Like many things in life, hiring a head football coach is an iffy proposition that ultimately comes down to minimizing risk. You look at your options, assess the situation, pull the trigger and hope for the best.
In Neal Brown, Troy has done just that, minimized risk by hiring what looks like a slam dunk. I see the Trojans getting back to their winning ways sooner than later under this coach. Here's why:
Brown coached at Troy before, starting at age 25 in 2006 and becoming the nation's youngest offensive coordinator two years later. Now, at age 34, he returns to Alabama as the nation's second youngest head coach (trivia lovers: tell me who's the youngest in the comments section and you win a prize). Let's all take a moment to think about how little we've accomplished.
There's also continuity with the old head coach. Not only did Brown work under Larry Blakeney during his first stint at Troy, his old boss is hanging around just to help raise cash. How often does a new hire get the benefit of having the former coach in town?
Not only that, some of Blakeney's staff is sticking around. Brown has retained three assistants in Kenny Edenfield, Sean Reagan and Shayne Wasden. Growing pains? Shooooooooooooot.
2. Troy makes it rain... on assistant coaches
Brown comes in with a base salary of $660,000, third highest in the Sun Belt. More importantly, the school equipped him with a cool $1.2 million for assistant coaches, tops in the entire conference. Head coaches get all the press but there's no underestimating the work of a good staff toiling under him. That nice budget means Brown can fill his coaching cabinet without heading to the clearance aisle.
3. If you build it, they (recruits that is) will come
One thing that shocked me about Larry Blakeney's retirement press conference came when he was asked what advice he'd give to his successor. The first word that came out of his mouth? "Facilities." I figured it would be "win a lot of games" but that's why I don't coach.
Anyway, Troy is ready to step up its facilities game, hoping to break ground on the North End Zone Project at the end of next season. The thing is valued around $25-$28 million and fills in the missing hole in Veterans Memorial Stadium. Recruits love these things. Again, Troy's not playing around here, putting their money where their mouth is to pull in the wins.
4. Please sir, I want some more
I still can't believe how many times I heard the name of a retread during the coaching search. Gene Chizik, Ed "Coach O" Orgeron, Houston Nutt. Hell, I even heard Will Muschamp's name right after he got canned.
Brown is young and hungry to prove he can do this head coaching thing. Not only that, he's not some kid taking daddy's Cadillac out for the first time. Brown was offensive coordinator at Troy, offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and offensive coordinator at Kentucky, which is the kind of SEC experience I'd prefer over "he was fired from a big-name school."
This guy obviously looks like an up-and-comer. Yes, he's likely to leave in a few years if things go well. That's a small price to pay if Brown leaves behind a couple conference titles and/or P5 wins. Who's ready to see Mizzou come to town again?
5. Act like you've been there before
It's easy to do, because Troy has. Brown coached the Trojans during what might be the peak of their success, the five-year run of Sun Belt championships. This program is used to winning.
That's another thing about Brown leaving after a few years of success. Coaches generally want to go somewhere they can win. If he gets the Trojans back atop the Sun Belt it'll be easy for the next guy to come in and keep the ball rolling.
And there you have it. In a few years I'll post this to your Facebook wall and say "told ya." Or you'll paste it to my Facebook wall and make inappropriate jokes. Either way, at the moment Brown looks like the right guy for Troy.