While most athletes steer clear of the rough-and-tumble world of politics, sports figures stepping into the political realm is certainly not unheard of. Jim Ryun, Bill Bradley, Jack Kemp, Tom Osborne, J.C. Watts, Steve Largent, Jim Bunning and Heath Shuler, among others, have all served time in Congress. Lynn Swann ran for governor of Pennsylvania, and Charles Barkley has repeatedly said he’d consider running for governor of Alabama. So with that in mind, I decided it might be interesting to match up some notable college head coaches with their political counterparts.
Philip Fulmer/George W Bush
Once, both Fulmer and W were the most popular people among their respective constituencies (UT national title; GWB post-9/11). But through a series of poor decisions, bad personnel moves, weak battle planning and bad PR, both are now hovering around the 20% approval rating. And both will be out of a job in January.
Nick Saban/Karl Rove
Win at all costs. Doesn’t matter whose throat you have to cut or whose mother you have to trample on to get there. I was going to use Dick Cheney here, but Cheney has a heart problem, while Saban and Rove simply have no hearts.
Pete Carroll/Barack Obama
Cool, calm and collected even when given a setback. Each certainly knows how to appeal to the Hollywood crowd. They are revered by their respective organizations and reviled by their rivals. And while it’s possible that McCain may pull a 2007 Stanford, I’d still take Obama and give the points.
Les Miles/Joe Biden
Both have solid resumes and, on paper, are certainly qualified for their positions. But you also never quite know what kind of crazy comment will come out of their mouths.
Bill Stewart/John McCain
As a lifelong Republican, I can say that the GOP has a bad habit of giving their nominations not necessarily to someone who has a chance in hell to win, but to someone because it’s “their turn” (i.e. Bob Dole in 1996). The same apparently holds true at West Virginia. In the case of the Mountaineers head coach and John McCain, both are oldsters who got their positions not because they were necessarily the best candidate, but because they had “paid their dues.”
Rich Rodriguez/Sarah Palin
Was “the glamour pick” when the hire was first announced. Really fired up the base and made undecideds take notice. But as time has gone on, the luster has worn off and serious question marks have arisen. Despite providing an early boost in the polls, the two have now become anchors around their respective teams’ necks and are dragging them down.
Mack Brown/Hillary Clinton
Despite both having success on their own (Mack’s national title and winning three of the last four over OU; Hillary winning the NY Senate seat), both are still defined through the sizeable shadows of their partner/nemesis.
Joe Paterno/Ted Kennedy
Both are decidedly old school. Both are the subject of frequent jokes. Yet just when you think it’s time to count both of them out, they show up with a major legislative victory or an undefeated season.
Mike Leach/Ron Paul
Both from Texas. Both a little not right in the head. Both with some really crazy ideas that are just out there enough to attract a small but loyal following and make some waves on the national consciousness without ever being adopted by the powers-that-be.
Mark Mangino, Ralph Friedgen and Charlie Weis/The Federal Debt