ATLANTA — Geoff Collins is out as Georgia Tech’s football coach, fired Monday in the midst of his fourth season after failing to make headway with a brash plan to turn the Yellow Jackets into a national powerhouse through branding and promoting Atlanta’s big-city culture.
Collins, whose team is 1-3 this season, finished with a winning percentage of just .263 - the lowest of 13 full-time coaches in the school’s history. Bill Lewis had been the only Yellow Jackets coach to lose his job during a season, resigning after a 1-7 start in 1994 when it became clear he would be fired.
”Unfortunately, the results of our football program have fallen short of what our loyal community, fans and athletes expect and deserve,” Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera said in a statement. “We are committed to rebuilding the program and a coaching change is a necessary first step in that process.”
Collins was the third Football Bowl Subdivision coach to be let go in the opening month of this season, following Scott Frost at Nebraska and Herm Edwards at Arizona State.
Georgia Tech also dismissed athletic director Todd Stansbury, who hired Collins and provided steadfast support even as the losses mounted. Frank Neville, a senior vice president and Cabrera‘s chief of staff, will take over as interim AD while the school begins a search this week to fill both positions.
Collins led the Owls to a 15-10 record and a pair of bowl berths in his first head coaching job. Then, the former Mississippi State and Florida defensive coordinator landed what he called his dream spot.
A native of suburban Atlanta, Collins said Georgia Tech had the potential to compete with the nation’s top programs, even though he faced a tough transition away from the triple-option offense employed by his predecessor.
Paul Johnson’s quirky scheme helped produce nine bowl appearances in 11 seasons, including a pair of Orange Bowl trips, and an Atlantic Coast Conference championship that was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions. He also managed to beat rival Georgia three times.
Collins didn’t come close to that level of success, and eventually his persistent references to the “404” culture - Atlanta’s area code - and love of the South’s iconic Waffle House diners earned him a derisive nickname: Coach Catchphrase.
Georgia Tech struggled to a 3-9 mark in 2019, which was largely brushed off to the difficult task of switching to a pro-style offense. It never got any better.
The Yellow Jackets finished 3-7 during his second season, which was hindered by the pandemic, followed by another 3-9 debacle in 2021 that ended with shutout losses to Notre Dame and Georgia by a combined score of 100-0.
Collins went into his fourth season facing a brutal early schedule and little indication he could turn things around, especially after perhaps the most touted recruit of his regime, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, transferred to Alabama.
But more losing followed.
The Yellow Jackets opened with a 41-10 setback to Clemson, got a brief respite with a victory over lower-division Western Carolina, and pretty much sealed Collins’ fate with an embarrassing 42-0 home blowout to Ole Miss.
He never solved the rash of false starts and other pre-snap penalties that plagued the offense. The defense failed to show signs of improvement, despite Collins taking a more hands-on role. And, in perhaps the most troubling development, Georgia Tech gave up a staggering four blocked punts in the first four games - displaying an almost comic ineptitude on special teams.
Of course, it was no laughing matter to the school’s big-money donors and disgruntled fan base. Their dissatisfaction only grew when they looked longingly at the success of Georgia, which won the national championship in January and is ranked No. 1 this season.
By contrast, Georgia Tech has lost nine straight games to Football Bowl Subdivision opponents and rarely showed a hint of competitiveness against top-level teams.
Under Collins, the Yellow Jackets lost their last five games against FBS programs by a combined score of 210-20. They were 1-10 against ranked opponents and 7-19 in the ACC.
In what turned out to be Collins’ final game, the Yellow Jackets outgained UCF 452-333 and allowed only eight completions, but threw away any shot at the upset with another sloppy showing.
There was a blocked punt. Jeff Sims was sacked four times. Defensive star Charlie Thomas was ejected for the second time this season for targeting. Eight penalties proved to be critical.
Stansbury, a former Georgia Tech football player, was hired from Oregon State in 2016 to lead his alma mater’s athletic program. He dealt with attendance woes and a tight budget that only got more restrictive with the pandemic. But his regime was largely marred by the hiring of Collins and insistence that the program was headed in the right direction.
The 61-year-old Stansbury became the first athletic director in Georgia Tech history to be fired from the post, having lost the confidence of the administration and influential donors who didn’t want him involved in the hiring of the next football coach.
“The challenges the athletic program has faced in recent years have grown to a point where we need to try a new approach,” Cabrera said, “and that requires new leadership.”
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