In a little over two weeks, the following has occurred....
UC beat Pittsburgh 45-44 in the "unofficial" Big East title game to earn a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Brian Kelly left Cincinnati to coach Notre Dame
Jeff Quinn was hired as UC's interim coach.
Butch Jones was hired from Central Michigan to coach Cincinnati (but won't officially take the reins 'til after the Sugar Bowl).
Turner Gill left the University of Buffalo and was named head coach at Kansas.
Former Bearcat quarterback Danny Barrett was named interim coach at Buffalo.
Jeff Quinn was hired as the University of Buffalo's new head coach, but will still coach the Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl.
"At the end of the day," (as one guy wearing green ties now used to say) it's all about dominoes and interchangeable parts. In this "silly season" (as the politically savvy latest leprechaun has said) one move has caused a related move, which has left UC and a lot of schools with great questions about their bowl games.
Like George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life", life is dependent on such things. (And, if you haven't seen the movie, you're missing valuable reference points.) If George (Jimmy Stewart) went off and saw the world like he had planned, Bedford Falls would've been run down by "Ol' Man Potter", he never would've been married with a family, and so on. His every action led to another action, which pretty much is the way all of this stuff works in my very non-scientific opinion.
What would've happened without these coaching moves, we'll never know. But, we can look at what DID happen recently....
When Mark Dantonio declared he was leaving UC for Michigan State after the Connecticut win in '06 (subsequently abandoning the Bearcats in their bowl game) things looked bleak. But, after a short regime with Pat Narduzzi as the interim (and by the way, it's all but a lead pipe cinch now that if you're the interim, you're NOT getting the job in these situations) Brian Kelly was hired away from Central Michigan.
At Central Michigan, Jeff Quinn, Kelly's right-hand offensive man, then was named the interim. Quinn led the Chippewas to a Motor City Bowl win, but also found out that he WOULD NOT be the new coach. (Note: Quinn now has a chance for an odd record, 2-0 as a head coach with both victories being in bowl games!)
Butch Jones, wide receivers coach for West Virginia under Rich Rodriguez, was hired at Central Michigan. That then freed up Jeff Quinn to come to Cincinnati where he teamed up with Brian Kelly to obliterate the Bearcat offensive record book over the next three seasons.
In all of the situations, the results were positive. Kelly and Quinn went 34-6 with UC's new spread offense. Butch Jones went 27-13 at Central Michigan, which was actually considerably better than Kelly's 19-16 mark over three years in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
The questions you then ask are: Would Mark Dantonio have had the same success at UC if he had not left for Michigan State? Would Brian Kelly have gotten interest from Notre Dame or any other schools if he were still at Central Michigan? Would Jeff Quinn be up for a FBS job if he had hung with Kelly at CMU? And, would Butch Jones have a major college head coaching gig if the other events hadn't taken place?
I say no.
While Dantonio had certainly upped the recruiting ante and was bringing in better talent, his version of smashmouth, Big 10 football wasn't the answer here. Yes, I believe he would've continued to win, but only marginally above or around the 7-5 mark that he recorded twice in three years. The sellouts would not have came because: a) it wouldn't be the "bandwagon" thing to do; and b) with the Bengals in town, people aren't going to file in on Saturdays to watch 10-3 football games. (There again, Mark Dantonio is an intricate piece of the puzzle because without his success, there is no Brian Kelly.)
Had Kelly stayed at Central Michigan, odds are he probably would've jumped for another job. Research shows you that Iowa State and Michigan State came knocking and based on his post-Grand Valley State behavior, roots and longevity haven't been a priority for him in awhile. While I'm sure CMU would've continued to win in the MAC, based on the assets surrounding the Chippewas, I would never see them having the seasons that the Miami's and Bowling Green's have had in recent years. Even if you do so in the MAC (Ball State, Northern Illinois) it's tough to sustain that level of success. So, without the Dantonio situation at UC, Kelly probably jumps to another level, but never gets the opportunity at UC.
Had Jeff Quinn stayed at Central Michigan with Kelly, based on the above hypothesis, he would still be at Central Michigan or maybe a C-USA school, biding his time with Kelly. This is not knocking either Brian's or Jeff's abilities, it's all about the surrounding support and talent. I just don't think either could've walked into a better situation than what they had here. I don't believe they would have won at this level at either Iowa State or Michigan State. Following Kelly to Cincinnati, gave Jeff Quinn two BCS bowl games to put on his resume. Anywhere else, and he's still scraping for respect (which is does deserve, because he's an excellent coach).
If Turner Gill stays at Nebraska, and doesn't get an opportunity at Buffalo, he then has no chance at landing back in the Big 12 at Kansas. Likewise, had he been picked for the Auburn job last year, who knows how things would've turned out. Being at Buffalo allowed him to resurrect a MAC doormat and get himself in contention to return to the "limelight". With his exit, Jeff Quinn then gets the opportunity to be interviewed and eventually hired (based on his rising stock in association with Brian Kelly).
As for former Bearcat quarterback Danny Barrett, the "interim rule" applies. "Interim" is a nice way of saying, "Dance with my date while I go find a prettier one."
Fast forward to Butch Jones. If Dantonio stays at UC and Kelly at CMU, Butch Jones then probably still works for Rich Rodriguez (unless he takes a small school offer). Rich Rodriguez left West Virginia for Michigan. So, Jones would probably be an assistant at Michigan--which really isn't a bad gig. However, if you've noticed Michigan's record thus far, other colleges aren't beating the doors down for Rodriguez assistants.
Again, it's not making light of Butch Jones, he would've been my target too if I'm Mike Thomas. It's just the surrounding components would not have been there (in my opinion) had he followed Rodriguez to Michigan. Or, had he stayed at West Virginia.
For Butch Jones to coach UC, Mark Dantonio had to leave, Brian Kelly had to leave CMU for UC, and Jones had to coach CMU and then wait for Kelly to find the "pot of gold" in South Bend.
"At the end of the day," we have Butch Jones with a pretty good job at UC. Brian Kelly apparently has his "dream job" at Notre Dame. Mark Dantonio tucks his girls to bed in green and white blankets at Michigan State. Turner Gill's got a Big 12 chance at Kansas. And, Jeff Quinn gets his first college head coaching job at Buffalo.
Three years ago, only two of those guys were head coaches, so fate has dealt them all a pretty fair hand I'd say. Just as the assistants at UC and Central Michigan are all going to land on their feet somewhere. Their "body of work" has been enhanced dramatically since 2006.
It's just tough to understand or predict how a certain "turn of events" will work. As the wise say, "the only thing certain in life is change". For some of us, change has been not so good (at least for now). For others, change is unexpected but results in a favorable outcome.
But, you absolutely CAN'T predict it.
For example, what would you say if I told you the following a year ago....
Notre Dame's coach will have an undefeated year, yet not coach in a bowl game. The University of Buffalo's head coach will lead an unbeaten team into the Sugar Bowl. The coach at Central Michigan will leave that job to take over the third-ranked team in the nation. And, UC would return to a BCS bowl, have an undefeated year, come within one second of the national title game and be coached by someone NOT named Kelly.
Proven again, truth IS stranger than fiction.