|Buckeye Nation Will Be Disappointed With Their Next Football Coach|
|Written by Roger M. Groves|
My guess is that most rabid OSU fans expect Jim Tressel’s replacement will be a big name coach, a proven winner, with a long track record of success at the highest level programs among top level competition. And particularly, they expect someone who is squeaky clean. The administration is likely to quickly accommodate the last request to show they have learned from the past mistake in institutional control.
Now just think about who meets the above criteria? Let’s start with the well-established coach with a stellar record over several years. How many of them have a squeaky clean program without somewhere in his history, having players with problems with the law, the “other law” – the NCAA. How many of these coaches avoided having a few players out of 100 on the roster that at least had charges and allegations of battery by a girlfriend, sexual assault by someone who rejected them, or driving drunk while on the way to see the battered sexual assault victim? How many had players who never even drove to those disasters, but instead sat in the car with open alcohol, also a misdemeanor? Or maybe someone who is just an irresponsible driver not named Pryor, legally receives a car, but fails to show police proof of insurance while driving 90 mph, and has a license suspension. The coach that never had those types of problems narrows the list significantly. You can already scratch the much-coveted Urban Meyer who had more players with criminal records than All-Americans in recent years at Florida.
Now put yourself in the position of being the coach who is considering OSU. You are already successful, with built up goodwill. You know your environment, who to trust, and who to avoid. You know the politics, the donors that matter, the Board of Trustees who are influential, the level of Presidential acceptance of your operational style and team culture, to which the AD must conform. In other words, you have a Tressel-ish authority over your program. Nick Saban emphasized to me in an interview that it is vitally important to have administrative buy-in to the way you want to run your program. And the value of goodwill is the way it translates into political capital, which translates at bottom to having a little bit of grace when, as the famous phrase goes, “mistakes were made”.
Obviously that does not include lying to the NCAA. You, the prospective coach, is without that kind of mistake. If you did, OSU would not have called. OSU is calling you because they just had someone like that, and want to make sure they don’t hire another one.
So you look yourself in the brain and say, “Why would I want to go to a place where I cannot know the terrain because I don’t know the sanction level from the NCAA? I don’t know the reaction of the best high school seniors who have other big time school choices. So I don’t know my talent level. I don’t know if the entire administration may be gone. I don’t know which donors wanted someone else. And just as importantly, I don’t know if Michigan will rise compared to what talent and assistant coaches I get at OSU going forward. That last point is important because when John Cooper won over 80% of his games, he was still fired for not beating Michigan often enough. And no matter what you call your program, the influential folks around the program will decide your fate if you fail to consistently beat Michigan.
So you say, “I am already successful without the unknown and high level pressure. Why am I volunteering for more pressure, for roughly the same pay?” Answer: ‘I’m not.” And if OSU gets enough donor buy-in to offer a few extra million, you ask, “Is my peace of mind worth more than the extra money beyond the millions I already have?” Answer: “Yes to peace of mind, and no to OSU.”
So who is left? My bet is a young coach who has not already had that first multi-million dollar contract. He will be someone who has already coached successfully, but briefly, at the big time level. Not like when Michigan State’s AD took his friend, Muddy Waters, who was on the decline at a Division III school called Hillsdale. Saliently, he is someone who the A-list veteran coaches around the country vouch for as one of the best and brightest young talents in college coaching.
But initially that will shock the old-guard Buckeye Nation. The BN will claim to already know football better than the administration. “How dare they hire a no-name when we are one of the top five programs in the country”. “Fire everyone in the administration,” they would demand.
I think Buckeye Nation would suffer disappointment from having unrealistic expectations. It appears to me OSU, as Tresselized, is not unlike other programs that have had is a systemic problem. The problem grew for over a decade. It is likely to have adverse consequences for a few years at least, including the time it takes a no-name coach to develop the reputation Tressel once enjoyed. Happy hunting.