Being a college football coach is either the best job in America or the worst.
``They can't take your faith. They can't take your family,'' Chan Gailey said after being let go at Georgia Tech despite a 44-32 record in six years.
Nothing surprising there. Gailey is just one of 10 coaches who have retired, resigned or been fired since Thanksgiving, including a half-dozen on Monday alone.
``They,'' Gailey added, ``can't take your integrity.''
No, but here's a short list of what ``they'' - ambitious athletic directors and impatient university presidents - can and will be taking from some of those departing coaches and offering their successors: millions in salary, courtesy cars, season tickets to football and basketball games, entertainment allowances, country club memberships, endorsement deals, bowl bonuses, use of a private jet and summer camp jobs.
Winning coaches fill stadiums, go to big-money bowls and are coveted every bit as much as CEOs who can turn red ink black. They also get kicked to the curb just as fast. The financial arms race among college sports programs that do-gooders like the Knight Commission warned about for years has gone nuclear - and it's no longer just the traditional powerhouses ramping it up.
It might not be all that surprising when a good man like Lloyd Carr, who won at a .750 clip and ran a clean program, walks away from the Michigan job because he's fed up with the outsized expectations. But something else is going on when Jeff Bower resigns at Southern Mississippi.
In 17 years as head coach there, Bower posted a winning record in his last 14, locked up bowl invites in 10 of the last 11 and built a mid-major program tough enough to beat LSU, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn through the years. Small wonder that his parting words sounded less like a resignation than a posting on
``I want you to know there's a lot of fight left in Jeff Bower, and I am not done yet,'' he said.
Southern Miss athletic director Richard Giannini countered, ``I said all along I was disappointed and people were disappointed in the season, and I don't change that statement.''
Apparently, Giannini believes the application that just arrived in the mail from someone named Rockne is for real. But his football program was never going to be much more than a way station for some assistant looking to make a name. And dumping Bower the way he did practically guarantees any coach who already has one won't bother locating Hattiesburg on the map.
Sonny Lubick did a similarly bang-up job at Colorado State, winning on a tight budget in the shadow of a much-bigger program. A 3-9 season on the heels of a losing streak that spilled over from 2006 into this year was all the excuse athletic director Paul Kowalczyk needed to nudge Lubick toward a job as associate athletic director - essentially trading on his reputation to raise funds and serve as a goodwill ambassador.
``I have no plans right now,'' Lubick said in yet another of those uncomfortable ``retirement'' news conferences. ``It's too early to speculate.''
M, where the revolving door that knocked out Dennis Franchione after he got caught selling a private newsletter to select boosters welcomed an equally ambitious Mike Sherman on the rebound from the NFL.
``I understand the commitment and sacrifice my family's going to have to make,'' Sherman said. ``So I'm not going to delve into something unless I feel like we have a legitimate chance to win championships.''
Houston Nutt may not have factored that into his move from Arkansas to Mississippi, but at least he wasn't out of work long. He's won everywhere he's been, including 75-48 since showing up at Arkansas. But a recruiting scandal gave Nutt's detractors plenty of leverage. Considering how tough it is to win in the Southeastern Conference, the same people could have plenty of regrets at this time next year.
One place where regrets are out of the question is Duke. Ted Roof was fired after going 6-45 overall and 1-11 this season, hardly surprising at a school that has posted 12 straight losing seasons. After all that losing, no single game should have sealed his fate, but a win over the Fighting Irish might have saved it.
So maybe it's a sign of the times. Who would ever have guessed you could get fired for losing to Notre Dame?
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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