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"Coaches in Waiting" are Never a Good Idea

A comment I read earlier in the day prompted me to put some thoughts down today. Last Monday, the University of Florida hired former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Most Gator people are thrilled with the hire, but one "insider" supposed that there may be a "wink & a nod" deal that Phillips will take over as offensive coordinator in Gainesville if and when Brent Pease pursues a head coaching job. Pardon me for not getting fired up about that possibility. No knock on Phillips. He has coached in the SEC for 15 plus years and groomed many SEC standouts. 

The idea of a "coach in waiting" is almost always a bad one. Will Muschamp was deemed the HCIW at Texas before Florida came calling. Florida State started the foolishness while waiting on Bobby Bowden to get tired of coaching (term used very loosely) which was never going to happen or the boosters to get disgruntled and raise enough money to run him off. To appease both factions, FSU named Jimbo Fisher as the head coach in waiting. Serious divisions grew within the staff; you were either pro Bobby or pro Jimbo. Such a move was done to create stability through the transition and promote continuity of staff. What these "reserved spots" really do is limit a schools options.

The landscape in college football can change very rapidly. Urban Meyer went from position coach on a mediocre Notre Dame team to a two year stint at Bowling Green followed by a two year stint at Utah to head coach at UF. Kentucky also went with the coach in waiting gig with Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips. I understand an AD wanting to "tie down" a talented assistant, but at the end of the day, if a better job comes available, most coaches are going to take it. The free market rules supreme in big time college football when it comes to head coaches and top assistants.

Why limit yourself?

If FSU had an open coaching search in 2009, do you really think they would have ended up with Jimbo Fisher? Why should Florida limit the candidates for offensive coordinator whenever Foley and Muschamp need to replace Pease? Similarly, I hope Ray Tanner isn't doing the ole back slaps over bourbons with a current staffer promising the Carolina job when Steve Spurrier heads to Crescent Beach for good.  

Hire the best you can get when the job is available.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.


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