University of Maryland Football – Criteria & Selling Points For The Next Head Coach?
The Washington Post has reported that the University of Maryland Terrapins have obtained the services of a search firm to to help in it’s pursuit of a new Head Coach.
What should be the criteria and characteristics of their would be hire?
What can Maryland offer those they want to pursue?
Let’s start by acknowledging some self-obvious points.
Terps Football had plenty of obstacles to address prior to Jordan McNair’s death, and the ramifications that has brought to the program.
Maryland plays in the Big Ten East, with three programs (Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State) with substantial pedigree and a fourth (Michigan State) that has had plenty success of their own in the Mark Dantonio era (including 3 Big Ten Championships since 2010).
Those programs have advantages in history, fan interest, facilities, and revenues. Football means something to them, and they will continue to invest in their programs at high levels to continue to compete at high levels.
Maryland is a member of the Big Ten, because the Athletic Department was struggling financially. The change in Conference Affiliation has helped MD move out of the red, but MD’s Athletic Department is still not rolling financially, especially as compared to their new peers. MD’s finances will continue to improve (with larger pay-days on the horizon in 2020-21); but they are not there yet. It’s still more living paycheck-to-paycheck vs. swimming in Scrooge McDuck’s pool of gold.
You can’t change history – be that the accomplishments of your competitors – or the limited accomplishments of your own.
You can potentially change fan interest, but that won’t happen over night. In-terms of prospective audience, there are positives and negatives with the University of Maryland being in the middle of two major markets (D.C. and Baltimore). Maryland effectively competes with the Ravens, Redskins, Orioles, Nationals, Wizards, and Capitals for coverage, discussion, and sales (tickets and corporate boxes).
In-terms of facilities, Maryland is doing what they can to close the gap (and potentially surpass their peers). That said, the new Cole Field House is still not fully funded, and that also speaks volumes.
Revenues can be a bit chicken and the egg. You are generating less revenue than your peers. You are trying to compete with your peers while doing so. Can you get to a point where you are competitive while allocating less (and of course having less to allocate), that it allows you to generate more? Do you have to find more ways to generate revenue, to give you the resources needed to become competitive?
(Now if you are thinking the real discussion to be had is the purpose / need for Academic Institutions to be in constant arms races with their Athletic programs; that’s fine. But let’s acknowledge the impact that athletic success can have in-terms of generating name recognition, interest / enrollment, and alumni donations. For instance, UMBC’s March Madness victory over Virginia created the equivalent of $119M in free advertising for the Retrievers.)
So we’ve talked about MD trying to compete with divisional blue bloods while having less history and less revenue. Ultimately you have to try and control the things which you can control. Improving your facilities is one aspect of that. The new Cole Field House is certainly a start.
Beyond facilities, the lifeblood of any program is recruiting. The Maryland / DC / Northern Virginia area is a fertile recruiting area. If Maryland can regularly keep the best locals (within 2 hours of College Park) home (the DMV to UMD) they can certainly build a program with real talent.
Enough to legitimately ever compete in the Division?
Stack some classes four and five times over and we’ll see.
That was the general path MD was on and the questions they were facing before McNair’s death.
Since then, and with the resulting fall-out, the questions and obstacles have only increased.
If UMBC created $119M in positive free advertising for their win over the Cavs, how much free negative advertising did this saga generate for Maryland?
We can debate if there was or was not a toxic culture within the program, but what can not be debated at this point is the brand (which was of questionable strength to begin with, for the reasons outlined above) has been damaged further, and recruiting is in shambles.
It should be clear, but for the record, the McNair family needlessly losing their Son is infinitely more important than Maryland’s brand being tarnished.
If the end result of everything which has occurred is further apathy – this program will never improve. If the rage and embarrassment can be channeled into a demand for improvement, maybe things can change.
The Criteria / Characteristics I’d Be Seeking & Questions:
– Maryland will need someone that their fans, alumni, current players, former players, prospects, and the Media can buy into. That better be a person who projects confidence. Nothing projects confidence better than success.
If it’s an Assistant from a winning program; that can work. That at-least says they’ve been part of a quality program. The question there is what will they be like leading a program?
If it’s a HC from a smaller program, that can work. That at-least says they’ve been in-charge, and built something. The question there is what will they be like vs. better competition?
If it’s a former HC from a Power 5 program, that can work. That at-least says there is a record to evaluate. The question there is what has made them available?
– It better be someone with a spectacular reputation. You need to research the hell out of these would be candidates, and make sure there are no skeletons in their closets. If you do hire someone with issues in their past, those issues need to have been common knowledge before MD hires them,and preferably with a stop or two in-between when their issue arose and they possibly join the Terps.
– It’s fair to say MD’s football history is not overwhelming. It’s inaccurate to say no history exists. I’d consider having people like Bobby Ross, Ralph Friedgen, Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich, Neil O’Donnell, Frank Wycheck, Scott Milanovich, Jermaine Lewis, Kris Jenkins, LaMont Jordan, EJ Henderson, Madieu Williams, Randy Starks, Bruce Perry, Scott McBrien, Steve Suter, Nick Novak, Adam Podlesh, Shawne Merriman, Domonique Foxworth, Vernon Davis, D’Qwell Jackson, Josh Wilson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Torrey Smith, Stefon Diggs, Sean Davis, Yannick Ngakoue, DJ Moore, Jermaine Carter, etc be part of the process. Ask them what coaches (not just for HC) that they would recommend. Ask them the questions they would want perspective HC’s to be asked? Respect their accomplishments, and make them proud again of being Terps.
