So You Want to Be a Head Football Coach

This week's Dye-Gest column, Hall of Famer Pat Dye writes about what it takes to be a successful college head football coach.

If you want to know what is expected out of a head coach at an SEC football program like the one at Auburn, the answer is a lot.

You have to be a family man--a husband, a daddy and a father. You have to be responsible for a staff. The head coach has got to hire a guy who handles the administrative part of the job. He has to hire someone to help him deal with the press obligations. A head coach must hire the right strength and conditioning coach as well as have a strong spiritual leader close to the program.

Academics and overall discipline are very important, too, and the people in those areas are key hires when putting together a successful football staff.

Finding the right people in all of those areas, not just the football staff, is the most critical part of a head coach's job. Who he surrounds himself with will determine how much success he will have.

The head coach is the one who establishes the philosophy for a program and determines what type of personality the team is going to develop. Who he hires to coach the offense is going to determine what type of personality his team has on offense. Who he hires as his defensive coordinator is going to have the same effect defensively, and the same thing is true of the special teams coach.

If a head coach sees he has poor special teams play it may be because of the special teams coach, but he hired the coach and ultimately is responsible for all of it. He is responsible for setting the goals and once you get those set he is responsible for making the plan to get there--the overall organization of the program including winter workouts, spring practices, fall practices and summer workouts.

On the administrative end of it the coach has to have a good relationship with the university president and the athletic director. He has to be involved in fund-raising and have good relationships with the faculty, students and alumni and has to be able to interact successfully with all of those groups.

Then he is responsible for recruiting. Not only does he have to pick the right people to recruit who can fit in and be successful as college players and students, he has got to go out in the homes of the recruits with their families and do the physical part of recruiting. I know he has other staff members who are responsible for that, too, but ultimately the head coach has got to make his visits and build a relationship with the recruit. The head coach is also responsible for the intangibles around the program, something I wrote about last week. This year Auburn's football team is going to have Gene Chizik's personality just like it had Coach (Shug) Jordan's personality when he coached at Auburn, or my personality when I coached at Auburn or Tommy Tuberville's personality when he coached at Auburn. A football team is going to play with the head coach's personality. That is just the way it is.

There are two really tough jobs for a head football coach. One of them is that you have 85 young men on the team who are 18-years-old to 22-years-old who are full of testosterone. You are responsible for their behavior on and off the field. That is a monumental task.

The other tough job, which has a lot to do with winning and losing games, is that the head coach is responsible for making sure his team is ready to play for every game, whether it is 12 times a year, 13 or however many the team will play.

He has got to set the mood and the motivation and do whatever is necessary to make sure the team is at the height mentally, physically and spiritually to play every game. That is totally impossible, but his job is to have his team ready to play every week. He can call on his assistants, or anybody else in the organization, to help make that happen, but ultimately the head coach is responsible for having them to ready every week. If they aren't he can't point fingers at anybody but himself.

The last thing that I think is important is that a college head coach has got to take care of himself. With all of the responsibilities he has got, with everything he has got hanging over his head as far as expectations and so forth, if he doesn't take of himself then he won't be as good of a husband, a daddy or a coach as he can be.

When I say take care of himself, that is a mental thing and a physical thing and it is a spiritual thing. Somewhere in there with all of the duties he has got, he has got to take care of himself and that is not easy to fit in sometimes. I know because I have been there.

In addition to handling all of that successfully to do the job right, you have to do it within the rules as set by the NCAA and within the standards of the institution you are working for, and that is a big responsibility. People wonder why head football coaches make so much money, and the answer is they earn it.

(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to

Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, Dye participates weekly in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye will write three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.

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