Bahn: ADs Say Search Facing Razorbacks' Long Will Take Research, Planning And Instinct

by Chris Bahn  on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 11:59 am  

Jeff Long faces the difficult task of hiring a new football coach. Athletic directors agree it's one of the most challenging parts of their job. (Photo by Ryan Miller)

Leadership is the No. 1 quality Long lists. He won't get into whether he prefers a defensive or offensive-minded coach. These are among the qualities he's weighing in the making the decision.

There is plenty of time to figure out who fits Long's criteria. And more than enough time for him to change his mind between now and December.

Fit Factor
Cincinnati’s last three coaches are a combined 71-34 (.676) with seven bowl appearances in nine seasons. Thomas, who was the athletic director for the Bearcats from 2005-2011, worked with all three for a time. He inherited Mark Dantonio and hired Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.

Finding the next Dantonio (now at Michigan State), Kelly (now at Notre Dame) or Jones (a popular name in national coaching search chatter) was one of the first responsibilities Thomas had when he took over at Illinois last year.

When hiring Tim Beckman from Toledo last winter, Thomas said he looked for certain characteristics he saw in those other coaches. He evaluated win-loss records, recruiting ability, academic philosophy and other criteria when deciding if a coach has the "it" factor.

“You look at patterns of success,” Thomas said. “Then you ask, ‘Do they fit?’ ”

Deciding if a coach fits takes on different meanings at different jobs. An athletic director can adjust his idea of fit based on the school.

A rebuilding program might need a coach capable of mixing it up with locals at fish fries to help energize the fan base and sell tickets. Petrino wasn’t the pep rally type, but his demand for attention and seething confidence turned out to be the perfect match for an Arkansas program often lost in the shuffle among its SEC brethren.

Petrino got outsiders to reserve a spot at the adult table for the Razorbacks, often viewed as a little brother and not to be taken seriously in the league. He embraced the state's natural beauty and had philanthropic interests.

In that regard he was perfect for Arkansas.

Personality matters. Geography and background are taken into consideration, but as Byrne’s hiring history illustrates, those factors don’t necessarily eliminate a candidate.

Byrne was responsible for getting Rodriguez, the former Michigan and West Virginia coach, to Tucson, Ariz., a town of nearly 600,000 in the Sonoran Desert valley. He lured Pennsylvania native Dan Mullen from a job at Florida to Mississippi State, located in Starkville, Miss., a town of 23,000 that critics mockingly refer to as “StarkVegas.”



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