Hot Reads: Coaching Puddles
Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Hot Reads: Coaching Puddles, Not Pools

January 15, 2018

Arizona reportedly hopped off the coaching carousel over the weekend, hiring former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. It feels like a right-place, right-fit sort of hire, and the idea of Sumlin, given his track record with electric quarterbacks, coaching Khalil Tate should give the rest of the Pac-12 pause. Arizona fans walked away happy from this one, Navy fans and administrators walked away happy (Ken Niumatalolo was reportedly offered the job) and now we have the full “class” of 2018 hires to assess as the years go on.

Who “won” this round? It’s impossible to say at this point. But Nebraska fans are a energized as I’ve experienced in my time covering the program. Texas A&M made the biggest splash, unless UCLA did. Mississippi State appears to have gotten a steal. Arizona State did something crazy and Oregon did something safe. We’ll see where things are at in five years. For now, however, I would argue that the main takeaway from the 2018 carousel is this: Don’t be Tennessee.

But don’t take it from me, take it from Florida AD Scott Stricklin. He sat down for an interview with Chadd Scot of GridironNow.com to talk about the difficulty of hiring coaches and what fans don’t understand about the process. If you need a refresher the Gators met with Chip Kelly, reportedly had Scott Frost at or near the top of their list and, when neither was going to come, plucked Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State.

Stricklin has a couple of interesting things to say in that interview, but check out how he describes what a failed hire would’ve looked like:

Stricklin expressed no disappointment in not being able to hire Kelly when we spoke. His enthusiasm and confidence in Dan Mullen’s ability to do the job are over the moon, and his optimism for the future of Gator football is sky-high.
That almost wasn’t the case.
“If Dan said ‘no,’ we could have been in a situation similar to Tennessee,” Stricklin said. “The pool of a candidates is more like a puddle.”

Sorry, Vols. Until some school comes along and has a more salacious search, Tennessee is probably going to be the example everyone cites. (For the record, I think the Vols came out of things pretty well for as messy as things were.)

Stricklin’s other quote – “the pool of candidates is more like a puddle” – is also worth quick examination. For an AD at Florida to feel that way seems to indicate just how much things have changed as the playing field has leveled across college football. If Florida – given its inherent, location-based advantages – doesn’t simply get its pick of the class, does any school? The number of schools in that position may just be a handful at this point.

While nobody is that anxious to do it, it’s fair to consider the dystopian future where Frost doesn’t take the Nebraska job. What do the Huskers do then? Where do they go? Most importantly, and this is what Stricklin’s talking about, how would it be perceived?

Start thinking about that it becomes much easier to see the difference between playing armchair AD and actually trying to make a hire. As I mentioned above, we’ll see where things stand for this class of coaches in five years, but based on Stricklin’s comments the Huskers may have already won big by simply getting their top choice.

That exact scenario doesn’t unfold all that often any more.

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