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)

Rodriguez and Mullen have so far proven to be solid matches for their current jobs. They have built a bond with the fans, town and university.

Establishing a comfort level with the athletic director is also critical. Those limited hours face to face before an offer comes are all the employer and employee have to judge how they will work together.

“You don’t necessarily need to be fishing buddies, but you better have a comfort level with each other,” Byrne said. “… Combine that with making sure they have a sound fundamental background that will transition into them being a good head coach at your university.”

'Too Many Chefs'
Among the candidates for the Arkansas job in 2007 were then-Clemson coach Tommy Bowden and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe. Both were publicly linked to the job. Both left Arkansas still searching as they signed bigger contracts at their schools.

Long said discerning who is interested in the job and who wants leverage at his current school can be a challenge. There is no way to know for sure until a coach accepts or passes.

“Who is truly interested in this job and all the Razorback program has to offer? And who truly just wants to make sure their current employer appreciates them even more? So that’s a challenge,” Long said.

Guarding against getting played can require a hardline stance. Some athletic directors (like Long) won’t deal directly with agents. Others make it clear up front that they will dismiss any candidate who leaks information to the press in hopes of creating a bidding war.

Byrne is up front with candidates when he tells them he doesn’t want to see their names mentioned in media reports. If word of an interview leaked to the press, that coach was getting marked off Byrne's list.

“I told every candidate I talked to or had information on that if it came out ‘according to sources’ that they were now the leading candidate or they’d interviewed, I’d assume that they weren’t interested in the job,” Byrne said.

Phone calls aren’t just coming from agents. School presidents, board of trustee members, boosters and casual fans are all vying for the athletic director’s ear or eyeballs. In September alone, Long received more than 150 pages of email pertaining to his search, correspondence ranging from criticism of his firing of Petrino to a fraternity consultant offering his services as coach.

It gets noisy.

Having staff or a support system of other athletic directors and coaches to help filter it all helps. But having too many folks involved can complicate the process.

There is also a host of unwritten rules — calling for permission to talk, not interviewing candidates until you fire the coach currently on your payroll — that can slow a search.

Long said recently he is trying to navigate the line between being respectful of other schools, while keeping his own school’s best interests in mind. It’s the approach Moos took when landing Leach.



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