Boston College and NC State have head coach openings, prompting the athletic directors at both schools to paint grand visions of the future.
NC State AD Debbie Yow reportedly wants a new coach to bring in "Alabama-type talent." Boston College AD Brad Bates wants to create a "destination-type situation" in Chestnut Hill. Are these goals realistic or simply a new standard that every single football program is aiming for given the increasing stakes at the head coaching position?
Every athletic director is going to aim high. You cannot begrudge Yow or Bates for publicly stating what they want, even if folks are rolling their eyes at their comments. No program is going to admit they are just middle-of-the-pack, and merely wants a coach to get them to a bowl game. Tom O'Brien did that for the Wolfpack and it was not enough.
Yow and Bates know NC State and BC can compete for ACC titles. You all watched the ACC this season, right?
But NC State does not need Alabama-type talent to win the league; and Boston College does not need to make its job a destination.
What they do need: an excellent recruiter AND a solid coach who knows how to surround himself with the right assistants, who fosters an atmosphere that holds players accountable without overreaching. There are only a handful of teams who get "Alabama-type talent" every single year. Last I checked, all those Top 10 recruiting rankings did not translate into national championships for Florida State.
Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have won the ACC without an abundance of five-star talent. So have Wake Forest and Maryland. Every single team in this league is beatable, given what we have seen the last several years. Forget about the stars next to a players' name. They mean nothing without the right coaches.
As for creating a destination-job, what exactly is a destination job these days? There are only a handful of coaches who have been in their current jobs more than 10 years. You can win without being a destination. I point you to the Big East, which has served as a minor-league system for coaches waiting for their shot at the big leagues.
Cincinnati has won Big East titles in three of the last four seasons and under two different head coaches. I feel confident in saying Cincinnati is not a destination job; rather the head coaches in place -- Brian Kelly and Butch Jones -- have done an excellent job with the talent they have gotten and developed the right system that appeals to their players. Remember, Cincinnati does not bring in five-star talent, and it is exceptionally difficult to get top-tier talent in state and the surrounding areas with Ohio State and Michigan nearby.
I realize the academic standards at BC are higher than Cincinnati, but that is not an excuse. Look at Notre Dame, Stanford and Duke this season. All three are headed to bowl games; one is playing for a national championship and the other is the favorite to win the Pac-12 title game. O'Brien won at Boston College a decade ago. It can be done.
The trick is not shooting for the moon, or creating something that is simply not there.
No. The trick is hiring a transcendent coach with a clear vision, who understands exactly what he is getting when he takes the job. No gimmicks, no platitudes. There is an inordinate amount of pressure on Yow and Bates to get this hire right. And for their next coach to begin producing immediately. Such is the life of coaches these days, and of athletics directors these days.
Their jobs are inextricably tied, given the high stakes involved. Realism is sometimes overshadowed in the race to the top.