Buenos Dias. I’m back. And I’m ready to talk coaching.
As soon as the final whistle sounded in the college football national title game, coaches collective thoughts immediately turned to the coming 2017 season and specifically their own responsibilities in helping their team progress towards their first game. You could see the gears in the minds of coaches churning in Nashville at the Opryland Hotel Lobby at the AFCA Convention after that game.
One of the challenges of fielding a team for a head coach in 2017 as happens every year, is staffing, specifically putting together a good coaching staff that can help the players get better. Sometimes the challenge is in attracting talented coaches and sometimes it is retaining talent.
But as of now, although it has slowed down a bit for the time being, the coaching carousel is still moving. And it will move again. I would expect, per usual, coaching movement immediately after Signing Day (the first Wednesday in February) when coaches that were helping keep a recruiting class together leave on their own or are dismissed by their head coach. Generally, Signing Day is when the coaching carousel stops for the season.
This year, however, we expect there to be one more turn on that carousel. In April of this year, the NCAA may pass legislation that would allow FBS programs to increase the number of full-time coaches they have on staff from nine to add a tenth coach. The buzz before, during, and after this years AFCA Convention was about this tenth coach.
FBS football coaches have wanted this additional positon for various reasons. The first is because of the player to coach ratio compared to say basketball makes it difficult to manage a roster. Simply, football rosters are too big (generally over 100) and there are too few coaches (9). If a college coach is being held responsible for the activities of his players, he wants to make sure he has enough eyes and ears. Secondly, more coaches means that head coaches can better allocate responsibilities on a staff. This allows coaches to get better at coaching their positon if they don’t have to share say, special teams duties in addition to coaching a large position group like defensive backs.
While there is significant benefit from adding a tenth coach from a football standpoint, athletics directors and football coaches must consider the following:
BUDGETS & BUREAUCRACY
Although programs will be allowed to bring in that tenth coach, this does not mean that they can or that they will.
Adding coaches in April is no easy task. It isn’t just a snap of the fingers at most schools. There is a great deal of work involved with adding an additional coach. There are many constituencies that need to be satisfied, and rules and procedures to follow. Here are some of those considerations that football coaches and the general public may not know about.
Many schools might not have accounted, financially, for the ability to add an additional coach and especially in April. I suspect many of the smaller FBS program may not have the financial elasticity to be able to take on another coach at a competitive salary towards the end of the fiscal year.
In other words, some schools may not have it. And by it I mean money.
I believe that while the legislation may get approved in April, at many schools, a tenth coach will not be able to be hired until after the end of the fiscal year, June 30th.
Also if there is no money for this in April, or even after the end of the fiscal year, but the head coach throws a stink about needing a tenth coach and the Athletic Director wants to satisfy their head coach, the Athletic Director may have to either: (1) go to war with people on campus or (2) cash in a few chips with people that hold the purse strings on campus. There is a level of give and take, a quid pro quo that may take place for the tenth coach to become a reality.
If a school does find money to hire someone, there are other hurdles that a coach or athletic department may have to go through. For example, a school must consider what the Title IX impact that hiring a new coach will mean. Will the school also have to hire an additional coach for women’s sports?
Title IX requires that male and female student-athletes be treated equally including “Assignment and compensation of coaches and tutors” and adding an additional coach, I suggest falls under that language.
Following the proper protocol is necessary too. A school more than likely has to go through the formality of posting the available position and follow proper federal, state and university laws and protocols regarding hiring. It takes times to complete this process. A school’s athletic department needs to communicate the urgency of hiring this additional coach to Human Resources.
The number of graduate assistants, quality control, analysts, and recruiting assistants has grown in the last few years. Some college staffs are well capitalized well enough to grow the staff in this way. Other programs are not so lucky and have to either avoid creating these positions or making these positions extremely low paying positions. All you need to do is compare the staff size of say, Alabama and for example, a Sun Belt school.
There is a concern especially at the lower levels of the FBS, specifically the Group of 5 schools, regarding whether the tenth coach will forces schools to eliminate the GA, QC or analysts spots for this tenth coach. This would mean a loss of a person on staff that can deal with administrative and players issues that coaches don’t have time or energy to address. There is a possibility that some pre-existing staffers are dismissed to make way for this tenth coach.
By the time this legislation passes, Spring Football for the majority of schools is complete.
Are coaches going to interview after Spring Ball? During May recruiting? During June camp season?
If you are a school that gets poached for coaching talent, and lose one of your coaches so they can become a tenth coach somewhere else, then you are forced to make an unexpected hire at perhaps a critical position.
Losing a coach THAT close to the start of the season could be especially problematic for schools that are not well equipped (no money, can’t attract talent, etc.) to deal with the adjustment of having key coaching talent depart.
I bored most of the coaches to death with the administrative discussion. Now comes the good stuff. Assistant coaches want to know who the tenth coach will be at certain schools.
This is what I am thinking about the characteristics that this tenth coach will possess (based on conversations with head coaches, their DFO’s, other agents, and other people in the know):
EXISTING GRADUATE ASSISTANTS/ QUALITY CONTROL: Quality control and analysts on staff, of course, will be an obvious possibility for the tenth coach positions. However, not all are ready for an on the field position. Perhaps they will need a bit more seasoning. However, coaches may reward loyalty and effort.
