The Hiring Process in College Athletics

One of the major problems in college athletics has become the hiring of coaches, particularly in the major sports of football and basketball. Serious mistakes happen every year in both the hiring and firing and most of these mistakes are due to inexperience and sometimes incompetency of school administrators.
A considerable number of years ago most administrators in power positions had experience in athletics. Now the tendency is to move toward athletic directors who are very business oriented but with far less experience in the athletic world than they need.

[color]HIRING PROCESS[/color]

The typical Athletic Director today knows very little about what is really going on inside the athletic world, why a coach is a big winner or loser, and the parts of a total sports program that determine whether a coach will be successful or not.
I submit that there are three types of coaching hires:
1. A “press conference” hire.
2. A pressure hire.
3. A convenience hire.
What does the typical Athletic Director do? He needs a football coach, so he puts an ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education specifying the opening and the credentials needed for the position. Why the advertisement? Because many schools are concerned that they might not meet governmental hiring regulations as far as discrimination is concerned unless they have sufficient advertising of the opening.
He forms a “selection committee” primarily made up of faculty and alumni that have no idea of what is needed to fill the position successfully. The committee pours over the various resumes, presents possibly five to the AD for possible interviews and their job is basically done. Of course, they may sit in on the interviews, but in most situations that is a waste of time…..the AD will make the final decision.


The major problem is that most of the time, the AD will make what is commonly called a “Press Conference Hire.”

What is a “Press Conference Hire?” It is simply a candidate who will make the athletic director look good at the Press Conference announcing the appointment. Perhaps one of the potential hires is a very successful small college coach or high school coach with numerous conference championships to his credit. But one of the prospects is assistant coach at the University of Tennessee. Wow! Will that look good at the press conference and with the alumni and boosters. Never mind that that winning small college coach might possibly be the best potential coach for the institution. He would not look good at the press conference and if the choice is a lesser known individual, the athletic director will look bad. Most hires are “Press Conference Hires.”

[color]PRESSURE HIRE[/color]

A [color]“pressure hire”[/color] is when someone has more strength than the athletic director and can pressure him into hiring someone that person wants in the position. The person exhibiting that pressure could be the President of the institution, a key financial contributor, or a very influential booster.
If the President wants a specific individual, little choice exists for the athletic director. I recently saw a President appoint a search committee and while the committee was reviewing the applications, the President offered the job to a coach he wanted, who had not applied. The coach did not take the job. The search committee kept working. The President kept working also and offered the job to a coach he had known for years who accepted. The search committee had literally wasted their time.
The financial contributor, or Booster, could have been giving the program a million or more dollars a year for a number of years. The average athletic director does not have the power to go against those type of individuals.

Regardless of who asserted the pressure, the coach who ends up being hired is not necessarily the best coach for the position


In some cases, an assistant coach has been at the institution for some years and has done a very good job as an assistant, showing good teaching ability, developing rapport with players, and getting involved in the community.
It is “convenient” for the athletic director to move this person into the head coaching position. It will eliminate the time and work involved in searching for a coach and often is well received by the community. Also it usually saves the school a little money for the assistant coach will gladly accept less money for the opportunity.
The “convenience hire” is sometimes the best hire particularly if the athletic director has done his homework, observed this coach often in practice and game situations, and feels he is ready for a head coaching position. On the other hand, it could be a bad hire if the athletic director was just looking for the “easy way out” or to save money.

[color]EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM[/color]

There are some 4,000 or more colleges and universities in the country. The problem exists more in the lesser known athletic programs than in the top echelons of the NCAA.
Why? Most athletic directors in major universities like Florida, Alabama, UCLA, and North Carolina are very well trained and experienced athletic directors. Most have complete authority over their programs.
Jeremy Foley is a great example at the University of Florida. He does not worry about advertising a coaching vacancy. He has complete confidence in his ability to select the right man or woman and probably has a list of potential candidates in his files. When a vacancy occurs within his department, particularly like football or basketball, he sometimes has the replacement within 24 to 36 hours.
The problem exists more in the less-financed institutions that often have insecure athletic directors who tend to make decisions on what other people think rather than on what they know to be best. It is in these institutions that the “press conference hires” occur, where boosters enter into the decision process, and where convenience hires occur to save money and time. The better qualified coaches fail to get the job.


There is little question but that many coaches that are hired for a position are not the most qualified for the job. When they are not, problems will often occur that usually result in the firing of the coach and a step back for the program.
The hiring process can be improved by:
1. An emphasis on the athletic director’s qualifications as much as is done on a potential coach’s qualifications.
2. Better education for the future athletic director in the academic programs of colleges and universities.
3. The President giving sole authority and trust to his athletic director.
4. The elimination of the “search committees.”
5. The President making it clear to university constituents that the athletic director is “the boss” in hiring situations.

When a coach fails, he is often fired. Perhaps the athletic director should be fired with him. A failed coach and a failed athletic director are in many cases synonymous.

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