The Pac-10/12 Is A Changing Under New Commissioner Larry Scott – “Bully for That!” – The Days of the Pac-10/12 Not Competing for the Disposable Dollars of the American Consumer Are Over – Now, Can the Pac-10/12 Schools Come Together and Build A Strong Conference Around Commish Scott’s Plans and Strategy? – We Shall See – 2010 Analysis of New Head Coaching Hires – Solid Hires
The Pac-10/12 Conference is a Changing under new commish Larry Scott
Clearly, the marketing of college football has been updated and changed in recent days by some of the moves by the Pac-10 conference under new commissioner Larry Scott. It has been fascinating talking to our contacts at Pac-10 schools in recent months about some of things that the Pac-10 conference has been working on and the Media Days events over the past few days were just another part of rebranding a conference that has been borderline moribund for the past couple of decades.
What Larry Scott has brought to the Pac-10 is a realization that college athletic program exist in a marketplace that compete for the disposable dollars of the American public with other sporting and entertainment events. Yes, that should be obvious to everyone, but it was not clearly understood by anyone at the Pac-10 until Larry Scott showed up last year and started looking at the large differences between what the Pac-10 and other college conference were hauling in dollar wise. Since many of the Pac-10 schools are in very large metropolitan areas there are lots of things that people can do with their money besides watching or attending football games and unless the Pac-10 markets itself in an aggressive way and establishes its brand and presence in the marketplace the school’s sports teams are from start behind the 8-ball when it comes to attracting the entertainment dollars of consumers. Most ADs completely understand this reality since they work very hard to promote their school’s sports teams in local markets, but the Pac-10 school presidents are starting to understand that their school’s athletic teams are the front porch and most visible element of their institution in the mind of the public and that makes promoting college athletics a very serious and important business for the overall success of the school. The days of the Pac-10 not competing in the marketplace for the entertainment dollars of American consumer do appear to be over and we say “Bully to That!” because for too long the Pac-10 relied on the individual schools to work on their own marketing efforts to gin up interest in their school’s athletic teams and there never was an overarching brand and theme in marketplace for the Pac-10 as a whole. Yes, those days are over….
The challenge for Pac-10 commish Larry Scott going forward will be meld the two new schools (Utah and Colorado) into the new Pac-12 while building the conference’s brand which will hopefully translate into many more millions of dollars from national, regional and local TV contracts and increased ticket sales for each school’s sports teams. As Larry Scott and the Pac-10 school presidents and ADs think about the near and long-term future of the conference we only hope that they think of the conference as one entity made up of 12 schools that will benefit greatly if they all work together to build a very strong brand which will lead to the additional revenues that all of the Pac-10/12 schools desperately need to operate in the very challenging world that all business folks face in the early 21 st century. (Jon Wilner of the Mercury News has a great news story detailing the challenges and goals that Larry Scott is facing with the Pac-10: Pac-10, about to become Pac-12, on a mission to increase TV value)
The Pac-10/12 can look to the SEC conference for guidance has a lot of very strong schools and personalities that are able to stand on their own, but under the leadership of their commissioners: first Harvey Schiller, then Roy Kramer and now Mike Slive that have been able to build a very strong brand with the SEC that is very clearly indentified in the eyes and mind of the consumer. The SEC stands for great football first, but also great athletics and some very strong academic institutions as well. The SEC “brand” was not built overnight, but actually over decades of the SEC schools playing very good football and other sports performing well followed by some savvy commissioners in recent years that have positioned the SEC very smartly in the modern marketplace. The SEC and Mike Slive may have met their match in Larry Scott and Pac-10 though, but there is only so much that the conference can do and that means the Pac-10/12 schools will have to be fully committed to creating a conference that not only has strong performing athletic teams, but schools that hold up their end of the bargain if they want all of these new marketing efforts to pay off in the end. It might be tempting for a Pac-10/12 school or two to claim that they are carrying more water than other conference members and thus deserve a bigger piece of the pie, but the schools thinking along those lines should look at what happened to the Big 12 in recent months and what the Big 12 will be facing going forward with some schools being treated in different ways compared to the other conference members. No, that kind of approach never works in America because that “All Men Are Created Equal” idea is too deeply imbedded in all of our collective DNA and that really means the Pac-10/12 schools should work very hard in the coming days and months to build a conference that is strong at the center supported by all of the 12 schools equally and one that can build itself around a strong and central Pac-10/12 brand.
Whatever happens with the Pac-10/12 in the coming years we here at Coaches Hot Seat are confident that the days of the Pac-10 allowing other conferences to set the tone and nature of the marketplace are over and thank goodness for that!
Analysis of 2010 New Head Coaching Changes
Solid Hire. We are expecting these new head coaches to build winning programs and have chances to win championships in the coming years.
