Hires at Miami, Florida, Minnesota lack sex appeal but not credentials
The major hires this offseason have not been high-profile candidates
Pete Carroll and others have shown you can enjoy success as an unsexy hire
Al Golden turned around a Temple program that was in shambles
The most recognizable Miami football fan was less than impressed with his favorite school's choice of coach. "We R the U an this is what we get?" 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Miami announced the hiring of Temple's Al Golden.
Campbell's message wasn't as bold as the one delivered by the guy who greeted Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs with boos for hiring Gene Chizik in 2008, but it certainly was clear. As sexy hires go, Golden is Betty White in a bikini.
Which means he fits in perfectly with the rest of the major hires this offseason. Even Will Muschamp, who would have been considered Scarlett Johansson-sexy had he been hired almost anywhere else, barely moved the meter because everyone assumed Florida would lure a hotshot sitting head coach.
No one has made a splash yet with a hire, but that doesn't mean the new guys are going to flop. On the contrary. Several excellent football coaches have gotten new jobs, even if their fan bases don't realize it yet.
Sexy hires make for great headlines in December and January, but they don't always pay dividends in September. The sexiest hire in recent memory was Rich Rodriguez, who left West Virginia for Michigan. We know how well that worked out. Notre Dame's hire of Brian Kelly from Cincinnati was pretty sexy, but the jury is still out after a 7-5 first season. Lane Kiffin was a sexy hire at Tennessee. He seemed a lot less sexy when he bolted for USC a year later.
Here a few unsexy hires. Pete Carroll was, at best, USC's third choice when he was hired in December 2000. In fact, some boosters even threatened to divert their donations to -- gasp -- academics after news of Carroll's hire leaked. Chizik obviously wasn't a sexy hire. He would have been two years earlier, but he went 5-19 in two seasons as Iowa State's head coach. He'll coach in the BCS title game next month. Chizik's title-game opponent, Chip Kelly, was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire when he was hired for the same job at Oregon. It wasn't long before Chip Kelly was named Mike Bellotti's successor. He's done OK since.
Golden is the latest in an unsexy line. He led Temple to an 8-4 record. He didn't win the MAC title. His team wasn't even attractive enough to get selected for a bowl. So does Campbell have a point?
What Mr. As Nasty As They Wanna Be didn't take into account is the degree of difficulty. Golden took over a program that went 0-11 in 2005 and got destroyed in all but one game. The Owls had been booted from the Big East. They didn't have a conference to call home. No one wanted to play for Temple. To win 17 games the past two seasons at Temple is akin to winning more than 20 games in two seasons at Miami.
Golden made chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. Meanwhile, at Miami, Randy Shannon coached a team that boasted superior talent in every game this season except against Ohio State. The Hurricanes won seven times. Shannon made chicken salad out of Turducken.
"I'm the luckiest coach in America today," Golden said at his introductory press conference Monday night. And he's correct. A lot of big-name coaches shied away from The U because it has virtually no fan support and far less money and resources than other schools that aspire to win national titles. But Golden, who has always been known as a ferocious recruiter, understands something his sexier colleagues did not. Miami has one thing most of those other schools don't. Within 50 miles of campus live dozens of the best high school football players in America. No other school has so much raw talent clustered nearby.
Golden wisely shot down any questions about Miami's pitiful attendance Monday, because that doesn't matter. He can get players, which means he can win.
Of course, he'll have to fight off Florida's Muschamp for those players. Less than two hours' drive from Coral Gables, Kelvin Benjamin, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver from Glades Central High in Belle Glade, Fla., listened to Muschamp's sales pitch Monday. Not long after talking to the new head Gator, Benjamin called off a press conference he'd scheduled for Thursday to announce his commitment to Florida State. Now, Benjamin plans to visit Gainesville before he makes a decision.
Muschamp's hire came as a bit of a shock in the Sunshine State. Though he's been a hot coordinator for years, it seemed Florida could land just about anyone after Urban Meyer stepped down for the second time in 12 months. We in the media threw out nearly every name, because every name seemed plausible. Could this be the job that smoked out TCU's Gary Patterson, Boise State's Chris Petersen or Utah's Kyle Whittingham? Would Oklahoma's Bob Stoops finally entertain an offer from Florida? Would Dan Mullen or Charlie Strong -- two former Florida coordinators who have enjoyed success in brief tenures as head coaches -- get invited back to Gainesville?
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley told athletic department Web site Gatorzone.com on Monday that the names in his notebook were "all the names that everybody has talked about." The next morning, Foley added Muschamp's name to the list.
"I put him on the list, then I called back down here and we had guys researching," Foley told the site. "The more research you did on Will and the more you read about him, the more you watched him ... his familiarity with this league really intrigued me.
"When we got back into town, we kind of honed in on him very, very quickly."
Unlike a lot of athletic directors who get shot down by their top candidates, Foley doesn't seem to be blowing smoke when he says Muschamp was the guy he wanted. So what makes Muschamp different from the last assistant Foley hired? How do we know he isn't another Ron Zook?
Zook definitely wasn't Foley's first choice after Steve Spurrier resigned in early 2002, so that makes this hire feel a little different. Zook is Foley's greatest folly, but Foley also recognized the greatness of Marshall basketball coach Billy Donovan in 1996 and talked Meyer into coming to Florida in late 2004. So maybe Foley has a solid enough compass to decide Muschamp is more like Bob Stoops or Bret Bielema (two defensive coordinators who immediately became excellent head coaches) than Greg Robinson or former Miami coach Shannon (two defensive coordinators who couldn't parlay their success as an assistant into success as a head coach).
"The one thing that I can bring to the table is that I've been here a long time," Foley told Gatorzone.com. "I have obviously hired some coaches who have been successful and some who haven't been, but I do know the culture here, I know what I think is a fit here, I do know what I think will work here. And obviously Will fits all those."
The hires of Golden and Muschamp are centerfolds compared to Minnesota's hiring of Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill. How unsexy is Kill? He'll take over the mantle from former Temple basketball boss John Chaney as the major college coach who looks most like his school's mascot.
But what Kill lacks in sex appeal he more than makes up for in ability and tenacity. He is a cancer survivor who specializes in rebuilding programs. In 2001, Kill took over a Southern Illinois program that had gone 3-8 the previous season. He went 5-18 his first two seasons and 50-14 in his last five. The Salukis made the FCS playoffs each of Kill's last five seasons in Carbondale. In 2008, Kill took over a Northern Illinois program that had gone 2-10 the previous season. This past season, Kill went 10-3.
Kill is exactly the kind of coach Minnesota needs, even if the average Golden Gophers fan couldn't have picked him out of a lineup a week ago. Kill understands he wasn't at the top of Minnesota's wish list. But at his introductory press conference last week, Kill introduced his lovely wife Rebecca. The fact that Kill had outkicked his coverage in finding a spouse proved his point. Sometimes, the sexiest choice isn't always the best one.
"I wasn't her first choice," Kill said. "I was second or third down that line. I had to work at it. So this isn't the first time maybe [that] I haven't been the first choice. I can live with that."