Coaching Changes Daily: 19 things we learned from the coaching season
Alabama's Lane Kiffin, Louisville's Bobby Petrino and Texas' Charlie Strong were among the biggest storylines of the coaching season.
The coaching carousel has spun, and spun, until nearly 20 jobs were filled -- 19 once UAB Blazers makes its hire official.
'Coaching Changes Daily' documented all the coaching moves and trends since early December. To wrap up the series, here are 19 things we learned from the process.
1. This was a landmark offseason African-American coaches. The week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a fitting time to highlight the serious progress made by African-American coaches in the college game.
There were six high-profile jobs open in the last six weeks, and half of them went to black coaches – Charlie Strong to Texas Longhorns , James Franklin to Penn State Nittany Lions and Derek Mason to Vanderbilt Commodores .
The SEC has hired five African-American coaches in its history, including one in each of the last four years.
Four of the nineteen coaches (21 percent) hired this offseason are African-American, compared to three of 31 (9.7 percent) last year and three of 28 (10.7 percent) the year before.
2. The job pool was lean this year because the market had to correct itself. The system couldn’t sustain the pace of the combined 59 hires from the previous two offseasons. Nearly half of FBS had a relatively new coach, which shrunk the pool. Hefty buyouts didn’t help, either. It’s fair to wonder whether Nebraska Cornhuskers or Virginia Cavaliers or West Virginia Mountaineers would have had new coaches this year save buyouts of at least $7-plus million per school.
3. As a result, several talented small-conference coaches didn’t get the call-up: Ball State Cardinals ’s Pete Lembo, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth and Fresno State Bulldogs ’s Tim DeRuyter are among coaches who are still where they are because of the scarcity of big jobs available.
4. If Charlie Strong’s handling of Red McCombs’ comments is any indication, maybe the biggest knock on Strong to Texas won’t be an issue. The instant reaction of the Strong-UT news was…great coach, but can a guy that shuns the spotlight handle the pressure-cooker in Austin? He passed the first test with McCombs, who recently said Strong ‘would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator’ and was not fit to be the Longhorns’ leader. Strong called up McCombs, told him he needed him and addressed the issue diplomatically in a radio interview. That’s straight from the Mack Brown handbook.
5. Texas is a job everyone had to look at, but not one every coach had to have.
You heard it for most of December: Texas is arguably the best job in America, it can get any coach it wants. But was that really the case? Several top coaches either weren’t in the mix or opted to stay where they were (led by Nick Saban). It’s hard to know how many coaches actually said no to Texas – AD Steve Patterson said Strong was the only coach to get an offer – but I’d bet a market analysis probably forced Texas to rule out at least a few names during the process. That’s no knock on Strong. The era of equalizing conference-television dollars allows schools such as Baylor Bears and Vanderbilt to pay their coaches big dollars.
6. Penn State will look smart in three years because of the James Franklin hiring. The only detriment to Penn State hiring James Franklin would be if the school found he was negligent in the Vanderbilt rape case. Based on everything I’ve gathered, that seems unlikely. So, otherwise, there’s not much to dislike about the hire. He injects instant energy into Penn State recruiting and he won 16 of his last 20 games – at Vanderbilt.
7. Clemson Tigers is one of the coaching season’s biggest winners…by keeping Chad Morris: In a year with more jobs available, Clemson probably loses its offensive coordinator. With Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins off to the NFL and Morris’ stock trending upward, this seemed like the ideal time to bolt. But save Vanderbilt and maybe Louisville Cardinals , which zeroed in on their top targets early, Morris’ options were limited. Clemson doesn’t mind at all as it breaks in a new quarterback in 2014 with Morris’ help. This is where Clemson looks smart making Morris the highest-paid coordinator in the country at just over $1.3 million. The Tigers only lose Morris to a BCS-level head-coaching job, whenever that happens.
8. Washington Huskies made the best hire of the season. Schools have been trying to pry Chris Petersen from Boise for years. Washington got him. The Huskies had a swift, efficient plan to supplant Steve Sarkisian. Petersen must show he can recruit consistently in the Pac-12 but not many maximize talent and perform in big games better than him.