Skip Holtz for Jim Leavitt– After posting a 94 – 57 record in 13 seasons at USF, including taking the program from a I-AA program to a member of the Big East Conference Jim Leavitt was gone from the Bulls football program in an instant last fall. We have read a lot of stories on what did or didn’t happen between Leavitt and a USF football player and we are still not clear what exactly happened in that locker room, but it sure seemed that the folks at USF were ready to send Leavitt packing on an incident that seems to be up for debate. Not that Jim Leavitt isn’t a very passionate football coach, because he is, but if what was reported in the news media on what Jim Leavitt did to the player was all there was to it, then ALL of football coaches in our lives here at Coaches Hot Seat would have been fired as well. With Jim Leavitt gone from the Bulls USF went looking for a new head football coach and landed ECU’s Skip Holtz who put up a record of 38 – 27 in 5 seasons, won the last two C-USA conference titles and is clearly one of the top up and coaches in the game. The challenge for Holtz at USF will be to keep the momentum going that Leavitt has built up over the years and to also expand the recruiting base to challenge Florida, FSU and Miami for more of the top players in the Sunshine State. USF has everything in place to take the next step up in the game of college football and we expect Skip Holtz to raise the bar even higher with the Bulls.
Sonny Dykes for Derek Dooley– We have been wondering for a few years now when Sonny Dykes would get a head coaching shot and with Tennessee hiring away Derek Dooley a pretty good head coaching opportunity opened up for Dykes at La. Tech. La. Tech has had quite a revolving door in the last 20 + years with their head coaches….
Derek Dooley (2007 – 2009) – 17 – 20
Jack Bicknell (1999 – 2006) – 43 – 52
Gary Crowton (1996 – 1998) – 21 – 13
Raymond Peace (1988 – 1995) – 40 – 44 – 4
Carl Torbush (1987) – 3-8
A L Williams (1983 – 1986) – 28 – 19 – 1
Overall Record Above Head Coaches: 152 – 156 – 5
…and that means that Sonny Dykes will have his hands full to build a consistently winning football program with the Bulldogs. Derek Dooley as the head coach and AD at La. Tech put in a pretty good foundation, but if Dykes is going to make La. Tech into a force he will need to amp up recruiting even more and he and his new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will need to develop an offense that can put a lot of points up and take some of the pressure off their defense. Sonny Dykes has the pedigree and the skills to be a very good head football coach and now is the time for him to become that very good head coach.
Derek Dooley for Lane Kiffin– The folks at Tennessee are learning in spades the problems that can be created by a bad head coaching hire in college football and by any measurement we can think of Lane Kiffin’s hire at Tennessee was one of the worst hires in recent memory in the game of college football. It’s not that Lane Kiffin doesn’t know the game of college football or that he and his staff didn’t work hard at Tennessee, but it is about the incredible importance of how a college head football coach carries himself and acts in public and how that translates into how a football team and even an entire school is perceived by the people outside the program. It’s our opinion that Lane Kiffin did tremendous damage to the University of Tennessee name and brand, because Kiffin in the highest public profile position at the school basically acted like a spoiled brat and pompous ass for over a year and the folks at Tennessee just flat-out let him get away with that behavior. Then after only one year on the job and running the school’s reputation into the ground, Lane Kiffin heads out the back door for the USC job which left the administration at Tennessee looking like idiots after they had taken a chance and hired a guy that only a year earlier would have been lucky to get a head coaching job in the junior college ranks. With Kiffin going out the back door for the USC (which may top Tennessee as the stupidest hire in college football history when all is said and done) the Vols were stuck with a tarnished brand and a football program in chaos. Yes, hiring the wrong head football coach can be disastrous and that is what Tennessee looked like to many potential coaches (a disaster) which did limit who the Vols could hire in the coaching marketplace. We don’t know this for a fact, but we here at CHS believe that the Tennessee head coaching job came down to between Kevin Sumlin at Houston and Derek Dooley at La. Tech (two very good young coaches) and that Dooley got the job because of his experience with Nick Saban and in the SEC. Now with Derek Dooley being on the job for about 7 months things are starting to get back to normal after Hurricane Kiffin blew through town and we fully expect that things will continue to get better with the Vols football program, but with many bumps in the road to come as UT tries to get its football team and good name back. Clearly, the Tennessee football head coaching job, like all coaching jobs in the SEC, is a very tough one and as Dooley works to rebuild UT football he will have to do it while playing in the toughest conference with an incredibly challenging schedule each year, but that is what makes taking the Tennessee job worthwhile in the first place. A good question to ask about new head coaches always is: Will Derek Dooley be the head coach at Tennessee five years from now? To that question we would have to answer “Yes” Derek Dooley will be the head coach at Tennessee five years from now and probably with a very good Vols football program and team as well by then. Will Derek Dooley have won a SEC conference title by 5 years from now? We would say “No” to that question, but the Vols should be knocking on the door by then and it will be up to Dooley and his Vols to knock that door down.
