A head football coach is only as good as his last season. Tommy West found that out twice, at Clemson and Memphis.
West took Clemson to three bowls from 1995-97, but was fired in 1998 after a 3-8 season. He then turned around the program at Memphis, posting a 17-8 record in 2003-04 (including the Tigers' first national ranking ever), but a 2-6 beginning in 2009 brought the axe down again.
As might be expected, West didn't take it well, firing a broadside at what he said was a lack of facilities and support of the football program at Memphis.
"At some point in time," he said, "you've got to say, 'We've got to help the football program. We've got to do the things necessary to make this what we want, or do away with it.
"There's a negativity here that just eats you up."
West came to Memphis as Rip Scherer's defensive coordinator, and ascended to the top job when Scherer was fired in 2000. The high point of his Tiger tenure was the 2003 season, in which the Tigers went 9-4 and unveiled a national-caliber talent in running back DeAngelo Williams, now with the Carolina Panthers.
In addition, West was credited with making new recruiting inroads into neighboring Mississippi. The year before he arrived, the Tigers had only three Mississippians on their roster. Under West, that number rose to 14.
A native of Gainesville, GA, West was a high schol All-American in football and also starred on the basketball and baseball teams. As an outfielder, he was good enough to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs.
From Gainesville High, West went to the University of Tennessee, where he started out as a running back and then switched to tight end. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but decided to go into coaching, beginning as a UT graduate assistant. Later, he had assistant's jobs at Ole Miss, Appalachian State, Clemson and South Carolina and oine year as head coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga before taking the head job at Clemson.