John E. Hoover: Impact of college football coaching changes felt by many
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
12/19/12 at 4:01 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Change not always fair to everybody
More than 20 percent of major college football's head coaching jobs will turn over in 2013.
Nobody likes this. Nobody. And yet, nothing will change. How could it?
"It reeks with unfairness," said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "To everybody."
A prospect might choose to play at a particular school because of his relationship with a coach. The program is fortified. Perhaps a championship team is forged. Then December rolls around, the coach takes another job and everything changes.
From job-hopping position coaches to upwardly mobile coordinators to established head coaches under long-term and lucrative contracts, turnover is more rampant this season than ever. Within the 124 Bowl Subdivision programs, 26 will have new leaders next season. Fourteen openings were created when the school fired its coach. Ten came when a sitting head coach simply took another job. Two retired.
"I am not a big fan of what is happening right now in college football with job changes," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said last week. "I think it is unfair. I think that because of the way the trend is going, it's not right for the players."
Gundy is in the market for a new offensive coordinator - his fifth in seven years - after Todd Monken took the Southern Mississippi head coaching job.
No one can begrudge an assistant leaving to become a head coach. But of all the changes this year, only six were coordinators moving up. Three were filled by NFL assistants. Three jobs, at last count, remain open.
When a change at the top is made, the trickle-down effect quickly reaches coordinators, position coaches, even graduate assistants and other staffers.
In 14 seasons at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops has had to hire five primary offensive coordinators and three defensive coordinators. Stoops has had one of college football's most stable coaching staffs over the years, but even he acknowledged Tuesday how disruptive the process can be for a program trying to finish off a successful season.
When an assistant (or two or five) leaves, he's frequently not replaced until after the bowl game. That means scouting, meeting, game-planning, play-calling, recruiting and actual coaching are short-staffed.
"This time of year is probably - and I've said it for a lot of years - the most difficult," Stoops said. "Because you're recruiting, coaching changes, talking to juniors about whether they should leave (for the NFL) or not. So many different things are happening. And bowl games. So it's tough. But it is for everybody. If you're in that situation that you have some turnover, it's tough to manage."
Contracts have no meaning to coaches (Wisconsin's Bret Bielema jumped to Arkansas) or impatient athletic directors (Colorado's Mike Bohn fired Jon Embree after two seasons). USA Today reported last week that all of this season's turnover will result in some $50 million in buyout clauses.
"We have a strong code of ethics," Teaff said. "But there's nothing in the code of ethics that says you can't change jobs."
Teaff, a hall-of-fame coach at Baylor, said the AFCA couldn't possibly offer legislation to curtail all the movement. He said it wouldn't even be a topic of discussion at next month's coaching convention.
But he did offer a suggestion - sort of - that sounds a lot like the one Gundy came up with last week.
"The NCAA, which is the institutions, they could put in some legislation (such as) you couldn't change coaches until after the bowl games. Period," Teaff said. "But yet, it's the institutions that are creating the so-called chaos in that they're trying to get a jump on the next recruiting class."
Schools, then, need to have the integrity to simply decide to do what's right. Not one school likes having their coach hired away. Yet no one, it seems, is above hiring away someone else's coach. If schools are strongly against being poached, then they need to come up with anti-poaching rules that serve to benefit everyone.
"Just go down the list of the bowl games," Gundy said, "and look at the teams playing in bowl games that don't have coaches. Is that really the right thing to do? That's where the NCAA needs to step in."
Teaff and Gundy both blame the early firing of so many coaches on what has become an irrational urgency in the recruiting process.
"It's the institutions that have basically changed it," Teaff said. "They're letting coaches go so they can start their search earlier so they can get the coach they want and get the recruiting on the road."
Said Gundy, "It creates a domino effect across the country. At some point, somebody is going to have to put a limit on it and stop it or ultimately we are cheating the players."
Stoops said he didn't see any way to legislate when a school can hire or fire a coach.
"The only thing you could probably change," Stoops said, "is the entire recruiting calendar."
Therein lies a possible solution. It's that relentless pursuit of talent that ultimately drives the whole process.
Pushing the recruiting calendar back, expanding the no-contact periods, eliminating official visits in January and even introducing an early signing period in the fall would reduce a school's sense urgency to change coaches, perhaps allowing them to wait until after the regular season or possibly even after the bowls before firing a coach.
"The system right now is not working the way it is, and the NCAA needs to get a handle on it," Gundy said. "They are going to have to stop it, or, what's the value of the bowl games?
"You've got two teams (Wisconsin and Northern Illinois) that have busted their butt and they are in a BCS bowl and they don't have their coaches. So what's the answer to that? The answer is coaches can't get hired until the season is finished.
"Everything stay intact through bowl, then everybody is even. Choose to fire a coach, that's the risk you take until after that (team's season) is completed if you want to go after another coach."