9. UConn will get a culture change with Bob Diaco. I have no idea if the Bob Diaco hire will work out but I like it on the surface. He satisfies what UConn needs right now – an energetic and well-prepared coach. UConn got too comfortable in the Paul Pasqualoni era and needs a recruiting boost in an area where five-star talent is scarce.
10. Louisville hired a coach with a career record of 83-30 and still made a questionable hire. Maybe Bobby Petrino hire will make sense over time – winning always quells any fan concerns – but Louisville bypassed the chance at an imaginative hire for a coach with a track record of insincere behavior who’s on his seventh job in 14 years.
11. Brian Kelly enters a crucial fifth year at Notre Dame Fighting Irish after losing both coordinators this offseason. Among the 21 teams in the season-ending AP top 25 that haven’t changed a head coach, Notre Dame is the only one to lose both coordinators. Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco – now head coaches at Miami (OH) and UConn – were trusted, reliable assistants that must be replaced as the Irish rebound from a four-loss season. Long-time NFL/NCAA coach Brian VanGorder will lead the defense and Kelly is promoting Mike Denbrock on offense.
12. USC made a B hire that could turn into an A: Steve Sarkisian deftly rebuilt Washington but never broke out there, winning eight games or less in all five seasons. USC is banking on Sarkisian’s recruiting prowess and understanding of USC culture to prevail, but can Sark win Pac-12 titles? This is a hire that needs a few years before judgment – perhaps they all do. But especially this one.
13. Vandy hires Derek Mason – not sure why other schools missed on this guy. Anyone who watched Mason’s introductory press conference understands the former Stanford Cardinal defensive coordinator is a sharp guy. But there wasn’t much buzz around Mason’s head-coaching prospects this year before Vandy opened, which is a curious thing. He should have been scooped up earlier.
14. The coaching season showed how deep the FCS pool is.
More than 25 percent of the FBS hires came from outside of the FBS – Bowling Green Falcons ’s Dino Babers, Wyoming Cowboys ’s Craig Bohl, Eastern Michigan Eagles " data-canon="Michigan Wolverines" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0">’s Chris Creighton, Army West Point Black Knights ’s Jeff Monken, (reportedly) UAB’s Bill Clark -- and I can still think of several buzzed-about coaches that didn’t get a look.
15. Florida Gators ’s hiring of former Duke Blue Devils OC Kurt Roper to lead the much-maligned Gators offense isn’t an attractive on paper but will be soon enough.
On the surface, Roper’s hiring screamed “second or third choice” when the late-December news surfaced, but those who know him say the Blue Devils’ offensive explosion against Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl is not an aberration. Roper could give Florida just what it needs, playing to the strength of its personnel.
16. One coach who would probably be back in college if the market were bigger… Jeff Tedford.
The former Cal coach garnered interest from Wyoming but he was holding out for something bigger. Turns out he got it, as the Tampa Bay Bucs’ offensive coordinator. But if a few more jobs would have opened on the West Coast – think Fresno if DeRuyter went elsewhere – and Tedford would be a college coach again.
17. Charlie Partridge could be a sneaky-good hire for FAU
Hiring Arkansas Razorbacks ’ defensive line coach wasn’t a front-page move for Owls AD Pat Chun, but early returns have been positive. Partridge has acquitted himself well in the media and on the recruiting trail. FAU needs the positive pub after the Carl Pelini debacle.
18. Arkansas State Red Wolves hopes new coach Blake Andersen can stay a while –maybe re-upping on a 12-month lease.
After losing Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin in back-to-back years, Arkansas State made clear it wants Andersen, the former UNC offensive coordinator, to invest in the school. They did so by inserting a buyout of $3 million in the first two years of his contract.
19. Yes, it’s still a bit shocking that Lane Kiffin slid so smoothly into Nick Saban’s staff meetings. But the more this played out, the more the Kiffin hire as offensive coordinator makes some sense. Saban himself makes a good point: Kiffin’s issues as a head coach won’t be magnified at Alabama Crimson Tide because he can recruit and call plays without distraction. The last time he was solely a playcaller, his USC offenses averaged about 45 points per game.
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