The Selfish Herd Theory states that seals looking to avoid predation by a Great White Shark group together to lessen their likelihood of being struck by an attack. What studies have proven is that those in the front are much more often than not to be safest from attack. Part of it is that they are grouped tighest in this area and if a shark rose in that quadrant their probability is lower. Typically it will be the seals towards the back of the group on the periphery that are most vulnerable. This theory played out in the Pac-12 last year when 4 head coaches were picked off from the herd. Those included coaches Paul Wulff, Rick Neuheisel, Dennis Erickson and Mike Stoops. These coaches were not swimming far enough toward the front and thus made themselves susceptible to predation.
For those writers like Schnell who think it doesn’t matter how poorly Riley performs, this theory very much proves her thinking is inaccurate. The hot seats or sharks are always out there. There is a feeding schedule. Being in a more aggressive Pac-12 that is becoming increasingly premier and innovative is like swimming in the shark’s more active hunting grounds. The Pac-12 as a conference has a bolder image and is trying to compete agressively with the best conferences in the country like the SEC. There is less acceptance of those schools who will not progress along with this bolder image. Thus, last year saw active predation as the conference proved it was innovating and reinventing itself in many ways.
The sharks have now finished off their digesting of 2011’s casualties. 2012 should be less active and may only have two victims but I can pretty much assure you it will have atleast one. OSU’s Mike Riley and Cal’s Jeff Tedford are currently swimming behind the leaders of the Pac-12 herd. The whole season is ahead of us. A loss to Nicholls St. would reveal a 20 foot great white quickly bursting out of nowhere in a Polaris breach to deliver a killing bite to Riley. He likely would not survive to coach the next game. If Riley goes 4-8 and Tedford is 6-6, Riley will be more vulnerable and could be the first victim. There could be a 2nd attack on the herd but not swimming in the rear and drawing attention will be key. Jon Embree is another coach who if he really struggled this year could be noticed by a great white.
The individuals more towards the back of the herd have a larger domain of attack around them. The selfish herd theory shows that by grouping close to others and being closer to the front that individuals decrease their domain of attack and probability to be the victim of predation. If Riley wins 4 games he is extremely vulnerable to be the easiest target. Even with 5 wins Riley will likely get noticed and the shark will determine between Riley and perhaps one or two other coaches who is the easiest target. Embree only being in Year 2 will provide him some extra allowance that Riley won’t have. This is like Embree atleast being closer to the next individual near him and hopefully not standing out.
This year may not be swimming near Mossel Bay’s Seal Island, as it was last year, but rest assured atleast one coach is very likely to be predated again this year. This is true most years and ever so in an increasingly pressing forward Pac-12. If Riley wants to feel fairly comfortable he had better return to a bowl in 2012. He could also inch further toward the most vulnerable if attendance starts to drop. Rumors are that we will barely get 40K for Nicholls St. That will have Riley at the rear of the herd from Day 1 of the season. To move up he needs to blow out Nicholls St. by a good 4 touchdowns in something like a 44-13 victory. Another thing that could move Riley back during the season is too many losses to new coaches. This will show that predation benefits the herd and produces stronger replacements.