from the coach who eventually takes the job.
For the Ducks, this makes their job harder and even more of a no-win situation. The Texas players will ride a surge of emotion into the game, rallying around their lame-duck mentor. If the Ducks win, it will just be another victory over a mediocre team, discounted in advance, and the panel on the Home Depot set will talk about how daunting the distractions were for the Longhorns.
If UT rises up and makes an inspired effort that upends the soft, spoiled Ducks, it will be another talking point for Saturdays well into next October, along with “Snowgate” and not wanting to go to the Rose Bowl.
Oregon has to make itself distraction-proof in the next three weeks, and they have to be so poised and prepared that not even Bevo will hook them into ignoring their mission: win the game, and look organized and motivated doing it.