Note on Tennessee Football and Lane Kiffin: Probably the most Outrageous thing that was said by Lane Kiffin and “his friends” (Kiffin’s “friends” include a few media members that carry Kiffin’s water which make big fools of themselves by defending him so….if they only knew….if they only knew….) during Kiffin’s tenure at Tennessee was that Kiffin had to bluster and act like an idiot when he got to UT because the Vols did not have the college football history of say….USC. To that belief, that Kiffin had to act like an arrogant pompous idiot we are calling Bullshit on and anyone that makes that argument clearly has no knowledge of the history of Tennessee in the game of college football. Memo to Lane Kiffin and “his friends”: Tennessee has been winning football games for decades and long before Dumbo Kiffin arrived on campus, but since Kiffin knows little about life beyond the fantasyland he was raised in, of course it makes perfect sense that Kiffin and “his friends” would make the argument that Kiffin had to do all that stupid behavior to raise the awareness of Tennessee. Please, even if Tennessee football was not known by a single person on the planet, there is an appropriate way to raise its profile and then there is the Lane Kiffin way. Clearly, anyone that would favor the Lane Kiffin way was raised by wolves but then walk into most California K-12 schools today and one will find plenty of pompous and arrogant little Lane Kiffin’s running around with people allowing and sometimes even encouraging the very same behavior that we have gotten from Lane in recent years. Sadly, Lane Kiffin is but the tip of the iceberg of kids raised by parents that never told their children that there were ever wrong about…ANYTHING….and if anyone really wonders why the K-12 schools in California are imploding just try to imagine millions of Lane Kiffin’s popping off to their teachers and parents with none of them correcting them or hardly anyone…SAYING A WORD! Now you understand why K-12 schools in California are so awful…and getting worse every day and why Lane Kiffin is baffled why people thinking that him acting like a pompous ass is “abnormal.” Pompous arrogant ass is what Lane Kiffin thinks is “normal” because he was raised to believe that is the appropriate way to act and if you don’t believe that reality just check the behavior of millions of kids in the California schools that think their teachers are little more than just another adult to crack on and ignore (those same kids often view and act that way towards their parents as well which their parents tolerate…and you wonder why California is headed to insolvency…Hell, the place is raising a generation of spoiled brats that are complete and utter idiots to boot!). Uhhhhhh…. Memo to Lane Kiffin: Pat Haden and the new braintrust at USC (including some boosters that are starting to get involved with USC athletics) are not going to tolerate the kind of bullshit you have been allowed to get away with in the past and even winning 10 games a year plus at USC will not save you if you keep acting like an idiot. You can take that little factoid to the bank and cash it all day long.
Jimbo Fisher for Bobby Bowden– We have never been a proponent of the “Coach in Waiting” concept, but if there is a place where it could work it is at a school where the new head coach is already on the staff when charged with follow a living legend and make no doubt about it….Bobby Bowden is a Living Legend in the game of college football and life for that matter. It really is too bad that our kids did not get a chance to see Bowden’s FSU football teams between 1977 and 2000 (237 – 49 – 4 .817) which included winning the ACC title the first 9 years that FSU was in conference and 2 National Titles. Yes, Jimbo Fisher is replacing a Living Legend in Bobby Bowden and the Seminole fans are hungry to get back to winning ways that Bowden brought to FSU but struggled with in his last few years on the job. The expectations for Jimbo Fisher are very high and our friends that are FSU alums/fans are expecting big things from Fisher and that means he will need to get out of the box very quickly in the first few years to keep everyone happy which translates to Fisher facing the most pressure of the new head coaches to win and win now. Can Jimbo Fisher win big at FSU? Yes, Jimbo can win big at FSU, but he will have to do it and just “doing it” is more than a marketing slogan, it is what Jimbo Fisher must do and do now or be prepared for the heat that comes with coaching at one of the top schools and jobs in the game.
Joker Phillips for Rich Brooks – Do you want to see what looks like an average coaching job but is really one of the best coaching jobs in recent years in college football. Kentucky’s record 2006 – 2009: 30 – 22, 3 – 1 in bowl games. That is Rich Brooks’ record at Kentucky over the past 4 seasons and considering that UK is playing in the toughest conference in the country in the SEC, the job that Rich Brooks did at Kentucky over the past 4 years is remarkable. The challenge for Joker Phillips will be to keep the ball rolling at UK and not lose the momentum that Brooks built up in his 7 years on the job. If there is a coach that is ideally suited to know what has worked over the past few years it is “Coach in Waiting” Phillips at Kentucky that got to go through all of those tough SEC and Louisville games and it is Phillips that will need to be ready to take on the challenges that come with having to compete in the SEC. Joker Phillips seems ready to us to take on those challenges and if can keep his focus on the things that have made and will continue to make Kentucky a winning football program then he should have a successful run with the Wildcats.
