Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coach In Waiting Trend

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The NCAA's newest trend has swallowed up another head coach.

A year ago, legendary Florida State University Coach Bobby Bowden was replaced by his "Coach In Waiting" Jimbo Fisher. In Bowden's case, for all he meant to the Seminoles and College Football, he should have been able to retire on his own terms!

Friday, the time frame for West Virginia's "Coach In Waiting" Dana Holgorsen was moved up a year. In December of 2010, the Moutaineers hired him to replace Bill Stewart (59) in 2012. Holgorsen would serve as the team's offensive coordinator in 2011.

But that didn't happen. Instead of allowing Stewart to finish the final season of a four-year contract, the move to replace him accelerated and he resigned under pressure.

Even though Stewart compiled a 28-12 record in three seasons, he failed to lead West Virginia to a Bowl Championship Series Berth, therefore costing the university millions of dollars in lost revenue. Season ticket sales declined under Stewart's regime and West Virginia sold out only one home game in 2010. There were almost 12,000 empty seats in the regular season finale against Rutgers.

Although these numbers do work against Stewart, he did have a tough act to follow when former West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez departed for the Michigan Wolverines. I still believe that Stewart should have finished the final year of his contract. That's what contracts are for is to be honored by both sides.

Yet, we all know that in this day and age that doesn't happen these days especially with all of the movement from the smaller schools to the larger universities with lots of cash on the line particularly in large revenue sports such as football and basketball.

What bothers me about the "Coach In Waiting Trend" are a couple things.

First, how long will it take for that person to eventually land that job and how big are the shoes of his successor?

The University of Texas hired Will Muschamp as Co-Defensive Coordinator on January 3, 2008 and paid him $425,000, making him the highest paid assistant coach in the Big 12.

On November 18, 2008, Texas announced he would eventually succeed Mack Brown as head football coach. They agreed in principle to increase Muschamp's salary to $900,000. There was no timetable set for Brown's departure. Brown and UT expected him to stay for a long time.

The 59-year-old Brown is under contract as head coach through 2016. After Brown would retire, Muschamp would get a five-year contract as head coach to follow the legendary Brown.

But this was one situation that wasn't meant to happen. Muschamp was mentioned as a head coaching candidate at Clemson, Tennessee, Washington and Auburn, but those situations never materialized.

He grew up in Gainesville, Florida, and being a Rome, Georgia native, it became apparent that the only way he'd leave Austin is by returning to the Southeast.

That became a reality on December 11, 2010 when Muschamp was hired to replace the retired Urban Meyer as the Florida Gators head coach, allowing him to return home to Gainesville.

That was the only way that Muschamp was going to leave Texas and the Longhorns lost their "Coach In Waiting" as he lost his patience waiting to be the head man in Austin. Still replacing a legend, there is nothing better than returning home.

Another thing that bothers me about this "Coach In Waiting Trend" is are the best available candidates being interviewed from across the country and are minority coaches going to get consideration?

That's one topic that is explosive and since there are over 120 Division I Bowl Subdivision Head Coaching Positions, there is a small percentage of minorities roaming the sidelines.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the Penn State Nittany Lions because it's inevitable that Joe Paterno won't be there forever. But I just hope things are handled much better in Happy Valley than they were in Tallahassee, Florida and in West Virginia, which is where Bowden ironically had his first head coaching job.

I'm not worried about the "Coach In Waiting Trend" backfiring on Florida Atlantic University Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger because knowing the way FAU's administration works, Schnellenberger will likely pick his successor and still over see the program he built from scratch.

But will anyone view an NCAA Football Division I job as an equal opportunity employer?

No Way, as the lack of African Americans roaming the sidelines and the "Coach In Waiting Trend" now indicates.

For some crazy reason however, I wouldn't be surprised to see Stewart on another sideline within the next couple of years. A coach with a winning record should get another opportunity and I believe he'll be back.

With all of the corruption in NCAA Athletics, there should be a Rooney Rule in the NFL that requires that a Minority Candidate get an interview before a hire is made.

But then again, there are tons of things that need to get fixed by the NCAA including the biggest of them all and that's determine its National Championship on the Field, not with computer rankings, polls, etc.

That's for another day. The Sport of Division I College Football is just a Corrupt Mess and that's only good for all aspects of the Media and Politicians to satirize.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

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