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January 24, 2011

Monday with Mike: Rating the coaching hires

The coaching carousel looks to have stopped spinning this offseason, and the final tally is that 21 schools will have new coaches this fall.

So, how did those 21 schools do in hiring new leaders?

Obviously, each job is not created equal. Coaching at Ball State, for instance, doesn't equate to coaching at Michigan.

We have grouped the hirings by the "attractiveness" of the jobs, with a 5-five star job being the top of the line. In addition, we ranked the jobs -- not the hirings, the jobs themselves -- within their star grouping.

For our ratings "grade," an attempt was made to combine the attractiveness of the job with the actual hiring. When the "hiring rating" is higher than the job rating, the AD deserves extra credit.

FLORIDA

The job: 5 stars
The choice: Will Muschamp, Texas defensive coordinator
The buzz: Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley took a gamble by hiring Muschamp rather than an established head coach. Foley obviously is trying to strike gold, as Oklahoma did when it hired Bob Stoops as coach after the 1998 season, when he had been defensive coordinator at Florida under Steve Spurrier. Muschamp is fiery and intense; can he lead a program?
The rating: 3.5 stars

MICHIGAN

The job: 5 stars
The choice: Brady Hoke, San Diego State coach
The buzz: The Rich Rodriguez era was a short one -- painful and short. Rodriguez's offense were prolific, his defenses horrible. Hoke is a former Michigan assistant, and that he is a "Michigan man" will appease a small portion of Wolverines fans who think that should be the main job requirement. Hoke did an OK job at Ball State -- two winning records in six seasons -- then oversaw a quick turnaround at San Diego State. Hoke is a long way from Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles, but he knows what he is doing and will get Michigan back on the beam. But is he the guy to lead Michigan back into true national prominence? That seems unlikely.
The rating: 3 stars

MIAMI

The job: 5 stars
The choice: Al Golden, Temple coach
The buzz: Golden took over a winless program and made it relevant in the MAC in his five seasons. But does finishing second or third in a MAC division equate to winning national titles? That's the question he must answer, as Temple didn't beat up on any top-level MAC teams during his tenure. The Miami fan base is fickle; if the Hurricanes aren't in the top 10, they don't show up. Golden will be used to that from his days at Temple, which isn't exactly a fan magnet in Philadelphia. He has a lot more to sell now than he did with the Owls, and he'll be selling smack dab in the middle of perhaps the most fertile recruiting grounds in the nation.
The rating: 3.5 stars

PITTSBURGH

The job: 4 stars
The choice: Todd Graham, coach at Tulsa
The buzz: Former coach Dave Wannstedt was a Pittsburgh guy and a Pitt alum, but his teams also underachieved for the majority of his tenure. Too often, Wannstedt coached not to lose rather than to win. That shouldn't be the case with Graham, who has a defensive background but whose teams at Rice and Tulsa have won with powerful, diversified offenses. At the least, Pitt will be more fun on offense. Graham is the second coach hired this offseason by AD Steve Pederson; his first choice, Miami (Ohio)'s Mike Haywood, was fired after less than a month on the job because of a domestic violence arrest. Frankly, Graham is a better hire than Haywood. Graham's job is to make sure Pitt becomes more consistent and, in the process, the premier program in the Big East.
The rating: 3 stars

STANFORD

The job: 3 stars
The choice: David Shaw, promoted from offensive coordinator
The buzz: Despite its tough academic standards, Stanford has a solid football history, and when administrators have had the right coach in place, the Cardinal have thrived. Unfortunately for Stanford fans and officials, the most recent "right coach" -- Jim Harbaugh -- left for the San Francisco 49ers and took three key assistants with him. Shaw was an easy pick to replace Harbaugh in that the Cardinal is built for success next season, especially since stud QB Andrew Luck decided to stay in school for his junior season. But is Shaw the right guy for the long term? Harbaugh was ultra-intense, and unlike most coaches with NFL backgrounds, he coached to win. Indeed, when his team had, say, a 14-point lead, Harbaugh's thought process wasn't, "OK, we need to make sure we don't screw this up." Instead, he was the type of coach to say, "OK, we're up 14. Now we need to step on their throat and get up by 28." Shaw is much more low-key and that is going to hurt in the long run.
The rating: 2.5 stars