Also, other coaches can come in and take some of these QC’s/ analysts off other program’s staff. Here are two coaches that I think are prime for the taking based on my own analysis of what coaches are looking for:
Chase Holbrook (Washington State- Offensive Quality Control)- Chase is a former record-setting quarterback at New Mexico State University that has already been a coordinator at New Mexico Highlands. He knows the Air Raid system well (that’s an understatement) from having played for and worked with Hal Mumme as well as Mike Leach. Someone that wants to flirt with the Air Raid might want to add him to their staff.
Jay Valai (Georgia – Defensive Quality Control)- Jay, a native of Dallas played at Wisconsin and has worked for Mark Richt and now Kirby Smart. Also played for Bret Bielema. You can put him anywhere in the country and thrive. He is a highly regarded young coach that knows various defenses in the SEC.
SPECIAL TEAMS: There are a fair number of FBS teams where either the head coach either takes on all special team duties. There are others where one coach is overwhelmed with the responsibility of the entire special teams or where the staff splits up responsibilities but it is overly stressful and inefficient.
Thus, the need for teams to employ a full-time Special Teams Coordinator that focuses solely on Special Teams and has no other position coach responsibility. Below are a number of possibilities of coaches that might be highly desired come April:
Keith Murphy (Florida- Special Teams Quality Control) – former special teams assistant coach in NFL and FBS and FCS.
Daniel DaPrato (Colorado- Director of Quality Control- Offense) – young coach with previous special teams experience at Montana State.)
Also any out of work NFL Special Teams Assistants, etc.
GOOD COACHES WITH RECRUITING TIES: I refuse to use the term “Recruiter” as it unintentionally has become a term that refers to someone that by exclusion of the term “coach” suggests that an individual only has value as a coach because of the people they know or their ability to persuade a prospect to sign an NLI. And mostly it is a term assigned to black coaches and that limits their career growth.
However, there is a value in placing a coach on staff that is both: (1) technically sound coaches AND has (2) significant recruiting ties in general or specific to a certain area.
A smart head coach knows that recruiting is useless without someone to develop that player.
I can see coaches from or with extensive knowledge of areas such as Hawai’i, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Southern California and Miami getting consideration for a tenth coach spot. Those previously mentioned areas are ones where specialized knowledge of the unwritten rules and regulations of recruiting that area require someone with a certain knowledge. You need to have someone that knows how to move in those areas.
For example: A coach may say he recruits Miami, but do you recruit Miami or DO YOU RECRUIT MIAMI?? Do you know who you have to see to get access? Anyone can just walk into a school. But do you know what to do when you get there? Here are some individuals that know football AND know some of those areas.
Dallas Blacklock (Texas Southern University-Wide Receivers coach) No one knows Houston better than him. No one.
Aric Williams (University of Idaho- Defensive Backs coach)- Los Angeles area resident and fantastic young coach that was instrumental in helping the Vandals reach and win a post-season bowl.
Michael Pitre (Montana State University- Running Backs and Recruiting Coordinator)- Former UCLA running back that knows not only about recruiting Metro Los Angeles and Orange County but also the West Coast and Intermountain Region from time spent at Colorado and Montana State.
Kevin Maurice (University of North Dakota- Running Backs and Recruiting Coordinator- Former UTEP player from Miami that had one of the best ground games in the FCS the last two years. Knows Miami. Knows the country.
FCS/ D2/ D3/ NAIA COACHES: The innovation in college football does not all begin at the FBS level contrary to what you are led to believe by media. The best coaching talent isn’t all there either.
At the “lower levels” of college football (let’s call it what is rather than play around with the NCAA terminology the NCAA uses) has some fantastic coaches that very few know about. Unfortunately, coaches are stigmatized by their time spent at these schools instead of applauded for taking the time to learn and perfect their craft.
There are guys at these lower levels that can put their wealthier FBS brethren to shame with their knowledge of the game as well as their coaching acumen.
I can see smart schools hiring FCS coaches. For example, a head coach may want to bring on a coach that runs a unique scheme or hire productive coaches that run similar offenses or defenses to do what they do in case they lose a coordinator or coach.
Good head coaches think ahead and have already identified coaching talent that they simply have not had an opening for until now.
As this is seen an “extra” position, programs that were hesitant to hire FCS coaches because of the ridiculous “win the press conference” belief (you have to hire someone that excites the masses) now can take a chance in bringing someone along that does not have the FBS background. The tenth coach legislation would give them cover. Here are a number of coaches that are overlooked.
Tanner Engstrand (University of San Diego- Offensive Coordinator) – Engstrand was a Graduate Assistant under Jim Harbaugh at San Diego and has not left, instead working his way to offensive coordinator at this non-scholarship school where he helped orchestrate an upset win in the FCS playoffs over very much scholarshiped Cal Poly. Engstrand runs a successful version of the West Coast offense with college wrinkles. All his offenses do are chew up clock, keep the ball away and score often. If you like doing that, you hire him.
Andy Thompson (Northern Arizona- Defensive Coordinator)- Thompson has had eight years of coordinator experience at NAU where weekly he faces explosive offenses in the country and has done a great job of stopping those offenses. His body of work and youth will make him a desired tenth coach candidate.
This is what I think about the tenth coaching spot. I also think that if I was an FCS coach I would not be happy about this unless I was provided the ability to hire a bigger staff.
I clearly think about this stuff too much. Enough pontificating and forecasting and writing. I have to go to work.
Juan Lozano is a sports attorney in Los Angeles, California that focuses his practice on representing coaching talent. He is a former Director of Football Operations at a number of schools. Lozano is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin Law School.