Reports are surfacing that Chip Kelly has spurned the NFL to stay at Oregon.
There are some “experts” in the football world who are rumbling that Kelly needs to fish or cut bait, so to speak. These experts say that he shouldn’t flirt with the NFL so much if he isn’t going to go. That he will hurt the Oregon program in recruiting, providing ammunition for opposing coaches to use against him with prospects. That it puts the program in flux, not knowing from year to year whether or not their head coach will stay or leave.
Ask any coach in major college football or NFL, and they will tell you that you only have leverage so many times in your career and you better use it when you have it. (Look no further than Les Miles “flirting” with Arkansas. He was NEVER going to Arkansas, but he got himself and his staff hearty raises and extra years on their contracts. Think he would have gotten all that had he waited until after the Chic-Fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson?)
In an age where a coach’s job security is as secure as whether or not they won their last game, coaches are moving and changing jobs at a pace that would give Jeff Gordon motion sickness.
At the collegiate level, athletic directors are becoming more and more impatient. With millions of dollars poured into facilities and salaries, the expectation is to win and win now. Some coaches don’t even get a full recruiting class to show what they can do.
Take for instance, John Thompson. Last night he led the Arkansas State Red Wolves to the school’s first ever bowl victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. It was also the Red Wolves’ 10th win, the first back-to-back ten win seasons in school history. Thompson was more than qualified to step in as interim head coach. Aside from the fact that the outcome speaks for itself, he’s had experience as running an FBS program. He is a long time FBS defensive coordinator and from 2003-2004, he was the head coach at East Carolina University for two years. Well, almost.
He was fired with two games left in his second year. So he didn’t even get the opportunity to get a full calendar year recruiting class under his belt before a new AD, Terry Holland, came in, got antsy and fired Thompson.
Enter Skip Holtz. He wins 5 games the next year and suddenly he is the answer and it’s obvious that Thompson was the problem. Holland looks like a genius, Holtz looks like his father reincarnate and Thompson’s career has taken years to recover.
But things are not always as they seem.
Not to take anything away from Holtz, who, by the way, was fired this offseason at South Florida for not winning enough games in the talent-rich Sunshine State. But the five games Holtz won his first year at East Carolina were not on the schedule Thompson’s two previous years: Duke, Rice, SMU, Marshall & UAB (not exactly murderers row). A closer look at the roster shows that 17 of the 22 starters that Holtz fielded in that turnaround season were signed by or committed by Thompson and his staff.
After last night’s victory, it seems Thompson is more than capable of running a program given the right time and resources. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t given enough time at ECU.
He is just one example of how cut throat the college football coaching landscape can be. And you can believe every coach in the country knows that AD’s and big money boosters have short memories, little to no patience and are only interested in what a coach has done lately. If coaches don’t win, win big and keep winning (Gene Chizik) they will be given pink slips and shown the door.
So when coaches like Chip Kelly and Les Miles interview, flirt with and talk to other schools and programs about jobs, I say more power to them. Use the leverage when you have it.
It’s a dog eat dog world in the coaching ranks.
You can either eat or be eaten.