Hi, Rick. Hey Brian. You don't know me, but I'm a fan of the Arkansas State Red Wolves. You could pay big dollars for a hot-shot consulting firm to conduct your coaching search, but my advice is free. I don't have an MBA, but I do have a great deal of experience sitting on a couch with an iPad resting on my belly watching coaching searches unfold.
You likely know A-State's story: five coaches in five years. We released Steve Roberts, who wasn't a bad coach, and elevated Hugh Freeze. He bolted for Ole Miss, so we gave Gus Malzahn a shot. Gus bussed off to Auburn, so we took a chance on an assistant from Texas, Bryan Harsin. Who'd have predicted Chris Peterson would leave Boise State? Who'd think the Broncos would then want Harsin to replace him?
Now we have Blake Anderson, who until accepting the job at A-State was the offensive coordinator at North Carolina. Blake's done a nice job so far. Better yet, he's stuck around for a second season. After the end of last season, I actually missed the rush of anticipating a new coach. Who would we get? The mystery was exhilarating. It was like the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right.
But we're not talking about me. I'm advising you. Accept these beautiful nuggets of wisdom. You don't have to admit they came from me. Your success is reward enough.
Embrace The Stepping Stone.
I know, you don't think of your program as a mere stepping stone, and neither do your fans. But frankly, you don't want a coach using your program as his retirement plan. Not now, when your football team is sitting in the basement of your respective conferences. You need someone young, hungry and ambitious. At this stage, ULM and North Texas can't sink lower. They can only go up. Tell your prospective hire that he's just one big upset away from making a short list to a bigger program. So what if he leaves? Do it again.
Resist the Condescension.
If you're anything like Arkansas State, you know that most of the media is in the pockets of your state's privileged and high-resourced programs. You may see print columnists and hear radio hosts offer all kinds of sideways advice, like "hire the high school coach who won the state championship that one year" or "give our favorite former QB a crack at coaching!" It's likely that the media covering your region doesn't understand that your mission is to win games. Ignore them and pick the guy you think will do a good job.
Don't Yank Your Fans' Chains.
Finding a coach is a chore, but it's also an opportunity to engage with fans. Build the mystery, but don't draw out the process. And don't go dark. Let your fans know that there is a plan in action, and reveal enough of that plan to have your base talking. Leverage the excitement. Show some energy. Let the fans and boosters feed off your enthusiasm.
Sink Your Low Expectations.
Fans want you to aim high and think big (and even unrealistic). Reach out to Steve Sarkisian. He needs a comeback story. Rob Ryan was just fired by the Saints. Ask him if he'd like a shot at head coaching an FBS program. Despite P5 snickering, Lane Kiffin and Houston Nutt are proven commodities. Whatever you do, don't set your sights low. The quarterbacks coach from Nichols State may be an okay guy, but who cares? Not only will you antagonize your already tortured fan base, you'll wind up with an easy, low rent hire who is overmatched, under-qualified, and eventually fired (along with you).
Hey, listen, if you want more great advice, shoot me an email or a tweet. Will discuss my fee. I'm pretty cheap. In the meantime, good luck with finding a coach. With the right mindset, you might enjoy it.