COLORADO

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Jon Embree, Washington Redskins tight end coach
The buzz: The Buffaloes are leaving the Big 12 for the newly renamed Pac-12 and needed a fresh start. In comes Embree, a former CU player and assistant. He certainly is a "Colorado guy" and understands what it takes to win in Boulder. Embree spent the past five seasons as an NFL assistant, and he and his staff have to really ramp up the Buffs' talent level. Colorado needs to re-establish a recruiting base in southern California, and continue to sign a few prospects from Texas each season. Re-establishing the foothold in California ultimately will determine whether Embree succeeds.
The rating: 3 stars

MARYLAND

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Randy Edsall, Connecticut coach
The buzz: Maryland went to seven bowls in 10 seasons under former coach Ralph Friedgen, a Maryland alum who was unceremoniously fired despite leading the Terps to nine victories and winning ACC coach of the year honors this past season. Enter Edsall, fresh off performing the football miracle of getting Connecticut into a BCS game. The biggest reason for that was that the Big East was incredibly mediocre this past season, but Edsall still deserves a ton of credit for making UConn a league challenger after arriving at the school when it was a FCS program. But how much of an upside does Maryland have in football? The Mid-Atlantic region is much easier to recruit than the Northeast, but to expect Maryland to be a "great" program -- which is what new Terps AD Kevin Anderson has said -- seems a bit over-the-top. Edsall is a good coach, but making Maryland great would be a bigger accomplishment than taking UConn to the BCS.
The rating: 3 stars

SAN DIEGO STATE

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Rocky Long, promoted from defensive coordinator
The buzz: Given its location, San Diego State has been one of the most underachieving programs in the nation. You can stock a roster by staying within 100 miles of campus. Former coach Brady Hoke did excellent work in his two seasons, guiding the Aztecs to nine wins and a bowl this past season, their first bowl appearance since 1998. Long's task will be to keep the Aztecs on the bowl track, which has been made a bit easier because of the departures of BYU, Utah and TCU (in 2012) from the Mountain West. Long is a former New Mexico head coach who knows the Mountain West, but you wonder if Aztecs administrators took the easy way out by promoting an assistant rather than trying to find a young, up-and-coming coach.
The rating: 2.5 stars

MINNESOTA

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Jerry Kill, Northern Illinois coach
The buzz: Unless a lot of bad stuff happens to a lot of Big Ten programs at the same time, the Golden Gophers aren't going to win any league titles. But there's no reason they can't annually contend for a bowl bid. A new on-campus stadium helps in that regard. So does Kill's hiring. He's not a "sexy" name, but he is a solid coach who has had success wherever he's been. Thing is, success in the past for him meant winning double-digit games and contending for league and/or national titles. Success in Minneapolis will be measured in seven- and eight-win seasons and bowl bids. Recruiting is going to be more difficult for him at Minnesota, but Kill's X's and O's ability is a plus.
The rating: 3.5 stars

CONNECTICUT

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Paul Pasqualoni, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator
The buzz: UConn went to a BCS game this past season. Hey, it's never going to get better than that for the Huskies in football. Former coach Randy Edsall parlayed the BCS appearance into a new job -- at Maryland. He didn't leave for a Miami or a Michigan or a Florida or a Georgia; he left for a middle-of-the-pack ACC program, which essentially tells you all you need to know about UConn, which is a three-star job only because it's in a Big Six league. Pasqualoni's hiring wowed few. Pasqualoni, 61, was born in Connecticut and spent 11 years coaching at two small schools in the state. His last college job was at Big East rival Syracuse, but he was fired from that. A program coming off a BCS appearance should've aimed higher than a retread fired by a conference rival.
The rating: 2 stars.

