The 10 Worst College Coaches
As school starts up, well again hear how coaches win games and mold men. Um, not these guys.
10. Tom Osborne
(Career record: 255-49-3)
Osborne’s a Cornhusker legend, which helped him go from coach to congressman. Yet there’s a big blemish on his reputation: running back Lawrence Phillips. During the 1995 season, Phillips’ ex-girlfriend said he dragged her by the hair down three flights of stairs. Osborne suspended Phillips but insisted there were only “occasions every four to five months when he becomes a little explosive.” He later reinstated Phillips to help Nebraska repeat as national champs. Since then Phillips has faced criminal charges that include suspicion of attempting to run down three teens with a stolen car. But, hey, it’s only every four months or so.
9. Larry Eustachy
It’s expected that college basketball players attend raging frat parties and mack on hot coeds. It’s a surprise when their 47-year-old coach does so. After a tough loss to the Tigers, Iowa State’s Eustachy wandered into a bash with Missouri students, where he was photographed drinking and kissing assorted women. (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!) When the pics ran in The Des Moines Register, other Big 12 students came forward to say that Eustachy had lived la vida loca at their schools, too. Eustachy had to resign, but he taught his players a valuable lesson: If you’re gonna revisit your youth, make sure there aren’t any cameras around.
8. Jackie Sherrill
There’s no better way to motivate a football player than to challenge his manhood. That said, former Mississippi State coach Sherrill may have taken things too far when, before the 1992 season opener against the Texas Longhorns, he had a calf castrated on the practice field. Sherrill put on the scrotum show because he asked his players “what a steer was, and none of them knew” (for the record, a steer is a calf post-Bulldogs pregame rally). Inspired—or at least terrified—his team routed Texas 28-10. Sherrill later said, “If this incident was in any way not perceived as proper by those who love Mississippi State, then I apologize,” but Texas fans have yet to uncross their legs.
7. Gary Barnett
First there were Colorado football’s recruiting parties, which allegedly featured strippers and escorts. Then several women, including placekicker Katie Hnida, lodged rape allegations against the Buffs. When her plight came to Barnett’s attention, he sympathetically noted she was an “awful” player who “couldn’t kick the ball through the uprights.” Shockingly, all this happened despite the DTRT—do the right thing—wristbands Barnett gave his team. If wristbands don’t work, what hope is there?
6. Woody Hayes
“The minute I think I’m getting mellow, I’m retiring,” Hayes declared. “Who ever heard of a mellow winner?” The legendary Ohio State football coach (three national titles) didn’t need to worry. In the 1978 Gator Bowl, OSU trailed Clemson by two late in the fourth when Clemson’s Charlie Bauman made an interception and ran out of bounds on OSU’s sideline. Hayes, then 65, decided to show his team how to take down an opponent and sucker-punched the nose guard. The only damage was to Woody’s career. He was canned the next morning and never coached again.
5. Bob Huggins
The Cincinnati hoops coach declared NCAA reports that his program had a 0 percent graduation rate (as in “no graduates”) were misleading, and sure enough, a supporter showed his ratio was nearly a robust 30 percent. Sadly, all good things must end. A 2004 DUI arrest forced him to resign (Cincy’s prez snobbishly insisted coaches be “exemplary role models”). He got a $3 million buyout, or more than $100,000 for each Bearcat who graduated in his 16 years at the helm.
4. Jim Harrick
Harrick led UCLA hoops to its first post-Wooden title in 1995 and still managed to lose his job the next year by lying on an expense report. After a scandal-plagued stop at Rhode Island, Jim and assistant coach Jim Jr. went to Georgia, where Junior taught Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball, a player fave featuring brutal exam questions like, “How many points does a three-point field goal account for?” (with multiple-choice options!). Every student got an A…and Jim Sr. got a $254,166 resignation deal to get the hell out of town.
3. John Chaney
You don’t make the Basketball Hall of Fame by being a pushover. So when a George Washington player ticked Chaney off, he grabbed GW coach Gerry Gimelstob’s throat. And when he thought UMass coach John Calipari had bullied the referees during a 56-55 Temple loss, he showed up at Calipari’s postgame press conference and screamed, “I’ll kill you! You remember that…when I see you, I’m gonna kick your ass!” while charging the lectern. And when Chaney became convinced St. Joseph’s was setting illegal screens during a game, he put in reserve goon Nehemiah Ingram to “send a message.” Ingram promptly broke the arm of Hawks forward John Bryant. Chaney apologized, but sent another message when he noted Ingram wasn’t the only potential arm-breaker on the floor: “I put three or four players in there and were [sic] telling them to make hard fouls.” Well, at least he’s honest. He’s also retired now.
2. Bobby Knight
The former Indiana and current Texas Tech hoops coach has thrown a chair, hit a Puerto Rican police officer, cursed at the Big Ten commissioner, chewed out the Hoosiers’ cheerleaders, pulled his entire team from the floor after he was ejected in an exhibition against the Soviet Union (they were losing anyway), joked on national TV, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it,” pretended to bullwhip a black player, accidentally head-butted a player, accidentally shot a friend in the back while hunting without a license, reportedly threw a vase at a secretary who upset him, and had a “salad-bar incident” when the chancellor of his university dared to talk to him at an upscale grocery store. But he won three NCAA titles, so it’s OK.
1. Dave Bliss
When the going gets tough, the tough piss on the memory of the deceased. Faced with a nightmarish situation (former player Carlton Dotson murdered ex-teammate Patrick Dennehy), Baylor coach Dave Bliss hit on a logical solution: Blame the dead. Bliss told his grieving players they should “create the perception that Pat may have been a dealer,” noting there was no way for Dennehy to deny the drug allegations since he had died and all. An assistant coach taped the pep talk and gave the recording to the media. No one was more enraged than Dennehy’s stepfather, who said Bliss “shook my hand at Patrick’s memorial, and I thanked him for coming. He’s just a two-faced bald-ass liar.” We couldn’t put it any better.