January 14, 2009

AFCA notes: Coaches favor early signing period

MORE: In BCS, its all about the company you keep

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An early signing period remains a topic of debate this week at the American Football Coaches Association convention, but it doesn't look as if there is any movement.

AFCA president Grant Teaff said the coaches are in favor of one, but the ultimate decision rests with the conference commissioners.

"If we had one, it likely would be in December," Teaff said.

"But we've done about as much as we can to move forward on this subject as coaches. It is out of our hands now."

Those in favor of an early signing period use the logic that if a prospect knows where he wants to go, he should be able to sign and get the process over with.

"I still have five guys I'm recruiting," an SEC assistant coach said. "And four of those guys are committed. But I have to keep recruiting those four guys as hard as I'm recruiting the guy I'm still trying to convince to come to my school.

"If we had an early signing period, I could have these guys already signed up and be able to focus on other things."

Some of those against an early signing period don't want prospects to have to take recruiting visits during the season, when both the college coaches and the prospects are busier.

Wanted men

Job-seekers are everywhere at the convention. The hopefuls line the halls outside of ballrooms, hoping to catch a coach in the market for an assistant, and there are a series of job boards plastered with résumés.

"It is something," said a "Big Six" coach who is in the market for a coordinator. "I usually just stay in my room. And when I come out, I don't usually wear any clothing with my school logo on it. I also take my cell phone out, press it to my ear and keep walking. You only can talk to so many guys in a certain amount of time. It's crazy."

Many coaches looking to fill out their staffs use the convention as a place to screen candidates. If they like what they hear and see from a candidate, they'll then typically bring the candidate on campus for a formal interview.

"If you haven't screened a guy, you may end up bringing a guy to your campus you don't really like," said a non-"Big Six" coach. "Then, you are stuck with having him on campus all day, wasting his time and your time."

Coaches want poll to be involved in BCS

Much was made about Utah's Kyle Whittingham voting his team No. 1 in the final coaches' poll, which is a no-no. Coaches who vote in the USA Today poll are instructed to put the winner of the BCS title game No. 1 on their ballot, then are free to fill out spots 2-25 as they see fit.

Teaff said Whittingham wasn't punished for stepping outside the rules.

"We can understand where he was coming from," Teaff said after the annual Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches breakfast and meeting. "Some of the coaches were upset by it. But most understand he was doing it for his school, for his players."

The Associated Press poll is not under any such constraints. Since the formation of the BCS in 1998, the final coaches' and AP polls have had the same No. 1 team each season except for 2003, when the AP crowned USC No. 1.

"[Do the coaches] want to be part of the BCS process? Yes, we do," Teaff said. "We never even have discussed the possibility of pulling out. We had a quick vote [show of hands] in the meeting, and everyone voted to remain a part of it.

"We still think this is a good system. It goes back to what [former SEC commissioner] Roy Kramer said: This keeps the regular season relevant. That's not really the case in college basketball."

Other issues discussed at the FBS meeting were the NCAA's graduation-rate rules and talk of setting up a Web site where high school prospects could submit academic information that universities could view in the evaluation process.

Coach of the year

AFCA Coaches of the Year
FBS: Kyle Whittingham, Utah
FCS: Mike London, Richmond
Division II: Mel Tjeerdsma, Northwest Missouri State
Division III: Larry Kehres, Mount Union (Ohio)
NAIA: Kalen DeBoer, Sioux Falls (S.D.)
Whittingham was named the AFCA FBS coach of the year, somewhat ironic considering he hasn't been an AFCA member that long.

"When he became head coach of Utah [after the 2004 season], I sent him a letter asking him why he wasn't a member," Teaff said. "And he wanted to know five reasons why he should be a member. I gave him reasons why.

"When we got here for the convention this year, I called him up to give him the news that he had won our award. I told him, 'Aren't you glad you became a member?' And if [he] hadn't been a member, he also wouldn't have been eligible to vote in our poll and he wouldn't have been able to vote Utah No. 1."

Coaching buzz

Tennessee coaches are conducting interviews to fill out the Vols' staff at an off-site hotel near the convention site. … What direction will Notre Dame go to fill its offensive coordinator and offensive line spots? Most feel Irish coach Charlie Weis will retain coordinator duties. If he does hire someone, the "coordinator" title probably won't hold much weight. The line job is more critical, as Notre Dame's front has been the team's weak spot in recent years. … Supposedly, Notre Dame linebacker coach Jon Tenuta had a chance to go to LSU as defensive coordinator before the Tigers hired John Chavis. … There are rumblings that former Syracuse coach Greg Robinson was talking to West Virginia about a position. … Expect Connecticut to hire an offensive coordinator in the next week. … Michigan is no closer to hiring a defensive coordinator. In fact, it may not happen until after National Signing Day. Names to watch are former Syracuse coach Greg Robinson and Florida cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford. … Purdue is getting closer to hiring a defensive coordinator and should have one in place before signing day. Boilermakers coach Danny Hope has interviewed two members of his staff for the post but likely will bring in someone from the outside. … Marshall defensive coordinator Rick Minter may be a guy of interest to NFL teams. He was coach for 10 years at the University of Cincinnati and put together some good staffs. Sunday's AFC title game features several former Minter assistants. Pittsburgh has coach Mike Tomlin, offensive line coach Larry Zierlein and assistant special teams coach Amos Jones. Baltimore has coach John Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.


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