Good Coaches have Become Hard to Hire

After getting a December scare, Gator fans are relieved that all indications are Florida's going to be able to keep its football coach this year. Beyond the natural desire to retain a championship coach like Urban Meyer, any school has to be eager to avoid the nightmare of conducting a coaching search these days.

Even in the SEC, where there seems to be no limit on how much schools will spend to win, finding someone to serve as leader of a program is a tricky task right now.

These are the head coaching resumes of the five most recently hired SEC football head coaches:

1. Fired after a 5-15 NFL stint
2. 5-19 in two years at a Big 12 school
3. No head coaching experience - SEC offensive coordinator
4. No head coaching experience - SEC offensive coordinator
5. 17-20 in three years at a WAC school

What lessons can be learned from that, other than making sure your school doesn't hire Tennessee's Mike Hamilton as its athletic director?

One thing that has to be emphasized more going forward is buyouts in contracts. They need to be there, but they also have to be big enough to deter a school from coming in and taking your guy or there's no point. Tennessee's buyout for Lane Kiffin was $800,000. One USC booster, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, reportedly paid for that himself. Compare that to Baylor's situation with Art Briles. While Texas Tech wanted him to replace Mike Leach, to get the Bears coach was going to cost them more than $3 million. Baylor kept their coach as a result. At this point, any school that isn't already paying their coach like a top five program better have a major buyout as part of their deal.

When Tennessee gave Monte Kiffin a seven figure salary to serve as defensive coordinator, it was perceived as a unique circumstance since he was not only an NFL legend but the head coach's father. A year later, that salary wouldn't look so outlandish. Defensive coordinators at Georgia and South Carolina will now be making $700,000 this year on long term contracts, and Kirby Smart got similar big bucks to stay at Alabama. Tennessee still needs a DC, and if rumors are true they might break the seven figure barrier again.

None of those coordinators are designated "coaches in waiting", but expect schools to spend even more going forward to keep elite assistants they believe are potentially capable of filling the top spot in a pinch should it open. More top candidates may become available in the coming year, as there are indications the NFL's 2011 season may be disrupted by a labor dispute. It's been a quieter year than usual for coaching changes in that league, and some speculation has been that teams like the Carolina Panthers may have held on to their staffs so they can release them next year without being obligated to pay anyone during that labor situation.

The trickiest part of adjusting to the new coaching reality is that fans have to be more patient. South Carolina fans may not grasp what a bargain they have in Steve Spurrier working for less than $2 million per year, but once they have to replace him they'll figure it out quickly. LSU's Les Miles is perceived as on the hot seat two years after winning a national title. Not a lot of established coaches are going to want to deal with a fanbase that demanding for anything less than major money. As easy as it for fans to let frustration prompt them to call for a change, right now all that's going to guarantee is the need to make a big money gamble on an underqualified guy.


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