As the cost of hiring and firing football coaches increases presidents and athletic directors have mounting pressure to pick the right leader to move their programs forward. In a recent New York Times article by Marc Tracy he states “Coaching changes do not slow down programs; bad hires do,” While success and failure are highly visible there are more subtle areas within a department that help contribute to a program’s outcome. Although institutional fit is key, university leaders must first evaluate whether or not their department is internally aligned to help that coach achieve success.
In Tom Herman’s opening press conference at the University of Texas he made a thought-provoking statement which should catch the ears of anyone in athletic administration:
“I went to head coaching school for three years (at Ohio State). There’s a thousand things I took away from Coach Meyer, but the biggest thing is the practice of alignment,” Herman said.” Our student-athletes are being bombarded with messages. When they walk in the building, every message that is thrust upon them, the expectations and the management of the program has to be aligned. From the assistant coaches, the strength staff, the training staff, the ADs, the academic people, the message has to be the same.”
Universities are political in nature with multiple constituencies and stakeholders that make up the athletic enterprise. As AD’s and presidents begin to evaluate and select their future head football coaches they must first do an assessment of their department to determine whether or not things are aligned for success. Next, they must create a shared vision explaining where the organization wants to go in the near future accompanied with an execution strategy. This message must be communicated effectively to all departments so everyone has buy-in. If stakeholders are not on the same page that decreases your chances at being successful.
This is where institutional fit arises. The president and AD assess the situation, create a shared vision, and then hire coaches to execute that vision. Depending on your school’s resources, record, conference affiliation, and expectations your head football coach has to fit the situational needs. If you’re a school like Texas, you have the resources, brand positioning, and talent to win now. That’s why you’ve hired Tom Herman a coach who’s 22-4 in his first two seasons. Each school with a coaching vacancy is faced with a different situation. AD’s must ask themselves multiple questions in order to figure out what and whom they are looking for. For example, are you willing to employ a coordinator with no head coaching experience? Do we need a coach that can fundraise? There are so many areas that must be assessed before a coach is signed, sealed, and delivered.
On the other hand, for administrators that are not making a coaching change, I challenge you to take a look at your department and ask yourself, are we aligned for success?
Ronnie Burton Jr
Ronnie Burton Jr., is an emerging professional within collegiate athletics and higher education. Prior to writing for CollegeAD Ronnie worked in administrative and coaching positions at California Lutheran University, Arizona State, and Michigan State. A 2015 graduate of Arizona State’s Masters in Sports Law and Business Program he looks to be an asset for organizations making decisions in the areas of regulation and revenue generation. A former college baseball player, Ronnie’s passions reside at the intersection of higher education and athletics.