March 18, 2011

Mailbag: A future for coaches-in-waiting?

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When Florida State announced Jimbo Fisher would become the Seminoles' coach when Bobby Bowden eventually retired, it seemed like a move made for recruiting purposes.

When rival recruiters used Bowden's uncertain future against Florida State, the Seminoles could respond that the next coach already was on staff. The future was set.

It seemed like such a good idea that several programs followed suit. Oregon named Chip Kelly as its coach-in-waiting under Mike Bellotti. Will Muschamp was the coach-in-waiting under Texas' Mack Brown. James Franklin was Maryland's coach-in-waiting under Ralph Friedgen.

Muschamp and Franklin never moved into those positions, although they became coaches anyway, at Florida and Vanderbilt, respectively.

The coach-in-waiting idea already seems to have lost its appeal, perhaps because the NCAA threatened to make coaches-in-waiting follow the same recruiting restrictions as head coaches.

Now, the only "official" coach-in-waiting is new West Virginia offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who will take over for Bill Stewart in 2012. Still, there likely are some other coaches-in-waiting, just without the title.

Waiting game

What do you think is the future of the coach-in-waiting concept? Is it really the wave of the future, or just a bad idea that will disappear in a few years? It worked out quite well with Chip Kelly at Oregon. But it didn't work at Texas, where Will Muschamp apparently grew tired of waiting. While there have historically been examples in pro sports where an assistant has been expected by everyone to be next in line when his boss retires, I can't think of any other sports where the coach-in-waiting has been formalized.
Coral Springs, Fla

No doubt there were coach-in-waiting agreements that were understood throughout the history of college football. For instance, who else but Tom Osborne was going to follow Bob Devaney at Nebraska?

Even now, there may be an unannounced deal in place for Tom Bradley to take over at Penn State once Joe Paterno retires. But not until Kelly or Florida State's Jimbo Fisher did I see the coach-in-waiting idea formalized. And even though it has worked out for those programs, I doubt the concept will continue for long.

Some coaches just wouldn't be comfortable with another coach on staff waiting to take his job. I wonder how former Tennessee coach Johnny Majors would have liked the idea of Philip Fulmer as his coach-in-waiting?

Somehow, the concept may have hurt Texas. Muschamp was an excellent defensive coordinator for the Longhorns and was popular among his players. But Texas stumbled to a 5-7 finish last season and Brown said his players had grown complacent and had a feeling of entitlement.

There is no question that Texas had numerous issues, but it's a legitimate question to wonder there were some divided loyalties. Still, I believe Muschamp would have remained at Texas in that capacity (and eventually would have succeeded Brown) if Florida had not pursued him after Urban Meyer retired. Florida may be the best coaching job in college football. It's just too good to pass up even if you're waiting on another of the best jobs in the nation.

Simple rule

Do the rings, clothing, etc., belong to the players, Ohio State or NCAA? What makes it such a big deal if everything belongs to the player? It's their decision to keep, burn, throw away or whatever. I believe that players should be paid for what they do. With the amount of money the schools make, the players have a hard time getting through school today.
Lakeport, Ohio

The memorabilia and awards that Ohio State players sold absolutely belong to them. But NCAA rules clearly forbid players to sell such items for profit if they want to remain eligible to play.

The base idea is to keep players from selling items to boosters for exorbitant amounts of money. It's the same with selling game tickets.

The lesson is clear: The player can sell the memorabilia but doing so will compromise his eligibility. It's like a teen-ager rebelling against parental rules. The old line from parents is as long as you're living in my house, you're going to follow my rules. Thus, as long as you're playing in my association, you're going to play by the association's rules.

At least that's the way it's supposed to be, except that the NCAA seems to give certain programs preferential treatment and adjust its rules whenever it wants.

NCAA officials would argue that's not true, but there have been too many examples of double-standards to believe the denials.

As for paying players, I don't believe players necessarily deserve to be paid to play, which would make many of them state employees. They get a free college education, books, meals and housing. Ask any 30-something adult who is still paying off student loans whether that's valuable compensation. In addition, if you pay college football players, what about basketball players, baseball players, soccer players, swimmers - where would it end?

Besides, if players don't like the system or feel they're being exploited, they don't have to sign a letter of intent. There are junior colleges and semi-pro leagues. Of course, few - if any - players would opt for that route because college programs offer the easiest path to the NFL.

That said, I think the NCAA should relax its rules against players having an agent. If an agent wants to invest in a player, why should the NCAA care, especially when some assistants now are making seven-figure contracts?

Tide hopes

How do you see Alabama this season as far as getting to New Orleans for the title game?
Knoxville, Tenn

Based on what has occurred in the past five seasons, one has to assume that whatever team wins the SEC title has a good chance to play for (and win) the national championship.

Alabama is my pick to win the SEC in 2011, although LSU will be a serious challenger in the West and South Carolina (which beat the Tide last season) looks like the favorite in the East.

Alabama projects to be at least as good as last season, when it went 10-3 and lost close games to national champion Auburn and to LSU on the road. The defense should be stronger than last season's unit, which was among the best in the country. Heisman-winning running back Mark Ingram is gone, but with powerful Trent Richardson stepping into the starting lineup, the Crimson Tide's running game doesn't figure to falter, especially with an experienced and proven line.

Star wide receiver Julio Jones is gone and that will hurt. And Alabama will be breaking in a new quarterback - probably A.J. McCarron. But Alabama was breaking in a new quarterback in 2009, when it won the national championship, and there are a lot of talented receivers on the roster.

Besides, every team has a few questions. Alabama is at home against LSU this season, which is a major point in the Tide's favor.

I think Alabama has a good chance to reach New Orleans. Remember, though, that in some seasons, one loss is all it takes to be miss the title game. Alabama won't be unbeatable.

Newton's new home?

What NFL team is Cam Newton going to? He is the best quarterback I saw in college. I hope he gets drafted by the Redskins.
Norcross, Ga

The NFL draft is so unpredictable, especially for quarterbacks. Just ask Brady Quinn.

Last year, there was so much discussion about Tim Tebow's future. Many draft analysts predicted he wouldn't be taken until the third round; Denver took him in the first.

All indications are Newton will be taken in the first round, as well he should. He's a marvelous athlete, he's big and strong and he improved as a passer as last season progressed. He has so much ability and still a lot of upside.

Like most football fans, I enjoy mock drafts and look at as many as I can find. Those that are more reputable have Newton going anywhere from No. 4 to Cincinnati to No. 15 to Miami. And, yes, I've seen mock drafts that have him going 10th to Washington.

Any team in need of a quarterback would have to give him great consideration. Washington certainly fits that description. But so would Arizona at No. 5.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for He can be reached at
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