Tennessee docs take us inside the strange process of hiring a college football coach
Read this and you'll have a better idea why athletic administrators hire coaching search firms
Who is Rich Bisaccia?
He also really, really wanted the Vols' vacant head coaching job, texting the following to a Tennessee official:
I want you to know that I have been preparing to be head football coach for 25 years. My heart pounds for the opportunity to do it at the uni of Tennessee , I believe the passion , commitment and vision I have for the football program will be in concert with your winning attitude. We want to exhaust all resources to build a nationally recognized program that competes for championships every time we take the field. The number one resource will be people …
We'll spare you the rest. Obviously, Bisaccia didn't get the gig after Butch Jones was fired. A whole bunch of other folks didn't either in a picture emerging from an 8,000-page document dump last week by the University of Tennessee.
While a lot of media outlets reveled in the salacious nature of the documents, communications between Tennessee officials, agents and coaches in its football search reveal a rare glimpse of the college football hiring process.
That process is sometimes humorous, tragic and … well … awkward.
At one point, interim Tennessee coach Brady Hoke texted Currie in all capital letters. He urged Currie to ignore the "MOB MENTALITY" criticism former Michigan AD Dave Brandon went through.
Currie responded, "I'm sorry, who is this?"
Hoke then identified himself and let Currie know he wanted the job.
Hoke is one of more than 10 coaches who contacted the school expressing interest after Jones' departure. That doesn't include previously reported first-tier candidates such as Greg Schiano, Paul Johnson, Mike Gundy, Dan Mullen, Mike Leach and Dave Doeren.
The documents pull back the curtain on a mad rush for one of the plum jobs in the country.
In one communication, a detailed PowerPoint presentation from an agent on behalf of Texas-San Antonio coach Frank Wilson contains this statement taking up an entire page:
Not a single UTSA player has been arrested since Frank Wilson became a head coach in January 2016.
Quite a resume builder. Then again, how many coaches can make such a statement?
"Half the time, if [agents] get the name of the school right in the email [it is surprising]. The presentations are so cookie cutter," said a source who conducts coaching searches for schools.
It was hard to get industry sources to comment on the dump because of its sensitivity. If they weren't mentioned in the voluminous attachments, they're relieved. They can also relate to the process.
"People wonder why people hire search firms," said agent Pete Roussel, who pushed several of his coaching clients to Tennessee. "We're always looking out for the best interest [of] our client."
Tennessee, in fact, did not hire an outside search firm.
The names you'll read here could have been private had those spiffy PowerPoints been turned over to an independent third-party firm running/vetting the search.
One day after Jones was fired, Blair DeBord -- a special assistant to Currie -- received an emailed "marketing profile" for Billy Napier. At the time, Napier was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State. He would later leave to become coach at Louisiana-Lafayette.
The dazzling pitch from Coaches Consulting Group in Houston detailed Napier's success at Alabama and Clemson as well as the future pros he had coached. It included testimonials from players and coaches.
The same went for Wilson, who was labeled "The Best Recruiter in College Football" in his PowerPoint. Wilson brings something called "Soft Edge Greatness." In one picture, Steve Kerr is shown hugging Steph Curry alongside Wilson engaging with a UTSA player. At the top of the page, "Players want to play for these guys."
The five elite recruiters in college football are labeled Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher and … Wilson. "If you had to compare …" the presentation continues. Wilson is in the same picture with Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Wilson is good. Damn good. Some day soon he'll be a Power Five head coach. But the hyperbole of coaches' representatives never ceases to amaze.
All of them were longshots, but in releasing the documents, Tennessee has made bigger news. The public now has access to the private cell phone numbers of Harsin, his agent Russ Campbell, Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and some of the most well-known figures in the sport: Mark Richt, Will Muschamp, Frank Beamer, Jimbo Fisher, Les Miles, Brian Kelly, Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Mike Leach, Sonny Dykes, Kevin Wilson, Larry Fedora, Mike Gundy and Mike Smith, coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Some of the emails from agents containing that information are listed as "confidential." Tennessee did not redact the personal information.
"This one is the Murphy's Law of searches," that same coaching search source said. "This one will be talked about in conferences until 2042."
Due to the sensitive nature of that information, CBS Sports has chosen not to share those documents publicly. However, here are a few more tidbits.
- An email labeled a "prank" purports that "Dabbo" --meaning Dabo Swinney -- was pushing his co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
- A 24-page "introduction plan" for the new coach was drawn up by the Vols.
- In a weird twist, Bisaccia was hired by new Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who was the favorite for Tennessee .
- There are thousands of pages of emails from angry fans. Some the geniuses from the faceless great beyond advocate against Schiano by endorsing Chip Kelly. To the best of anyone's knowledge, Schiano has never been found guilty of NCAA major violations. Kelly was given an 18-month show-cause shortly before he bolted for the NFL. Just sayin'.
- At the suggestion of Alabama AD Greg Byrne, a detailed coach evaluation analytic assembled by an Alabama assistant AD for strategic planning was sent to Currie. Surprise, Nick Saban is No. 1 on a list of current and former head coaches. Not surprisingly, Butch Jones is rated No. 68 smack dab between Randy Shannon and Bill Callahan. But think of that: Alabama in some small way helped Tennessee with its search.
- On Nov. 26, Currie emailed to a Tennessee staffer a first draft of a statement noting Tennessee "thoroughly vetted Greg Schiano's character with former colleagues, players, and university personnel at multiple institutions including The Ohio State University. Greg Schiano last coached at Penn State in 1995 and has consistently and unequivocally denied any knowledge or awareness of the tragic events there." The school backed away from hiring Schiano, then Ohio State's defensive coordinator, after a public outcry. Schiano's name was mentioned in the Jerry Sandusky investigation but there was no proof Schiano could ever be linked to having any knowledge.
- The school went so far as to anticipate questions from media and reaction from fans regarding the hiring of Schiano and others. Potential questions for NC State coach Dave Doeren include: (1) He was considered on the hot seat last year and the beginning of this year at NC State. He worked for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, and Bielema style didn't work out in the SEC. What makes Doeren different? (2) What makes you think he's ready for Tennessee? Is this the best coach you could find? (3) Can he compete in the SEC? (4) Why did you not talk to Les Miles?
- There is a separate file of 643 pages, a lot of them emails, urging Currie to hire/not hire Schiano, Leach, Kelly, Tee Martin and pretty much anyone else you can imagine. There are 179 mentions of Lane Kiffin. The guy who ended up with the job, Jeremy Pruitt, gets all of four mentions.
- What becomes clear is that just getting your name mentioned in such a national search can be a win. Both Gundy and Doeren got new deals shortly after they flirted with Tennessee. Text exchanges between Gundy and Currie reveal the depth of the Oklahoma State coach's interest. At one point, the pair are trying to arrange a meeting. Currie texts, "Beautiful day here." Gundy responds, "Looks like Tenn orange" Then on Nov. 29, Gundy tweeted he was a "Cowboy For Life."
Two days later, Currie was fired.
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