Step One: Accomplish Something First
Beat your archrival for the first time in a few years; Win a bowl game; Turn a bottom dweller into a winning program; or ideally all of the above. Sorry, Mr. Kiffin, taking a
Step Two: Find a Trusted Source
Before reports from reputable media outlets start to surface that College X is interested in your services, get the beat writer who covers your current team on the phone and let him/her know what is going on. This is of course assuming that your athletic director already knows that there is a possibility that you may be moving on. It also assumes that your athletic director has given you permission to talk to another team: see Exhibit B. Chances are that is the case because schools aren't supposed to call you directly – I think that is called tampering. If you have a good relationship with the beat writer, then it is possible that you might be able to start spinning your potential departure in a positive way. If ESPN gets the story before your local paper, that's usually not a good thing. I give you LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke's recent piece on Pete Carroll as Exhibit C.
Step Three: Be Honest
I know it sounds simple but even brilliant coaches like Nick Saban manage to screw this up. I give the Saban from
Step Four: Tell Your Team First
If you decide to take another job, make sure your next employer and your trusted beat writer agrees to keep their mouths shut until you tell your current team. They may not be happy about your decision, but they will respect you a heck of a lot more if they find out from you and not Chris Mortensen. The timing of this could be a little tricky because you will want to have a signed contract in hand before you tell your school that you are leaving, so it's important to have a plan in place, unlike Mr. Kelly. For example, if you know that you are going to sign the contract at 5 p.m., make sure you schedule a team meeting at 5:01 p.m. Sure word will get out that there is a meeting, which will lead to wild speculation, but as long as those players hear the news from you first, your exit will be smoother. Once the team knows, the floodgates will open. Everybody will want to talk to your old players to get their reactions. And if you follow these steps, you should like what they say about your departure. If you don't, please see what could happen: Exhibit F.
Step Five: Praise Your Old School
Finally, at the press conference to announce your hiring at School X, before you say how happy you are to be there, remember the folks you just left. If you can't wiggle it into your first sentence, be sure it is somewhere in your opening statement. After all, that school hired you first and if wasn't for their wise decision, you wouldn't be where you are standing now. You may want to throw your former fans a bone as well. If nothing else it will tell your new fans that you care about them.