Chairman of the Board of Regents Tilman Fertitta had made it clear, even during “negotiations” with Tom Herman, that money would be no object. Fertitta, also made it crystal clear, that once Herman had informed UH of his decision to leave for UT, that the next coach they hire, would be one they could keep around for a long time.
It’s college football.
It’s got to be the dirtiest, most untrustworthy business, with the highest turnover rate for personnel and coaches, next to its daddy.
Once Tom Herman decided to leave for Austin, opinions piled up, hot fiery takes scorched microphones and Cougar fans were once again hit with a level of uncertainty that has plagued this program in what seems like forever.
Fans and media seemed to agree on one thing during the coaching search, and that was whoever took the program over, needed to have a little cache. The new head coach needed to have been a guy that had been there, done that before. It needed to be a guy that had won, that knew how to take a program to a place that it had never been before.
At least a coach that had been a head coach before right?
Les Miles, and Lane Kiffin are certainly big names, and certainly would’ve appealed to a number of people that were calling for such. However, Miles and Kiffin are big names for two very different reasons.
Miles has a national title. Miles has 2 SEC Championships under his belt. He’s won multiple SEC West titles. He won 10 or more games 7 times in his nearly 12 seasons as LSU head coach.
Kiffin on the other hand, is a name because, while a brilliant offensive mind, as he’s referred to across the college football landscape, it hasn’t translated into wins or top notch recruiting with any realm of consistency in stops at Tennessee or USC. Kiffin of course has been a coach in NFL, briefly with the Raiders, so he brings a level of expertise that maybe a lot of other coaches looking for a collegiate job don’t.
Fertitta said, “This is all about recruiting, ok, anybody can coach when you get to a certain level. Good coaches are good coaches once you reach a point and after that it’s all about recruiting, but you needed continuity in the program. Lane Kiffin didn’t show me anything that Major Applewhite didn’t show me”.
Not to slight Applewhite, but I’m not sure if that says more about Major Applewhite or less about Lane Kiffin.
In effort to not overthink this though, I think what Fertitta really wanted to get across, and it was evident in his impromptu interview Friday, was that it came down to recruiting.
While Fertitta even admitted as much during the interview, that focusing on a big name was in fact important in the beginning, it wasn’t and couldn’t be the only thing that drove the decision at the end of the day.
“I’ll be 100% honest with you, when this started I thought that we needed to go out and get a name brand coach, because to me it’s all about brands. OK. Nobody understands that better than me and I wanted the UH to stay relevant, OK, and I think Les Miles, a fine coach and he’s going to be a great coach for somebody and I think the same thing about Lane Kiffin I was very impressed but when I look at the whole picture and totality I truly think in my heart and so did everybody else on the committee that Major Applewhite was the right fit”, Fertitta said.
Major Applewhite, may not be the BIG name that people wanted, but what Fertitta understands and is betting on, is that Applewhite is a name that will resonate in living rooms.
And his name in college football circles, among coaches and successful programs within the state and southeast region of the country is plenty popular with those that know and respect his work and diligence to help others succeed.
Fertitta listened to the athletes, he listened to coaches, and he listened to people around him that help make him and the program successful.
That’s what leaders do.
They surround themselves with good people that help make good decisions.
Sure, sometimes leaders are wrong.
But, we’re not there yet.
I know there is concern that Applewhite, in his first head coaching job could fail.
But you’ve got to bet on the people you trust, not worry about whether or not they’re going to fail.
Picking the right college coach, I have to imagine is a helluva lot harder or at least just as challenging as trying to pick a player in college and predict his success in the NFL.
A head coach has a support staff. A good head coach has good people help make him look good.
Not only has Fertitta and the rest of the bright minds that helped him make this decision, hired a new head coach, but they are going to have to support Applewhite as he fills out his staff moving forward.
It’s not a drastic change in the program or a culture that Fertitta was carefully guarding against when making the decision on a new hire, but still a tall task in rounding out Applewhite’s support staff.