Opinion: Home-Run Coaching Hires Tough with Shallow Pool

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Making the home run hire seems to be more difficult than ever when it comes to college football coaches.

Silly season moved quickly this year, spinning this way and that over a frenetic couple of weeks. UCLA and Texas A&M both made a splash by hiring Chip Kelly and Jimbo Fisher, respectively. Tennessee flailed about for two weeks before hiring Jeremy Pruitt, a promising coordinator and Nick Saban disciple.

Florida State hired Willie Taggart, and his 47-50 career record, away from Oregon. The Ducks promoted offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal, whose previous head coaching experience was four losing seasons in six years at Florida International. Mississippi also stayed in-house, taking the interim tag off Matt Luke. Nebraska (Scott Frost) and Arkansas (Chad Morris) hired coaches with a combined five years of head coaching experience.

People in the business of college football say the pool of experienced candidates has dwindled, thinned by rapid turnover and less desire among established coaches to jump from one job to another.

"Hiring has always been difficult, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said. "I think the proven talent has been kind of picked over, if you will. So that puts a premium on athletic directors and institutions having a broader knowledge. All fan bases want a known, proven commodity. Name, win-the-press-conferences kind of a hire. That's not possible for everybody to do.

Media chatter, sports talk radio and message boards tend to fuel unrealistic expectations about coaching searches. The so-called carousel is constantly turning, though this year seemed unusually frantic.

"What was different this year for me was a lot of premier institutions were in the market at the same time, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "I had exactly that thesis: That the pool is not deep enough to sustain this many searches and the domino effect of the searches.

The average tenure of current Power Five coaches, including the newest hires, is 4 years.

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December 18, 2017


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