Hop aboard the college football coaching carousel: A fan’s guide for a successful search
Coaching searches can make for extremely stressful times. It’s hard to separate truth from rumor, and with candidates hailing from all over the place, the idea of finding the right fit can make even the most composed fan fall to pieces. Some searches take a day or two. Others drag on for months. There are unverified reports, misleading comments, résumé breakdowns and countless uses of the transitive property. And if the hiring process doesn’t pan out as planned, fans go through their very own five stages of grief.
But fret not; there are ways to make a ride on the coaching carousel smoother. Here are 10 tips for fans that can help ensure a successful search.
• Remember the name: Jon Gruden. Find a way to work him into the search discussion. Gruden owns real estate all over this great country (and probably on some islands in the Caribbean), so there’s no telling where he’ll pop up. Get your fan base (and yourself) salivating with football’s most effective Pavlovian trigger. Gruden, Gruden, Gruden. Spider 2 Y Banana. This guy right here is (maybe) looking to coach your team. Just ask these Arkansas fans:
• Flight tracking. An ancient art form — perhaps passed down from the Buddhists, though we can’t be sure — which has made its way to the trusted gatekeepers at your favorite message board. There is no better way to truly know if a coach is being interviewed than by scouring the list of arrivals into airports in college towns. This gets a bit trickier if a school is near a metropolitan area. Heaven forbid Rutgers decides to get rid of Kyle Flood and we suddenly have to monitor flights into Newark from Japan. I hear there’s a coach out in Osaka who is working wonders with the Wing T right now.
• Trust no one. You should know this from watching The X-Files. When beat writers out of Bowling Green, Ky., start throwing out Bobby Petrino’s name for a job opening, it could all be a ruse. Someone may be out to trick you. No deal is official until a name is signed on the dotted line. Even then, strange things can happen. If national guys all start reporting the same thing simultaneously, don’t be afraid to assume they’ve been abducted and replaced with alien lifeforms. You can never be too careful.
• Don’t make the mistake of thinking the job with your favorite team is better than any other job. This goes for USC fans, and even you Alabama. Every empire falls. Athletic directors face a lot of pressure to make a good hire. At the other end of the spectrum, coaches don’t have to make logical decisions. Is real estate cheap? Are the local tax rates higher where your school is located? Is there a good outlet mall nearby? Does the coffee maker in the office end up spilling everywhere, and if so, why haven’t they replaced it yet? Seriously, we can get those Eames chairs but we can’t make a decent cup of coffee? These things matter immensely.
• Coaches want to feel loved. They’re people too. Mount a serious social media campaign. Make Photoshops with your favorite candidate wearing school colors. Start a hashtag. Make a banner. Launch a website. Think #Saban2014 and the effort Texas fans are putting in. You laughed back in September, but if it really happens, somebody should be glorifying those thankless heroes. Everything makes a difference. Except getting a tattoo, of course. That’s just creepy. Stalker mentality should be avoided at all costs.
• Rep your city. Invite your favorite coaching candidate to your favorite restaurants. Tell him about the locally sourced coffee. Remind him of the sights and sounds of your burgeoning city. “You should try the three-meat combo down here, it’s to die for. Did you know your favorite T-shirt brand started here? Of course the town is on the rise, our art museum has a Monet. No, not an exhibit, one Monet. This isn’t the Met.” No suggestion is a bad one. Think back to when you tried to convince your friends to move where you accepted your first job after college. It may seem foolish now, but at the time it really felt like it made a difference when you mentioned that farmer’s market on the square every Saturday.
• Study up on the MAC. If there is an open job in college football, there is approximately an 86.6 percent chance that it will be filled by a candidate who currently or formerly coached in the Mid-American Conference. So when it’s a Tuesday night and Western Michigan and Miami (Ohio) are playing, you owe it to your school to watch. I don’t care if the teams have a combined two wins at the end of November. You could be looking at your future coach, even if your team is undefeated and Coach Popular Guy would never leave — he loves it here, and he has so much invested in the community, and his kids are in high school, and he is building a steakhouse. Remember that Coach Popular Guy could go to the NFL at any time. The Cleveland Browns job will assuredly be open every three to four years. Nobody is safe.
• Does he know about crootin’? How’s his crootin’? The second a candidate gets brought up, this will be the first question asked. Beat them to the punch. Have the story of that little-known offensive lineman who was all-conference at the ready. Make pamphlets and flyers. Opt for some online presentation software if you don’t trust the pirated copy of Microsoft Office you’ve been using on your college laptop. How many four- and five-stars does he bring in? What’s his Florida pipeline like? For the love of God, how is he when dealing with parents during in-home visits?
• Know the buzzwords. Undoubtedly, you will hear a number of these words when your candidate is discussed: (1) indoor practice facility (2) weight room (3) offices (4) tutoring (5) academics (6) assistants (7) program building (8) redshirting (9) patience (10) confidence (11) incentives (12) resources (13) commitment to winning (14) culture (15) weather (16) fundraising (17) videoboard. Every single one of these things is important. Every coach wants them. Every athletic director promises them. Know your limits before you start thinking the Next Great Coach is coming your way. If you can’t deliver on these, and you’re stuck feeding your players a pregame meal at Frisch’s Big Boy and sharing free weights with the bowling team, aim lower.
• What do they call a panic room for football? You’re going to want to love your school’s hire when it eventually happens, but you can’t jump all-in too quickly. Even a can’t-miss coach might not be the right fit. Start picking up on the signs early on and have a contingency plan in place when things don’t go well. That way you can look super smart and say, “I told you so,” to all your best internet friends. No one believed you two years ago when you were bound for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but doggone it, you could see it coming a mile away. That no-huddle was never going to work with that personnel. Look at the total offense numbers from the past three seasons. Check out the recruiting numbers since Klout came on the scene. Only an idiot would’ve been blind to those. Patterns exist for a reason. He was always in over his head. He was just out to collect a paycheck. We need a winner. Look at that guy out in the MAC. Now that’s how you run a program.