Quick guide to coaching searches, Kansas St.'s desperation and more
Why is USC ranked ahead of Penn State in every major poll?
The unfortunate plight of this potentially undefeated Boise State team
Addressing some serious panic in Michigan after the Wolverines' 3-9 season
If you clicked on the Mailbag this week expecting an outpouring of politicking and discussion about the Texas-Texas Tech-Oklahoma tiebreaker controversy I'm afraid you're out of luck. I've already written about it here ... and here ... and here ... and here. I've got nothing left in the tank, people. Talk amongst yourselves.
Instead, I'd like to discuss a different topic that will soon begin consuming the sport: coaching searches.
We're currently up to 10 vacancies in Division I-A with more presumably to come (perhaps in South Bend?). Over the next few weeks, you will be inundated with a flood of stories from relentless beat writers all trying to get the scoop on the latest developments involving their school's coaching search. They have no choice. Their editors will kill them if they get beat on the story.
There's only one problem with that, however: Ninety percent of the information in those stories is complete b.s.
Whenever you read a coaching-search story that attributes "sources with knowledge of the search process," those sources, with few exceptions, are either: A) agents, B) boosters or C) low-level athletic department employees. The agents have agendas, while the other two get a kick out of supposedly carrying "inside" information.
The reality is, the only people that actually know what's going on are the ones conducting the search and the candidates themselves -- and neither are wont to speak candidly to the press until the final decision has been made.
So I figured I'd provide some helpful tips for you, the readers, in order to translate some of the stories that will soon be coming your way.
Immediately after a coach is fired, a story will invariably be written that contains a sentence like: "Possible candidates include Brian Kelly, Jon Gruden, Terry Bowden, Lane Kiffin, Glen Mason and the Pope." Nine times out of 10, this list is entirely speculative. It's not like the athletic director called the writer and said: "We're firing our coach, and here are the first six guys we're going to call." Meanwhile, the candidates themselves aren't going to call up to espouse their availability. (Except for Terry Bowden, who will take pretty much any job offered to him at this point.)
When "sources close to the search" say that "school officials appear to be leaning toward Candidate A" ... they probably read that on a message board.
When a coach says he hasn't been contacted by School A, he's probably telling the truth -- but that doesn't mean the school or one of its intermediaries hasn't contacted his agent.
When a coach says, "I'm happy where I am," he's probably telling the truth -- but that doesn't mean he wouldn't go someplace he might be even happier. When a coach says, "I'm only focused on the job at hand," that's code for "Get back to me after the season." When a coach says, "I WILL NOT BE THE COACH AT ALABAMA" ... as we've learned, don't believe it until they hold the press conference.
When a coach "withdraws his name from consideration," and then the school hires somebody else 24 hours later, that means the coach interviewed but got turned down.
When a coach "withdraws his name from consideration," and then the school takes three weeks to hire somebody else, it means the coach was never actually a candidate to begin with, but his agent floated his name out there as leverage. (Jimmy Sexton has done this for Houston Nutt about eight times.)
When a story contains something as specific as "the school is prepared to offer Candidate B a five-year contract worth $22 million," that's probably coming from someone credible. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the candidate has agreed to accept it.
At the end of the day, as much fun as it is to play the speculation game, the only story you can actually take at face value is the one when the school officially names its new coach.
What on earth is Kansas State thinking? First, they fire their coach only two-plus years into his contract, thereby giving new meaning to the word "panicking." Then they bring back the coach they were trying to ease into retirement! Bill Snyder is 69 years old, his top assistants from his heyday are all head coaches and he'll be working with an empty cupboard, as Ron Prince stocked up on juco transfers. Is K-State trying to replace Iowa State as the laughing stock of the league?
You know those motivational posters that people hang in their offices with just a picture and a single word, like "persistence" or "perseverance?" Kansas State AD Bob Krause ought to hang one on his wall that just says: "Desperation."
Look, what Snyder accomplished during his tenure in Manhattan was indescribably impressive. He took arguably the worst program in the country and turned it into an annual top-10 fixture during the late '90s and early 2000s. But one of the reasons the Wildcats find themselves in the situation they are today is that the program took a noticeable downturn during the last couple years of his tenure. One of the main reasons Prince felt the need to bring in so many juco players was due to a void of upperclassmen on his roster -- classes that were recruited during Snyder's last two years on the job.
Bringing him back in to "save the day" seems to me a classic case of small-time thinking. Snyder is still a revered figure at Kansas State, understandably so, and the fan base's only taste of football success came under his watch. At the first sign of trouble, they go begging for him to return. Meanwhile, Snyder, like so many coaches, always struck me as one of those single-minded guys that simply isn't suited for retirement. It's no surprise that when his school came calling, he jumped at the chance to come back.
But how exactly will this help Kansas State in the long term? No one, not even Snyder, is under the delusion he'll be there for more than a couple of years. The idea is he'll get things headed back in the right direction, then pass the buck to a hand-chosen successor. (Note that Prince was not Snyder's preferred replacement.) But how exactly will he do that? How do you sell recruits on a nebulous transition plan? Most likely, he'll go back to doing exactly what he did 10-15 years ago (as well as what Prince did) and bring in a bunch of juco kids who will be gone by the time the next coach arrives. Sorry, I don't see the Wildcats getting much better in a hurry.