I have seen a lot of head coaches getting jobs, losing jobs and changing jobs as well as assistant coaches getting head coaching jobs and coordinator positions–every scenario imaginable as far as coaches moving around. Sometimes, from the outside looking in, there doesn't appear to any rhyme or reason on why the changes are taking place.
The key thing to remember is that everybody is trying to position themselves to win. The head coaches are trying to hire and retain the best offensive and defensive coordinators they can to give them the best chance possible to win games. The outstanding assistant coaches are always on the lookout trying to decide what path is best to follow to reach their goal of becoming a successful head coach.
One thing about the coaching business, whether you are doing a poor job or a good job, you are going to get your paper graded every Saturday in the fall. The average fan can tell the difference between a well-coached football team that functions like a well-oiled machine compared to a team that is making a lot of mistakes.
I personally think there are more outstanding football coaches across the country than there have ever been. There are probably more outstanding assistant coaches, too. Right here in Auburn, I believe the Tigers have one of the best assistants in the nation, Gus Malzahn, their offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. As most Auburn fans know he just had an opportunity to go to Vanderbilt as a head coach, but he chose to stay at Auburn, something Tiger fans are excited about for obvious reasons.
I am sure it was tempting for Coach Malzahn to take a head coaching position at an SEC program just like it was for Will Muschamp, who Florida hired away from Texas where he was the Longhorns' coach-in-waiting. Personally, I don't like the whole concept of a coach-in-waiting. I would rather see a coach like Muschamp take a job as a head coach somewhere else than be in a program for three or four years as a coach-in-waiting.
In those type of situations the other assistant coaches are wondering who to be loyal to. You would have to be a genius to make that work out well. The coach-in-waiting plan didn't work too well this year at Texas and the same can be said about the situation at Florida State with Jimbo Fisher.
It has also been done at other colleges around the country. In my opinion it is a fad that needs to end and be gone from the college sports scene.
I have my own history as a college coach and it is kind of interesting how I moved up the ranks to become a head coach. I never was a coordinator or had a title like that as an assistant. I just coached the linebackers, worked hard and recruited in the states of Georgia and Alabama.
I reached the point where I wanted to find out if I could be a head football coach or not. I had grown as a coach and I am sure my opinion of myself was high, but I thought I was one of the top three or four linebacker coaches in the country. I also knew how to coordinate a defense and was on a great coaching staff.
I was able to get a chance to find out if I could do it when I went to East Carolina for a job interview and was lucky when they offered me a chance to be the coach there where I stayed for six years. Due to some unfortunate circumstances I made the decision to resign. It wasn't because of anything I had done. It was over something that happened in the program and the folks I worked for there. I just felt like I needed to make a change.
I resigned from East Carolina without a job, but I was confident I would be a head coach again and that happened when I took the job at Wyoming without ever visiting the school, but I knew the history of the coaches who had been at Wyoming. Bowden Wyatt was a great coach there and so was Bob Devaney. Fred Akers coached there as did Dennis Erickson. One of the best ones who coached there was Lloyd Eaton. I knew if I went to Wyoming I could find out if I could really coach.
I certainly didn't go to Wyoming with the intention of just staying there for one year, but the coaching job at Auburn opened up and the folks at Wyoming were going to make me sign a contract, resign or they were going to fire me.
I wasn't going to let them fire me and I wasn't going to let them take my name out of consideration for the Auburn job so I resigned without a job. Thirty years ago I went three weeks at Christmas time without a job. That is a bad feeling with three or four children around the Christmas tree and you don't have a job, but that is the way it happened.
I was about the fourth or fifth choice for the Auburn job. They interviewed a lot of people who had a successful track record at bigger schools, but I still told them I was the best choice, and I still feel that way. It wasn't because I was a better coach, it was because of my background growing up and playing football in Georgia and coaching at Alabama and knowing every highway, trail and pig path in those areas where recruits were. I thought that I would be a good choice at Auburn and we had a successful run.
Again it is time for the coaching carousel. It is unfortunate that it can get in the way of preparations for bowl games, but that is the way it is. In Auburn's case, with the Tigers playing for the national championship, losing a key assistant like Malzahn would have been more significant than losing him before a bowl game. Auburn fans understand that and it explains why they were so pleased when the offensive coordinator decided to stay.
Hopefully, a lot of the moves being made by coaches to change jobs or move up the ranks to become head coaches will work out well, but I know some of them won't. If you haven't been a head football coach there is no guarantee you can be a good one no matter how good you are as an assistant because there is a world of difference in being a head coach and an assistant coach because there are lot more time constraints and a lot more responsibilities to handle when you're the boss.
From the mailbag:
It was a pleasure to read your response to Sean Cupp's email in the Dec. 8th Dye-Gest. You eloquently put into words what I have struggled to explain to people over the years: AU has a special spirit about it that nobody can understand unless they are part of the AU family. I choked up when I saw you and Bo on the sidelines in Atlanta.
I want to personally thank you for being a part of this championship football team--your spirit is in each of those young champions! You started the return to excellence with your tenure. I still strongly remember walking into the Foy Union cafeteria for lunch one day in 1981 to behold you standing up on a table, addressing the students. I paused for a moment looking up at you. You looked me directly in the eye; I suppose to find out what this grizzly student was going to do, LOL. I took a seat and heard you, in short, promise victory. Coach, you did it! It all started with you. WAR EAGLE!
Class of 1982
Stan, thanks for your email. I do remember speaking to the students in Foy Union and getting a nice response. That was a really enjoyable time as the group of players, coaches and fans worked together to build a championship team.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates 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 writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.