Coaching Movement Common These Days

  • By John Antonik
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  • March 06, 2013 10:58 AM
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Former college football coach Pete Roussel operates a website (http://www.coachingsearch.com) that is geared specifically for coaches, college athletic directors and NFL front office personnel. Basically, what he does is track movement in the coaching profession, which seems like a 365-day-a-year job these days.

There were 29 different head coaching changes in major college football this year, which means conceivably there were as many as 261 assistant coach openings if staffs turned over entirely. Add to that a growing number of college coaches jumping to the pros, retirments and firings, and you are talking about a LOT of movement.

In fact, late last month Roussel put together a list of the assistant coaches who accepted a job at one school only to resign and take a job at another school before the season started. There have been 12 such instances so far this year after the profession experienced 19 last year.

“The salaries have increased so much that coaches now compete to land jobs,” said Roussel. “Only 18 coaching staffs in the country right now have the same nine assistant coaches as at the start of the 2012 season.”

West Virginia football fans can certainly relate.

Last week, running backs coach Robert Gillespie became the fifth member of Coach Dana Holgorsen’s 2012 staff to depart. Three left the year before that.

“I would imagine we will probably find a coach,” said Holgorsen when asked about replacing Gillespie on Tuesday.

Last November, after his first season at Ohio State, Urban Meyer talked about the changing nature of the coaching profession.

“Continuity is a high priority, but I also understand the profession,” Meyer said. “I understand guys taking care of their families, and it is that part of the game that it’s a business.”

Meyer’s Ohio State staff is one of the few that did not experience turnover this year.

“One negative thing about success and hiring good coaches is that they’re hot items,” said Meyer.

That is exactly what has happened at WVU where Jake Spavital left to work with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, Bill Bedenbaugh took a similar job at Oklahoma and Gillespie returned to his SEC roots at Tennessee.

And as long as Holgorsen’s offenses continue to rank among the best in the country, other schools are going to be interested in luring away his assistant coaches.

That is becoming crystal clear. But what may not be as clear to some fans is that coaching turnover has always been a big part of the game. A quick look at West Virginia football staffs since 1960 provides ample evidence of that. Did you realize that just 13 times in the last 53 years West Virginia’s football staff has returned intact the following year? Seven of those took place under Don Nehlen.

There was some staff turnover all four years Jim Carlen coached at West Virginia; Bobby Bowden changed coaches in five out of the six seasons he was here (the only year he didn’t make a change was 1974 – the worst season of his long coaching career, by the way), Frank Cignetti changed coaches all four years he was at WVU and Nehlen had to hire at least one new coach in 14 out of his 21 seasons at West Virginia.

Following Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez swapped coaches in five out of his seven seasons at WVU while Bill Stewart made changes in two out of his three years leading the Mountaineer program.

Holgorsen said the staff movement taking place since December has not affected his program at all.

“Defensively, we had our staff set right around the (coaches) convention, so those guys have been meeting for seven weeks,” he said. “We feel like we are in great shape there. Offensively, I don’t know if you guys know this or not, but we have run the same offense for a while. (Offensive coordinator Shannon) Dawson and I are continuously looking at it to see what we have to do to be better, but from a coaching standpoint it’s nothing to worry about.”

No, it’s just a fact of life in college football these days – and will continue to be.

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Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia Mountaineers, WVU, Mountaineer football