College football's bowl season officially kicks off today and one of the most intriguing matchups takes place in Nevada where the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl will happen between Fresno State and USC. Fresno State's star quarterback Derek Carr will try to take advantage of a USC team that will play under its third head coach this year following the firing of Lane Kiffin and resignation of Ed Orgeron. Despite having more talent than Fresno State, USC's ability to win this game comes with some doubt due to the various coaching changes they have had to deal with this year. However, if they want to get ideas with how college football players should deal with head coaching changes they should look to Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is home to the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
Arkansas State will play Ball State in the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl on January 5 and will do so without the head coach who guided them through their 2013 season, Bryan Harsin. Harsin, now the head coach at Boise State, is the third consecutive head coach to leave Arkansas State after only one year there. Arkansas State recently hired North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, which makes this the fifth head football coach in five years hired by the school. The seemingly annual and willing departures of their head coaches could understandably make the Arkansas State football players feel greatly unappreciated even if those coaches have left for jobs at Boise State, Ole Miss, and Auburn, who will compete for the BCS National Championship later this bowl season. The reason why those previous programs went after the Arkansas State head coaches each time was because the Red Wolves as a team had a successful season due to the performance of the players and the coaching schemes of the coaches. While it is difficult to hand out more credit to players or coaches about those successful seasons, it has been said that professional football is more about the "Xs and Os", the coaches and their schemes, while college football is more about the "Jimmys and Joes", or the players, in terms of having success.
Even though most college football head coaches preach about commitment to the team and program (especially as they recruit young high school football players), it is one of the truly unfortunate things in college sports that the Arkansas State football has had head coaches leave their players after one year there. There are detractors of the idea behind "one-and-dones" in men's college basketball but the Red Wolves have had to deal with that with their head coaches and have still maintained consistent success. The players should be recognized and applauded for their work ethic, commitment, and their flexibility to adapt to various different head coaches over the last half decade. Regardless of what happens during the GoDaddy Bowl, the Arkansas State Red Wolves should be seen as a success.