football-fbs flag | September 29, 2014

Head-to-Head: Mid-season coaching staff changes

  If a personnel change is made in the middle of a season, who is left to pick up the pieces on the sidelines?

Out with the old, in with the new – and do so as quickly as possible. Today’s athletic directors have to make decisions based on what is best for the school’s program overall, and if that means changing horses midstream, so be it.


ADs cannot sit on their hands and “hope” a situation gets better. The school, its alumni and its players deserve the best opportunities that can be afforded in the hopes of succeeding. And if a coach is not living up to those expectations, a change has to be made regardless of timing.


(In the case of relieving a coach midseason, it should be taken as a sign that the AD is going to do his due diligence, ensuring the replacement is “the” guy without the pressure of getting “a” guy to restore order in recruiting.)


The “team” concept goes top to bottom – from the administration to the coaching staff to the players to the support staff. If there is a weak link, it behooves everyone to look at the issue and find a better solution. And sometimes, that means replacing a person.


Big-time college athletics is a money-generator. Without money the program is not sustainable. If the program is not sustainable, people lose their jobs and students lose the opportunity to be athletes at State U.


An athletic director is not going to make a change without good reason – whether it’s on-field results, locker room issues or whatever the case. There is too much at stake for ADs to simply make a change for the sake of change. Even when the barbarians are at the gate, it is the AD’s responsibility to remain focused.


Too many times fans get caught up in “here and now” – and that is not the way to run a program. Long-term success is predicated on executing a plan, and if anyone is not living up to expectations, the goals are in jeopardy. Hence, the thought process that goes into dismissing a coach during the season is not reached lightly.


Certainly coaches are responsible for the personnel they put on the field – even if it means sitting a ballyhooed recruit in favor of another player who has simple out-worked the five-star prima donna. … It’s no different when a coach fails to deliver results.


That said, once the decision is made the program has to rally and move forward.


-- Duane Cross,


Presumably, when you change head coaches in the middle of the season, the goal is to improve your team right away. The fan base is up in arms. Every chance it gets, the media is asking if you’re considering a change and, if so, who the new coach is going to be.


However, when you consider that in most cases, the replacement for your so-bad-we-have-to-get-rid-of-him-now head coach is a coordinator on the ousted head coach’s own staff, how much change are you really going to get?


Much more than that, there are three words that, in more cases than not, doom these moves seconds after they’re made: interim head coach.


If the point of making a coaching change is to calm the waters, naming an interim head coach does anything but. If you think the media was on your team before, wait until your athletic director gets asked how the new guy is doing every five minutes, then your interim coach gets asked every five minutes if he feels like he’s done enough to get the job.


Don’t even ask about how the players are going to get hounded about the new guy, the old guy, how the new guy compares to the old guy, or their own futures. And what happens if, heaven forbid, things do not improve – or, gulp, get worse.


And yes, in case you’re wondering, recent history suggests one of the above is the common outcome in these situations. In 2013, five teams in FBS went the “interim head coach” route, not counting those with an interim coach for just a bowl game. Those five programs went a combined 14-16.


How many of those “interim head coaches” became “permanent head coach”? Exactly zero. Not even the five other interim coaches who coached only a bowl game – and two of those guys won.


Then, at the end of the season that never improved, you have to make the same decisions, and deal with the same questions over and over again.


Oh, and in most, if not all cases, you still have to pay the guy you fired, and pay your interim coach, who probably didn’t improve you much at all.


So what, exactly, is the point?


-- Mark Spoor,

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