Prospective Coaches Beware: Thin ice! Trudge Ahead Cautiously.
If there only were a sign such as this outside of every college football sports facility, the younger ones would be warned.
In college football today, no position is as highly decorated, criticized and publically critiqued more than the head-coaching job. What has turned into a seven-digit business has quickly become more inflated than ever.
Coaches handle more issues within the program today than their predecessors, and the seemingly high risks of NCAA infractions because of agents and infringements within the program keep them on their toes around the clock.
But beyond the daily grind, past all of the day-to-day business and amidst the press conferences and TV commercials, what sits in the back of the mind of every coach today is the pressure to win.
This seems simple and a given, until you grasp the fact that college coaches these days are put on the hot seat faster than any other coaching position in sports.
Take Mark Richt for example, a man with his britches on fire.
Boasting the longest tenure of any coach in the SEC (currently in his 10th season), the University of Georgia head coach has compiled six 10-win seasons, a nine-win season and two eight-win seasons. Simply put, the man has done nothing but win and win often.
Any coach with a nine-year tenure like this would surely be destined for a library on campus named after him and long-term benefits in sight, right?
Very wrong. Since Matthew Stafford’s departure after the 2008 season, Georgia’s offense has sputtered and often come up short in big games, putting pressure on Richt. Knowshon Moreno left for the NFL in the same season, and the emerging face of the Bulldogs on the field seemed to be that of young A.J. Green.
Recently, Green’s off-the-field troubles, which include selling a game-worn jersey for $1,000 to an individual deemed as a sports agent, has dug the hole deeper for the coach in red and black. After starting the season 1-0 with a redshirt freshman at quarterback, the Bulldogs lost their next four games before dismantling a young Tennessee squad.
Sure, this type of record is not acceptable for any school with the tradition and success known in Athens, Ga., but what other wrong has this man done to the school? His team is coming off an eight-win season and a Dec. 28, 2009, Independence Bowl victory over Texas A&M in 2009. What further helps his case is the quality of recruiting he is bringing in, coming in at No. 7 in national recruiting rankings for the incoming 2011 class according to Scout.com.
What’s most important about a coach in college football is his integrity, track record and fatherly support of his team to do well in the classroom, and according to college football analysts and fellow peers, he is a class act and one of the best in the business.
So what’s driving this man out of his job so quickly?
It’s the competitiveness of college football programs today in general, and the money involved driving schools to mold and shape their teams into perennial powerhouses, into dynasties.
Bobby Bowden was pushed out of Florida State for not continuing his winning dominance over a couple seasons, and the school made a change. Phillip Fulmer was already aging and not recruiting the marquee players Tennessee had once brought in to compete for the SEC East crown, so Big Orange made a change.
Lane Kiffin, the next man in line and notorious traitor to Knoxville, took money and a high-profile job out at USC the next year. Through sanctions and infractions, his team can no longer be ranked in the Coaches Poll and lost scholarships.
This competitiveness in college football today is driving coaches everywhere to up their own game and have the best possible chance for success to save their own rear end. Whether it be within the guidelines set by the NCAA or not, the fact remains that coaches must win in this business in order keep their jobs.
From extra practice time to under-the-table recruiting phone calls, it is no secret too that they have to keep some sort of edge in order to keep their program among the best.
What should hold true is the fact that the most important impact a coach has in a program is the one on their players’ lives, the same promise they made to a recruit’s parents while sitting on a living room couch, going over the kid’s future. This fatherly influence includes the classroom, maturing off the field and growing into upstanding student-athletes with a future that is very likely in something other than sports.