MIAMI (OHIO)

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Don Treadwell, Michigan State offensive coordinator
The buzz: Miami has a rich football history and is the best job in the MAC. Treadwell is a Miami alum who played wide receiver at the school. He spent the past four seasons at Michigan State and oversaw some balanced offenses. He served as the Spartans' interim coach this season while Mark Dantonio was recovering from a heart attack. He takes over a program in solid shape, thanks to predecessor Mike Haywood. Miami won 10 games this past season and should be a MAC contender for the next few seasons, which means that in three or four seasons, we should be writing about Treadwell's successor with the RedHawks.
The rating: 3.5 stars

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Dave Doeren, Wisconsin defensive coordinator
The buzz: Doeren takes over a program that annually should be one of the best in the MAC. NIU has been to five bowls in the past seven seasons, including three seasons in a row. The intense Doeren replaces Jerry Kill, who left the program in far better shape than when he arrived. As is the case with new Miami (Ohio) coach Don Treadwell, Doeren is a former Big Ten assistant taking over a solid MAC program, and his task is to keep things rolling along at a high level. And as with Treadwell, Doeren's hope is that he can parlay this gig into a "bigger" job.
The rating: 3 stars

TULSA

The job: 3 stars
The choice: Bill Blankenship, promoted from running back coach
The buzz: Tulsa has an underrated football past, and under Steve Kragthorpe and then Todd Graham, who left for the Pitt job, the Golden Hurricane have averaged 8.8 victories in the past six seasons, three times winning at least 10 games in that span. Tulsa's 53 wins in the past six seasons is the most of anyone in Conference USA. Blankenship is a former Tulsa quarterback who spent the past four seasons on the Golden Hurricane staff; before that, he was a 22-year veteran of the Oklahoma high school scene, including serving as coach of powerhouse Union (Okla.) High. Graham's departure came rather late in the offseason -- Jan. 10 -- and Tulsa looks to have taken the easy way out by promoting Blankenship to replace him. There have been reports that Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was offered the job but that DeRuyter turned it down because of the relative lack of pay ($500,000).
The rating: 2 stars

INDIANA

The job: 2 stars
The choice: Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma offensive coordinator
The buzz: This is an example of a good hire at a bad program. Wilson had a ton of success at OU; before that, he oversaw some good offenses at Northwestern, so he has a Big Ten background. But Indiana is not a good job. If Wilson can get the Hoosiers to a bowl, he needs to be looking for the first plane out of town. IU is not a place that can expect sustained success in football. And as at Minnesota, success won't be measured in conference titles; it will be measured in seven- and eight-win seasons and bowl bids. Smart scheduling is a must (i.e., four patsies) if IU is to get to eight wins.
The rating: 3 stars

VANDERBILT

The job: 2 stars
The choice: James Franklin, Maryland offensive coordinator
The buzz: Yes, Vanderbilt is in the SEC -- but that might be the biggest positive. This is a C-USA-level program in a prime-time league. Franklin has a lot of work to do. The SEC has nine bowl tie-ins, but there's a reason Vandy has gone to just one bowl since 1982. Franklin oversaw some middle-of-the road offenses with Maryland, but it's his recruiting ability that is most going to be put to the test in his new job.
The rating: 2 stars

NORTH TEXAS

The job: 2 stars
The choice: Dan McCarney, Florida defensive line coach
The buzz: In national terms, this is a bad job. Within the Sun Belt Conference, though, this might be the best one. The school is located in Denton, in the Dallas Metroplex, which annually produces seemingly millions of football players. UNT never is going to get the top-tier guys, but it should be able to get one or two second-tier guys along with a ton of third-tier guys -- and third-tier Texas guys should be able to compete for the Sun Belt title. McCarney did good work as an assistant at Florida and is a former head coach at Iowa State, which is one of the four or five toughest places to win in the Big Six leagues. He won't be intimidated.
The rating: 3 stars

