Lessons from Boise State and TCU?
With Tim Beckman’s departure from Toledo, and Ron English getting mentioned as a candidate for positions elsewhere, Kenneth Barna asked what will keep a coach at EMU, and what lessons we can learn from Boise State and TCU.
What will keep a coach at Eastern, if he is successful? I’m looking at Boise State as an example, and for the time being am not declaring that Eastern will be the next Boise State, or Texas Christian University. As those school’s programs got better and better, why weren’t their coaches picked off by what are considered to be bigger programs? Did the coaches salaries go up dramatically? What kept them at those schools?
In other words, they seem to be totally satisfied with the school they are involved. What could make Eastern a destination school, instead of a jumping off point for successful coaches? There have been destination coaches at other MAC schools. Doyt Perry comes to mind from Bowling Green.
Boise State had been reasonably successful in I-AA football, winning a national championship in 1980, and winning their conference just a couple of years before they moved up to I-A. Pokey Allen largely oversaw the transition, but he missed most of their first I-A season (1996) and died of cancer shortly after the end of the season. Houston Nutt coached the next year, before getting hired away by Arkansas. Then Dirk Koetter was there three years before getting hired by Arizona State. Then Dan Hawkins was there for five years before he was hired by Colorado. Chris Petersen has now been there six years. Interestingly, Petersen’s current salary ($1.5 million) is about the same as what his predecessor, Hawkins, was making at Colorado before he got fired (2010). So what you have is three consecutive successful coaches at the school, and a willingness (and ability) for the school to pay more and more over time. Petersen is clearly not motivated by more money; he reportedly turned down $4 million/year from UCLA.
If/when Chris Petersen leaves Boise State, it will be more about fit than money. — Brian Murphy, sports columnist for the Idaho Statesman
TCU is particularly interesting because they were a storied program with two claimed national championships (1935, 1938) and longstanding members of a top-tier conference but they (along with Rice and SMU) got the short end of the stick when the SWC broke up. Although things were rough for their first two years in the WAC (Pat Sullivan’s last two years at TCU), they were a good team before that. Dennis Franchione quickly got things back on the right track before he was hired away by Alabama, and of course, Gary Patterson has kept things going nicely for the last 12 years. Ever since the SWC breakup, it’s seemed as though TCU has been trying to work their way back into a top-tier conference, and Patterson seemed to buy into that.
What does it mean for EMU?
First, it’s clear that a winning football program will not come cheap. If this is EMU’s goal, they will need to be ready to eventually fork out at least $1 million to keep a successful head coach, and at least another $1 million for his assistants. They will also need to continue to invest in facilities, which will be needed not only in-and-of-themselves for use by the team, but also to help attract top recruits.
Second, EMU must be ready to go through several more coaching searches. Ron English is doing a great job, but I don’t think he’s going to stick around at EMU. If the team continues to improve, I wouldn’t be surprised if English jumps for the first decent offer he gets. EMU needs to be prepared for that and Derrick Gragg needs to be ready to hit the ground running on a new coaching search.
When that inevitable coaching search does come, there are two key factors Gragg needs to keep in mind. The first is to look for a coach who will continue with the same hard-hitting style of play English has implemented. At that point, EMU will be a respectable program, but things will be tenuous. The new hire will need to be someone who won’t try to immediately rebuild the whole team around a different style of play the way Jeff Quinn has tried to rebuild Buffalo. That person will need to understand that the short-term goal is just to keep things rolling in the right direction, to keep the positive momentum going.
The other key factor Gragg will need to look for in hiring Ron English’s replacement is someone who will stick around for a while. I’m not expecting any coach to stay at EMU if a truly top-tier program comes calling, but the goal should be someone who is not going to head for a different non-AQ or a low-level-AQ school the way Brady Hoke left Ball State for San Diego State or Jerry Kill left Northern Illinois for Minnesota. This is easier, of course, if you hire a coach near the end of his career (e.g. Frank Solich at Ohio) but Gary Patterson proves that it is possible to find a younger coach who’s willing to stick around and build a program for a while.
The trick is finding such a coach.