The big news in college football this week was Alabama coach Nick Saban essentially firing offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin one week before the Tide's national championship game vs. Clemson. How unique is this?
Actually, Kiffin is the ninth coordinator in the Bowl Championship Series/College Football Playoff era -- so since 1998 -- to accept a head coaching position before a national championship game. But Kiffin is only the third who didn't stay on through the game. Let's look at the two other examples to see if we can learn anything.
David Cutcliffe, Tennessee, 1998: Cutcliffe was the offensive coordinator of the Vols that season but was hired to be the head coach at Ole Miss. It was the first head coaching job for the then 44-year-old Cutcliffe, who had been the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee since 1992. Of course Cutcliffe is now Duke's coach. He was the Broyles Award winner as the nation's top assistant in 1998 at Tennessee. The No. 1 Vols were 5.5-point favorites on college football odds for the first-ever BCS Championship Game (Fiesta Bowl) against No. 2 Florida State and won 23-16. QB Tee Martin threw two touchdown passes, including a 79-yarder to Peerless Price with 9:17 to go to put the Vols ahead 20-9. Price caught four passes for 199 yards and was voted the game's MVP. So Cutcliffe wasn't missed too much.
Mike Stoops, Oklahoma, 2003: Stoops was the defensive coordinator of the Sooners under his brother Bob and was hired as the head coach at Arizona. Mike Stoops helped coach Oklahoma in its Big 12 title game win against Kansas State but then took over full time in Tucson. The reason Stoops could leave early was that OU had a solid replacement in place in co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables, now in the same role with Clemson. Oklahoma was the No. 1 team in the country in that season's Sugar Bowl against No. 2 LSU. The Sooners were 6.5-point favorites on college football picks and lost 21-14. The game's MVP was LSU running back Justin Vincent, who rushed 16 times for 117 yards and a TD. But really the fault lies with an OU offense that didn't even have 160 total yards. That was the first national title for a guy named Nick Saban. Whatever happened to him?