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Friday, January 3, 2014
What Texas should seek in next coach

By Max Olson

AUSTIN, Texas -- If Texas truly is the No. 1 coaching job in college football, we're about to find out what that means.

Steve Patterson
New Texas athletic director Steve Patterson has a high-profile coaching vacancy.
With no obvious front-runner at the moment, and athletic director Steve Patterson keeping as quiet as possible, there's still plenty we don't know about what the Longhorns are looking for in their search to find the next Mack Brown.

But we do know the criteria that matter to Patterson and Texas president Bill Powers. At Brown’s resignation news conference last month, Patterson laid out some of what he's seeking.

“I think you have to be good with the press, you have to be able to recruit, you have to be able to understand what a big-time college football program is about,” Patterson said. “You're going to be under a lot of scrutiny. You've got to win and you've got to win big.

“You have to graduate your student-athletes, you have to take real classes. You've got to mentor them, you've got to recruit the right kind of folks. You're not going to necessarily have all of those requirements at some other schools out there.”

And so, we started crunching the numbers and comparing resumes. No matter whether you think Texas is down to 10, five or two candidates, the public speculation over who’s interested and available has created a long, long list of potential candidates worth considering.

We’ve trimmed that list down to 25 big names. Some of these coaches have already said publicly they’re not interested. But chances are good that, by Jan. 15, one of these 25 will be the next coach of the Texas Longhorns.

Comparing the candidates

A few trends to consider among these coaches, just to give a better sense of how loaded the field might be for Patterson and his committee:
It’s a strong group and Patterson has plenty of appealing options. But data on paper isn’t everything. This information helps build reputations and will land some candidates interviews.

What you can’t put on paper might be the most important factor: Fit.

Former Big 12 interim commissioner and Big East commissioner Chuck Neinas has run an executive search firm since 1997 and aided in the hires of Brown, Bob Stoops, Mark Richt, Miles and countless other head coaches. He’s a strong believer in the importance of finding comfortable fits between coach and institution.

“I’ve never been in an interview process where they bring in the board and say, ‘How do you diagram blocking a zone blitz?' " Neinas said. “They’re looking for leadership. You just work it out, spend time and see what interaction there is and hopefully be able to judge how everyone is going to work together.”

What makes a successful hire

To get more background, we also analyzed the 25 best college coaching hires of the past five years. What did these successful coaches have in common?

Four trends stood out. The majority of these coaches shared the following traits:
For nine of these schools, hiring a coordinator instead of a head coach paid off big. Five of those coordinators were in-house and promoted, and the strong majority of those were on offense. Five of the 25 best hires were of coaches who had taken off the previous season.

Texas isn’t looking to hire a coordinator to replace Brown. Patterson rightfully wants someone who’s already won big. It’s worth noting that only four of these coaches (Urban Meyer, Brian Kelly, Rich Rodriguez and the rehired Bill Snyder) already had led programs to BCS bowl games.

But here’s what matters: Five new hires in the past five years have led their programs to the BCS title games.

Finding a coach who meets most of Patterson’s criteria won’t be difficult. Finding one who can lead the Longhorns back to national-title contention is the reason Texas is searching in the first place.