Jeff Quinn for Turner Gill – One of the most interesting numbers about Jeff Quinn is that he has been a “football coach for 26 years, 21 of which have been as an assistant at Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State.” Wow! 21 years is a long time to have the same boss, but Brian Kelly and Jeff Quinn won a lot of football games together and that reality bodes well for Quinn in his first head coaching job at Buffalo. Turner Gill worked very hard and laid down a very nice foundation at Buffalo and it will be Quinn’s job to keep things rolling with the Bulls and to make Buffalo even more of a force in the MAC conference in the coming years.
Doc Holliday for Mark Snyder– What a lot of people forget about Marshall football is that between 1990 and 2004 under Jim Donnan and Bob Pruett the Thundering Herd put up a record of 158 – 44 (.782) which means Marshall fans are used to and expect to be winning football games. Those expectations are why Mark Snyder was fired after only putting up a record of 22 – 37 in 5 seasons on the job and that is why new head coach Doc Holliday has his hand full in his first head coaching job at UM. To get back to winning lots of football games Marshall must start recruiting better players and after firing Snyder it looks like the UM folks went out and hired not only a West Virginia native but one of the best recruiters in college football in Doc Holliday. After coaching stints at West Virginia (under Don Nehlen) and Florida (under Urban Meyer) Doc Holliday has the experience to build a solid football program at Marshall and he will have to learn the ropes of becoming a head football coach while at the same time making the Thundering Herd into a force in the C-USA which is a conference where even small improvements can show up with even more wins in a hurry. We expect Doc Holliday to recruit better players to Marshall and then it will be his job to turn those players into winners and we expect him to do just that.
Turner Gill for Mark Mangino– Turner Gill did a remarkable job at Buffalo in turning around a moribund football program in a very short amount of time and after being up for the Nebraska and Auburn jobs in recent years Gill landed at a school in Kansas that seems like a perfect fit for his particular set of skills and background. For years Kansas was not much of a power in college football, but Glen Mason first and then Mark Mangino both proved that KU can indeed win football games and it now falls to Gill to get the Jayhawks football program’s Mojo back after the ugly split with Mangino. Kansas plays football in a very tough neighborhood even in the reduced “Big 12” and Gill will need to draw on all of his experience and strengths from his playing and coaching days to deal with the challenges that comes with a schedule filled with Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, etc. on a yearly basis. Will Turner Gill win at Kansas? Yes. Will Turner Gill win big at Kansas? That will be up to Turner Gill, his assistant coaches and his KU players and that is what makes the game of college football so great. Not that we pull for coaches and schools here at Coaches Hot Seat, but we do wish Turner Gill well at KU in the coming years, but don’t think we won’t put you on the Hot Seat Turner!
Willie Taggart for David Elson– In the last few seasons we here at Coaches Hot Seat have had the opportunity to see Willie Taggart as an assistant coach at Stanford University and we always thought that he would have a great chance to be a successful head coach one day, but Willie has taken on a great challenge by taking over at his alma mater at Western Kentucky. Wikipedia has a great summary of Taggart’s playing and coaching career to this point:
“Willie Taggart is an American football coach and the head football coach at Western Kentucky University.
He was named the Hilltoppers head football coach on November 23, 2009 and will start in the 2010 season, replacing the fired David Elson.
Taggart had been a star quarterback at WKU from 1995 through 1998, being one of only three WKU players in the previous 50 years to be a four-year starter at the position and one of only four Hilltoppers players to have his jersey retired. After graduating from WKU in 1998, he stayed on at the school as an assistant through 2006, notably serving as co-offensive coordinator under Jack Harbaugh on the Hilltoppers’ 2002 Division I-AA national champions. Taggart also worked alongside Harbaugh’s son Jim, who had been an unpaid consultant under his father in the final years of his NFL career.
When Jim Harbaugh was named head coach at Stanford following the 2006 season, he hired Taggart as his running backs coach. Taggart served in that role for the next two seasons, notably developing Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman runnerup, Toby Gerhart, into a star during that time. The younger Harbaugh also gave Taggart responsibility for recruiting in Taggart’s home state of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Riverside County, California.”
Wow! Now that is a playing and coaching career and Taggart is still a very young man. Taggart is taking over a big challenge at Western Kentucky which his predecessor David Elson learned in spades as he moved WKU from a I-AA football program to I-A and now to a member of the Sun Belt conference. Like most successful I-AA schools things are very tough for awhile when they make the jump to I-A and that means Taggart will have his hands full with the Hilltoppers in the coming years. We certainly believe here at Coaches Hot Seat that Taggart has all the skills and experience to be a successful head coach and if he can turn WKU into consistent winner in I-A he will have achieved a lot. Good Luck to you Willie!