Wrong Coach, Right Coach

The Wrong Coach

Hiring a high school football coach to be the head coach of a Div. 1-A school has never worked, and it never will. And with good reason. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, recently announced the hiring of a local coach from private high school Bishop Gorman to be its next head coach. UNLV, a former national basketball power, has been a big bust in football, 11-27 the last three years.

IMG_1102Here is why it won’t work. There are over 1,500 assistant coaches in Div. 1-A football and nearly every one of them has the same desire, i. e., to be a head college coach one day. They have put in countless hours, not only honing their craft in all technical aspects of the game, but in recruiting to make sure the twenty-five scholarships they are allowed each year are in line with their needs, and within the strict guidelines of the NCAA regulations. They would be the first to tell you that the best players will get a team far more wins than any coach will.

These coaches resent the intrusion of “highly successful” high school coaches who in most instances illegally recruited superior players to attend their private schools by providing scholarships, or in the case of public schools, by persuading players to move into their districts from a neighboring school to play. It is a systemic problem nationwide, but schools have threatened lawsuits against state sanctioned authorities, thereby thwarting all efforts at reform. That is how programs like Bishop Gorman win five successive state championships. It eliminates a level playing field because coaches who benefit from this charade are winning with other coaches’ best players.

When that type of high school coach gets promoted to a college head coaching position, you can imagine the enmity created amongst the honest, hard working coaching fraternity members who have played by the rules, hoping someday to ascend to a head coaching position themselves.

Over the years, it’s been tried without success. Notre Dame hired two coaches, Terry Brennan in 1953 and Gerry Faust in 1982, from all-winning programs at private high schools in Chicago and Cincinnati, without success, and both were soon gone. Bob Commings coached at the University of Iowa in the 1970s for a few years with poor results. There was Todd George, a legendary Texas high school coach but just 6-37 at North Texas State. In fact, the combined record of this ill-prepared coaching quartet was 54-100-1, none of whom lasted longer than five seasons.

UNLV, desperate, has chosen to reward an individual who hasn’t paid his dues. Those college head-coaches-in-waiting will make it abundantly clear that choosing him was a poor choice. Let’s keep an eye on the UNLV football program over the next few years and watch opponents light up the scoreboard to keep this coach in his place, either back in high school or getting in line as an assistant coach in college.

The Right Coach

Western Kentucky was up by thirty-five points in the second half against Central Michigan in this year’s “Popeye’s Bowl” being played in the Bahamas, of all places, when the Chippewas starting chipping away and got within a touchdown at 49-42 with one second remaining.

Can you say miracle?

With first-and-ten from their own twenty-five-yard-line, Central Michigan threw a Hail Mary pass that was caught by the Holy Mother and lateraled to St. Joseph who pitched it back to St.Thomas Aquinas who dumped it off to the Apostle Peter who dove into the end-zone for the touchdown, seventy-five yards down the field, the gun having gone off!

The 49-48 score would be final as the Chippewas missed the two-point conversion that would’ve given them the win. Do I fault the coach for going for two? No way!

The two quarterbacks had thrown for a combined twelve touchdowns so it’s quite likely overtime would have gone on forever. This game had all the earmarks of a pick-up touch football game played by guys home for Christmas vacation on a vacant lot in the old neighborhood, followed by beers and good feelings at the town tavern.

Both sides will have a memory for the ages. Nobody really lost! These guys will be talking about this game the same way Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones and their teammates at Harvard still talk about their 29-29 tie game with Yale in 1968 when Harvard came back from sixteen points down with two minutes to play.

So memorable was that finish that the Harvard school newspaper emblazoned the next day’s headline, “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”.


Nice going, Western Kentucky and Central Michigan! You done the game proud!

2 responses to “Wrong Coach, Right Coach

  1. Great review of how coaching works.

    Happy New Year.


  2. Just out of curiosity, Coach, do you have any idea what the high school football coaches in the highest profile programs in the country, i.e., Florida, Texas, etc. get paid a year?