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

The job: 2 stars
The choice: Mark Hudspeth, Mississippi State wide receiver coach
The buzz: This is the second-best of the three Sun Belt jobs that came open, but it's a long drop from North Texas to ULL in the figurative sense. Hudspeth spent the past two seasons at Mississippi State, and before that, he won 66 games in seven seasons at Division II powerhouse North Alabama. The Sun Belt has not served as a steppingstone for any young coaches, but Hudspeth, 42, could be the first. He's young enough to be able to move on with some success. His job is to put ULL higher in the pecking order for Louisiana high school prospects; ULL obviously never will usurp LSU, but Hudspeth needs to make sure ULL is up there with Louisiana Tech (whose WAC affiliation may begin to be a hindrance) and with league foe Louisiana-Monroe. This is an intriguing hire and one that could pay off for ULL, which never has been to a bowl.
The rating: 3.5 stars

BALL STATE

The job: 2 stars
The choice: Pete Lembo, Elon coach
The buzz: Ball State opened 12-0 in 2008, but everything has gone south since. The Cardinals were upset in the MAC championship game that season, and soon after, then-coach Brady Hoke left to go to San Diego State. Offensive coordinator Stan Parrish was named interim coach and the Cardinals were blown out in the GMAC Bowl by Tulsa. Parrish then was promoted to full-time coach, but the Cardinals went 2-10 in 2009 and 4-8 this past season. Despite doubling the wins, Parrish was let go after the season, and after a long search, Lembo was hired. He was 35-22 in five seasons with the Phoenix, taking them to the FCS playoffs in '09. Before that, he spent five seasons as coach at Lehigh, guiding the Mountain Hawks to two playoff appearances. Lembo, 40, never has coached at the FBS level but has had nine winning records in his 10 seasons as a head coach. He did an excellent job at Elon, taking what had been one of the weakest programs in the tough Southern Conference and turning it into a legit league challenger. He has to do the same type of thing with Ball State, which is a middle-of-the-pack job, at best, in the MAC.
The rating: 2.5 stars

ARKANSAS STATE

The job: 2 stars
The choice: Hugh Freeze, promoted from offensive coordinator
The buzz: While Arkansas State has enjoyed more recent success than the other two Sun Belt teams (North Texas and ULL) that hired coaches this season, the truth is it is lower on the national pecking order. Arkansas doesn't produce nearly as many players annually as Louisiana, and while the Red Wolves are one of just two FBS programs in the state, that doesn't help all that much. Freeze was an interesting hire. He probably is best-known for being Michael Oher's high school coach in Memphis. He parlayed that gig into a job on Ed Orgeron's Ole Miss staff, then spent two years as head coach at NAIA school Lambuth in Jackson, Tenn. His first season at Arkansas State came about after some bizarre circumstances, and in some respects, his new job came about in bizarre circumstances, as well. His boss last season, Red Wolves coach Steve Roberts, was fired after the season, yet school officials still decided to promote an assistant off that staff. To Freeze's credit, his offense set all numerous school records. Still, it obviously is rare when an assistant off a fired coach's staff gets promoted to the head coach job.
The rating: 2 stars

KENT STATE

The job: 2 stars
The choice: Darrell Hazell, Ohio State wide receiver coach
The buzz: The Golden Flashes have had just two winning records since 1977 and have been to one bowl in their history, so Hazell, 46, has a tough task. He spent seven seasons at Ohio State and has some experience in the MAC, serving two seasons (1995-96) at Western Michigan. The one positive is that there are enough high school players in Ohio and western Pennsylvania to go around, so the key for Kent State is keeping those players "at home." Hazell will be able to sell his Ohio State connections for a season or two, but unless Kent State starts showing some improvement soon, those Ohio State memories are going to fade.
The rating: 2 stars

