Upon being hired away from Temple, Collins faced a difficult task: Moving Georgia Tech’s offense away from the option-based attack that Paul Johnson installed during his 11-year run with the program. That provided Collins with some leeway; however, the Jackets never finished better than 10th in the ACC in total offense while winning just three games in each of his first three campaigns, and they struggled mightily to start the 2022 season.
This past offseason saw a wave of transfer portal action with Georgia Tech losing multiple key players, including star running back Jahmyr Gibbs to Alabama, while bringing in contributors to help bolster the roster in a must-improve season for Collins. However, in its three games against FBS opponents (Clemson, Ole Miss, UCF), Georgia Tech has been outscored 110-20.
With the Jackets about to begin a coaching search, the program is considering the future of athletic director Todd Stansbury, who will stand to lead that effort if he remains in power. The Georgia Tech Athletic Association has scheduled a special meeting for Monday where Stansbury’s future and Collins’ buyout will be discussed, according to multiple reports.
Collins is the third Power Five coach who has been fired in the first month of the 2022 season after Nebraska rid itself of Scott Frost and Arizona State parted with Herm Edwards. Both Frost and Edwards were in their fifth years with their respective programs.
A failed strategy
When Collins came to Georgia Tech, he saw recruits leaving the city of Atlanta as perhaps the most existential issue facing the program. He spruced up the program by bringing the city to the forefront and embracing Atlanta staples like the “404” area code and Waffle House. It brought some success as 30 of the 53 recruits he signed were from Georgia.
Unfortunately, few of his players ended up reaching their potential under his tutelage. The Yellow Jackets landed just two All-ACC players in 2021. Both left as Gibbs transferred and Quez Jackson graduated. Tech ranks bottom-two in the ACC in offense, defense, scoring offense, scoring defense and even field goal kicking. Trying to provide some wins on the recruiting trail was nice, but the program has bottomed out under Collins’ leadership.
Is an investment coming?
One of the biggest benefits of the Johnson option era is that it allowed Georgia Tech to take a backseat on the recruiting trail. Especially in the rough-and-tumble Southeast, the Jackets’ lack of investment sticks out like a sore thumb. Georgia Tech spent $27.2 million on football-specific expenses during the 2019-20 academic year, per Sportico. That ranked the Jackets 40th among public institutions, a spot behind Kansas State and sixth out of eight public schools in the ACC. For comparison, rival Georgia spend $48.5 million a year on football on the books.
Collins failed to convert sizzle into steak during his four years at Georgia Tech. The administration must decide what it wants its football program to be long term, and what it is willing to invest in the program to make it happen — especially in an era where every Power Five team outside the Big Ten and SEC is existentially on the chopping block.
Coaching carousel keeps spinning
There were plenty of questions about how the early signing period and transfer portal would transform the coaching cycle. Two years in, the ride is spinning faster than ever. Just four weeks into the season, three Power Five programs have already made changes. Last year, LSU and USC both fired coaches before October, as did UConn and Georgia Southern. Amazingly, Georgia Southern and Texas Tech both fired coaches and hired external full-time replacements before the season even ended.
Players only have four years of eligibility to make their mark on college football, but programs are waving the white flag on seasons earlier than ever. It will be interesting to see whether all this movement ultimately leads to some guardrails to avoid tanking the limited collegiate careers of countless college football players.