Considering the circumstances of what has happened with that program in the last year, public relations is a big part of O'Brien's job in his first season taking over for Joe Paterno. That program is still going through a healing process up there and O'Brien and his assistants, as they speak to a variety of different groups this time of year, can help with that process.
This is the time of year when coaches like Gene Chizik and his assistants at Auburn do most of their speaking engagements to alumni groups. It is something that is expected of coaches at many football programs around the country. I would estimate most head coaches do about eight to 10 a year and delegate other speaking engagements to their assistants. I think how many a head coach is required to do is partly based on how good a negotiator he is with his athletic director.
In my opinion it is a necessity that the head coach goes out and does the public relations functions expected of a head coach whether it is to help the football program or the university in general.
I do think it is important at this time of year, which is really a down time for college football, that the coaches don't get too distracted with other projects like speaking engagements because I think it is important for the head coach to stay on top of things within his program on a daily basis.
When you are dealing with a 100 or more college age kids on a football team, having as much interaction with the players as possible is a necessity. With players in a less structured environment this time of year with more free time on their hands, I know this can be a problem time for off-the-field trouble with guys off to college, away from home for the first time, who have not matured enough to handle their personal life with the freedom they now have.
Trouble can also come from peer pressure when players are back home hanging out with guys they grew up with or it can happen for other reasons, but one thing is for sure--it is going to happen. If you don't believe it, just read the newspapers this time of year. Stories like the recent one about the Arkansas players getting into trouble are not that unusual.
From a head coach's standpoint, although we are in a down time for college football, it is still important that you keep up with the day to day happenings involving your program, the players and assistant coaches who are part of it. If you don't the odds will increase that trouble is just around the corner.
I know from experience that a head coach needs to be extremely vigilant this time of year by making sure everybody, not just the players, is doing what they need to do to keep the program on track. The head coach needs to make sure that little problems don't grow into bigger ones.
Staying focused and on top of things 12 months a year, season after season, is not easy for anyone to do and I believe it is one of the reasons that football has a way of going in cycles. When things are not new and fresh coaches can lose their focus and start assuming things are being done the right way when that is not necessarily the case. If as a head coach you don't make sure all the details are being taken care of you are setting your team up to be less than the best it can be.
(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 is 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 player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a 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 for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.