The basketball teams at Samford, Southern Methodist University, and the University of South Carolina have a few things in common -- all three schools will not be appearing in the NCAA national championship tournament this year, all three schools finished the 2011-2012 season with a record far below .500, and all three teams have fired their head coaches as a result.
This past Tuesday, Samford fired Jimmy Tillette, the basketball teams' coach of 15 years. The Alabama school's athletic director Martin Newton said at a press conference that Jimmy Tillette "has been a beacon for our university and for this athletic department for a number of years, but we ultimately feel that it is in the program's best interest to go in another direction."
The Samford Bulldogs have only made two NCAA tournament appearances with Tillette, once in 1999, and once in 2000. Both years they were ousted in the first round.
However, the Bulldogs have certainly had more impressive seasons with Tillett than the one they just wrapped up. They finished with a record of 11-19. The past six years haven't been much brighter for Tillette's team, as all six seasons ended with a losing record.
Southern Methodist University has also let its coach go as of late. Matt Doherty led the Mustangs for six years, but his failure to turn the team around has resulted in his dismissal.
"I appreciate Matt's efforts and service here at SMU," SMU's athletic director Steve Orsini told The Associated Press. "He always represented the university with class and I never doubted his effort or desire to win, but it was time for a change. We wish him the best."
The Mustangs have not made the NCAA tournament since 1993, but with Doherty at the helm things looked even bleaker. Southern Methodist went 13 and18 this year. In his six-year Mustang career Doherty put up a mere 80 total wins.
Doherty released a statement through SMU saying, "I understand that this is a business and, at the end of the day, we simply didn't win enough games. However, I am grateful to the players and staff for their hard work and the way they represented the university."
The most high-profile school to axe their coach in recent weeks is the University of South Carolina. Darrin Horn has been leading the Gamecocks for four seasons, and this past season was one of South Carolina's worst. The team won just 10 total games, and lost a whopping 21 games. It is the worst finishing record in the history of South Carolina basketball.
On Tuesday, USC's athletic director Eric Hyman addressed reporters about the decision to get rid of Horn.
"Unfortunately in this business, sometimes you have to take your program in a different direction. And this is one of those days," Hyman said.
Hyman added that Horn's performance was far from what South Carolina expected, and wanted for their basketball team.
"We really do want to have a basketball program that fulfills the aspirations that our board wants -- a top 25 program," He explained.
The firings at Samford, Southern Methodist University, and the University of South Carolina serve as a reminder of the business of college basketball. Yes it's entertaining, yes it provides athletes an opportunity to further develop their skills and potentially prepare for the big leagues, but it also serves as a huge source of revenue for colleges and universities. The Big East Conference, for example, brings in over $150 million annually from its basketball programs, according to a Forbes magazine report. With the potential of such a high revenue, it's no wonder losing coaches can't hold on to their jobs.