TEMPLE

The job: 2 stars
The choice: Steve Addazio, Florida offensive coordinator
The buzz: Temple might have been the worst program in FBS when Al Golden arrived as coach after the 2005 season. Golden left the Owls in far better shape than when he arrived; they went to a bowl in 2009, their first postseason appearance since 1979, and are coming off the first back-to-back winning seasons at the school since 1978-79. Addazio, 51, spent the past six seasons at Florida, including the past two as offensive coordinator; he also is a former coordinator at Indiana. While his playcalling certainly can be questioned, Addazio is organized, a player favorite and a tireless recruiter. He has a lot of ties in the Northeast that can be put to good use in recruiting. If he can keep Temple at the level at which the Owls played under Golden, Addazio will be able to move on to a better job in two or three seasons.
The rating: 2.5 stars

GRID BITS

Texas and ESPN announced last week that the two sides had agreed to a 20-year, $300 million TV deal. Immediately, folks started gnashing teeth and wringing hands, saying the deal was unfair to other schools. On the face of it, there is ample room for worry for other schools. Texas already was a money-making athletics machine, and this added revenue stream now will widen the gap between the Longhorns and basically every other school in the nation. At the same time, those crying "It's unfair financially!" aren't being practical. Why should Texas care if it's unfair to other schools? Texas now has the financial wherewithal to become an independent if it so chooses, but why would it cut off certain revenue streams? Texas is making money by being in the Big 12, thanks to TV deals and NCAA tourney money. Why give that up? And why would, say, Iowa State or Kansas State all of a sudden decide they didn't want to be in the same league as Texas? They won't because they know Texas is the team that butters the league's bread. As for the idea that the extra money is going to magically make Texas unbeatable in every sport, it's not as if Texas is cash poor right now -- and how many national titles has Texas won in football of late? What about basketball? Women's basketball? Softball? Golf? Texas already has an excellent sports program, and this extra money means that as long as the school has competent people employed in its athletic department, it will continue to have an excellent sports program. But to predict any kind of competitive Armageddon is silly.

Boise State is scheduled to play at TCU this fall. But the league evidently remains ticked off that TCU is leaving the league at the end of the 2012-13 school year, as commissioner Craig Thompson said last week that league presidents could vote in the next "two to three weeks" to move the Broncos-Horned Frogs game to Boise. Not surprisingly, TCU AD Chris del Conte -- who currently is visiting China -- is ticked off at that prospect. "It's our home game and they told us it would be our home game, and to change the rules midstream is not appropriate," he told ESPNDallas.com. Del Conte's right. He also could've added that it was childish and immature and juvenile and ... well, you get the idea. Hey, Commissioner Thompson: Make a ruling (i.e., the game is at TCU) and stick with it.

You think folks at Georgia and Ohio State, among other schools, haven't noticed that Washington is auctioning off a Jake Locker jersey, among other memorabilia, at the school's official "Signing Day Celebration and Auction"? Under NCAA rules, of course, it's OK if a school makes money off an athlete's jersey. But if, say, Washington RB Chris Polk or WR Jermaine Kearse auction off their Holiday Bowl jerseys, they better be ready to sit out a four- or five-game suspension.

Auburn drew about 78,000 fans to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday to celebrate the school's national title. Only 16 schools nationally averaged more in attendance this season.

Mercer, which is in Macon, Ga., officially announced it was adding football in 2013. Mercer is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, which does not sponsor football.

Finally, from the "From Small Things, Big Things One Day Come" Dept.: Folks often cry and moan about their coaching staff being populated by no-name guys. Well, consider the coaching backgrounds of the four men who coached NFL teams in the conference championship games Sunday. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's first coaching job was as VMI's wide receivers coach in 1995 and his last college job was as Cincinnati's secondary coach in 2000. Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith's first job was as Big Sandy (Texas) High's defensive coordinator in 1980 and his last college job was as Ohio State's secondary coach in 1995. New York Jets coach Rex Ryan's first job was as Eastern Kentucky's defensive ends coach in 1987 and his last college job was as Kansas State's defensive coordinator in 1999. And Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy's first job was as a graduate assistant at Fort Hays (Kan.) State in 1987 and his last college job was as Pitt's wide receivers coach in 1992.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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