Hit the Road Jack

by Bryan Z. on November 28, 2012 · 0 comments

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Nowadays, being a head coach in any sport is becoming the ultimate exercise in futility. We now live in an “on-demand” world. Who watches a TV show as it airs? Answer: no one. Who gets their news from sites like Twitter, facebook and message boards? Answer: Everyone. In a world where people can’t even wait for an accredited news source to verify important information before they declare it as gospel, what chance does a college football head coach really have to build a winning program from the ground up? If you take a look around the country, there are no fewer than seven major programs that sent their head coaches packing: NC State, Purdue, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Auburn and Colorado. The average tenure for the head coaches of these universities was three years. They had three years to build a winner at football factories like Purdue and NC State. I have news for you; you could give Woody Hayes 30 years at Purdue, and they would still be known for having the best engineering program in the Midwest, and a terrible football team.

Coaches are not given the time they need to develop a program. You do not step into Colorado and develop a recruiting pipeline over night. Often times these coaches are new to the area and even the state. It takes time to build relationships with the high school coaches/players and get to know the schools and recruiting hot beds. New coaches at these programs can certainly step in and coach up the talent they have but chances are the talent they inherit won’t be good enough to win at the level they need to in order to keep their job. After all, it’s the very reason why they have the job. If you’re not going to give a head coach time to recruit, and tell him to win with the limited talent he has, how can you possibly expect a different result every three years?  I am not saying we need to have a pity party for every head coach that has been fired over the past few weeks. Some of those guys had no business coaching (looking at you Gene Chizik) at these schools. It’s also hard to feel sorry for a guy that is going to make over $200K per month for the next 36 months.

Deciding when to fire a head coach is never easy. Do you listen to the fans? Do you look at on the field performance or off the field issues? How much stock do you put into the opinion of prominent alumni and boosters? Basically, how long before you start to worry about your own job before you realize you better throw the ole ball coach under that giant bus headed in your direction? It seems to me that the only factor being taken under consideration is the win/loss record. While that is very important, it should not be the only determining factor in the decision making process. If a coach inherits a train wreck of a program, and over the course of the next three years that program only wins 10 games, is that really enough to determine whether or not he should lose his job? What about graduation rates? How has the recruiting been? How is attendance? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? If a program like Purdue is pulling the trigger on a coach that beat Ohio State twice and finished this season 6-6, what hope (pun intended) does the new guy have?

The utter ridiculousness that has become coaching is enough to make any sane person wonder why these guys do what they do for a living. They work 18 to 20 hour days. They never see their families. They are only as good as their team’s last performance on the field. Their very livelihoods are 100% dependant on the decisions and actions of 18 and 19 year old children. If you are a parent, you know how absurd that last statement is. Some of these guys walk into a situation so bad Knute Rocken himself would immediately wave the white flag, and then go coach soccer. If you’re going to be on the hook for an absurd amount of money, why not keep the coach and let him earn his paycheck? Coaches by their very nature are wildly competitive people. They do not get into these positions hoping to collect a nice paycheck for a few years. They want to win, probably more than the people that hired them. Let them build their programs…or keep firing your coach every three or four years. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

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