Recalling Don James and Dick Tomey

Our national topic Friday on ESPN.com is successful coaches who were pushed aside and what happened next.

Two come to mind for the Pac-12 -- or Pac-10, in which both coached: Arizona's Dick Tomey and Washington's Don James. Both resigned, though only one was forced to.

Tomey opted to resign because it appeared he was about to get fired. James resigned because he was fed up with the administration at Washington -- insert Barbara Hedges imprecation here -- and how it handled an NCAA/Pac-12 investigation of the program that resulted in what would prove to be crippling sanctions.

Neither program has approached the heights those two coaches attained since their departures.

James, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997, is simply one of the all-time great coaches. He went 153-57-2 leading the Huskies and split the 1991 national title with Miami. He won four of the six Rose Bowls he coached in and led the program to seven top-10 finishes.

After he left? Washington is 121-119, a .504 winning percentage just a bit south of James' .729 clip. The lone Rose Bowl was a victory over Purdue in 2001 under Rick Neuheisel.

As for Tomey, he resigned after a 30-17 loss to Arizona State and a 5-6 season "because of public debate" over his coaching tenure, he said at the time.

Tomey led the Wildcats to their only two seasons with at least 10 wins in program history, including a program-best 12-1 finish in 1998 when they ended up ranked fourth. In 1993, led by the "Desert Swarm" defense, Arizona went 10-2, beat Miami 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and finished 10th.

Tomey led the program to four of its seven all-time final Top 25 rankings. In 14 years, he only posted three losing seasons. His winning percentage was .598.

The one knock on Tomey: He never led the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl -- Arizona is the only Pac-10 member to have never played in the game.

Since Tomey was pushed aside? The Wildcats have suffered through seven losing seasons -- including five in a row after he left -- and have never won more than eight games. Their post-Tomey winning percentage is .435.

Sometimes a program has the right coach but things go askew. And sometimes folks don't realize how good things actually are.