– Also should be some input from the current players. At-least the leaders.
– What system will you run? Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples wrote an article saying Maryland should consider Navy’s Ken Niumataolo. Part of his argument was Niumataolo’s reputation and history of success at Navy. Part of his argument was how Niumataolo found success at Navy, continuing Paul Johnson’s uncommon offense, and using that to compete against bigger, stronger, more talented teams. You get the points Staples was making, but Maryland isn’t a service Academy. Yes, even if you are able to close the borders on the DMV, you still may not recruit equally to Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. But, you had back-to-back Top 30 classes. Maryland could recruit annually at a Top 25 level, and if you have four or five of those level classes, you’ll pull some upsets against those powers. You start winning a few of those games head-to-head; maybe you start recruiting at an even higher level.
You can argue for or against running a system like Niumataolo’s (against, maybe it prevents you from attracting would be pro talent….for, maybe it allows you to better compete vs. the blue bloods); but no matter what you have to consider the possible outcomes which would exist if you run system x.
In this particular case, I would do a deep dive into Johnson’s results (recruiting and on-field) at Georgia Tech.
– One other aspect with the system question is the existing talent on the roster. Those players bought into Maryland and being part of the team, and were sold on how they would fit. If the new scheme is vastly different, do they believe they are a fit to that?
– It seems fairly evident that Maryland is going to lose some players at year end. First, it happens annually everywhere. Second, with the adversity this group has faced, you can understand if some will look for opportunities to start over somewhere else. Is that another reason to consider Matt Canada? The players know what they are getting there. A new Coach is uncertainty. They know what they would be getting with Canada. Surely that would help with retention of the existing talent. They like him, and that should matter.
– Can you recruit? What are your connections with the DMV? Do you have the WCAC, and MIAA Coaches on speed dial? Will Biff Poggi help steer players your way? Are you getting in the door right away with Wise, Eleanor Roosevelt, Damascus, Franklin, etc players?
– What is the composition of your staff going to look like? Who is coming with you? Clearly this is also a question for the University and the Athletic Department. How much are you willing to spend on the HC? How much are you willing to spend on his would be staff?
– The HC is basically a CEO. They have to be able to speak to lots of different groups. Administration, Players, Alumni, Media, the Business Community. How effective are they as communicators? What in their history shows they have the ability to coalesce people for the greater good?
– Does Plank’s wallet open or close depending on the hire?
What Are You Selling Prospective Hires?
– You have to show the would-be hires that there is a larger structure in-place behind them. It’s fair to ask the would be coach to be able to effectively community to the Business community at large; it’s not fair to ask that Coach to build the overall business plan. Show the prospective hires that you have a Marketing vision which can be implemented. Show that there will be a positive working relationship with the Athletic Department (maybe harder said than done, if people don’t believe Evans has job security). Show that there will be a positive working relationship with the school leadership (maybe harder said than done, with Dr. Loh leaving at the end of the calendar year).
– We talked above about how the Terps finances are improving, but not great. That was the case before even factoring in getting out of Durkin’s contract, buying out his staff, and the payment which the University will eventually be making to McNair’s family. Still, the new HC is going to need be surrounded by the best possible staff. The would be hires need to know that commitment exists.
– There is talent on the roster. Back-to-back Top 30 recruiting classes show quality talent is willing to come to College Park. The new Cole Field House has a chance to be the premier college football facility in the Country. Those are both examples of visions of what MD can be.
– More than anything, you have to sell a vision that someone can buy into. The general idea that despite the obstacles MD faces, and the self-created adversity this past year… that there is opportunity to build something.
– We’ve talked about Matt Canada, and Niumatalolo; who else?
– Mike Locksley has some positives. He knows MD, has the support of some former players, and maybe Plank. Has strong recruiting ties locally. Everyone with Alabama today gets some of that shine. He also has some negatives, mainly due to his time as a Head Coach at New Mexico. There have also been questions of his abilities between the lines.
– Mike Leach has been tied to MD as a potential hire forever it seems. If for some reason he wants to leave Washington State, the Terps would be lucky to land him.
– Dino Babers. Babers whooped MD’s ass with his Bowling Green team, and went to Syracuse where he has turned that program around. Doesn’t seem realistic to me that he’d leave for MD, but if he would, you’d have to be excited there. (For the record, his 2019 recruiting class at Syracuse is in as poor of shape as MD, which is hard to understand.)
Tony Gibson, WVU AHC
Jimmy Lake, Washington DC
Pep Hamilton, Michigan QB Coach
Jeff Tedford, Fresno State HC
Brent Venables, Clemson DC
Bret Bielema, New England Consultant
Mel Tucker, Georgia DC
Matt Ruhle, Temple HC
– Les Miles. He talked to Kansas, so presumably he’d talk to Maryland.
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.
You can reach him via email at [email protected].